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dfelt

2015 DOE Clean Cities Buyer's Guide

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G. David Felt
Alternative Fuels
 & Propulsion writer
www.CheersandGears.com

 

2015 Vehicle Buyer's Guide

Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

 

post-12-0-55840400-1424990813_thumb.jpg

 

The U.S. Department of Energy has released their Clean Cities 2015 Vehicle Buyer's Guide. This covers the following types of auto's; 

 

Propane

Natural Gas (CNG)

Biodiesel

Electric

Hybrid

Ethanol Flex-Fuel

 

In this guide you will find the following information to help one make an informed buying choice. The guide starts off by covering Fuel Economy, Energy Impact, Smog Scores, Greenhouse gas Emissions just to start. Once you have gone over that information, you then have a section that covers Auto cost and Emissions before buying. the follow up section to this is about Converting auto's to run on alternative fuels.

 

Once you have reviewed this information you start down the line of specific auto types to best understand their use and benefits. You will find after the Propane and CNG auto sections a section covering fueling infrastructure as an important factor.The report then goes into details about Biodiesel, electric auto's and how to read the EPA labels on all the auto's.

 

An important section is how to compare fuel costs before you buy. A perfect example is how cheap electricity is in Seattle where they have plenty of Water generated electricity compared to the Midwest or east coast where you have coal generated electricity or nuclear and much higher costs.

 

The section on finding charging stations, Hydrogen and ethanol fueling stations will come into benefit to those that have those type of auto's.

   

The final section covers 2015 incentives.

 

As an addendum starting on page 31 is a chart covering all the auto's and how efficient they are on each fuel type or what they call the Energy Impact Score. Pretty amazing to see E85. I have to really question why bother to make E85.

 

Check it out and come to your own conclusions on what you think is a good Alternative Energy Auto.

 

Clean Cities 2015 Vehicle Buyer's Guide

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      2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro CrewMax
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      Cheers: Off-Road Package Comes With Everything, Excellent Value, Comfortable Ride
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      Disclaimer: Infiniti, Kia, and Toyota Provided the Vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

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    • By William Maley
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      2016 Acura ILX A-Spec
      2.4L 16-Valve, DOHC i-VTEC Four-Cylinder (201 Horsepower, 180 Pound-Feet of Torque)
      Eight-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic
      Base/As-Tested: $31,830/$32,830
       
      Cheers: Excellent handling in the corners, improved styling, large back seat
      Jeers: Engine has to be worked hard, a large amount of wind and road noise, bouncy ride, questionable material choice, poor value when compared to competitors.
       
      Notes: Acura went back to the drawing board this year with the ILX in an effort to fix the slumping sales of the model. Some of the fixes do make a difference such as a new front clip and headlights that give some much need aggression. Inside, a set of leather and suede seats add a nice touch and provide good comfort. It should be noted the seats come with the A-Spec package. The engine lineup which included a 2.0L, 2.4L, and hybrid has been simplified to just the 2.4 with 201 horsepower. This eliminates one of the big problems for the ILX of being too slow if you opted for the hybrid or 2.0L. One item that Acura didn’t mess with was the handling. The ILX is a sweetheart around corners as it provides minimal body roll and excellent steering. Acura also made sure that the ILX’s suspension was compliant when dealing with bumps on a day-to-day basis, something it does very well.
       
      Sadly, that is where the good points of the ILX end. Despite Acura’s attempt on improving the ILX’s interior, it looks and in some parts, feels like the Civic that it is based on. Not something you want to be said since this vehicle competes in the same class as the Audi A3 and Buick Verano, both with impressive interiors. The 2.4L has the power to compete with the vehicles in the class. But to access this power, you’ll need to be working the engine somewhat hard - around 3,000 to 4,000 rpm. This would be ok if the ILX had a six-speed manual. But Acura dropped it for this year, replacing it with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. There isn’t anything wrong with the dual-clutch transmission, it’s quite smooth and doesn’t hesitate when going up or down. But it makes working the engine to its fullest, boring and not joyful.
       
      But the biggest problem for the ILX is the price. This particular ILX came with an as-tested price of $32,830 and that doesn’t include one of the huge changes for the model, a load of additional safety equipment. Acura added a number of safety systems such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation, and road departure mitigation. To get all of this, you need to either get the ILX Technology Plus ($32,990) or the ILX Technology Plus and A-Spec ($34,890). Around that price, you could get yourself into a well-equipped Buick Verano Turbo with much more amenities and better performance.
       
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      Cheers: Sharp Looks, Very Capable Off-Road, V6 Performance
      Jeers: Ninth-Gear Seems Non-Existent, Price-Tag, Annoying Stop-Start System
       
      Notes: In my original review of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, I said that I was very impressed as Jeep made the leap from a boxy, go-anywhere SUV to sharp looking crossover with some Jeep DNA still there. But I wasn’t as impressed with the nine-speed automatic as it shuddered through the first three gears and wouldn’t go into ninth. At the time, I put the Cherokee on the wait and see list. A year has passed and another Cherokee has come in for a review.
       
      This particular Cherokee is the top of the line Trailhawk and it features a number of changes to make it a ‘Trail-Rated’ model by Jeep. Outside are a set of tow hooks on the front and rear bumper to pull out the vehicle if it gets stuck. A set seventeen-inch aluminum wheels come wrapped in meaty all-terrain tires to get you through whatever muck you decide to go through. Done up in a sharp red, the Cherokee Trailhawk makes no apologies of what its intended purpose is - going off-road.
       
      Under the skin, the Cherokee Trailhawk comes with Jeep Active Drive II. This four-wheel drive system is quite advanced as it offers a low-range setting for rock crawling and a rear lock to improve traction. Other changes for the Trailhawk include an off-road suspension with a one-inch lift, skid plates, and a 56:1 crawl ratio. We did some light off-roading on a dirt trail and found the Trailhawk to very capable as the four-wheel drive kept power flowing to us moving. Also, the suspension provided a very comfortable ride over the trail.
       
      Power for the Trailhawk comes from the optional 3.2L V6 with 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet. This engine feels plenty powerful for any situation that it is thrown at it. It also very refined during acceleration and at cruise. One part of the engine we aren’t keen on is the stop-start system. We found it be somewhat annoying as the engine wouldn’t always shut off, despite our foot planted firmly on the brake pedal. We mostly left it off for the majority of the week. As for the nine-speed automatic, it has been cleaned up for the most part. Gone is the shuddering we experienced in our first Cherokee, replaced by smooth and crisp shifts. Still, the transmission was very hesitant to go into ninth gear. We drove about 50 miles on the freeway at a 70 MPH cruise to see if it would go into ninth and no luck. At least, the ride is smooth and refined, even with the off-road tires.
       
      The big problem for the Cherokee Trailhawk is the price. The base model will set you back $30,395. Our test Trailhawk with a few options such as the V6, navigation, and a couple of other packages to reach an as-tested price of $36,869. That is a lot of money for a small crossover. But considering the number of changes to make the Trailhawk a very capable model, we think that for some folks who want the capability of something like a Wrangler, but with a bit more comfort should give this model a look. Everyone else should stick with the Latitude or Altitude models.
       
      2016 Mazda CX-5 Touring
      2.5L Skyactiv-G Four-Cylinder (184 Horsepower, 185 Pound-Feet of Torque)
      Six-Speed Automatic
      Base/As-Tested: $26,465/$28,835
       
      Cheers: Improved Dash Makes Huge Difference, New Infotainment System, Performance and Fuel Economy, Excellent Handling
      Jeers: Road and Wind Noise are still in abundance
       
      Notes: It seems every time we get into the CX-5, Mazda has done some sort of change to it. The last time we drove a CX-5, it came with the new 2.5L version of the Skyactiv-G four-cylinder. The 2016 model fixes two of the biggest complaints we had in previous CX-5’s; the plain dashboard and poor infotainment system.
       
      We’ll start with the dash. First seen in the 2016 Mazda6, the dashboard looks more premium thanks to improved materials and new shapes. The new dash also brings in Mazda Connect, the latest infotainment system. This system is a huge improvement over the old system in terms of overall performance and usability. We didn’t have the issue of the navigation system showing you traveling on a different than the one you were on like we did in the 6.
       
      The CX-5 is still a joy to drive thanks to the 2.5L Skyactiv-G four-cylinder providing more than enough power for any situation and the chassis that provides superb handling in the corners. One issue we hope Mazda addresses in the future is noise isolation. There is still an abundance of wind and road noise entering the cabin.
       
      The 2016 Mazda CX-5 shows the continual improvement that the Japanese automaker has been doing is making it a better vehicle.
       
      2015 Toyota Avalon XLE Touring
      3.5L DOHC 24-Valve Dual VVT-i V6 (268 Horsepower, 248 Pound-Feet of Torque)
      Six-Speed Automatic
      Base/As-Tested: $36,080/$37,130
       
      Cheers: Stylish Look, Powerful V6, Upscale Interior, Excellent Fuel Economy
      Jeers: Sporty ride may turn off some buyers
       
      Notes: I came away very impressed when I drove the Avalon Hybrid a couple years ago. The combination of sharp styling, sporty ride, and amazing fuel economy made me pick this as one of my favorite vehicles of that year. But would the regular Avalon receive the same praise? Mostly.
       
      The Avalon is still one the sharpest looking full-size sedans with a low-slung front end, narrow grille, and coupe-like roofline. The interior is much the same as the hybrid with loads of space for both front and rear seat passengers, comfortable leather seats, and a impressive design with quality materials used throughout. Unlike the hybrid, our XLE Touring came with the smaller seven-inch Entune infotainment system. It still is easy to use and quick to respond whenever you touch the screen or one of the capacitive touch buttons.
       
      Power comes from a 3.5L V6 which is used in a number of other Toyota and Lexus products. Horsepower is rated at 268 and torque is rated at 248 pound-feet. The engine is quite a peach as speed comes on at a very quick rate. But the engine is also quiet during acceleration, making a perfect highway companion. In the corners, the Avalon displays a level of athleticism not seen in other full-size sedans. Body roll is kept in check and the steering provides decent weight. This does mean the Avalon isn’t as comfortable as competitors as some bumps do make their way into the interior.
       
      Disclaimer: Acura, Jeep, Mazda, and Toyota Provided the vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      It may seem a bit odd to call the Nissan Murano a trailblazer in the crossover class. But when it launched in December of 2002 as 2003 model, it was quite the revelation. Here was a crossover from a volume manufacturer that was not only sharp looking, but had a lot of features were found on luxury models at the time. It proved to a winning formula for Nissan. With the second-generation Murano, Nissan focused luxury and refinement. But the Murano also lost some of the distinctiveness from the design of the first-generation model. Now enter the third-generation Murano. This version continues the second-generation focus on luxury, but also brings back sharp looks from the first. This combination should work, right? We spent a week in the Murano SL AWD to find out.
       
      Nissan goes one of two ways when it comes to designing vehicles; they either take their time and put a lot of effort into a vehicle or spend about 30 minutes drawing something and calling it good. The Murano is the former of the two. The Murano’s design is basically the Resonance concept from a few years back. The front end gets a deep V grille with a chrome bar running around the outside. The side profile shows a unique floating roof design that is accomplished by blacking out the D-Pillars. This could make anyone think the roof is only being supported by glass. Around back are a set of taillights that are shaped like boomerangs - much like the 370Z coupe.
       
      Some may criticize the Murano for being a bit polarizing. But considering the first-generation model had such design touches as a wide chrome grille and dark orange color, the third-generation appears to be taking the design ideals of the first-gen model and putting them to good use.
       




      The Murano’s interior has to be one of Nissan’s best efforts. The levels of quality and features blow many competitors out of the water and even embarrasses some models from luxury brands. This particular Murano was finished in an Ivory color that not only made the interior look vibrant, it also made it feel slightly larger. Most of the dash and door panels are covered in the soft-touch materials, increasing the premium feel. One nice touch in our Murano tester is the Ivory wood trim which adds a touch of elegance. 
      Seats are Nissan’s ‘zero-gravity’ seats which are said to use space-age technology to reduce fatigue and improve lower back support. While we aren’t fully sure on what ‘space-age tech’ Nissan is using, we’ll admit the seats for both front and rear passengers are quite comfortable and supportive. Front-seat passengers get power adjustments and heat in the SL trim. Rear seat passengers will find oodles of head and legroom, even with an optional panoramic sunroof.
       
      The Murano is one the first Nissan models to come with the latest version of Nissan Connect that comes with an eight-inch touchscreen and a updated interface. The system is now easier to use thanks to large touchpoints to various functions such as navigation and the radio. For those who rather control the system with actual buttons, there are those as well. Performance is ok with certain functions such as generating a route for the navigation system or changing to the various source. But it becomes somewhat sluggish when you are switch around to the various pages on the home screen.
       
      Nissan still has a couple of issues to iron out with their infotainment system. First, I had no metadata appear on the system when I was doing Bluetooth streaming from my phone. This could be an issue with this particular model as a Nissan Maxima equipped with the same system had no problem. The other was the system saying SiriusXM reception was lost despite there being a signal and broadcasting the station. I found that if I switched to a different source and went back to SiriusXM, the problem would be gone. A couple other colleagues who have driven Muranos have experienced the same problem. A software update might fix both problems I experienced.
       
      Power is provided by a 3.5L V6 with 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque (available @ 4,400 rpm). This paired to Nissan’s XTronic CVT and the choice of either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The V6 is a perfect fit for the Murano as it provides more than enough power to get up to speed a decent rate. The XTronic CVT features artificial shift points to provide linear acceleration and cut a fair amount of droning. We found the shift points worked in situations where you accelerating at a steady rate such as going on a freeway. Other times such as making a pass, the points seemed nonexistent and the high rpm drone would appear. In terms of fuel economy, the Murano AWD is rated at 21 City/28 Highway/24 Combined. Our week with the Murano saw an average of 22 MPG in mostly city driving.
       




       
      The Murano’s ride is superbly comfortable. Equipped with 18-inch wheels, the Murano glides over bumps and imperfections. Road and wind noise are kept to near silent levels. Steering was a slight disappointment. You have to turn the wheel further than you might think to get the steering reaction that is needed. Some of this comes down to how light the weight for the steering was. It was like running your fingers through a pool of water.
       
      Another disappointment came in overall visibility as thick rear pillars block a fair amount of the rear view. At least, the SL comes standard with a backup camera and blind-spot monitoring. We also recommend opting for the Around-View camera system as it gives you a full 360 view of the vehicle when parking.
       
      While the Murano has some issues with the infotainment, overall visibility, and steering, it remains a very capable crossover. With sleek styling, loads of luxury equipment, and a plush ride, the Murano not only gives a number of mainstream models such as Ford Edge a run for their money, it could make anyone have second thoughts with a luxury model. Nissan says the Murano is their flagship for their crossover lineup. We cannot find a more fitting term for this vehicle.
       
      Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Murano SL AWD, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
       

       
      Year: 2015
      Make: Nissan
      Model: Murano
      Trim: SL AWD
      Engine: 3.5L DOHC V6
      Driveline: Xtronic CVT, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 260 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 240 @ 4,400
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/28/24
      Curb Weight: 3,977 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Canton, TN
      Base Price: $38,550
      As Tested Price: $41,905 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge)
       
      Options:
      Technology Package - $2,260.00
      Floor Mats & Cargo Area Protection - $210.00

      View full article
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