Photos by Doug Berger / NWAPA
Portland, Ore. – In July members of the Northwest Automotive Press Association (NWAPA) held their third annual “Drive Revolution” program and sampled 16 of these revolutionary vehicles on the streets of Portland, Oregon. After driving each of the vehicles, the panel of 19 Northwest U.S. and Canadian journalists picked their favorites in three categories: Electric Vehicles, Hybrids, Green Luxury Vehicles and an overall winner which received the title of Northwest Green Vehicle of the Year.
Leading the group to be named Northwest Green Vehicle of the Year was Toyota’s innovative new fuel cell car, the 2016 Mirai. The hydrogen fueled car goes on sale through eight authorized dealers in Southern California in October 2015.
The category winners at the 2015 NWAPA Drive Revolution included Volkswagen’s e-Golf as the top electric car, the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid as the best hybrid and the Mercedes-Benz S550 as the top Plug-In Hybrid.
If you missed Part 1 Go to http://ourautoexpert.com/2015-nwapa-drive-revolution-winners-announced-part-1/
The NWAPA Drive Revolution Vehicles – Part 2
Here are my brief impressions of the second group of participating vehicles. Most of vehicles are 2015 models, with the exception of the Nissan Leaf which is a 2014, but is unchanged for 2015 and the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Toyota Mirai which are 2016 models. The EPA fuel economy ratings are for city/highway/combined miles per gallon or miles per gallon equivalent for electric vehicles and some hybrids. The pricing is for the cars as tested plus many of the cars qualify for the federal $7,500 tax credit and in some areas local incentives.
Jeep Cherokee Summit 4×4 EcoDiesel – I love a good diesel, and this is a really good one. It has lots of power, from the smooth, quiet and clean 240-hp 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6. It is mated with a smooth positive version of the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission and has shift paddles for better driver control. The top-of the line Summit model has every conceivable feature in the luxuriously appointed interior. It also has Jeep’s famous off-road prowess. Fuel economy is listed at 21/28/24 mpg. $59,480.
Kia Soul EV – This is one of my favorite EVs because it’s such a seamless conversion from the gas powered Soul. You don’t really notice the difference between the two, except, this one you plug in when you get back to the garage. For our full review on the Kia Soul EV go to http://ourautoexpert.com/2015-kia-soul-ev-test-drive-3/ . $36,625.
Lexus NX 300h – Like all the Lexus models, the NX 330h shows a high level of quality, style and features. The smallest of four Lexus SUVs, the hybrid version of the NX uses a 2.5-liter hybrid four-cylinder engine to drive the front wheels through a CVT and the AWD version adds an electric motor to power the rear wheels in a full-time all-wheel drive configuration. The combined output of the two is 194 horsepower. EPA fuel economy is listed at 33/30/32 mpg. $51,014.
Mercedes-Benz S550 Plus-In Hybrid – The Mercedes-Benz S550 is one of the most advanced, innovative large sedans on the market, and when it was offered this Spring it added a plug-in hybrid that adds and entirely new dimension. The S550 Plug-In is powered by a 3.0-liter bi-turbo V-6 engine and electric motor which combine to produce 436 horsepower and an impressive 5.2-second 0 to 60 mph acceleration time. The transmission is a seven-speed automatic and it rides on AIRMATIC air suspension for an amazing level of comfort and control. By electric power only the S550 has a 20 mile range. EPA fuel economy is listed at 58 MPGe city/highway and 26 mpg on gasoline only. The 2015 Mercedes-Benz S550 Plus-In Hybrid was my choice for the best plug in hybrid at “Drive Revolution”, and it was the choice of the NWAPA panel as well. $114,315.
Mitsubishi i-MiEV – The i-MiEV may be the most unusual-looking in the “Drive Revolution” group, but it is the undisputed value leader with a base price of $23,845, including the destination charge. With the $7,500 federal tax credit and any local incentives, this is not only the least expensive electric car on the market, but one of the least expensive cars period. The i-MiEV has a real world range of 62 miles which leaves it more prone to driver anxiety than most other electric only vehicles, but for many owners it could be a great money saver, especially if there’s a charger at both ends of your commute. The i-MiEV is powered by a 66 hp water-cooled motor. Fuel economy is listed a 126/99/112 MPGe. $25,845.
Nissan Leaf – The Nissan Leaf is the car that gets credit for starting the electric car revolution, because it was the first electric car to be mass marketed thanks to a major commitment by Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn. Leaf was introduced in the U.S. market in 2011 and has been moderately successful selling more than 38,000 in the U.S. in 2014 up from 22,610 in 2013. More than 250,000 Leafs have been sold worldwide as of June 2015. Recent introductions of several other electric-only cars, new technologies and lower gas prices have cut into Leaf sales, but it’s still a very impressive and dependable electric car. The Leaf has a 107 horsepower electric motor driving the front wheels through a single-speed gear reduction transmission. The range is 84 miles and the EPA lists the fuel economy at 126/101/114 MPGe. $37,090.
Toyota Mirai – The Toyota Mirai was the only fuel cell car in the “Drive Revolution” and it is powered by hydrogen. It is one of the most sophisticated and well-done new technology cars I’ve ever driven. The styling is unique, it’s not a conversion from an existing Toyota product, and it looks very sophisticated inside and out. The hydrogen fuel passes through the Toyota-developed fuel cell creating electricity, which is used to power the 153-hp electric motor. The EPA says the range is 312 miles and it takes approximately five minutes to fill the two carbon fiber reinforced hydrogen tanks. The Mirai will be going on sale in Southern California in October 2015 at eight certified Toyota dealers. Because hydrogen fueling stations are rare, Toyota plans to give the initial early buyers free fuel for three years, which might make it worth going out of their way to refill. It was my choice of the Northwest Green Vehicle of the Year and it was also the top choice of the participating NWAPA members. $57,500
Volkswagen e-Golf – The Volkswagen e-Golf is one of the latest entries in the all-electric vehicle category and it’s one of best to date. The car is smooth, fast, fun to drive and it doesn’t feel much more different than any other VW Golf. The NWAPA members agreed and made it the top electric vehicle in this year’s “Drive Revolution.” You can read a recent review Barbara and I did of the e-Golf at http://ourautoexpert.com/2015-volkswagen-e-golf-sel-premium-test-drive/ . EPA fuel economy is listed at 126/105/116 MPGe. $36,265.
Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI – The second diesel in the “Drive Revolution” contestants is one of the most popular diesel cars sold in the U.S. It was previously the Jetta SportWagen, but Volkswagen has reconfigured the lineup to make it part of the Golf family and it’s a winner either way. The VW TDI (Turbo Direct Injection) has a 170-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel which propels the SportWagen from 0 to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, but it feels faster. EPA fuel economy estimates are listed at 31/43/35 MPG. $28,815.