In terms of electrified powertrain technology, the Honda Clarity may well be the industry leader, with model options that include a pure electric, a plug-in hybrid and a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle as well. These options represent unmatched flexibility as far as alternative choices for one vehicle are concerned. The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is available in two different trim levels or grades – The Base version and a Touring version. The base model Plug-in Hybrid has an MSRP of $33,400., while the Touring model, which we’ll review here, is priced at $36,600. Add an $890. Destination charge for each.
The Clarity Plug-In, is at the forefront of Honda’s initiative to bring electrified vehicle technology into the mainstream as the company’s goal is to have electrified vehicles make up two-thirds of its global automobile sales by the 2030 model year. The Clarity Plug-In Hybrid is manufactured in Honda’s Saitama factory in the Sayama prefecture, Japan.
It is an attractive, comprehensively-equipped five-passenger sedan regardless of its power sources, that delivers a refined, advanced-technology driving experience with0ut compromising driving range, performance or comfort, making it well suited for a wide range of consumers and driving needs.
It features a 47-mile all-electric EPA range rating that’s the highest of any plug-in hybrid sedan currently on the market. The Clarity Plug-In Hybrid allows for comparatively inexpensive zero-emissions all-electric driving for most real-world daily driving situations. Frequent long-distance trips are also possible with the hybrid powertrain, which enables the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid to receive a 340-mile combined gas-electric EPA range rating. This flexibility to drive wherever and whenever one wants, eliminates “range anxiety” or recharging concerns.
The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid provides a long list of standard convenience, connected-car, safety and driver-assistive technologies, including LED exterior lighting, Honda Sensing®, Smart Entry with push-button start, and an 8-inch Display Audio touchscreen interface with Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™ integration. The new Clarity Plug-in Hybrid Touring trim adds leather seating, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an 8-way power driver’s seat with two-position memory (upgraded from a manual seat), a 4-way power front passenger’s seat and Honda satellite-linked navigation system.
Power is provided utilizing Honda’s innovative two-motor hybrid technology, which consists of three elements: a 1.5-liter DOHC i-VTEC® Atkinson-cycle in-line 4-cylinder engine coupled to a starter/generator motor; a 181-horsepower AC synchronous traction motor; and a 17-kilowatt hour (kWh), 168-cell lithium-ion battery pack.
The Clarity Plug-In Hybrid runs primarily on its electric motor, using its Atkinson-cycle engine and starter/generator motor to generate electricity that is either supplied directly to the traction motor or used to recharge the 17 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. An electric-servo brake system is deployed for regenerative braking, adding efficiency by using the energy from deceleration and braking to generate additional electricity. The result is an all-electric 110 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) combined (city & highway) EPA rating.
The system operates in three different driving modes, depending on the driving scenario, and is able to shift instantly, automatically and seamlessly from one mode to another optimizing overall efficiency
In EV Drive mode, the Clarity operates like an all-electric vehicle – with the engines off and decoupled from the drivetrain reducing friction. Motive force comes from the 181-horsepower traction motor, which draws electricity from the lithium-ion battery pack.
In Hybrid Drive mode, the Clarity functions as a series hybrid. Like EV Drive mode, motive force comes from the electric traction motor. The coupled gasoline engine and generator motor produce electricity, which is sent directly to the traction motor or to the battery pack, depending on the battery’s state of charge.
and the driving situation.
The Engine Drive mode, which is typically engaged when cruising at medium to high speeds funtions as a parallel hybrid. A lock-up clutch connects the engine (always linked to the generator motor) and the traction motor to send power directly from the engine to the front wheels. Unlike most competing hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, the Clarity does not use a conventional transmission, but rather a Fixed Single Speed gearbox.
The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid also features three driver-selectable operating modes – Normal, Econ and Sport – allowing drivers to tailor their driving mood, maximizing efficiency or driving performance. A fourth mode – HV mode – is provided to preserve the battery’s state of charge and can be selected in conjunction with Normal, Econ and Sport driving modes.
Steering wheel-mounted Deceleration Selectors, similar to transmission shift paddles, allow the driver to select between four levels of regenerative braking performance. The right selector adds regenerative braking and the left selector reduces regenerative braking (displayed on the instrument panel). This is beneficial during downhill driving by reducing stress on the brake system while at the same time increasing battery charging via regeneration.
The all-electric 110 MPGe combined (city & highway) EPA fuel economy rating is among the top of its class, while its gasoline-only 44/40/42 mpg (city/highway/combined) EPA fuel economy rating indicates that the engine the engine alone is efficient as well.
Visually, the new Clarity Plug-in Hybrid serves up a futuristic and functional, design form that is dimensionally similar to the 2018 Accord sedan and virtually identical to the other Clarity variants. Exterior features include advanced aerodynamic treatments, full LED lighting, high-efficiency Smart Clear Wipers, and six available exterior colors. The presentation begins up, encompassing LED DRLs and LED headlamps, a blend of decisive angular shapes and flowing curves, and high-tech aerodynamic features, all wrapped around Honda’s signature grille. The body sides visually sculpt airflow, enabling the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid to slip through the wind with minimal aerodynamic disturbance. Front air curtains, rear tire covers and rear air curtains – along with chrome garnishes and a unique exterior color palette – are functional and expressive elements of the Honda Clarity series.
Moving into the cabin, the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid provides a spacious and premium 5-passenger sedan environment., featuring a bright, modern feel coupled with exceptional comfort. The instrument panel is sleek, executed in panel, ivory white or black bio-fiber fabric (or leather-trimmed power seating in Touring trim). The interior is also outfitted with high quality environmentally responsible materials and features advanced technologies including Display Audio with Android Auto™ and Apple CarPlay™ integration.
My test 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid arrived in Touring trim with the exclusive Moonlit Forest Pearl exterior and a Black leather interior with natural-looking woodgrain finish trim accents. The base price was set at $36,600 which was boosted to $37,490., after factoring in the Destination and Handlng charge.
SUMMARY: The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is pleasing to the eye rather than appearing as a funky hybrid styling exercise favored by some other manufacturers.
The Clarity Plug-in comes with a host of Driver Assist features, Connectivity and infotainment. The Honda Sensing® suite of safety and driver aids come as stsndard fare and includes: Collision Mitigation Braking System, Road Departure Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist and Honda Lane Watch. Touring trim adds: Satellite-based navigation; Leather-trimmed seating; a Leather-wrapped steering wheel; 8-way power driver seat; 2-way memory driver seat; and 4-way power passenger seat.
Battery placement beneath the floor contributes to the car’s low center of gravity, aiding in a positive stability with minimal body roll. Acceleration, as with most electric or hybrid vehicles is stellar, particularly off the line, and the fixed singular gearing of the transmission delivers fluid advancements in power application.
The dual-pinion electric power steering delivers quick, agile and smooth cornering response, and the specially designed Michelin Energy Saver tires and the aerodynamic wheels offers low rolling resistance with minimized road noise.
In the final analysis, the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid Touring model represents an ideal and affordable choice in efficient motoring with virtually every feature imaginable, And if that’s not enough, there’s a host of available accessories to spruce it up.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid Touring
Base Price: $36,600.
Price as Tested: $37,490.
Engine Type and Size: 1498 cc DOHC, 16-valve, i-VTEC® ICE inline four-cylinder.
Horsepower (bhp): 103 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 99 @ 5,000 rpm
AC Permanent Magnet Synchronous electric motor: Lithium Ion battery- 17 kWh capacity with Electric Parking Brake with Auto Brake Hold, Hill start Assist and Remote Climate Pre-conditioning.
Horsepower (bhp): 181 @ 5,000-6,000 rpm
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 232 @ 0-2,000 rpm
Transmission: Fixed Single Speed.
Drive Train: Transversely mounted front engine / Front-wheel drive.
Suspension: Front – MacPherson strut with 30.0 mm x 4.0 mm tubular stabilizer bar.
Rear – Multi-link with 21.7 x 3.0 mm tubular stabilizer bar.
Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel discs (vented front) with ABS, VSA with Traction Control, EBD, BA and TPMS.
Tires: Michelin Energy Saver A/S 235/45/ R18 ,mounted on Hybrid Aerodynamic 5-stylized “V”-spoke alloy wheels.
Wheelbase: 108.3 inches
Length Overall: 192.7 inches
Width: 58.2 inches
Height: 73.9 inches
Curb Weight: 4,059 lbs.
Turning Circle: 38.4 ft.
Fuel Capacity: 7.0 gallons
EPA Mileage Estimates: 110 MPGe combined city/highway Gas and electricity and 42 MPG combined Gas only.
Drag Coefficient: Not listed.
0 – 60 mph: Not tested
Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles and unusual wheeled vehicles as well.