LUXURY GREEN VEHICLES
By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Each year members of the Northwest Automotive Press Association meet to evaluate some of the latest and greatest environmentally friendly vehicles available to U.S. consumers. This year the competition was held at the Pearson Air Museum located on the grounds of the Fort Vancouver Historic Reserve in Vancouver, Wash.
Participating journalists drove 18 different hybrid and electric cars, SUVs and a minivan to choose a vehicle to be named the 2018 Northwest Green Vehicle of the Year. In sub categories, the group also choose an Affordable Battery-Electric Vehicle of the Year, Affordable Hybrid Car of the Year, Family-Sized Plug-In Hybrid of the Year and Luxury Green Vehicle of the Year.
Each vehicle was driven from the Air Museum tarmac at the Fort Vancouver National Historic site on a 3- to 6-mile loop that include street and freeway driving conditions. Voting members were able test acceleration, braking, road undulations and get an overall feel for each vehicle.
At the end of the day, each NWAPA member submitted his or her choices in each of the four categories plus the overall winner.
When the voting was tabulated, the NWAPA members had picked the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid as the Northwest Green Vehicle of the Year.
Below are our notes on the Luxury Green Vehicles.
* Most vehicles are 2018 model, unless identifies otherwise.
* The EPA fuel economy ratings when listed at xx/xx/xx are city/highway/combined estimates.
* MPGe means Miles Per Gallon Equivalent – the numerical unit used for hybrids and electric vehicles.
* All prices include shipping charge.
Photos by Doug Berger
Luxury Green Vehicles
As we reviewed our notes from the Drive Revolution on the 2018 BMW i3s, the first thing that we noticed is the word “Ugly”. The electric BMW i3s is probably not going to win any prizes for good looks, but the technology and performance is notable, so for those who value those features, it’s a classic case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder.
The BMW is another electric vehicle with a gasoline engine range extender, in this case it’s a 38-hp 647-cc two-cylinder which is hidden beneath the rear cargo floor. The “s” version we drove at the event is had a 184-hp powered by a 33.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack driving the rear wheels through a one-speed direct drive transmission. The i3s has a range of 97 miles, and if it runs out of charge the gasoline engine starts, and it can extend the range to 180 miles. Most plug-in hybrids can be charged on 120v and 240v chargers and regenerative braking, but this one can also get a quick charge from a Level 3 480v. This a fun car to drive with the quick smoothness of electric power and the typical BMW agility.
The i3s with range extender accelerates from 0 to 60 MPH in 8.0 seconds, and the EPA rates the electric only fuel economy at 109 MPGe or 35 MPG when the gasoline-powered range extender is doing all the work. The BMW i3 is available in 4 models: the i3 and i3s, and both models with a range extender. Base prices range from $45,445 for the i3 and $48,645 for the i3s. A range extender adds $3,850 to each.
BMW 740e xDrive
The difference between an “e” and an “i” at the end of the BMW 740 name is significant in many respects and nearly the same in others. The performance of the full-size all-wheel drive luxury sedans is nearly identical, but the fuel economy is significantly different. The gasoline-powered 740i has a 320-hp turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine, while the 740e has a 255-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine plus a 111-electric motor, which produces a combined 322 hp.
The 740i accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds; so, does the 740e. The substantial variance is the fuel economy. The EPA estimates gasoline usage at 23 MPG for the 740i. The 740e is rated at 27 MPG, when using the combination of electric and gasoline, but on gasoline alone it is rated at 64 MPGe. It also has a range of 14 miles on electric only. There is only one trim level for the 740e xDrive which has a base price of $92,695, that’s $7,050 more than the 740i base price. BMW allows a high level of customization, that is to say they offer a lot of options. Our event car had a final price of $99,845. Exuberant checking of boxes can run the price to more than $126,000.
Lexus LS 500h
*Northwest Luxury Green Vehicle of the Year
In the world of luxury sedans, the Lexus LS is royalty with consistently top levels of passenger pampering and cutting-edge technologies. The hybrid version of the Lexus flagship sedan will be a minor player, estimated to make up only 10 percent of the U.S. LS 500 sales. This one sets new levels of powertrain sophistication using a 295-hp 3.5-liter V-6, Multistage Hybrid Power System with two water-cooled electric motors, an electronic continuously variable transmission and a four-speed transmission. Combined the system produces 354 horsepower. It comes in rear- or all-wheel drive. What it delivers is a fast 5.1-second 0 to 60 mph acceleration, while earning an EPA fuel economy rating of 25/33/28 MPG for the rear drive version.
The Lexus LS 500h is not a plug-in hybrid and gets it charge the good old fashion way – regenerative braking. The LS 500h is available as a rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The rear drive is $80,505 and all-wheel drive adds $3,220. Like most luxury models, the Lexus allows for massive customization with options running the price to more than $110,000.
As good, and as good-looking, as the LS 500h is, we thought the front spindle grille is getting too big and overwhelming. And the console-mounted touch pad was overly sensitive for our awkward fingers.
Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e
New to the U.S. market the Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e Hybrid is an interesting addition to the luxury vehicle mix. Like all the mainline Mercedes products the GLC 350e looks and feels high quality, has a good road feel and is loaded with innovative technologies. We especially liked the seven-inch screen mounted above the center stack. It’s one of easiest to see with just a sideways glance and the control mechanism, which looks like something out of a space ship, is intuitive.
The 350e powerplant is a hybrid 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that combines with an 85-kWh motor to produce a combined 320 hp. The plug-in hybrid battery is an 8.7-kWh Lithium-Ion that’s good for about nine miles of electric-only driving. The pair drives all four wheels (4Matic) through a Mercedes seven-speed automatic transmission. Using a combination of electric and gasoline the GLC 350e is rated for 74 MPGe or 25 MPG on gasoline only. It accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds according to buff magazine tests.
The Mercedes SUV has the same solid, well controlled feel we equate to most Mercedes models, but it feels a bit heavier than some, thanks to the 563 pounds of battery. The GLC 350e is a contender, but the competition is tough at this price level. The 2018 GLC 350e 4Matic Plug-in Hybrid has a base price of $50,985, but options boost the bottom line to $66,040.