By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Portland, Ore. ? We belong to an auto writer?s group call Northwest Automotive Press Association (NWAPA). During the year, our organization does a sport utility vehicle competition called ?Mudfest? and a fun two-day drive program in sporty cars called ?Run to the Sun.? The general idea behind each is to give our membership exposure to lots of different vehicles back-to-back.
This year we added a new program called ?Drive Revolution? to get a sampling of the some of the most technologically advanced and fuel-efficient cars on the market including electric cars, plug-in hybrids and clean-diesels.
The program was held at Portland?s OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) with short drive routes through the city.
Portland has a reputation of being one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the country especially when it comes to transportation issues. We see this regularly because we live just across the Columbia River in southern Washington and Portland is our ?go to city.? It?s a city crowded with bicycles, a remarkable public transportation system, hybrid powered vehicles and it?s not uncommon to see electric vehicle charging stations at stores, in parking garages and even along some streets.
At Portland State University (PSU), right in the downtown area, there is even a block-long section of Montgomery St. called Electric Avenue. One side of the block is lined with a variety of chargers in an experimental program. PSU Strategic Alliance Manager, George Beard, told us the chargers on Electric Avenue are used about 80 percent of the time. Electric Avenue is just across the street from the Transit Mall. Electric vehicle owners can plug in and jump on a bus or MAX (the light rail system) to ride to work or downtown for shopping.
At the end of the day, the 19 participating journalists unscientifically voted for their favorites in the three categories selecting the Fiat 500e as the favorite electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt as the favorite hybrid and the Chevrolet Cruze Diesel as the most popular diesel.
Drive Revolution Vehicles ? Part 1
We wanted to make sure we drove all 17 vehicles in the few hours we had available, so we decided to keep to the short two mile loop across a couple of downtown bridges and back to OMSI. We had already driven most of the vehicles, but wanted to make sure we had a little refresher in each.
Here?s an alphabetical listing of the first half of the vehicle we drove with basic information about each:
2014 Audi A8L TDI quattro ? As we would expect for a $100,000 car ($99,445) the big Audi diesel is technologically magnificent with bells and whistles most people don?t know exist yet. Comfortable, quiet, quick and registering 24 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and 28 combined. (Note: all other MPG numbers throughout the story will be listed in the same sequence of City/Highway/Combined mileage.) You don?t hear the diesel, or smell it?talk about Eco luxury! This is the first diesel we?ve driven that has the auto-stop system that shuts the engine off at stoplights, and it starts again quickly nearly unnoticed when the brake is released. Watch for our regular review on this car in a few weeks.
2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel ? Bravo for Chevrolet! As the first domestic automaker to produce a diesel powered car, since the fiasco of the 1980s, the Cruze gets the jump on the competition and takes on the Europeans with an outstanding product. It?s smooth, quiet and spunky ? a real pleasure to drive. The EPA numbers say 33/46/27 mpg and the price tag says only $25,795. (We liked it so much we have arranged to take one on a road trip in October down the Pacific Coast along Highways 101 and 1 from Canada to Mexico.)
2013 Chevrolet Volt ? We confess being fans of the Chevy Volt, because it?s the only electric vehicle that eliminates the typical range anxiety that comes standard with all electric vehicles. Volt only goes 38 miles after a charge, but when the battery level drops, the gasoline engine seamlessly kicks in and charges the battery to keep the electric motor going. Some people think the gas engine drives the Volt ? WRONG! The electric motor drives the Volt. The Volt is listed at 98 MPGe (that?s electric car and plug-in hybrid speak for MPG equivalent.) Volt gets 37 mpg when the engine is running full time charging the battery. The Volt has a base price of $39,995, but the event Volt had a total price of $45,540 including some option packages and cosmetic enhancements. Tax credits knock at least $7,500 off the price and even more in some parts of the country.
2013 Fiat 500e ? Take the already fun to drive Fiat 500, give it an electric motor transplant, batteries and the supporting technology, and you?ve got a Fiat 500 that is almost more fun to drive than the original. It has great acceleration and gets an EPA rating of 122/108/116 MPGe and has the longest range (87 miles) of any electric in the group. The well-equipped 500e has a base price $32,600. The event vehicle had a couple cosmetic options that made the final price $33,495. With the tax credits, it?s a bargain.
2013 Ford C-Max Energi ? Built exclusively as a plug-in hybrid it?s a pair with the C-Max, which is a conventional hybrid. The Energi has 21 miles of electric only range before the driving gasoline engine takes over, but if you play with it and drive carefully, you can go much farther. Alternatively, if you chose to go faster the gas engine likes to participate. The C-Max Energi has an EPA rating of 100 MPGe or 43 mpg on gasoline alone. The base price is $33,745 and options on the test car upped the price to $38,415. See our review on the Energi at https://ourautoexpert.com/ford-c-max-test-drive/ .
2012 Ford Focus Electric ? We?re all familiar with the thousands of Ford Focus sedans we see on the roads. This one is different because you normally won?t see one too far from home. Like all electric only vehicles, the Focus has a range limited by its battery, which means about 76 miles. It?s great to drive and we love the quiet smooth ride ? a heavy battery (700 pounds) seems to make cars ride smoother. The Focus Electric has an EPA rating of 110/99/105 MPGe. A few weeks ago, the Focus Electric would set you back $39,995; however, on July 19 they dropped the price to $35,995. That combined with a minimum $7,500 tax credit, makes the Focus a very affordable Electric vehicle. See our review on the Focus Electric at https://ourautoexpert.com/ford-focus-electric-test-drive/ .
2013 Honda Fit EV 5-Door ? The Honda Fit is a great economical car on its own, but the Fit EV is an amazingly economical car when you consider it had the best of the day EPA rating of 132/105/118 MPGe. The Fit has an estimated range of about 82 miles making it one of the best. If you could go down to your Honda dealer and buy a Fit, you?d pay $37,415, but you can?t. The Honda Fit is only available for a lease of $259 per month for 36 months, with a $0 down payment. What a deal!
However, why can?t you buy one? Our friend Chris Martin from Honda PR explained it. He said Honda doesn?t want people to buy a Fit EV today planning to keep for years. As new technologies and batteries introduced in the next few years that would leave you with the old technology. He said Honda would rather give you the opportunity to have the latest and greatest instead being stuck with an old generation electric car that might be virtually worthless. It made great sense to us.
2013 Kia Optima Hybrid EX ? If you are going to go out and buy a hybrid, the Optima has one of the strongest appeals in our mind. The car is simply gorgeous and a real head turner in our eyes. The hybrid version of Kia?s top selling sedan, the Optima has an EPA rating of 35/39/37 MPG. We like how you can be driving down the highway, lift off the gas pedal or keep your foot on it lightly and see that you are running on electricity alone. It?s quick, quiet, comfortable and great looking with a base price of $32,725. We have a full review on this coming soon.
2013 Lexus LS 600h ? Look up opulence in the dictionary and they probably will show a photo of the Lexus LS 600h. How many hybrids do you know that have 438 horsepower, a reclining right rear passenger seat with multifunction massager and leg rest plus about every kind of driver aid invented. As a hybrid the Lexus flagship isn?t a big high mileage sedan, it?s more of a ?better than most? cars in this range. It gets 19/23/20 MPG, accelerates from 0 to 60 in 5.3 seconds and pampers the occupant?s tremendously with limousine like characteristics. Lexus claims to be in ?The Pursuit of Perfection? and this one is darn close. The base price is about the same as a nice house in many areas, $120,805. With the optional executive class seating package, a cargo net and a trunk mat the bottom line price is $128,529.00.
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