Supersonic red metallic paint with black roof and five passenger black Softex upholstered interior, heated and cooled front buckets – rear seats heated only, full panoramic moon roof with power tilt and slide feature, head up display in windshield and navigation in touchscreen, electric tailgate that can be foot operated, JBL stereo with 11 speakers, 42 miles of range on electric power, (I am getting 37.5 mpg on gas power), range is 550 miles, console mounted gear shift, continuously variable automatic transmission, 19” gray finish five spoke wheels with 235/55R19 Yokohama Avid GT all season radial tires, 302 horsepower 4 cylinder engine with plug-in hybrid system, 3.3 kw on board charger, $49,461 M.S.R.P., built in Obu, Aichi, Japan
Runway Red metallic paint, gray SynTex seating surfaces (feels like leather), panoramic moon roof, 7 passenger capacity, 189″ wheelbase (Explorer or Acadia size), four captain chairs, 1.6 liter turbo four with 227 horsepower hybrid drive train, front wheel drive, 6 speed automatic transmission with console dial (backup alarm like a dump truck – does not ride like one), 18.8 gallon tank, 39 mpg city rating providing over 600 miles range, 17″ alloys with Nexen 235/65R17 radials and remote start.
Slate Gray metallic paint with Dark Galvanized/Sky Cool gray leather interior with heated front and rear seats – Weighs 3,580 lbs. and is 164” long with a 102” wheelbase – 16.9 cubic ft. of cargo capacity behind the back seats (56.6 with them flopped down) – 17” Ultra Bright multi-spoke aluminum wheels and 225/45R17 Hankook all season radial tires – Lane keep assist, forward collision alert, cruise control, rear vision camera, and automatic emergency braking – 10.2” infotainment screen – backup camera, 7 speaker Bose AM/FM premium sound system – Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, fast phone charger – Electric 200 horsepower engine with single speed automatic transmission and front wheel drive – zero to 60 = 6.5 sec. – $43,735.00 list price Built in Lake Orion, Michigan – Fuel economy (Highway – 108 mpg) (City – 127 mpg) 259 mi.range
On a recent long weekend I was able to test a new Lexus for a trip to Nebraska, and it was the ES series hybrid model that has been available since early 2012. The car was painted Atomic Silver and had black leather five-passenger seating. Inside it was black perforated “Semi-Aniline” (a dying process) leather throughout, courtesy of the Ultra Luxury package that was included on this ES. This added $2,435.00 to the base price of the Lexus ($40,430.00) and included power memory heated/air conditioned front buckets, ambient lighting, bamboo trim, power tilt/telescope steering column, rear sunshades, and driver’s seat power cushion extender.
Additionally, the car had blind spot monitor ($500.00), lane departure alert with intelligent high-beam headlamps ($1,015.00), navigation package with 8″ screen ($1,795.00), power trunk closer ($400.00), intuitive parking assist ($500.00), rain-sensing wipers with de-icer ($155.00), and heated leather trimmed/bamboo steering wheel ($450.00). Thus the base price and freight of $925.00 pushed the total M.S.R.P. to $48,605.00.
My father and I bought a brand new 1965 Corsair Corsa for about $46,000.00 less than that figure in Grant, Nebraska fifty years ago. I bring that up because my 50th class reunion in that town was the reason for the road trip in the Lexus. I tooled around Grant in the ES300h, a sedan considerably more accomplished than the old Chevy was, and although the Lexus is more expensive, the Corvair was over $20,000.00 if adjusted for inflation. The Lexus’ current price adjusted back to 1965 dollars comes to $6,500.00, and it may be that Bullock Chevy/Cadillac there in Grant sold a Caddy for about that amount. I don’t really know, but I do know that Dad and I didn’t bother to look at such a car.
As a popular Lexus hybrid, the ES has an Atkinson-cycle, 2.5 liter, four cylinder gasoline engine at its heart, and two electric motor/generators to contribute power. An Englishman named Atkinson obtained an American patent on the Atkinson-cycle engine over 120 years ago, but the design wasn’t favored until recently because its efficient fuel consumption aspect was more than offset by its lack of torque. Well, electric motors provide instant torque, so in the hybrid automobile the Atkinson engine goes with an electric motor like love and marriage. And in the ES300h, the total package provides 200 horsepower and runs that through a continuously-variable automatic transmission. Reportedly, top speed is 112 mph and zero to sixty acceleration takes 8.1 seconds.
Size-wise, this ES is a luxo-Camry with 111” wheelbase and a 16-foot overall length. It’s heavier than a Camry, though, at 3,700 lbs. with its big battery. That battery restricts the trunk to 12.1 cubic feet, and on this ES the lid powers up and down. No restriction is evident in the back seat, however, with seating for three and a big armrest in the middle. Riding anywhere in the ES300h is a pleasure, and I felt the ride was superb while motoring up through northeastern Colorado and into Perkins County, Nebraska. Lexus ES300h styling is suitable for me and me and Ruth really liked the Atomic silver tone. The front-end styling is fine and so is the rear with the exhaust tips concealed, hybrid-style.
EPA ratings for the ES300h are 40-city, 39-highway, and 40-combined miles per gallon – electric power allows drivers to save fuel in the city. My average, driving around Greeley as well as the road trip to Nebraska, was 41.1 mpg. It’s hard to say how much driving is necessary to make a hybrid Lexus pay off; there are other factors involved in the calculations. With resale value and pride of ownership factored in, this hybrid Lexus looks like a pretty good deal to me.
The 2015 Toyota Avalon, currently available in hybrid and non-hybrid configurations, is now in its fourth-generation iteration. I recently was loaned one of them by Rocky Mountain Redline, and the car delivered was painted Celestial Silver metallic and featured premium black leather seating. With all Avalon production taking place in Georgetown, Kentucky, the first unit rolled off of that assembly line eleven years ago as a 1995 model. They are full-size, front-wheel drive sedans and represent Toyota’s biggest such offering.
At my age (the Beatles hit U. S. shores while I was in high school), the Avalon represented a nice car to be seen in, and drive around in, for the period of my evaluation. The ride on its 111″ wheelbase is superb do to the MacPherson strut front suspension with offset coil springs and stabilizer bar and dual-link independent MacPherson strut rear suspension with offset coil springs and another stabilizer bar. The room inside is ample for big, American motorists with 0ver 42″ of legroom is up front and over 39″ in the back seat area. The same holds true for shoulder room in the car at nearly five feet of it, front and rear. Overall length is 195.3″, six inches shorter than a Chevrolet Impala and 4.8″ longer than a Mazda 6. The Avalon weighs 3,638 lbs., the same as the Chevy despite the fact it has a big hybrid battery on board.
The efficient power supply for the Avalon consisted of a 2.5 liter, 4 cylinder hybrid gas/electric engine with 200 hybrid system net horsepower (149 kW) and an electronically-controlled continuously variable (CVT) transmission. The EPA estimates for the Avalon is 40 mpg – combined and city. Highway mileage rating is 39 mpg – my experience for the week driving the car was 38.9 mpg. The fuel tank holds 17 gallons of regular unleaded gasoline. It’s impossible for the Avalon styling to offend anyone, young or old. There exists up front the Toyota-specific big chrome mustache grill with black background, high intensity discharge (HID) quadrabeam headlights with auto on/off feature, and LED daytime running lights (DRL) with on/off feature. The fifteen-spoke painted aluminum alloy wheels are fitted with P215/55R17 Bridgestone Turanza EL400 mud and snow radials. No tailpipes are visible at the rear of the car (hybrid-style), but ample chrome is and a spoiler is almost molded into the trunk lid where underneath there is 14 cubic feet of cargo space available to the five passengers.
As you might expect, the inside the Avalon Hybrid Limited is sumptuous with its premium perforated leather-trimmed multi-stage heated and ventilated front seats, 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support and power cushion extension, and 8-way power-adjustable front passenger seat. On hand are premium JBL stereo, navigation system, 7″ touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, power rear window sunshade, ten airbags, tilt/telescope, pushbutton starter, backup camera, smoked chrome accents, and power mirrors/windows/locks.
M.S.R.P. of the Avalon tester came in at $44,475.00, including $825.00 for freight and $1,950.00 for the technology package which included radar cruise control, automatic high beam, pre-collision safety system, and wireless charging platform for smartphones. It’s a considerable investment, but a sound one given the comfort, beauty, and economy that the buyer gets in the bargain.
Toyota has been building Camrys since 1982, and the car was originally a compact sedan. Now it has evolved into a midsize automobile, and year after year the company sells over 400,000 of them. I drove a new 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid during the past few days, all over Northern Colorado as well as to Denver, and I found out that I like this new 2015 more than the 2014.5 that I had in the fall. It was the styling that won me over, as this new sedan has virtually all new body parts (everything but the roof), and is quieter, roomier, and even a little sportier. I was more of a fan of the 2007 (through 2011) Camry styling than I was of last year’s, and now this 2015 gets me back as a big booster.
The Camry Hybrid has a power train consisting of a CVT delivering power to the front wheels from its hybrid system. I have grown pretty accustomed to the CVT transmission setup in the Camrys; that includes both this one and the 2014.5 that I tested in the fall. CVT stands for continuously variable transmission (no shifts), and it is coupled to a gasoline 4 cylinder, 2.5 liter motor with 156 horsepower (@ 5,700 rpm) and 156 lb. ft. of torque (@4,500 rpm). Two electric motor/generators are on board to add in 141 more horsepower and 199 lb. ft. of torque. Combined power rating is 200 horsepower, and as I mentioned, it was pretty suitable for driving the midsize sedan. I liked the ride and handling better than last Camry I had, and styling (as I have mentioned) is great from all angles.
The Toyota Camry Hybrid mid-size FWD sedan has been available for eight years, and over the winter has been available in showrooms in its third generation configuration. My test Camry was equipped to the tune of $32,233.00, M.S.R.P. The base price of $27,995.00 for the SE model had as additions the blue illuminated door sills ($299.00) remote start ($499.00) four season floor mat package ($325.00), premium navigation/audio package ($1,300.00), moon roof ($915), and wireless charging system ($75.00). Freight charges came to $825.00. The car came in “blue crush metallic” paint and the cloth seating was a light gray in color. It’s a five passenger sedan with a decent sized rear passenger compartment and a 15.4 cubic foot trunk. It comfortably seats five adults. Miles-per-gallon fuel economy ratings for the car I drove were 40 City, 38 Highway, and 40 Combined. The fuel tank holds 17 gallons of at least 87-octane regular unleaded gasoline.
My test automobile was equipped as an above-average midsize sedan. On hand were such items as a good JBL stereo, 6.1″ touchscreen for nav and backup, fancier dash materials for 2015, sport cloth SofTex seating, satellite radio, 17″ alloys, and Bluetooth. Wheelbase of the Camry is 109.3″, length is 190.9″, and weight of the SE is 3,565 lbs.
There is a reason the Camry is America’s best selling car (almost 30,000 sold in November of 2014), and I experienced it firsthand this week with the SE Hybrid.
The Toyota Camry Hybrid mid-size FWD sedan was introduced in May of 2006 as a 2007 model. The current unit is in its second generation iteration. A 2014.5 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid was brought to me last week for testing, and it was equipped as such to arrive at an M.S.R.P. of $30,970.00. The base price of $27,945.00 for the SE model had as additions the navigation system ($1,200.00) and power tilt/slide moon roof ($915.00). The car came in “Barcelona Red” paint, which was fun to photograph, and the cloth seating was black. It’s a five passenger sedan with a suitably sized rear passenger compartment and a 13.1 cubic foot trunk. Curb weight was 3,545 lbs., wheelbase was 109.3”, and overall length came in at 189.2”.
I drove the Camry quite a bit this last week, both to Ft. Collins, Boulder and to Denver, and gradually grew pretty accustomed to the CVT transmission setup in the car. CVT stands for continuously variable transmission (no shifts), and it is coupled to a gasoline 4 cylinder, 2.5 liter motor with 156 horsepower and 156 lb. ft. of torque. Two electric motor/generators are on board to add in 141 more horsepower and 199 lb. ft. of torque. Combined power rating is 200 horsepower, and as I mentioned, it was pretty acceptable for driving the somewhat big sedan. The ride, handling, and guidance were all good, and the styling suits me, as well (particularly front and rear).
Fuel economy for the hybrid has been improved for the last two years, and for the time I drove it the reading was 39.5 mpg. EPA ratings for the car I drove were 40 mpg city and 38 mpg highway – 40 mpg combined. The fuel tank held 17 gallons of regular gasoline. The current mileage compilation for the car is displayed on a dial; not digitally.
I mentioned earlier the options on board with this Camry – it was equipped with a moderate amount of equipment, including an 8 speaker JBL stereo, 7″ touchscreen for navigation and backup view, SoftTex-trimmed seating, satellite radio, 17″ five-spoke alloys, Bridgestone Turanza EL400 P215/55R17 all- season radials, tilt/telescope, pushbutton starter, cruise control, keyless entry, power windows/locks/mirrors, and Bluetooth connectivity.
There is a reason the Camry is America’s best selling car, and I experienced it this week with the SE Hybrid. This model will hold up well in the hybrid sales parade, although with the recent gas prices dipping under $3.00 per gallon, it will be a walking parade, not a stampede.
The Lexus GS is a mid-size luxury car sold by Lexus, the luxury division of Toyota. Its design was originated by Italdesign Guigiaro over a quarter century ago as a simplified, European-looking offering. The GS is the car that I was loaned to test this last week. The car is called a GS450h, and the “h“ stands for hybrid drive train, made up of a 306 horsepower Atkinson-cycle V-6 and two electric motor/generators. Total horsepower of the gasoline/electric package is 338, and the power is delivered through a continuously variable automatic transmission. Although not officially designated a “sports sedan”, this 4,147 lb. car can go from zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. Top speed is reportedly a governor-limited 136 mph.
The Lexus GS series of cars has been around since 1993, and is now in its fourth generation configuration for 2014. Lexus, headquartered in Nagoya, Japan, sent as its first automobile to America the big LS series in 1989. The company currently manufactures Japan’s top-selling make of luxury automobiles. The GS models come in a V-6 sports sedan, a high-performance F Sport sedan, and the hybrid (h) model that I tested.
Highway manners of the GS450h are excellent, with an assist from the blind spot monitor to keep the driver out of trouble. Ride on the Dunlop 235/45R18 SP Sport S100 all-season radials (on 18”, eighteen split-spoke alloys) is silent and responsive, and the driver can select from four drive modes – Eco, Normal, Sport, and Sport+. In winter the driver can select “snow”, and there is an “EV” (all-electric) selection to made, too. Lots of options, and lots of performance in the Sport+ mode, especially so for a hybrid vehicle. While in Sport+, the car provides more shock damping, tighter steering, and improved throttle response. And all these handling and power characteristics are present in a car that delivered right at 30 mpg for me all week. Official ratings are 29/city and 34/highway (31 combined).
The M.S.R.P. of the GS450h is $59,600.00 (base), and options include a luxury package for $5,695.00, blind spot monitor for $700.00, premium Mark Levinson stereo for $1,380.00, hard-disk navigation setup for $1,735.00, power trunk for $400.00, and intuitive park assist for $500.00. Total list price with $910.00 for freight comes to $70,920.00. That luxury package includes heated and cooled, 18-way power front semi-aniline leather seats, heated bamboo and leather steering wheel, LED headlamps, and rear-door manual sunshades (an electric sunshade is present in the back window). The 330 watt stereo includes 17 speakers with 7.1 surround sound architecture. The screen for the navigation is gigantic, at 12.3”, with split-screen capability, and controlling its applications is done with a mouse on the console.
The GS450h came with Riviera Red paint and the interior was black. The paint seemed to be two feet thick, and the styling excelled, mostly up front. No tailpipe finishers were present at the rear, in somewhat of a curious styling move (hybrid?). But the car is an eye catcher, for sure.