2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier

Radio On-Air Review:

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 

2015 Lexus ES-300h FWD Sedan

20150615_153629On 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.20150615_153920

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.

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited Sedan


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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.  SAM_3763It’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.

 

 

 

2015 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid Sedan

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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.  SAM_0344

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.

2014.5 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE

SAM_0026The 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”.  IMG_0160

SAM_0063    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). IMG_0156

SAM_0017 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.SAM_0044

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.SAM_0081

 

 

2014 Lexus GS450h Hybrid Sedan Review

IMG_0021The 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).SAM_3587

SAM_3564The 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.

The Lexus GS450h was a treat to test all week, providing this reviewer
with an extra “measure of pleasure’, and the car deserves a good look from the luxury car-buying public.

 

2014 Tesla Model S

 

_DSC3098Computer and internet whiz Elon Musk joined Tesla Motors in 2004, a year after Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning founded the company.  He is generally considered a co-founder of Tesla, as he is of PayPal, Space-X, and Zip2.  The South African-born Musk is an American citizen and holds the position of CEO and Chief Product Architect at Tesla, based in Palo Alto, California.  Tesla designs and manufactures premium electric vehicles.

I was recently in San Francisco and made arrangements to go by Tesla’s nearby headquarters to pick up a 2014 Model S for testing.  Communications specialist Alexis Georgeson was there to meet me and turn over the keys to the solid black four-door sedan with black leather seating.  I was pleased to discover the “P85+” badging on the trunk of my test car, emblematic of Tesla’s biggest battery installation and a high performance drive inverter.  The 85 kWh battery/motor combination puts 416 horsepower to the rear wheels at between 5,000 and 8,600 rpm.  Peak torque on this automobile is 443 lb. ft. at any rpm between zero and 5,100.

Range of the performance Tesla Model S is estimated by the manufacturer to be 300 miles at 55 mph.  EPA 5-cycle certified testing results are 265 miles, and such testing is at higher speeds and with operating electric accessories.  I drove 214 miles, but stopped at a Tesla Supercharger to top off the battery midway through the test.  I wanted to experience the stop at their facility, where a 30 minute charge brought my battery up to 262 miles of range.  The procedure was simple, located in Fremont, and a suitable lounge was on hand for motorists, some of which were monitoring charging progress on their smartphones.  The company provides the battery charging at no cost to Tesla performance S owners at the facilities, which number 85 in North America and 14 in Europe.  Of course, the Tesla can be charged pretty much at any location with 110 or 240 volt AC power, including at home.SAM_2919

I familiarized myself with the test car before heading north on U.S. Highway 101 toward the Inn at the Opera in San Francisco, where Ruth and I were staying.  The prodigious power of the Tesla is confidence-inspiring on the freeway, assuring the driver that he can jump into the next lane, merge, or pass with instantaneous response.  The car is all-electric, and has no gas tank or gas engine, with a battery that is under the passenger compartment, about 5’ by 8’, and shaped like a graham cracker.  Tesla batteries, in two incidents, have been pierced by road debris, causing fires without fatalities.  The company has recently added shielding under the Model S to prevent further incidents and is retrofitting owned Teslas upon request at service intervals.  The NHTSA looked into the fires, and recently closed its investigation without pushing for a recall.

On the second day with the Tesla Model S, my wife and I drove to Alice’s Restaurant on Skyline Boulevard in Woodside, California.  At Alice’s, “you can get anything you want”, according to Arlo Guthrie, and I chose French toast.  As I understand it, residents of Woodside can get almost anything they want, with median family income of nearly $200,000.00.  So it was no surprise that the locals in the diner were accustomed to cars such as the Tesla Model S making an appearance at Alice’s. SAM_2924

The drive to Woodside is through tall redwoods on a serpentine two-lane road where the Tesla flexed its muscles with a remarkably low center of gravity, Michelin staggered Pilot Sport PS2, Z-rated tires, front double-wishbone/rear multi-link suspension and near 50/50 weight distribution.  I had never driven a car with 35-aspect tires, and I was surprised at the acceptable ride of the Tesla – the handling was not a surprise.

Inside the cabin of the Model S resides a 17” touchscreen navigation/stereo system, panoramic moon roof, supple leather buckets, and a console tray perfect for the wife’s purse.  The navigation display is replicated on the dash just ahead of the driver, and I liked that for getting through California traffic.  Some options are absent on the Tesla such as blind spot monitor and adaptive radar cruise control.  The rear camera, however, can be turned on at any time, not just while in reverse.

_DSC3094   No gas mileage ratings (no gas) are published for the Tesla Model S, but to drive 25,000 miles, the Tesla will require $778.00 worth of electricity (.11 per kilowatt/hour).  So at $3.80 per gallon, a gas-powered vehicle would have to get 122 mpg to go that far for that much money.  A Tesla owner could sneak in a few Supercharger refills and lower the cost-per-mile even further.  Cost of the car, on the other hand, is high, with a base price of $89,900.00.  My test car was loaded with options – seven passenger seating, alcantara headliner, 21” alloy wheels, tech package, high fidelity sound system, et al, and thus the total M.S.R.P. was $127,020.00.  Federal and in some cases state tax credits can help mitigate the investment in a Tesla.

By the end of 2014, Tesla will be introducing an SUV called the Model X.  It will share a lot of the Model S technology, but offer all-wheel drive with electric motors both front and rear.  Falcon doors that swing up and above the vehicle will be a feature of the Model X.  Another Tesla, the model E, will be a smaller sedan reportedly available in 2016 and is to be priced under $50,000.00.

I came back from California thoroughly impressed with the Tesla Model S, had a good time driving it, and thought the people at the company were very accommodating to this journalist.  It’s hard to bet against this company as they try to bring electric vehicles into the American automotive mainstream.

 

“A Hybrid for Nice People” 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring Sedan

Honda hybrid IHonda Motor Company started exporting motorcycles to America, from Japan, in the early 1960’s with a clever slogan, “You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda”.  I became  an early customer when I purchased a new 1964 Honda while in high school in Grant,  Nebraska.  All three Wright brothers eventually bought Hondas, and of course mine was the smallest, the Honda 50, a little machine I rolled into my junior speech class to talk about in front of my classmates.564569_4530557393104_1470037628_n

It was later, in the 1970’s, that Honda started exporting automobiles to the U.S., and in 1999 they sent the first commercially-produced hybrid sedan, the Insight, to our shores.  Its introduction preceded Toyota’s Prius by seven months, but it had two fewer doors and carried three fewer passengers than the Prius.  Such limitations have since been eliminated, but nonetheless the Prius has outsold the Honda hybrids for the last thirteen years.

For 2014 Honda has re-introduced its Accord Hybrid, which features a 50 mpg EPA city fuel economy rating.  That mileage is a breakthrough, of sorts, for Honda, and the drive train features substantial technology with its 2.0 liter Atkinson-cycle gas engine and two electric motors (drive and generation).  Total system horsepower is 196, and three driving modes are available in the hybrid Accord – all-electric, combined gasoline-electric, and gas-powered overdrive.  The latter is a Honda exclusive, allowing the automobile to lock the gas engine to the drive wheels with a clutch, not a transmission, above 50 mph.  The 55 hp electric drive motor is, in that situation, available for bursts of acceleration.  And from a standstill, the Accord Hybrid goes from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, regardless of altitude.  Speaking of which, the drive train in this car has a “B” braking mode that is great for descending steep mountain grades safely while charging the 1.3 kW lithium-ion battery.

Recently, a 2014 Honda Hybrid Touring edition was loaned to me out of the press fleet, and I drove it for a week.  The Accord Hybrid comes in a standard, EX-L, and Touring edition, which is the top model and the one I tested.  For $35,695.00, including freight, the Touring edition has a leather interior, navigation system with backup camera, adaptive radar cruise control, lane departure warning, moon roof, and dual heated power bucket seats.  An item I particularly enjoyed was Lanewatch, a camera integrated into the right outside mirror that gives the driver a view of the lane (in the 8” screen) to the right and behind the Honda.  This operates any time the right hand turn signal is activated.

The driving experience when behind the wheel of the Accord Hybrid is excellent, with a somewhat quieter environment than the conventional Accord and similar guidance, handling, and ride; all good.  Visibility is top-notch (see above), and real-world economy for this reviewer came in at 37.5 mpg, 25% less that the EPA estimate.  Sub-zero weather during my week with the car was a factor.

The mid-sized Honda sedan rolls on 17” aerodynamic alloy wheels with Michelin P225/50R17 Michelin GreenX energy saving radials.  All Accords were re-styled for 2013, an improvement, and this hybrid had distinctive blue-accented grill and lighting, front and rear, plus a body-colored decklid spoiler.

In high school I  fantasized about someday driving an automobile with the quality and innovation of my little Honda 50.  Someday arrived a week ago when I tested the very capable, American made Honda Accord Hybrid.

2013 Hyundai Sonata FWD Hybrid Limited

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid I    The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has been on sale in America for about 18 months, and shares its drive train and some design elements with the KIA Optima Hybrid.  The two cars combine to occupy second place (in America) in hybrid sales to Toyota’s Prius.  The Hyundai has more conventional styling than a Prius, and in fact is a rather attractive sedan.  I received one for testing last week; an Onyx black unit with a gray leather interior.

The M.S.R.P. for my 2013 test unit was $32,490, freight included, and it was the top-of-the-line Limited model.  The only options on the loaded Limited were a panoramic sunroof package ($1,000), carpeted floor mats ($110), and an Ipod cable ($35).  Standard equipment on this model included heated front and rear seats, the leather (seating, steering wheel, and shift knob), 400-watt Infinity 8-speaker stereo, backup camera, navigation with 7” screen, power driver’s seat and 17” alloy wheels.  Also on hand was tilt/telescope steering column, satellite radio, cruise control, power windows/locks/mirrors, pushbutton starter, keyless entry, Bluetooth/USB connectivity, and heated mirrors with lighted signal stripes. Sonata Emblem

The hybrid power setup in the Sonata starts with a 2.4 liter, Atkinson cycle four cylinder gas engine (159 hp/154 lb. ft.) and adds a permanent-magnet AC electric motor (47 hp/151 lb. ft.).  Combined horsepower of the drive train is thus 199 horsepower, and the car accelerates from zero to 60 in 8.4 seconds.  A six speed automatic transmission with a manual mode delivers power to the front wheel drive sedan.  EPA mileage ratings for the Sonata are 36 city/40 highway, 37 overall, and the fuel tank holds 18.5 gallons of regular gasoline (range!).

As I mentioned, the Limited Hyundai is rather good-looking, with bold chrome strips on all four sides, chrome door handles, racy lighting on all corners, and two-toned gray alloy 17” wheels fitted with P215/55R17  Kumho Solus KH25 all season radials.  The Onyx black paint had some metallic in the finish, and the panoramic sun roof was evident from outside the car. Sonata Wheel

My wife and I drove around quite a bit in the Hyundai, and the ride was great.  Wind noise was minimal, and passing and accelerating from a light was a snap.  One thing that was quite balky was the gas gauge, which barely moved in a downward direction.

Weight of the Sonata is 3,645 lbs., not much for a hybrid.  The company uses a 47 KW lithium-polymer battery pack (warrantied for life), something normally found employed in a plug-in vehicle.  Thus, it is in the trunk; yet the trunk holds 16.4 cubic feet of luggage.  Wheelbase of the car is 110”, length is 189.8”, width is 72.2”, and the height is 57.7”.  With the battery in the trunk, the passenger volume is maintained at 103.8 cubic feet, like the Hyundai gas-powered sedan. Sonata Interior

At the asking price of $32,490, I feel the Sonata Hybrid deserves a hard look from a perspective hybrid car shopper.  It’s attractive, roomy, fuel efficient, and well-appointed.

2013 Infiniti M35h RWD Hybrid Sedan

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Infiniti began selling cars in America two dozen years ago with a pair of initial offerings, the Q45 and the M30.  As the luxury division of Nissan of Japan, they brought out the Infiniti line pretty much in response to Honda and Toyota’s introduction of their Acura and Lexus nameplates.  Infiniti chose to use a handcrafted approach to their manufacturing process, as opposed to Acura and Lexus, both of which chose more automation.

Thirty or forty years ago, the term “Japanese luxury car” was considered an oxymoron; their products having gained a foothold in this country as a result of the fuel crises (1973 and 1977).  But when the Detroit Auto Show went to a global affair in 1989, Infiniti exploded on the scene, along with Lexus, with new luxury offerings to join Acura; thus, it was “on”.  Today these manufacturers and their models are part of the American auto lexicon and they have muscled in on the territory of Cadillac, Lincoln, and the German luxury cars.

I have tested several Infinitis, and this past week another was brought by for evaluation – the M35h hybrid sedan.  The M’s are the top of the line sedans for this company, and this car is in its second year of production.  Its M.S.R.P. was $66,245, including freight.  That price included several options – technology package ($3,050), deluxe touring package ($3,900), and premium package ($4,200).  Thus, the car had adaptive cruise control, blind spot and lane departure warning, and adaptive lighting up front.  The interior was sumptuous, and included a suede headliner, semi-aniline leather trim, Japanese white ash wood trim, Bose 16-speaker surround sound stereo with satellite radio, electric tilt/telescope, navigation system, backup camera, moon roof, power rear sunshade, and air conditioned seats/steering wheel.  The stone (off-white) interior was striking with “Infiniti” stitching in the front buckets and soft double-stitched speedometer/tach hood.

The M35h is a high performance hybrid, with 369 total horsepower – at the heart of the power train is a 3.5 liter V-6 with 258 lb. ft. of torque.  It’s rear-wheel drive, the preferred architecture for a luxury performance car in this category.  The transmission is a seven-speed automatic (like Infiniti’s V-8 has) with manual shift mode.  The driver selects from four driving modes with a console-mounted button – sport, standard, eco (omy), and snow.  The eco mode maximizes fuel economy, and this car’s ratings are an impressive 27 city and 32 highway.  I observed 27 mpg during the time spent with the M35h.  Reportedly the Infiniti can operate up to 50% of the time in electric mode (battery charge permitting).  The trunk, of course, suffers a little with the battery on board, providing 11 cubic feet of luggage space.  It is covered with an electric cinch-down lid.

The M35h styling features chrome door handles, exhaust tips, and double-arched massive grill.  The paint was “Moonlight” white metallic, and actually looked best in sunlight.  The 18” alloy ten-spoke bright wheels were surrounded with 245/50R18 all-season radials.

Despite all of the aforementioned driving-assist options on the Infiniti, I actually had to do some driving myself, and it indeed was a pleasure.  This reviewer would love to own such a vehicle, and it comes with my recommendation.