Family sedans may be passé in this increasingly crossover SUV-dominated market, but they still offer the best blend of practicality, drivability and economy for your typical small family. And that’s why they still dominate the sales charts. Now, with fuel prices on the rise again, efficiency is returning to prominence. For 2018, the Honda Accord Hybrid offers that efficiency without compromising the other parts of the package.
In earlier Accords, selecting the Hybrid model meant making do with a trunk that yielded to the demands of battery packaging. Those big, heavy cells that provide the electric part of the driveline equation need to live somewhere, and on the 2017 and earlier models they only fit behind the rear seats.
For 2018, the Accord rides on a new chassis that makes room for those batteries beneath the rear seats. The new, smaller lithium-ion battery pack now disappears into the structure of the car, meaning exactly the same 16.7 cubic feet of trunk space as the normal sedan. That’s 0.9 cubic feet up over the 2017 Honda Accord — the non-hybrid. And, with the batteries situated beneath the seats, the Hybrid also gets the same 60/40 split rear seatback.
Up front, a new 2.0-liter, Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine provides 143 horsepower and 129 pound-feet of torque, delivering an incredible 40 percent thermal efficiency. That may not sound like much, but it’s Honda’s most efficient production engine ever. That’s paired with an electric motor that boosts total system output to 212 horsepower, 20 more than the base Accord’s 1.5-liter turbocharged four.
Interestingly that hybrid system is configured in series, meaning the car can run entirely on the electric motor and use the gasoline motor just to recharge the batteries, a la the Chevrolet Volt. But, when engine speed or acceleration demands, both motors can work in parallel to provide maximum performance.
But don’t expect too much on that front. I was able to drive an early version of the 2018 Accord Hybrid and found the acceleration to be on the relaxed side, more than acceptable but lacking the EV-style rush of torque that we’ve come to expect from cars like the Volt. But, this was just a hand-built prototype that had spent the day getting flogged by journalists, so a fresher car with a full battery pack may very well perform better.
The big question, of course, is overall economy and, sadly, that we don’t have an answer for yet. The 2018 Accord in its most efficient configuration, with the 1.5-liter engine and CVT, offers a combined 33 mpg. The 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid manages 48 combined, so don’t be surprised if the new car pushes that figure well into the 50s. Despite that, we should actually see a decrease in price. For 2018 the Accord Hybrid will be available in the base LX trim, losing some interior niceties in exchange for a lower MSRP.
The 2018 Accord Hybrid hits dealers early next year and, while I was quite impressed by my time behind the wheel of the traditionally powered sedans, if you’re not in a hurry I’m inclined to think the Hybrid will be well worth the wait.
Ready or not, the electric (or at least electrified) SUVs are coming: Last week, Jaguar Land Rover announced a plug-in Range Rover Sport; the automaker has just confirmed that the non-sport Range Rover will also get a plug-in variant, dubbed the P400e, for the 2019 model year. This is further evidence of JLR’s intention to roll out hybrid versions of all of their offerings by 2020, in addition to launching a range of pure electric vehicles.
In theory, an electrified system could serve up immediate low-end grunt thanks to the electric motors while offering the fuel economy benefits of a downsized engine. This Range Rover will get a 2.0-liter four-cylinder Ingenium gas engine, which is only good for 296 hp on its own; add in the 85 kW electric motor, which is housed within the vehicle’s eight-speed transmission, and the SUV will put out a total of 398 hp and a respectable 472 lb-ft of torque. 0-60 times are a stated 6.4 seconds, but if you’re not driving like a maniac, the P400e will get up to 31 miles of all-electric range.
Under the skin of the Range Rover P400e. The battery in in the back, and the motor is tucked into the housing of the eight-speed automatic transmission.
The plug-in Range Rovers will join a fleet of hybrid SUVs like the Jeep Wrangler and the Mitsubishi Outlander — within the next few years, there should be an electrified truck for all budgets. If the JLR angle seems vaguely familiar, we’ll note that long, long ago, way back in 2006, Land Rover — then a Ford property — rolled out its hybrid e-Terrain Technology Concept at the Geneva motor show. Some ideas never die.
JLR says the plug-in Range Rover P400e should be available in the U.S. market by summer 2018; pricing for the variant has not yet been announced.
– Graham Kozak drove a 1951 Packard 200 sedan in high school because he wanted something that would be easy to find in a parking lot. He thinks all the things they’re doing with fuel injection and seatbelts these days are pretty nifty too.
Cruising through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains in the 2018 Volvo XC60 T8, my drive partner wondered what elevation we were at. We both thought we were at 6,000 feet or so, as the 2.0-liter four cylinder was pulling strong, not succumbing to the thinner air as many internal combustion engines do.
I checked the compass app on my phone, and to my surprise, we were more than 8,000 feet above sea level. Volvo’s unique turbocharged and supercharged hybrid engine had climbed up the pass with nary a stutter. That’s the glory of the XC60 T8. This model’s powertrain combines the guts of internal combustion motivating the front wheels with the instant power of an electric motor on the rear wheels.
The XC60 is Volvo’s latest crossover, but the company has already sold over one million units since the model was first introduced nine years ago. This midsize offering is available in base Momentum trim, sport-focused R-Drive or deluxe Inscription. You also get your choice of three powertrains, including the turbocharged T5 or the turbocharged and supercharged T6 engine. However, the plug-in T8 electric hybrid, featured here, is the powertrain to get.
This unique engine utilizes a supercharger at lower rpms and a turbocharger at the higher revs to force more air into the combustion chamber, producing more power. By supercharging first, the driver never has to wait for the turbo to spool up. Instead, power delivery is consistent no matter where the engine is in its power band. It’s a pretty neat trick. The addition of the 87-horsepower electric motor brings total system output up to 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. For those keeping score, those numbers best the Jaguar F-Pace S and Mercedes-AMG GLC43, matching the Porsche Macan Turbo in horsepower while providing 66 pound-feet more of twisting power.
A 10.4-kWh battery is mounted in the center tunnel, so the hybrid doesn’t lose much interior space in relation to its non-hybrid counterparts. It can be charged using a standard 110v or 220v household outlet or at a 200v public charging station, reaching full-tilt boogie in about two-and-a-half hours. Or if you prefer to never plug the thing in, the gas engine can be used to charge the battery as well, but doing so isn’t as efficient. The T8 hybrid has an EPA fuel rating of 56 MPGe or 26 mpg with premium gas. When compared to the low mid-twenties combined rating of the T5 and T6 engine, the hybrid is looking pretty darn good.
New self-driving features
Steer Assist comes to the XC60 for 2018. If a computer detects the driver is attempting an evasive maneuver to avoid hitting an object from the front, the XC60 will make the turn as effective as possible by braking the inner wheels during the turn, adding steering input, and then braking outside wheels after the maneuver to settle the chassis. I’m not crazy enough to speed toward a stationary object to test this feature for you, dear Reader, so I will just say that the inclusion of this technology is part of the company’s commitment to zero deaths or serious injuries in a new Volvo by 2020.
Also new this year is Oncoming Lane Mitigation, which uses the forward-facing camera to read lane markers and radar to detect oncoming cars. If the driver inadvertently drifts onto the wrong side of the road and into the path of an oncoming car, the XC60 can steer itself back into the correct lane. Again, I’m not brave enough to deliberately drift into oncoming traffic to test the technology, but it’s one more level of safety other car companies have yet to match.
Similar technology is at work in Volvo’s new blind-spot monitoring system. If the driver does not heed the system’s warnings and attempts to change lanes in front of a vehicle approaching from the rear, the XC60 will steer itself back into the correct lane. While I’m not comfortable barreling towards a pedestrian or driving on the wrong side of the road, I had no problem performing a slight lane drift for the sake of this review. The technology intervened gently after a visual alert and audible warning. It was neither jolting nor surprising, and is sure to be a boon in California, where motorcyclists often split lanes and seemingly appear out of nowhere.
Volvo’s excellent Pilot Assist II adaptive cruise control works well in stop-and-go traffic, bringing the car to a complete stop with a brief pause before disengaging, and it keeps the car centered in its lane when on the move. It can’t handle twisty roads and still requires you to keep your hands on the wheel, but it’s a great relief in heavy traffic, responding quickly to road conditions,. On my drive, it even responded to a little chicane in the road outside of Denver. After our long day of mountain driving, giving up some control on the final bumper-to-bumper trek back to our hotel was a welcome respite.
As with all current semi-autonomous technology, the driver still needs to pay attention and is ultimately in charge of the car. However, these features help make stop-and-go driving as safe and stress-free as possible.
And don’t think the Volvo is a one-trick safety pony. It’s got the goods when it comes to interior tech, as well. The updated user interface debuting on the XC60’s 9-inch Sensus Connect touchscreen includes tweaked menus, color-coded tiles and bigger fonts. It’s easy to use, super-intuitive and even works while wearing gloves. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but neither will take over the entire screen. This makes it easy to access the native navigation, media and Bluetooth phone while still having all your smart phone goodies nearby. 4G LTE connectivity and a Wi-Fi hotspot are also included.
Behind the wheel, performance is engaging, with the aforementioned T8 powertrain providing strong and consistent acceleration. While all-wheel drive is standard, the system is biased toward the front wheels. The computer distributes power to the front wheels under normal driving conditions, but can send up to 50 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear if necessary.
The eight-speed automatic transmission puts power down quickly and with minimal fuss. And yes, there are different driving modes. The XC60’s default Hybrid mode is like a comfort setting, providing the best mix of fuel efficiency, performance and ride quality. Select Pure mode for maximum eco-efficiency and an all-electric range of 25 miles at speeds up to 78 miles per hour. The fun is in Power mode, which turns off the electronic stability control and sets steering and braking to their most dynamic. Slippery conditions can be met with All-wheel Drive mode, which puts the power from the gas-powered engine to the front wheels while power from the electric motor to the rear. There’s even an Off Road mode that works at low speeds on rough roads. If none of those tickle your fancy, you can dial in your own settings in the Individual mode.
My test model had the optional air-suspension system with automatic leveling and height adjustment. Cruise down the highway at 75 miles per hour and the XC60 will hunker down nearly half an inch. Increase that speed to 112 mph and the ride height lowers a tick more, all in the name of improved aerodynamics and efficiency.
The air suspension kept body roll in check and the XC60 tucked into turns nicely on our curvy mountain drive, too. I personally prefer a little more weight in the steering, but most folks should be satisfied. The regenerative brakes are a bit touchy and take some getting used to, but that’s really my only complaint from my short time with the car.
You can score a 2018 XC60 T8 in the base Momentum trim for $52,900 (plus $995 for delivery), but the top-of-the-line Inscription that I drove, complete with navigation, a cooled glove box and a few pleasing aesthetic touches, can be had for $56,700 before options. With a $5,002 federal tax incentive, the base price is brought down to $47,898, a bit of a jump from the base with the T5 engine, at $41,500, or the base T6, which goes for $44,900.
Still, the XC60 T8 is value-packed with all the standard safety features and an excellent hybrid powertrain. The adaptive cruise control with Pilot Assist is worth the extra $2,000 or so, making the XC60 T8 a sub-$50,000 luxury midsize crossover that’s fun, and safe, to drive.
Another automaker is vowing to turn its entire lineup a little more green: Aston Martin told the Financial Times that it’ll offer vehicles exclusively with hybrid and electric cars by the middle of next decade.
It’s not as audacious a goal as it might’ve seemed even just a few years ago; Volvo has committed to selling only hybrid or electric cars by 2019, and Britain and France have both outlined plans to ban the sale of non-electric or hybrid vehicles by 2040.
Aston Martin’s announcement is significant because it’s a high-end luxury performance car maker, however, whose target demographic is precisely motoring enthusiasts. Aston Martin had previously announced plans to launch its first fully electric car, the Rapid-e, by 2019.
Don’t expect news of automakers intending to focus solely on hybrids and electrics to stop anytime soon; the writing is on the wall, now it’s just a question of in what order the dominoes fall.
When Ford announced its intention to build hybrid variants of both the F-150 and Mustang, enthusiasts were a bit surprised at Ford’s decision to electrify these two vehicles specifically. But they’re only the beginning, and additional mainstream electrified vehicles are coming along for the ride.
All these cars, along with the aforementioned F-150 and Mustang, are part of Ford’s plan to electrify 13 different models over the next five years.
When the Mustang hybrid arrives in 2020, it should offer up similar power to a V8, but the addition of an electric motor should provide even more torque than what’s currently on tap. As for the F-150 hybrid, there aren’t many details available, but Ford promised it would be competitive as a half-ton truck, and it could even function as a mobile generator.
Ford previously sold a hybrid version of the Escape in the early 2000s, but slow sales and the introduction of the C-Max sent it to the graveyard. The most notable hybrid pickup to date has been the Chevrolet Silverado hybrid, which was first discontinued in 2011, then brought it back as the Silverado eAssist mild hybrid.
Ford is wise to put this much of its effort behind its truck and crossover lineups. The F-150 sells more units each year than some automakers do, and crossover fever still plagues the countryside with no end in sight. Starting with these two vehicle types is good if Ford wants to get as many hybrids into as many hands as possible. Plus, given the fuel economy of some of these larger vehicles, a little bit of battery will go a long way in improving those figures.
Ford did not immediately return a request for comment.
Nissan debuted the Rogue Hybrid in January of this year and, by the time it recently arrived in the Roadshow HQ garage, I’d totally forgotten about it. With only a 5 or 6 mpg advantage over the standard Rogue (and only 2 mpg better on the highway), it doesn’t look very exciting on paper and is, honestly, a fairly forgettable and mild boost that easily got lost amidst a larger midcycle styling upgrade.
Then again, the standard Rogue is actually a pretty good starting point with pretty good performance, cargo area, efficiency and tech. It’s not my favorite choice in the class, but it’s still a very solid pick. So, even a mild bump in performance and efficiency should leave the Rogue Hybrid in a pretty good place, even better considering our 2017.5 Nissan Rogue Hybrid SV is only $1,000 more than the non-hybrid SV AWD model.
Electrifying the Rogue
The biggest change that comes to the Rogue Hybrid happens under the hood, where the 2.5-liter standard engine has been replaced with a smaller 2.0-liter mill that makes 141 horsepower and 144 pound-feet of torque. The smaller engine is mated with an electric motor that adds 30 kW to the party (about 40 hp) and 118 pound-feet of torque.
The hybrid system’s combined peak output of 176 horsepower is 6 ponies more than the larger standard gasoline engine, but it feels less torquey. Since, Nissan doesn’t state peak combined hybrid torque — hybrid math isn’t as simple as adding the pound-feet — I can’t confirm my suspicions. I noted that the Hybrid feels less responsive off of the line than the standard Rogue, but I’m not sure if the power train or the extra weight (about 200 pounds) is to blame.
In the initial instant of acceleration from a stop — when the e-motor operates alone — the Hybrid feels sort of wimpy and hesitant. Only when the gasoline engine kicks in does the SUV start to feel alive and willing to get up and go. What really tweaks me about this power train is the inconsistent throttle feel around town. Starting with not enough pedal off the line and ending up with a hair too much throttle when the gasoline engine kicks in, resulting in a sudden lurch of acceleration. It’s mildly annoying, but not the end of the world and with much patience I eventually learned where the Hybrid’s sweet spots were.
Like the standard Rogue, the Hybrid is based on a front-wheel drive architecture, but is available with an optional all-wheel drive system. Checking that box brings the FWD Hybrid’s EPA fuel economy estimates of 34 city, 33 highway and 35 combined mpg down to 31 city, 34 highway and 33 combined — about a 2 mpg drop across the board. That said, I ended my relaxed week of testing at a disappointing average of about 26 combined mpg.
Regardless of the chosen power train, all Rogue models feature Nissan’s Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which eschews fixed gear ratios in favor of infinitely variable ratios. Nissan has proven that it can build a good CVT with the standard Rogue and it’s just as good here on the hybrid, with none of the hunting and rubber banding that tend to plague this lesser examples of this drivetrain.
A bit less cargo capacity
The standard Rogue is a fairly spacious little SUV. So spacious that there’s even an option for a third-row seat. The Hybrid model, not so much, thanks to its lithium-ion battery pack.
The bank of batteries lives beneath the floor of the rear cargo area where the standard model’s Divide-N-Hide (rolls eyes) storage space would be. This means that the Hybrid loses about 12 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity and can’t be equipped with the Family Package third-row seating option. It’s still got a very respectable 27 cubic feet of trunk for your junk behind the second row, so it’s not a total loss, and the rest of the cabin is just as spacious as the non-hybrid.
Speaking of the rest of the cabin, I’ve got one small nitpick with the Rogue Hybrid’s ergonomics. Overall, it’s a comfortable place to sit, but Nissan has tucked most of the buttons for the all-wheel drive system, liftgate, drive modes and driver aid systems beneath the dashboard at the driver’s left knee. They’re nigh impossible for me to see down there without craning my neck, which is fine for most of them. I’m not going to be opening the liftgate on the highway. However, I just didn’t understand why at least the drive mode buttons — which are meant to be pressed while driving — weren’t on the center console where they could be reached without looking too long away from the road.
I love shooting with Fujifilm’s Instax instant film cameras—they’re fun for carrying to parties—but I’ve always felt there was something missing from the experience. The company makes both the cameras and the film that goes inside. There’s the smaller, business card-sized film format called Instax Mini, and the larger Instax Wide. Both are rectangular, which means neither sets alight the nostalgia region of my brain like a good, old-fashioned, square Polaroid.
Fujifilm Instax Square SQ10
Nifty concept merges digital photography with analog film. Compact design is easy to tote. Fuji’s first-ever square film. Ability to reprint photos is handy.
Film is smaller than real Polaroids. The quality of the digital camera is inferior to the camera in your smartphone. No Wi-Fi. The film and the camera are both too expensive.
How We Rate
1/10A complete failure in every way
3/10Serious flaws; proceed with caution
4/10Downsides outweigh upsides
5/10Recommended with reservations
6/10Solid with some issues
7/10Very good, but not quite great
8/10Excellent, with room to kvetch
Fujifilm’s new Instax Square film finally hits the Goldilocks 1:1 ratio squarely on the head.
What I didn’t expect was the weird hybrid digital/analog camera required to shoot Instax Square. The Instax SQ10 takes a low-res digital camera and pairs it with tech that prints your photos onto the analog film. The end result is more or less indistinguishable from a fully analog instant photo, and you still get to watch the picture develop before your eyes.
I can see why Fujifilm decided to go this route. Instant film isn’t free, and Instax Square film is expensive at around $1.50 per shot. But, since it’s part-digital, the SQ10 can help you conserve film. Shooting in manual mode, your digital photos get saved to the camera’s internal memory. You can sift through the photos later, committing only the best to physical media.
There are other perks of going from digital to analog. For example, if you’re kicking it with your pals, you can easily order up a round of reprints, so nobody leaves brunch without a souvenir photo. It’s also a lot easier to tweak exposure, apply filters and effects, since you can see the changes on the built-in 3-inch LCD.
Of course, there are annoying tradeoffs. At $280, the SQ10 is pricey. Purchasing one starts to look more like an investment, especially once you fill your Amazon cart with packs of film.
Even though the new film is up to the high standard set by previous Instax incarnations, it’s still smaller than the square Polaroids of yore. If you were expecting a perfect replica of a Polaroid with all the benefits of the lush, colorful Fujifilm chemistry, that’s not what this is.
The also camera stumbles when trying to bridge the worlds of digital and analog. If you use the camera’s rear LCD to tweak the image, be aware that what you see isn’t always what you get. I found that images often looked very different once printed out on film. Then there’s the disappointing quality of the 3.6-megapixel digital shots, ill-suited for sharing on modern social media. Even if you wanted to share these tiny pictures, the lack of Wi-Fi makes it a pain to get them off the camera.
To its credit, Fujifilm made the camera nice to use. Its squircle-tastic shape makes it look distinct, and it features a prominent metal dial around the lens that doubles as a gigantic power switch. Included in the box is a rechargeable battery (yes, you can charge it via Micro USB) and a wrist strap. The SQ10’s internal memory holds 50 shots, and you can add extra space with a microSD card.
What I’m forced to conclude is that even though Fujifilm finally went square, this experimental hybrid camera doesn’t deliver on its most promising aspects. If I’m going to print digital photos onto Instax film, I’d much rather use my iPhone and an Instax Share printer, which I’ve already been doing for years. My iPhone’s 12-megapixel shots rock for social media, and they print onto Instax Mini film beautifully. Simply put, there are better, more affordable ways to get into the Instax ecosystem, and the new Square film isn’t worth the high price of entry.
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I circled the San Francisco Bay and drove to the coast, but the fuel gauge in the 2017 Ford C-Max hybrid barely budged. It moved as slow as the wall clock in calculus class.
As I felt the well-tuned driving dynamics from behind the wheel, and surveyed the large cargo area in back, I thought how it’s a shame Ford couldn’t sell more than 20,000 last year, less than a fifth of Toyota Prius sales.
Then again, the odd body style of the C-Max makes it a challenge to focus on, like the Somebody Else’s Problem field described by Douglas Adams in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. Maybe Ford needs to take a page from Toyota’s design book and give the C-Max outrageous styling to force people to look.
Ford launched the US version of the C-Max in 2012, basing it on a European model that had been on the market for years. The five passenger C-Max boasts a large hatchback, boasting 52.6 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats down. That’s almost twice the capacity of the Prius, but smaller than the larger Prius V. The more similar Kia Niro beats the C-Max’s cargo space by almost 2 cubic feet.
Under the hood, the C-Max comes with a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain, consisting of a 2.0-liter four cylinder engine and electric motor, driving the front wheels with a combined 188 horsepower. That output is pretty strong for vehicles of this size, coming in well over the Kia Niro’s 139 horsepower or the Toyota Prius V’s 134 horsepower.
Fuel economy, the litmus test for any hybrid, comes in at an EPA-rated 42 mpg city and 38 mpg city for the C-Max, although my average hit 42.7 mpg. Those numbers match the Toyota Prius V, but fall about 5 mpg short of the Kia Niro.
Calling the Ford C-Max a driver’s car may stretch that term, but it does have a better behind-the-wheel feel than its brethren. It doesn’t feel sloppy when those inevitable turns in the road come up, likely thanks to its European heritage. In fact, a good driving feel has been a common theme among Roadshow’s recent Ford model reviews, such as the Fusion Hybrid and Escape.
A relatively stiff ride leaves the C-Max feeling connected to the pavement, and its power output lets it take off from a stop with authority. That said, this hybrid is certainly not a hot hatch. On a twisty road it exhibits definite understeer. And oddly for what is essentially an urban vehicle, its wide turning radius left me making many three point turns.
Being a hybrid, the dashboard lit up but the engine didn’t crank when I turned the key. Using a type of continuously variable transmission unique to hybrids, there are no abrupt gear changes. Taking off with light pressure on the throttle, the C-Max moved forward under electric power. Stepping up the acceleration, the engine cranks up with a not very pleasant sound, but that noise subsides at steady speeds.
Generally, I found the C-Max an easy driver for urban errands, only somewhat hampered by the poor turning radius. Its excellent fuel economy means fewer stops at the gas station.