Saturday, April 21, 2018

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE AWD Review

If you want efficiency, the RAV4 Hybrid is a fuel-stingy model for urban commuters. Don’t think that hybrid means slow on the go either. It’s peppy and has quick acceleration. With its hybrid powertrain and all-wheel drive, it’s almost in a class by itself.

This week, we drove the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE AWD.

What’s New For 2018

The Hybrid can now be had in an LE base trim, further lowering its point of entry, while an Adventure trim is available for the first time. The SE also gains 0.4-inches of ground clearance.

Features & Options

The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE AWD ($32,185) comes standard with a seven-inch touchscreen, heated outside mirrors, smartphone app integration, and satellite radio. It also comes with new safety systems like Pre-Collision, Lane Departure Alert, Lane Keeping Assist, pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control.

The SE adds sportier suspension tuning, 18-inch wheels, special exterior styling, and blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems. SE trims also get automatic LED headlights, LED running lights and taillights, a height-adjustable power lift gate, an eight-way power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustments, and heated front seats.

The Advanced Technology package ($2,785) added a bird’s-eye view parking camera, Entune Premium Audio with navigation and app suite, and for the SE, the parking sensors and auto-dimming mirror. Total MSRP on this Hybrid tester, including destination: $36,085.

Interior Highlights

The RAV4 cabin offers plenty of room with some soft-touch surfaces, but there are a lot of hard plastic areas. The instrument panel holds the digital display and a seven-inch touchscreen; the climate and audio controls are easy to figure out. The driver gets a car-like seating position on a fairly comfortable SofTex faux leather seat. Visibility is good in the RAV4 even with its raked roofline.

In the rear, passengers get enough room for three adults, but they may find the rear bench a little flat and hard for extended trips. The kids won’t notice a thing. The seat backs do recline and fold forward, making it a good cargo-hauling machine.

The large rear doors make it easy for adults to slide in and to load larger items. Cargo volume is cavernous: 38.4 cubic feet with all seats up, and 73.4 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. The RAV4 is an ultra-practical small SUV for families with kids and dogs.

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

This RAV4 hybrid is powered by a 154 horsepower, 2.5-liter engine coupled with the latest generation of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system. The RAV4 Hybrid delivers a total combined output of 194 horsepower. All-wheel drive is standard on the Hybrid, with a separate electric motor driving the rear wheels. 

The new RAV4 Hybrid is more powerful than the standard models but still delivers an EPA-rated 34/33 city/highway and 32 combined mpg.

Driving Dynamics

When we “pushed” the push-button start there was just deafening quiet. We had to check to see if the RAV4 had really started! Once we got underway, the RAV4 Hybrid was responsive and had more power at takeoff than many of the gas-only competitors. The SE has firmer damping in the shock absorbers, but you can barely feel it. The ride is still good.

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid can accelerate up to 20 mph on battery power alone, if driven mildly like we did through the parking lot this week. After that, the gas engine kicks in. If you aren’t real easy on the pedal, the gas engine is likely to kick in below 10 mph. We had fun playing with it to see how far we could get on battery power alone. We then pushed it hard up I-70 into the mountains west of Denver and it had plenty of power. Although, typical of Toyota hybrids, the gasoline engine connected to the Electronic CVT produces quite a howl when accelerating hard.

We had the option of shifting the transmission into EV, ECO, and Sport modes. Around town in heavy traffic, EV works well for saving fuel, ECO otherwise for most city driving, and Sport as we got onto the highway. Each serves their specific driving style and worked well. Responses are a bit sharper in Sport mode, as the transmission makes downshifts smoother by blipping the throttle momentarily.

Conclusion

The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE AWD offers ample interior space and a powerful, yet fuel-stingy drivetrain. It comes with Toyota’s reputation for reliability and has loads of standard safety features. It offers families a fuel-efficient city hauler with all-weather capability.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Gallery

2018 Toyota RAV4 Official Site.

Photos: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.



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New Study: Pet Owners Worry About Safety, Can Automakers Respond?

Here at this publication, we love animals as much as we love cars. However, a new study from Volvo found some pet owners are hesitant to take a road trip with their best friend. Volvo Reports: Dogs, Cars and the People Who Love Them was recently conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Volvo among 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and above, including 1,342 pet owners.

“Our survey showed that pet parents want to travel with their furry friends, but worry about safety,” explained Jim Nichols, Product and Technology Communications Manager, Volvo Car USA.

Survey Says

The study found that more than a third (38 percent) of millennial pet owners worry about driving with their dog. Among all demographics, nearly a quarter (24 percent) say they keep their dog at home because of safety concerns. Not surprisingly, a majority of Americans (69 percent) view their pets as family members, with millennials being the most pet-conscious generation. Over 50 percent of millennial respondents said they buy better food for their dog than themselves. Nearly 50 percent said they would decline a night out if it meant leaving their dog at home.

“Overall, there is an awareness opportunity among pet parents,” Nichols said. “I was most surprised that nearly one in four would leave their dog home on long trips for fear about their safety.”

Addressing The Hype

In 2011, the Center for Pet Safety began crash testing pet safety products and launched a certification program for harnesses, crates, and carriers. The certification and crash testing programs, carried out by MGA Research Corporation, are voluntary and a rating is assigned accordingly. Passing products are given a designated seal for packaging.

We did a special report on the science of pet safety last year and were amazed at how easily consumers can be mislead. Often times, pet safety products hardly live up to their claims. In fact, during crash testing with a “dummy dog,” some of the products outright failed, leading to injury and certain death for the animal. The Center for Pet Safety published the results of their controlled testing, complete with videos and an analysis of the data. The videos are hard to stomach if you’re a pet lover.

“The pet products industry is a 70 billion dollar, highly unregulated industry,” explained Lindsey Wolko, Founder of the Center for Pet Safety. “When it comes to marketing it’s the Wild West.”

In a controlled crash test conducted by the Center for Pet Safety, a commonly sold dog restraint fails and launches the test puppy from the seat. Photo: Center for Pet Safety.

Essential Insights

Wolko advises consumers be mindful, even if pet safety products say “crash tested” or advocate to be in the pet’s best interest.

“The idea that properly secured pets are uncomfortable if restrained is a dangerous marketing tactic,” she said. “We have scientifically proven that extension tethers and ziplines increase the risk of injury to both the human passengers and their pets. This is a very real danger for pet owners who buy into the marketing hype behind a product.”

“Not only is the safety for your pets important but also the safety of everyone in the car,” explained Lauren Witt, a Detroit-based Automotive Product Specialist who works with major manufacturers. “If your dogs are not properly secured and have the ability to roam around, they could be a huge distraction for the driver.”

In Volvo’s survey, 97 percent admit to unsafe driving habits with their pets, including 48 percent who do not own any pet-specific safety gear. Another 41 percent let their dog ride in the front seat while only a mere five percent have a built-in pet safety system for their vehicle.

“Some pet owners seem to think their pets are immune to danger,” Wolko said. “Not that we wish this on anyone, but if they experienced what the people who have contacted us to report injuries and deaths of pets in car crashes have, we would have a much higher percentage who protect their pets while traveling.”

Meaningful Solutions

71 percent of respondents felt automakers should proactively include more pet-friendly safety features into their vehicles, especially for dogs. Another 46 percent believe vehicle manufacturers that do not offer these features do not care enough about pet safety.

“I wouldn’t say they don’t care – I think it’s just something that was never emphasized in the industry,” Witt said. “The automotive industry is always evolving and manufacturers are always trying to stay up-to-date and ahead of the game when it comes to safety.”

“We have to ensure the solutions are real and meaningful,” Wolko added. “I’ve seen several vehicle manufacturers offer travel ‘solutions’ for pets that were a joke – simply a marketing tactic. That’s not what we need.”

Volvo has pioneered a number of safety innovations – the iconic three-point seat belt, for example – and is examining what the survey’s results ultimately mean. Volvo already has pet safety accessories that directly tie into the vehicle, including a dog harness and gate, load compartment divider, and protective steel grill. The automaker says their safety systems work in unison to ensure occupants, furry or otherwise, are protected as much as possible.

“All accessories must past strict quality and testing requirements set by the company; the dog gate, divider, and rear grill are made of high-strength steel,” Nichols explained. “Volvo is the only manufacturer that has been developing protective steel grills and dog gates for over 20 years to keep pets in place in the event of an accident.”

Volvo’s pet safety products are available through the company’s retailers in the U.S. and Canada. Photo: Volvo Car USA.

Ongoing Work

Wolko notes that Volvo’s survey is revealing, but not necessarily surprising and believes more needs to be done. The Center for Pet Safety continues to team with vehicle brands in the interest of creating truly safe products for pet parents. She is optimistic that automakers can rise to the challenge, but has some reservations.

“The work we do at the Center for Pet Safety focuses on the aftermarket products for a reason, and I honestly feel the aftermarket brands that have achieved CPS Certification are far ahead of the vehicle manufacturers,” Wolko explained. “There are so many challenges for a vehicle manufacturer – their primary responsibility is to the safety of the human passenger – and that’s where the regulations around safety stop. The reality is that pet safety is not likely to be regulated.”

“Hopefully this survey will make manufacturers more aware of the importance of pet safety to their consumers,” Witt added. “It is worrisome there are not a lot of safe options for pet travel.”

How pet safety products are engineered and designed ultimately determines if they will be effective in protecting our furry family members. However, Wolko stresses the importance of communication and goes back to the marketing angles that ultimately influence buying decisions. She believes in this area automakers can truly set an example.

“Ideally, I’d like to tweak a few things in vehicles, but until we build consensus across the automotive industry it is unlikely to be a universal change,” Wolko said. “It’s important to focus on indirect messages of safety when pets are featured in vehicle commercials – they need to be properly secured while featured in those commercials. It doesn’t mean you lose the humor and charm of the commercial, but instead it becomes a familiar visual and an emotional element: it’s an ‘I protect you because I love you’ story in these commercials.”

“As shown in this survey, pets are part of the American family and we seek to protect what is important to those that drive a Volvo car,” Nichols added.

Future Considerations

The pet survey is the first in a series of Volvo Reports from the automaker and Harris Poll meant to examine the American opinion across four central automotive themes: design, safety, technology, and environment. While universal change with regard to pet safety and the automotive industry may seem a slow process, Volvo’s survey is promising. It shows how automakers need to remember our pets when designing future vehicles, and it shows an increasing awareness for the lovable creatures in our life.

“It makes me happy that a lot of people do take pet safety into consideration,” Witt said. “The best advice I could give is to make sure you think about your pets first.”

Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and resides in Detroit, Michigan. He studies mechanical engineering at Wayne State University, serves on the Board of Directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, and is a loyal Detroit Lions fan.



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Friday, April 20, 2018

Polestar 1 Heading To China After Intense Testing

Test drivers and engineers recently spent two weeks in the freezing temperatures north of the Artctic Circle. The job? Put a Polestar 1 prototype through strict endurance testing in temperatures as low as -18 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the frigid temperatures and harsh conditions, the Prototype exceeded expectations.

“Our test drivers have given us some enthusiastic feedback on the handling and dynamics especially,” said Thomas Ingenlath, Chief Executive Officer, Polestar.

Testing & Analysis

The team analyzed how the car’s various components responded while in cold weather, from the chassis and suspension, to the drivetrain and batteries. Test drivers focused specifically on the Polestar 1’s torque vectoring system, enabled by two rear electric motors with individual planetary gear sets.

“Besides being very happy with the balance of the chassis, they are particularly excited about the torque vectoring,” Ingenlath continued. “We are now very confident about how this enhances the Polestar 1’s cornering responsiveness and accuracy.”

The location was also selected for the ability to test on ice, which gave the team a perspective on the handling dynamics.

“This is a driver’s car,” Ingenlath added.

A Polestar 1 prototype is subjected to rigorous testing in northern Sweden. Photo: Polestar.

In Person

The Polestar 1 is now heading to Beijing for Auto China 2018 although prototype testing will continue throughout this year. After making its global media debut in Shanghai last October, this is the first opportunity for the Chinese public to see the new performance hybrid. Auto China 2018 begins on April 25th and runs through May 4th. According to Ingenlath, Polestar’s presence at the show is crucial.

“We look forward to introducing the car to the Chinese public for the first time, a key market for Polestar,” he said.

The Automoblog Staff contributed to this report and can be reached anytime.

Photos & Source: Polestar.



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Chapter 3: Teslas In The Middle of Nowhere

The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me is a gasoline-fueled narrative by automotive journalist Tony Borroz. It details the joys, thrills, and even the uncertainties of the car-obsessed lifestyle. In advance of the book’s release, we are previewing the first few chapters. Chapters one and two here

Thanks to the little voice in my head, okay, the voice from Google maps coming through my Bluetooth earpiece (a necessity in a soft-top, it’s loud in here), I’m bounced off the main route from southern Arizona through Phoenix and on into Palm Springs. Google says this is for traffic, and I believe it.

Besides, since my Miata is both black and lacks air conditioning (must save weight), the last thing I want is to get stuck in the middle of traffic, in the middle of Phoenix, in the middle of yet another broiling day in the desert.

Buzzard Buffet

So I’m shunted off towards Maricopa and Gila Bend and through the Sonoran Desert National Monument. It looks like a Road Runner cartoon. And, as predicted by Google, sparsely trafficked. I’m heading north doing my usual five-over the posted speed limit when a dark blue Tesla Model S blows by me.

“Well you don’t have range anxiety it seems,” I say to myself.

Maybe it’s too many experiences of having the finest in British electrical “systems” fail me in the middle of nowhere that I see this man – older white guy driving, not-as-older white gal in the passenger seat, both of them quaffed and polished, rich-looking, in a word – as being a little on the brave side at first. How far is he from a charging station? If he runs the batteries dry, will Tesla come out to rescue him? If they do, will they get to him before those buzzards do? (Side note: There are literal buzzards in the sky more often than not around here. When you see them wheeling down, closer and closer to the desert floor, you know something (or someone) is coming to a rather grizzly end.)

I figured he knows what he’s doing. The Tesla had Arizona plates, and everything about the guy said “Scottsdale” or “Chandler” or some other rich, white burbclave where you can drop 100K on a car and the rent-a-pigs at the front gate of your “community” stand athwart any of those people who make you feel uncomfortable. But still, it was the rarity of seeing an EV out in the middle of nowhere that caught me by surprise.

You see lots of Teslas in large metro areas. Lots in Phoenix and Tucson – and with the near-constant sunshine and dropping prices of solar panels, here’s the area where you could take your personal transportation completely off the grid. The Bay Area has a lot of them, per car-capita, but Seattle has tons of the things. I’m assuming the rich, well to-do buyers in places like Chicago and Los Angeles and Miami and such look upon Elon’s offerings with approval.

Still … desert + middle of nowhere + failing battery capacity = buzzard buffet.

“Well you don’t seem to have range anxiety.”

Tolling Bells

At least in my mind, I’m musing, when whoosh, another Tesla Model S goes stonking by me. Given my rate of speed, this second one must be pushing the ton. This one was white, again with an older white guy driving, but with no passengers. If the first guy was brave, in my initial, conservative estimation, this guy was braver than Indiana Jones.

But there it was: The Future.

That was my conclusion as the white Tesla disappeared into the vanishing point distance. If not one, but two people, and in quick succession at that, felt just fine driving an EV in this situation, then eventually everyone would.

They might not all be Teslas – and probably won’t, given Tesla’s shakiness (both in terms of falling quality at the moment and continued red ink) – but eventually EVs will become a larger and larger portion of what we see on the road. Eventually performance cars with internal combustion engines will be regarded by other drivers and by people walking down sidewalks with the same curiosity they show today when they see a Model T. “Look’it that, you have to start it with a crank!” “No airbags. Not one!” “Your Ferrari has twelve cylinders?!”

I hear our funeral dirge, far off in the distance, can you?

Oh well.

Fast & Furious

Performance cars were always a small slice of the pie. And who cares if nine out of ten drivers choose something with all the personality of a toaster to “drive?” I don’t. I’m actually quite rare for a gearhead: I love public transportation. It’s handy in big cities and, from a gearhead’s perspective, actually beneficial to us. The more people using public transportation, the fewer of them there are on the road. In front of me. Going five miles an hour under the speed limit. Texting. Causing my blood pressure to rise … to … breathe, breathe Tony. Calm down.

And in a way, a variation about that is how I feel about EVs. The facts of the matter are pretty clear by now: cars are poisoning our atmosphere and are a leading contributor to global warming. We are going to have to Deal with that, or it will Deal with us.

And EVs are fun, even if most people don’t realize it. I’ve played around with my fair share of Teslas and, in addition to being high-tech and flashy and Helping with the environment (with a capital “H”), they are GD Friggin’ fast! Teslas, and any EV with software set up that way, are a complete blast to drive. They almost feel like driving in a video game (Forza or Grand Turismo, take your choice). All you have to do is mash your right foot and point it. BOOM! You are Down The Road. And I mean like now, daddy-o.

Tesla Roadsters, for example, are frighteningly effective on an AutoX track. They’re small enough to fit between gates and around cones and, thanks to the physics of electric motors, all that torque (and there is a lot of it) comes in rightfrigginnow! Sure, the Roadster is heavy, no way to get around that. But as my oldest brother once said: “horsepower overcomes many handling deficiencies.”

Tesla Roadster. Photo: Tesla Motors.

The More Things Change …

So what’s the problem? Why aren’t there more EVs out there?

To me, there are two main factors: range and cost.

Range is something anyone can readily understand. The good thing is this is slowly being dealt with. Slowly, range is becoming greater and greater. That won’t be a problem. Eventually. Of course, this does run right into the concept of energy density. Energy density works like this: How much energy do you get out of a power source of a given size. Look at my 1994 Miata. It has an 11.5-gallon fuel tank about the size of an old hard-sided suitcase. Once full, I can drive 300 miles (easy) before it runs dry.

To get that same range (give or take) out of a Tesla (the current range performance benchmark) takes a battery pack the size of a futon that weighs right around half a ton. That is energy density. And that is the other engineering hurdle to be cleared after getting that range thing finally wired.

Cost, on the other hand, is more problematic. At the moment, the price point of these things, Teslas specifically, are high. Like right around $100,000 high. Yes, there are cheaper alternatives and yes, there is the (slowly) rolling out of the Tesla Model 3, but still, if you want to get what counts as “acceptable” in the EV world, you better have the cash. Is that really so bad? Yes, yes it is. In a way. Because I want one of these, but 100-large is still 100-large (and hey, I’m a writer, I don’t even have one-large at this point).

Of course the thing about electric cars is that you have to realize you’re paying for pretty much everything up front. Since there’s no (real) maintenance to speak of, manufactures build that in to their profit structure (i.e. no dealer profit streams). It’s sort of like you’re buying all the “gas” you’re ever going to need right up front too, in a way, since your electricity rates are (generally) pretty low. So if you factor that in, if you went and bought a Camry and had to pay for all the maintenance up front, and had to pay for all your gas up front too, Camrys wouldn’t be that cheap either.

The More They Stay The Same

But where would I have been a century ago? Would I have been standing on a sidewalk in a city, seeing a rich guy drive by in a Marmon and sighing wistfully, “Man, if only I had the bank account to afford that!” Yes, yes I would. Think about it. 100 years ago, cars were finicky, short-ranged toys for rich people to play around with and have bragging rights over their lessers. And today? Tell me a Tesla Model S or X doesn’t do the same thing. Sure, for now they’re 90 percent owned and operated by rich people, but soon enough, the Model T of the electric vehicle world will show up, and that will be the end of the ball game.

Soon there will be something that does 90 percent of what a Tesla Model S does, and it will be affordable to 75 percent of the public, and that will be that. Goodbye to minivans equipped with internal combustion engines. Good by to sedans and taxis and delivery trucks and school busses and SUVs equipped with internal combustion engines. They will be parked in museums next to horse-drawn wagons. So it goes.

Horse-drawn carriages on display at the Autoworld Museum, Brussels, Belgium. Photo: Carl Anthony for Automoblog.net.

Odd Couple

I’m outside of Blythe or Mesa Verde or Desert Center – who can tell, it’s miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles. I’m stonking along at 85 or so. It’s hard to tell. Did you know first-gen Miata speedos are set a little low? They are. You’re always going about two miles per hour slower than indicated. Anyhoo, ahead of me in the right lane (keep right except to pass (or unless the pavement is too chewed up for a short wheelbase car)) is something red and low and loping along. It looks like a big red running shoe. As I gain on it, and I’m pulling it by the yard, I see what it is: A brand new Ferrari GTC4Lusso. The refined replacement for the rather odd Ferrari FF.

And I mean odd in a bunch of ways.

Both the FF and the GTC4Lusso (yeah, it’s all crammed together in one word like that) had this bizarre, if effective, four-wheel drive system. Sure, it works, but it’s complexity only brings visions of frighteningly large repair bills to my mind. I mean, “You have to re-do the entire foundation on my house?” large. The other odd thing is the way it looks. It’s an old style, shooting-brake, long roof kind of thing. In a way it works.

On the Ferrari, it looks sleek and rapid and well proportioned. And it does have a level of practicality to it. GTC4Lussos seat four (they say) and are, of all things, hatchbacks, so you can carry a fair amount of stuff. But from some angles, they look like a big clown shoe; la scarpa di buffo. Ferrari comes ever so close to pulling it off. So very, very close, but … la scarpa di buffo. Whataya gonna do?

Fat Cats, Fast Cars & False Assumptions

So I pull up on the GTC4 and ease around him without breaking my stride. Of course I’m thinking that if our situations were reversed, and I was driving something with a six-liter V12 painted Rosso Corsa I’d be going considerably faster than he was.

“C’mon old man, give it some boot!” I think as I pull alongside him. I glance over and see that he’s looking at me. Older. Well-heeled. Accessorized with a Rolex, a gold bracelet, and a gold neck chain. Money. Moneymoneymoney.

I know he couldn’t hear me, but at that moment he shot me a look like a Mother Superior mid-rage.

It was if he said, “How dare you, you insolent little urchin. You with your mass-produced car from a non-European country. Good day. I said good day!”

I snap my gaze back to the road ahead. The next vehicle is about 30 yards away, so no worries there. I get 15 yards on the GTC4, signal and pull back into the right lane. I swear as I look into the mirror I see the old guy slowly shaking his head at me. “Such an affront! I do say! Away with you, away!”

Immediately my mind drifts to what happens to those who possess his attitude unchecked. Gauzy visions of the Place de la Concorde and jeering crowds and a massive shiny blade held high in the morning sun. Le rasoir national attend, mon vieux! Le rasoir national attend! It’s amusing how the rich and entitled feel so secure and sheltered by their treasures and privileges. Antoinette felt that way; the czarina felt that way I think to myself as I leave the GTC4 in my rearview mirror.

Le rasoir national attend. Attention, ├ža t’attend!

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz



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Thursday, April 19, 2018

2018 Mazda MX-5 RF on ice

Never one to miss out on an opportunity to have some fun, I decided to take advantage of the recent ice storm in Ontario to do a bit of top down motoring in the 2018 Mazda MX-5 RF. I mean, after I consistently give my colleagues a hard time about driving convertibles with the top up, so I didn’t really have a choice. What I found was that Winter is no match for Mazda’s all season sportster.



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Chevrolet Cars Set For “Restyled” Faces

Coherency. Coherency is a good thing, especially when it comes to corporate brands and styling. Ideally, you want everything you make to have it. Take Chevrolet, for example. You wouldn’t want a Chevy Malibu to look way different from a Chevy Impala. So, when a car company, Chevrolet in this case, makes a styling update, that update has to propagate across the entire company line.

Special Characteristics

Mainly what we’re talking about here is styling cues; belt lines, overall greenhouse shapes, grill designs, badging and where the badges go, that sort of thing. Chevy says what they are going for in the immediate future is muscular designs, new features, and more choices.

“The restyled face of Chevy cars for 2019 is characterized by a family-like appearance, with each model honoring its Chevrolet heritage while showing off expressive designs,” said John Cafaro, Executive Director, Global Chevrolet Design.

And I can totally see where he’s coming from. ‘Family-like appearance‘ is the key here.

“We are committed to offering consumers a full lineup of products with fresh designs, new technologies, and efficient powertrain options,” added Brian Sweeney, U.S. Vice President of Chevrolet. “The investments we have made in Spark, Cruze, and Malibu will help position the brand for success in competitive segments that still make up a significant part of the total industry.”

2019 Chevy Malibu. Photo: Chevrolet.

Design Language

As Sweeny alluded to, Chevy’s first go ’round will start with the 2019 Malibu, Cruze, and Spark. To that end the cars will each offer a broad diversity of trims and packages from entry-level to high-end. And Chevy will also have to serve fleets since they represent a quarter of the industry’s retail market.

Chevy’s first task in shepherding the DNA of their fleet is restyling the faces of the cars with signature lighting that will make each instantly recognizable as a Chevy. The redesigned front ends for the Spark, Cruze, and Malibu will offer a more premium look while maintaining their athletic body sides. And yeah, this is the first time I’ve heard the phrase “athletic body” used in conjunction with the Spark and Cruze. Anyway, Chevy will give greater attention to detail like the intricate sculpting on the grilles and the brand’s signature dual-element taillamps.

Malibu RS

The Malibu RS, a first for this ‘Bu generation, will offer a sporty, personalized appearance propelled by blacked-out styling cues like the sport grille, bowtie emblems, rear spoiler, 18-inch machined wheels, and dual exhaust. The inside introduces a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, black cloth seats, and a standard eight-inch touchscreen for the Infotainment 3 system. There will also be a new CVT transmission standard on models that come with the 1.5-liter turbocharged engine.

2019 Chevy Cruze and Cruze Hatchback. Photo: Chevrolet.

Cruze

The Chevy Cruze, along with the updated front fascia, welcomes new interior colors and a new infotainment system with a seven-inch color touchscreen. Remote start and automatic climate control are now standard on LT and Premier, but optional on other trims. The LS Hatch trim is added to the Cruze Hatch line for the first time. That sounds like a good move, since 20 percent of all Cruze sales in its first full year of production are the Hatchback.

Spark

The Spark, which sells by the train-load in its segment, gets new front-end styling with the same cues found on the updated Malibu and Cruze. New exterior color options will also be coming along with revised interior trim and an additional available safety feature called Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking. Chevy does not go into detail about what Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking is, but I bet it has something to do with hitting the brakes for you when you’re moving in a forward direction at lower speeds and aren’t paying attention.

Don’t hold me to that, though.

The 2019 Chevy Spark is powered by a 1.4-liter DOHC engine offered with either a manual or continuously variable transmission. Photo: Chevrolet.

Availability & In Person

You will be able to see the new design direction for the corporate automotive giant when the 2019 Chevrolet Malibu, Cruze, and Spark go on sale later this year.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

Photos & Source: Chevrolet.



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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Will Kia’s Wireless EV Charging System Change The World?

Kia has come up with a rather nifty wireless charging system for EVs and, honestly, this sounds pretty cool. As anyone who has ever messed with tangled power cords and such knows, wires can be a real pain. And I’m also willing to bet a chunk of people who are hesitant to buy EVs don’t like the idea of having to mess with chords and wires, and always having to plug them in all the time.

Bright Ideas

About a hundred years ago there was this half-crazy Serbian guy named Nikola Tesla. About half of his ideas made logical sense (alternating current, florescent lighting etc.) and the other half were borderline ya-ya (electric death rays, The Tesla Ozone Company etc.) but my favorite idea of his, borderline ya-ya or not, was power transmission without wires. No, I’m not sure how it was supposed to work, or even if it would work, but the idea itself was fantastic. No more wires, no more plugging things in, everything just runs.

What Kia and their tech partner in this, Mojo, have come up with isn’t a full on Tesla deal, but it’s still pretty cool. Kia rigged up a small fleet of its popular Soul to develop the wireless charging system. And the really neat thing about what they came up with is that not only is it wireless, it’s not nearly as finicky as you’d expect. Even when the Kia Soul is misaligned over the charger, the system can wirelessly charge cars with up to 85 percent efficiency.

The wireless charging system, which has been in development for three years already, is said to be an important step in the future of electric vehicles, according to Hyundai and Kia. And it’s easy to agree with them. If you can take another hassle out of owning an electric vehicle, the better our EV future will be. The project, a collaboration between Hyundai and Kia, Mojo Mobility Inc., and the U.S. Department of Energy, shows a way for future electric vehicles in which plugs are no longer necessary.

Photo: Kia Motors America.

Park & Charge

The system works by using an electromagnetic field to transfer energy between two coils. There’s a transmitter on the ground and a receiver on the bottom of the vehicle. You simply park your car above the transmitter to begin charging and the electrical energy is sent through an inductive coupling, which uses that energy to charge the battery. It’s the same way a Sonicare toothbrush charges, only on a much bigger scale. And again, even if there is some misalignment between the transmitter in the ground and the receiver in the car, charging can still happen.

It’s easy to see how this system could play out: every shopping mall and downtown parking lot will have an inductive charging pad buried in it. All you have to do is park your car as you normally would, and while you’re away, it’s automatically charging, no muss, no fuss.

2018 Kia Soul EV. Photo: Kia Motors America.

Future Considerations

Sadly, there are no current plans to offer the wireless charging system on production vehicles for sale to consumers. That makes sense, because while installing the wireless charging gear in the car would be pretty straight forward, it’s the parking space part of the equation where things get sticky. Sure, simply modifying parking spots is relatively easy, but it’s the number of parking spots that’s the potential problem.

There is also a downside on getting the charging pad installed for home use. The home high voltage charger for a Tesla, say, is easy to bolt into your wall and any competent electrician can hook it into your 220V line in a snap. The Kia system potentially means cutting into your garage floor to install the pad and run the wiring. That could be a hassle.

On the upside, if this system works out and becomes widely adopted, driving and charging – and therefore living with – your electric vehicle could become a lot easier.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

Photos & Source: Kia Motors America.



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