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A blog about the cars I drive

Taking stock of the green-car scene

It looks funny and it's slower than sin, but Toyota's fuel-cell Mirai won top honors in NWAPA's Drive Revolution competition.

It looks funny and it’s slower than sin, but Toyota’s fuel-cell Mirai won top honors in NWAPA’s Drive Revolution competition.

I’ve been traveling this summer and, though the blog has been sniping at me from the backseat, I’ve been ignoring it. Over the next few days, I’ll try to hit the highlights from among a month’s worth of seat time.

Drive Revolution

In July, I drove to Portland, Oregon, for Drive Revolution, a green-car event sponsored by the Northwest Automotive Press Association (NWAPA). We evaluated 16 vehicles — EVs, hybrids, diesels and one hydrogen fuel-cell car.

Green Car of the Year

Toyota has cast its lot not behind electricity but hydrogen and calls the fuel-cell Mirai the “Prius of the future.” Though it’s now available only in California and though the jury is still out on the EV vs. fuel-cell debate, we voted Mirai Green Car of the Year. In urban driving, the $58,000 sedan is noteworthy for absence of green-car quirks. Its hydrogen fuel cell produces an electric charge, which is stored — and used —  by Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system, so it drives like any five-passenger battery-electric vehicle, only slower. A lot slower. OTOH, its 312-mile range clobbers that of existing EVs.

Whatever the future holds, here’s hoping it’s not defined by the Mirai and its ilk. Its ordinariness won’t turn deter determined greenies — or even the average driver when the time is right — but in this group, the Miria came across as the most fun-challenged of this group.

volkswagen e-golf

Volkswagen’s signature driving dynamics propelled the e-Golf to a win the NWAPA’s Electric Vehicle category.

EV of the Year
VWs e-Golf beat out perennial favorites like Nissan’s LEAF and Fiat’s e-500 in the pure electric category. It distinguishes itself with VW-style dynamics — i.e., it is fun to drive — and unimpeded interior storage (the batteries are located midships, under the floor). It has Eco and Eco Plus modes and a choice of four regenerative-braking settings. Expect a typical real-world range of 70-90 miles per charge.




Mercedes Benz S-Class Plug_in_Hybrid

Mercedes-Benz’s superb S500 Plug-in Hybrid was a no-brainer in the Green Luxury category.

Green Luxury Car

This was a no-brainer. Mercedes-Benz’s regal and potent S Class sedan is the platform for the $96,000 S550 Plug-in Hybrid. M-B calls it “the smartest luxury sedan in the world,” and, if you can afford the price of entry, it may be. It teams a 144-hp electric motor with a direct-injected, twin-turbocharged 329- V-6, for a net 400-hp rating. Fast, smooth and exceedingly comfortable, it’s the perfect answer for a well-heeled audience with greenie intentions. If one exists.



2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid

A short turn behind the wheel of the 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid left me wanting more.

Hybrid of the Year

Acura’s RLX Sport Hybrid Limited took down top hybrid honors, despite Acura’s up-front acknowledgement that it exploits hybrid technology not for efficiency’s sake but for performance’s. A V-6 gasoline engine, three electric motors, a seven-speed automated manual transmission and a world-class, torque-vectoring AWD system produce a dynamic package that left me drooling for more seat time. Should also mention the RLX comes with Acura’s remarkable new suite of safety technologies called AcuraWatch.


Personal Pick

I’ll write more later about BMW’s i8. Suffice it to say that the driving experience is as invigorating as the skin is enticing.

bmw i8

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