Weekend Road Test: Gas Teams With Electricity To Produce Economy


Kia Niro PHEV EX Premium
A Plug For Economy

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – The Kia Niro in its base form will easily meet the needs of many, but what about Mr. & Mrs. Frugal?

Enter the Niro plug-in electric with the same four cylinder gas engine but with the ability to run on pure electric power for an estimated 26 miles.

The DOHC Atkinson cycle 1.6-liter four cylinder gas engine produces 104 horsepower and 109 lb-ft of torque.

Add in the electric motor and total output climbs to 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque and Kia can brag about a larger battery pack and more powerful electric motor than some of the competition.

Sixty horsepower for the motor and 8.9 kWh for the battery pack.

So there was adequate power for most all driving situations. And a relatively quiet set of wheels on the interstate.


Okay, what about economy? The EPA rating is 105 miles per gallon equivalent, and 46 mpg in gas only mode.

MPGe is a measure of how far the Niro can travel electrically using the same amount of energy in one gallon of petrol.

However, it would not be easy to achieve the full 26 miles using generated juice without feathering the accelerator to a large degree. Just getting up to speed on a 35 mph heavily traveled suburban highway has the 1.6 liter four kicking in.

For the week, I registered 40 mpg overall again, rarely in in full electric mode due to the demands of keeping up with traffic.

One interesting feature is a Driver-Only Air Conditioning setting that delivers the cooled air only to that side of the cabin to save on power consumption when only the Lone Ranger is behind the wheel.


What about recharging? Plug into the port on the driver’s side front fender and a full charge can be achieved in approximately 2.5 hours via a 240V (Level 2) charger, and under 9 hours via a 120V (Level 1) charger.

Here is one great move on Kia’s part. There is NO Continuously Variable Transmission, instead a six-speed dual clutch automatic and that makes a whole lot of difference on the road with much less engine noise when more power is demand for merging and other vital operating situations.

Thank you Kia engineers and take a bow.

Inside, there is additional good thinking with the battery pack located under the cargo floor, so the PHEV offers 19 cubic feet of hauling space, the same as the non-hybrid.


And check out that picture of the center dash. That is the way that audio and ventilation controls should be arranged. After just a few get acquainted miles, you can easily make changes without taking your eyes off the road. No trying to hit a small button on a screen. That’s got to be a safer solution.

Keeping with Kia tradition, the EX Premium model came well equipped with a long list of features.


An 8.0 center dash screen with navi, dual zone automatic climate control, premium audio system, heated and ventilated front seats, heated outside mirrors, and LED headlights. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are on board.

The interior was a very modern and fresh design, the seats were very comfortable, and one could accommodate two adults in the rear cabin with nary a complaint.

There is also that 10 year, 100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty to consider along with same warranty on the battery pack.

Remember this is a top of the line model with lots of features that brought the price to $35,575 including $940 for delivery.

The base LX model begins at $27,900, but my recommendation to the price conscious is to step up to the $31,500 EX and gain some rather nice features.


PHEV is Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle

Auto News for Aug. 24 – New from BMW, Audi and Acura


 BMW has introduced the First Edition of its Z4 M40i sports car at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, but the introduction was short on details.

 Here is the key stuff that we do know.  

 Power is provided by a 3.0-liter inline six with a 0-60 run under 4.4 seconds, BMW claims. The current 3.0-liter is rated as 382 horsepower with 369 lb-ft of torque.

 It gets an M tuned sports suspension with electronically controlled dampers, M Sport braking system and an electronically controlled M Sport rear differential.

 Also a soft top, a paint job called “Frozen Orange Metallic”, 19-inch alloy wheels, power seats and a Harman Kardon audio system.

 Full model details are promised on September 18th.  

 The Acura NX gets some handling improvements for the 2019 model year.

 Those include modified chassis components, tires and software that resulted in a nearly 2-second faster lap time in testing around the world famous Suzuka Circuit.

 Chassis enhancements include larger front and rear stabilizer bars and stiffer rear toe link bushings. Also some new software calibrations to the NSX’s power unit.

 It will ride on Continental SportContact tires developed exclusively for the NSX and there are new exterior colors including “Thermal Orange Pearl.”

 The 2019 is having it coming out party at the Monterey Car Week in California.    

 Not to be left out of the party in California, Audi presented an all-electric design concept called Audi PB 18 e-tron.

 Audi said it was designed for the track and the road with an interior that has the driver in the center of the cockpit that can also slide to the side to accommodate one passenger thanks to a “by-wire design of the steering and pedals” so a mechanical connection is not needed.

 The concept uses three electric motors – one up front and two in the rear. The latter directly driving one wheel via half-shafts. They deliver power output of up to 150 kW to the front axle and 450 kW to the rear – the Audi PB 18 e-tron is a true quattro.

 Maximum output is 500 kW, with boosting, the driver can temporarily mobilize up to 570 kW.

 Audi cites a 0 to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) in scarcely more than 2 seconds.

 In normal road traffic, the driver can limit the maximum speed in favor of range. This limitation is easy to deactivate on the racetrack and can be adapted to local conditions.

 Look for a range of 310.7 miles on a full charge.

 “The all-electric Audi PB 18 e-tron presents a radical vision for the high-performance sports car of tomorrow,” Audi said of its new creation.

 The Honda Pilot has earned a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the group’s highest crash test grade.

 To qualify a vehicle must earn good ratings in the driver-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests and an acceptable or good rating in the passenger-side small overlap test. It also needs an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating and available good-rated headlights.










Auto News for Aug. 23 – Ride Hailing Or Owning A Car -Which Is Cheaper?

 Using a ride hailing service in the big city will cost customers more than twice the amount of owning a personal vehicle, according to AAA.

 It said the average urban dweller will drive about 10,841 miles a year at a cost of $7,321. Using ride sharing, the auto club said, would run up a bill for $20,118 on average.

 Of course, those who use ride hailing are not likely to become members of AAA.

 It did say that for those who have mobility issues, ride hailing “can be a viable and important option.”

 A couple of recalls to note this morning:

 Fiat Chrysler is recalling an estimated 154,337 vehicles to inspect and bleed their brake systems. It said gas bubbles may form in the brake fluid and that can increase stopping distances.

 The recall affects certain 2018 Dodge Journey CUVs, 2018-2019 Dodge Grand Caravan minivans, 2018-2019 Jeep Compass SUVs and 2019 Jeep Cherokee SUVs.

 Ford is issuing a recall for approximately 50,000 120-volt convenience charge cords originally provided with select 2012-15 Ford Focus Electric, 2013-15 Ford Fusion Energi and 2013-15 Ford C-MAX Energi vehicles.

 Using the 120-volt convenience charge cord with an AC outlet that is not on a dedicated circuit or is damaged, worn or corroded may result in increased temperature at the wall outlet and potentially lead to a fire.

Ford is aware of some fire reports.

 New York based private equity firm KKR is said to be in talks to acquire Fiat Chrysler’s components company Magneti Marelli. But the Wall St. Journal said the talks are preliminary and a buyout is not certain.

 The component company is said to be worth up to $5.8 billion.

Hyundai Elanta 2019

 Hyundai is doing more than a refresh on its 2019 Elantra adding safety equipment and a new look front and back.

 On the safety front, the 2019 will offer Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Keep Assist, Driver Attention Assist and Safe Exit Assist.

 On the design side, there will be a new hood, front fenders, front fascia, grille, headlights, trunk, taillights and rear fascia.

The 2019 Elantra will be available later this fall.

Rolls-Royce SUV

 The idea of a Rolls-Royce SUV may still have many shaking their heads. But the ultra-lux Cullinan will make its U.S. debut tomorrow at the Monterey Car Week events including Friday’s ‘Quail, A Motorsports Gathering,’ The Concept Lawn of the 2018 Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance on Sunday and at Rolls-Royce’s own private collectors events throughout the week.


Auto News for Aug. 22 – Striking New Electric Concept From Opel


 Take a look at the fully electric crossover unveiled today by Opel featuring a 50-kilowatt lithium-ion battery, inductive charging and Level 3 self-driving capability.

 Officials did not reveal its cruising range, but speculation is about 300 miles. Opel did say the GT X gives good hints as to where the brand’s styling is going in the future, a styling called “Visual Detox.”

 The electric is roughly the size of the Honda Fit.

 Inside, is a single screen that Opel said would contain all of the information driver’s would need.   

 All doors open to 90 degrees and the rear doors are rear-hinged.

 Opel was owned by GM until 2017 when it was acquired by France’s PSA Group, the makers of Citroen and Peugeot.

 Hyundai said its Kona electric due this fall would have an estimated range of 250 miles per charge. Now the EPA said it is 258 miles following its tests. And that is 20 miles more than the Chevrolet Bolt. The Kona electric will be Hyundai’s first battery/electric to be offered here in the U.S. 

 Hyundai Motor Company has completed South Korea’s first domestic highway journey with an autonomously navigated semi-trailer truck.

 It was equipped with a Level 3 autonomous driving system, enabling it to steer, accelerate or decelerate, and maneuver through traffic, all without human input. A human driver was on-board to take over manual control when required.

 Audi said its new A6 will carrying a starting price of $58,900 moving up to $62,700 for the Premium Plus edition. It tops out at $67,100 for the Prestige model. Those prices do not include delivery.

 The A6 gets a complete redesign for the 2019 model year including a turbocharged V6 rated at 335 horsepower with 369 lb-ft of torque matched to a seven speed automatic.








Auto News for Aug. 21 – BMW Will Make A Pacific Coast Splash!!!

BMW will have a grand time at Monterey Car Week which kicks off on Thursday. It will take the wraps off the production version of the Z4 roadster and the Concept 8 Series Coupe.

Also, the North American premiere of the M850i Coupe – the first of a new line of BMW 8 Series models. In addition, BMW will present the BMW Concept M8 Gran Coupe for the first time in North America.

The Z4 is pictured along with the M8 Gran Coupe Concept.

Audi announced that its new RS 5 Sportback will carry a starting price of $74,200 excluding a $995 destination charge.

This one should be fun to drive with a 444 horsepower V6 biturbo with Quattro sport rear differential, a 0-60 of just 3.8 seconds and a top track speed of 155 mph or 174 with the optional Dynamic plus package. An 8-speed automatic is the tranny of record. The RS5 will appear in showrooms later this year.

There are still believers.

Tesla shares moved back over the $300 mark yesterday after a decline of 5.6 percent earlier in the session. By the end of the trading day, Tesla was up just shy of one percent to $308.44. Investors still have questions about Elon Musk’s statement that funding has been secured to take the automaker private.

Tesla suppliers are concerned about the automaker’s financials, according to the Wall Street Journal, and Bob Lutz says Musk should be removed as CEO.

Auto News for August 20 – Tesla Shares Tumble & Goldfinger Aston Is Coming Back!

Tesla shares tumbled this morning after JP Morgan said it appears “funding has not been secured” to take the company private. Morgan cut Tesla’s price target to $195 from $308. A few minutes into the NASDAQ trading day, Tesla was down $9.28 to $296.34 or 9.2%

Pour a nice Italian wine, settle into your favorite e-z chair and do not miss the September Road and Track story on the Ferrari 488 Pista. It is just a fantastic story of 711 horsepower across Italy and not all of it at the track.

Then a report on taking a Jeep, (what else), on up the Dawson Highway out of Fairbanks Alaska to a hamlet above the Arctic Circle. Bug repellent mandatory and some advice before starting – Do not approach bears.

The two articles are the best I have found this year. Do not miss this magazine! (And no skeptics, they did not pay for this recommendation!)

A survey in Great Britain shows the VW Golf GTI’s golf ball gear shift knob is that nation’s favorite used car feature. Also the now discontinued VW Beetle’s flower vase. One-third of those polled said they would buy a used car having only seen video of it.

Aston Martin will build a series of 25 Goldfinger DB5 continuation editions based on James Bond’s legendary car from 1964. They will be built at the original home of the DB5 and will be authentic reproductions of the DB5 seen on screen, with some “sympathetic modifications” to ensure the highest levels of build quality and reliability.

The first customer deliveries are scheduled for 2020.

Not all of the gadgets in the movie car will be on board, but it will have revolving number plates, Aston said.
It will appear only in the Silver Birch paint, just like the original. The 25 special editions will be very expensive.

Ford is raffling off a Kona Blue Bullitt Mustang with the proceeds going to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The car made its debut at the famous Woodward Dream Cruise where Ford and the foundation started selling up to 60,000 raffle tickets at $10 each. A winner will be selected on Nov. 13.

Another VW camper on these shores? Well the cargo area of the new Atlas is 7 feet-by-4 feet when both rows of rear seats are folded down. That’s plenty of room for a sleeping pad and a couple of sleeping bags, and is in fact larger than many tents. VW said a lot of customers have told them the Atlas is great for camping because of the huge flat floor.

“If you opt to purchase the panoramic sunroof, you’ll get the ‘open air’ experience without worry about bears,” VW said.

(What is this thing with bears this morning?)

Weekend Road Test – Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum


Ya say ya want features?

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Opt for the top of the line trim level for this much in demand midsize SUV and there is virtually nothing missing from the equipment list.

And oh my, those front perforated leather seats were extremely comfy once you have found the ideal driving position. A 13-way powered chair with memory for the operator and four way passenger adjustable – the seats not the passenger, which may be good or bad.

Two Captain’s chairs were in the second row with ample room for a couple of adults. They slide forward to ease access to the third row which is for children only.

A bench seat is also available to seat one more in row two.

Those back-back seats are easy to fold down for extra storage space. That amounts to 13.8 cubic feet with all seats upright, to a more generous 42.8 cubic feet with the third row down. And 83.7 cubes with the second row folded. More than enough space to haul home whatever fits your fancy from the local antique outlet.

The door mounted arm rests featured very thick padding, a nice discovery in an age when auto makers scrimp on such things.


Some controls were a long reach for the driver such as those to the right of the 8” touch screen. Audio controls in the steering wheel offset that to some degree.
Missing was a short cut to the navi system as well as Android Auto and AppleCarPlay while USB ports totaled five – three up front and two in the second row.

All that being said, the interior design was spacious, the center console out of sight storage was more than generous, and the sunroof was of a design that shut out noise. Excellent!

Toyota’s Safety Sense features Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Protection, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, and Adaptive Cruise Control.


The driving position was a little “king of the road” high and visibility in all directions was good aided by the Blind Spot Detector where it should be in the outside rear view mirrors.


Standard was a 3.5 liter V6 with 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque matched to an eight speed automatic that was built to favor gas mileage over breath taking acceleration. That being said, the Highlander easily blended in with interstate traffic and the interior was quite tranquil once cruising speed was reached.

The test Highlander was EPA rated at 20 mpg city, 26 highway for a combined 22 mpg. But my week long drive netted just 18 mpg confined mainly to errand running and rush hour congestion here in suburbia.

Once out on the interstate, the Highlander was very quiet inside, with just a hint of wind noise.

Towing? A 5,000 pound towing capacity.


What the Highlander does very well is to perform all the things that midsize SUV shoppers are looking for. Easy in and out, a snap to create added storage space, comfortable, and not to forget Toyota’s long standing reputation of quality construction and long life.

And safe. The Highlander received the highest possible rating of Top Safety Pick Plus from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2017

If the $47,655 MSRP for the test Highlander is a bit much remember that Toyota offers a model that will fit many budgets.

Auto News for Aug. 17 – Ford Talks Future Plans – Suby Announces Forester Pricing – A glimpse at the BMW 3

  Ford is promising 23 new vehicles over the next five years, and is expanding the company even with its move out of the passenger car business.

 Executive Vice President Hau Thai-Tang said virtually all of the new products will be trucks, SUV’s or commercial vehicles.

 Those 23 new models would be three more than Ford currently offers as the Fusion, Taurus and Fiesta slip from view. Instead, look for nine new product names in coming years, the official said.

 Ford also plans to cut costs by $25.5 billion over the next four years and restructure its overseas operations.

 Wall Street’s reaction? Ford shares closed yesterday close to a five year low as traders have lots of questions about Ford’s future plans.

 Subaru said its 2019 Forester will carry a starting price of $25,270 for the base model, a gain of about $500 but with additional standard equipment. That would include adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and automatic braking along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, among other items. Subaru joins other car makers in saying goodbye to the stick shift in favor a CVT for the new model year. The 2.0-liter four has been replaced by a 2.5-liter four with 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. The 2019 will hit the market this fall.

 If you are a German automaker and you are going to introduce a performance car, one must test it at the famed Nurburgring’s Nordschleife, one of the most difficult tracks in the world. BMW has tested the upcoming 3 model there to check its drivetrain and suspension tech.  

 The new car’s center of gravity is 0.4 inches lower, weight distribution is an even 50/50, and the weight of the vehicle is down by as much as 121 pounds.

 All of this is designed, BMW said, to enhance the “sports sedan” character of the car.

 And it released the picture of a camo model at the track.

 Volkswagen said it will increase production by 25 percent at all German factories by 2020. Production at the main plant in Wolfsburg will increase by about 1-million. It said the higher production will be achieved through improved productivity.