First stop: Toyota display. That’s an easy one since they are front and center with something like 46,000 sqft of space. New Prius on display. Shocker, right?
Checked out the “Back to the Future” Marai fuel cell vehicle. It’s “Back to the Future because of the gull-wing doors. They say it’s a fuel cell vehicle but there’s clearly a Mr Fussion in the rear. So which is it, Toyota? Actually, I suppose it doesn’t matter because they are both equally as likely to work as a car fuel system.
Just took a ride-along in the new Rav4 Hybrid. Very, very slick indeed. All-time All-Wheel Drive. Electric motor in the front and one in the back. My favorite feature is the all-around camera. Not only does it provide a bird’s eye view as though you are looking down at the vehicle from about ten feet in the air, it can perform a panoramic fly-around. Really neat feature. Perhaps this will eliminate really bad parking. Doubt it.
Also on display at Toyota is the I-Road, the three-wheel personal transport. The two front wheels hinge up and down as you lean into corners. The third wheels is centered in the rear. It certainly looks like it would be a lot of fun to drive, with the footprint of a motorcycle, and certainly protects you from the weather. However, I’m not convinced it or the driver would fair very well in a collision with an actual vehicle.
Even more extreme is the FV2. Two very large exposed side wheels and one large wheel centered in the rear. There’s a smaller wheel in the front, as though Toyota’s trying to hide that one. This is clearly a show-piece meant merely to get people to the Toyota display. There is no part of this ‘vehicle’ that seems practical.
On to BMW. Only two cars here interest me: i3 and i8. Every time I see the i3 I like a little more. It’s relatively unassuming and cute in its own way. The suicide doors make entry and exiting very easy into the rear seats. As luck would have it, when I was checking it out, there were sone who had never seen it. I spied on their conversations and was pleased to hear that they were impressed by its overall appeal. Dare I say that this car would cause them to consider an EV? Oh yeah, I dare.
Then, of course, there’s the i8. There’s nothing I could add to the wealth of articles already written about it. It’s turned off and simply for show. Getting into it is interesting due to its low-slung seats. Getting out is not for the feint of heart. The gull-wing doors, though, are really neat. Certainly, this is a car you drive because you want to be seen driving that car.
Next Stop: Lexus. I asked about the hybrid line-up and was provided the standard line of six hybrids in the Lexus fleet. When I asked which ones were here, I was pointed to a CT200h and one SUV hybrid. Then the other four hybrids were mentioned followed with “we didn’t bring that one.” I consider the CT200h my fall-back vehicle in the event that I didn’t like the new Prius. Yeah, I know, tough problem to have. But sitting here, in this 200h, I have to say that I might be falling out of love with it. I find the seats relatively stiff and the entire cockpit sort of cold. Functional, very functional, but not much that makes me happy to sit here. Perhaps it’s the model they have on show here, but I would not like this one as my daily driver.
At Cheverolet. 2nd generation Volt has a lot of gawkers and, I must say, it deserves them. There are certainly some refinements from the previous generation and that makes for a much improved driver and passenger experience. One of my major turn-offs of the first Volt was the steering wheel which I thought felt a little cheap for the car. Though the cabin is nice, it strikes me a little too Grand Prix-ish. Gray plastic. Soft, gray plastic, but still that 1980s plastic. All of it: plastic. And gray. No doubt it probably comes in other colors and maybe even nicer finishes but this is the car show; pull out all the stops. I hate to think this is as refined as it comes. On the up note, of all the gawkers huddled around the car, I didn’t hear a single disparaging comment. SOme liked the heated seats and heated steering wheel. Some liked the overall look and comfort of the seats. Only a few, though, remarked how cool it was to see an America company championing a plug-in vehicle. Whatever it takes to get them into a plug-in is just fine with me.
The pre-production Bolt on display is not to be sat in. At least that’s what the lady said as she shooed us out of the car and we scurried like pigoens in the park. Actually, I think it was more like a herd of cats who had just been caught doing something we weren’t supposed to. Back to the Bolt: I could really see myself in that car. It’s got a nice profile, a good size, and is very comfortable to sit in (oops). The BOlt will be manufactured in Detroit with LG batteries being imported. Those batteries will deliver 200 miles of range per full charge. Someone commented that with 200 miles it seels like it’s limited to being ‘a city car’. How big is your city? But yeah, it’s not for driving coast to coast but around town, you only need to plug it in every 3rd, 4th, or maybe 5th day. And that’s not bad. At some point, inductive charging for vehicles will become more readily available and you won’t even need to plug it in. One can dream.
I’m not a minivan guy but there are many families that need a minivan for their kids and stuff. To that end, I checked out the Chrysler Pacifica plug-in range-extended Hybrid. Like the Bolt, no one is allowed inside. Unlike the Bold, they made made their point by making it inaccessible. Talking with the representative, I learned that the Pacifica is expected to cover up to 30 miles on a full charge. Add a full tank of gas, and you’re expected to travel up to 530 miles. The hybrid has all the same features as the ICE version, except the stow-and-go seats because the floor is full of batteries. The big idea here is that all those minivans idling in front of the school can be replaced with a minivan that’s just sitting there on battery power and not polluting the kids’ air. The conventionally version of the Pacifica is due to deliver in the summer; the hybrid in the latter part of the year.
Quite possibly the meanest thing you could do at an auto show is to get lunch and eat it in front of the “product representatives”. And no, I didn’t do it; I just happened to think of it.
The Ford C-Max remains mostly unchanged from last year. The C-max body style is nice for a smallish family with a few things to haul. The hatch back is easy to access and makes for a huge opening for loading and unloading. The rear seats fold flat and there is tons of space for hauling things. The hybrid is rated at 40mpg combined. The Energi (plug-in hybrid) is expected to see 20 miles of full electric before switching over to the gas online engine for a total of 550 miles per tank. While 20 miles is fine for haunting around town, I have to wonder if it’s enough anymore with other, higher mile, options coming to market.
And let’s not forget the Nissan Leaf. Quite possibly the most famous EV. Well, Pre-Tesla, that is. Certain, the top-selling, consumer-priced EV. Thanks to a model refresh, the Leaf’s batteries grew from 24kWh to 30kWh. This 20% increase promises to boost the range from 84 miles to an estimated 107. Inside, the new Leaf got updated software and new internal lighting touches. Upper models feature a solar panel on the rear spoiler that trickle charges the 12v battery. Nissan is extremely proud of the fact that the car and the batteries are both manufactured in Nashville. There is no doubt the Leaf is another car that is high on my list.
Well, that’s it. It’s 2:00 and apparently the floor closes at 2:00. At least that’s what the “muscle” is saying as they shuffle me out. So it was a six hour day for me from 8:00am to 2:00pm. I got to see all the things I wanted but am sure there are some things I missed.
Tune in to next week’s podcast to hear a little more about my experience. Also, Mark is at the Toronto Auto Show. Might just be an all car show show next week. ‘Til then, I’m signing out.