The Shocking 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year!

Every year, Motor Trend holds a Car of the Year competition around the beginning of November.  I had seen what the 2013 Car of the Year was, but I didn’t think it would make an interesting post.  Well, my cousin Adin thought otherwise.  He texted me with the idea of it.  I thought that it was a good idea, so I told him that I would publish a post dedicated to his brilliant idea.”  Well, this one’s for you, Adin…

I think that Motor Trend is on some sort of trend with electric cars.  Last year, Chevy’s ridiculously overpriced Volt won, this year it’s the fabulous Tesla Model S.  It’s proving to  be popular for a $58,000 electric car (that’s just the base model!), with close to 3,000 units sold within the first month and 20,000 orders for ones that have not yet been produced at the former NUMMI factory in Fremont, CA.  Elon Musk certainly has some good ideas…

The Tesla Model S is a car that will carry almost as much camping gear as a Chevy Equinox, look better, get you there faster in much more comfort, and have just a tad less range.  Not bad, considering that the Model S is an electric car.  It’s faster than a BMW M6 to 60 mph, almost as effortless as a new Rolls-Royce, and makes the Toyota Prius Plug-In look like a gas-guzzler.  Plus, it’s center of gravity rivals that of a Ford GT supercar!  Elon Musk’s idea for the Tesla Model is that the Tesla Model S is the best car in the world that just so happens to be electric.  He might be right.  I agree.  The Tesla Model is the first-ever Motor Trend Car of the Year that doesn’t have an internal combustion engine (the Volt does).  According to Tesla Motors, they have almost 250 patents on the Model S, and more pending.

The powerful, effortless electric motor is in between the rear wheels, and it is a definite contributor to the 47/53% weight distribution for the Model.  The electric motor is an AC motor that was first demonstrated back in the 1880’s by Nicola Tesla himself, and this powerful motor doesn’t require us to mine for any more rare metals.  Tesla offers three battery packs that come with the three different models of the Model S:  The first battery pack will take you up to 140 miles, the second battery pack will take you 200 miles, and the third will take you 265 miles.  These are EPA ratings, and the high-end battery pack will actually take you 285 miles on a single charge (the equivalent of driving from Los Angeles to Vegas).  The base model’s electric motor offers a powerful 362 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque.  That’s more than enough for most.  The performance trim (the high-end model) has 416 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque.  That’s comparable to a Chevy Corvette!  Tesla assembles the battery packs in the Fremont, CA factory.  The battery packs are made out of Panasonic battery cells with nickel-cobalt-aluminum cathodes.  The battery packs weigh about 800 pounds and they lie directly underneath the floor (don’t worry, it’s MUCH safer than a Ford Pinto!).  This helps lower the center of gravity to that of a Ford GT supercar, at 17.5 inches.

The brilliant designer of the Model S, Franz von Holzhausen restrained himself, and made the car look “somewhat safe and conservative”, according to former GM design honcho Wayne Cherry.  The graceful lines of the Model S enhance the tidy dimensions of the Model S, and the perfect stance for a day of pounding at the track.  Since electric powertrains are typically smaller than others, Tesla took advantage of this and made the interior spacious and very quiet.  There is no engine up front, so the “hood” can hold up to 18 cubic feet of luggage.  Plus, the rear hatchback can hold a massive 63.4 cubic feet, which rivals the 63.7 of the Chevy Equinox.  Plus, the Model S is the world’s first hatchback to offer three rows!  All of the Motor Trend judges were very impressed with the comfortable interior of the Model S.  The gigantic 17-inch display has a retina display that has been compared to that of an Alienware laptop monitor.

The Tesla Model S is very efficient in it’s consumption of battery juice.  The best Motor Trend got was the equivalent of 118 MPG on a 212-mile run to Las Vegas!  Quite impressive, considering the fact that the car tips the scales at a HUGE 4766 pounds!  Plus, the top-end Model S Signature Performance model will hit 60 in 4.0 seconds!  Plus, it will take you all the way to 133 mph (governed).

If you are thinking that a car this fast isn’t very safe, stop reading RIGHT NOW!  The Model S is one of the safest cars that you can buy!  All of the car’s mass is down close to the ground, so the car is stable.  Plus, the instant torque from the electric motor is there for passing some rubberneck in traffic or on a country road.  The stability control and ABS are tuned towards the car’s regenerative braking system.  If and when you get into a crash, truly fear not:  You’ll be able to buy a new Model S with all the insurance money, and you won’t look like you just came out of The Walking Dead.  The Tesla Model S has almost as many safety devices as a Volvo S60, plus it has 10 airbags.  Yep, 10.  Also, the strong roof structure can hold almost 3,500 pounds for over an hour.  The double octagon extrusions that are on the front and rear of the car will help in the event of a head-on crash or a rear-ender.  Tesla also claims that the Model S was tested at 50 mph for impact testing by NHTSA.  The car outperforms federal crash standards by a factor of two or three.  Plus, it exceeds the roof crush requirements by a factor of two!  This car will make those old Volvo station wagons from the ’80’s look like a tin can!

Before you get a federal tax credit of $7,500, a base Model S will run you a whopping $58,570!  That puts it on par with a base-model Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, and Audi A6.  A loaded Signature Performance series Model S will take you up to an astronomical $106,900 before the federal tax credit of $7,500.  Of course, buyers of the Model S don’t need to take out a loan to buy one – they already have the money!  But, under normal driving conditions, a Tesla Model S will get the equivalent of 74.5 mpg!  That’s about 6 cents per mile!  See, the savings abound!

The Tesla Model S puts the last nail in the coffin of the formula that was first established by the BMW 5 Series in the late 1980s.  It’s fast, VERY fun to drive, it won’t look out of place at the country club, and it’s a great alternative for somebody who lives in Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York City, or Chicago (or just about anywhere).  Motor Trend has covered almost 1,400 miles in the Signature Performance series, and they can confirm that a Model S will take you over 200 miles a day in the crowded streets of Los Angeles.  Also, the fact that the Model S is here is due to the thoughts of Elon Musk, and great minds.  The fact that the 11  Car of the Year judges unanimously voted the Model S the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year without hesitation shows just how far a tiny Silicon Valley startup can go.  America can make great things.  Amazing things.

Even though the Model S has an EPA-certified range of 265 miles, that’s still about 100 miles short of getting to San Francisco.  Elon Musk has a solution.  Tesla recently unveiled five “Supercharger stations” along major routes from:  Los Angeles to San Francisco, L.A. to Vegas, and San Francisco to Reno.  These stations are permanently free of charge to Model S owners, and Tesla plans to have over 100 stations worldwide by 2015.

Wanna know something interesting and funny?  Of course you do!  The Model S broke the machine that is used to crush roofs by the feds.  So that’s where our tax dollars are going…

Good job Tesla, this is a prize very well deserved.  Enjoy it well.  Next up on the Tesla course?  A luxury EV SUV that will be more luxurious than a Cadillac Escalade, yet get as much or more range than a Chevy Volt.  Phew.

Not the Average Ride at Disney World…

Disney World has had a thrill ride with Chevy for the past 13 years.  It was called “Test Track.”  Today, it is still there, just under major renovations.  The “ride” will take guests who come into the exhibit through a three-part interactive experience that will go through the designing, testing, and marketing phases of making a new car.  Chevy and Disney hope to show guests just how hard it can be to start with a blank piece of paper and an idea.

When guests enter, they will be greeted by a good deal of touch screens.  These touch screens are design kiosks.  The guests start with a blank “canvas,” and design their own car from the wheels up.  Users can make decisions about engine size, the vehicle’s shape, and color.  These will all be displayed on the screen.  When they are done, the user will get a card that is encoded with all the necessary information about the car.

The second part of the ride will take users through the testing phase.  As Disney and Chevy said, “this is one place where Disney magic disappears, and industrial magic comes into play”.

GM industrial design manager, Jeffrey Mylenek said, “If you made some compromising design choices, it’ll be reflected in your virtual vehicle’s performance numbers.”  Even though it would be awesome to have the ride behave like their decisions about the car (i.e. big engine + tiny tires = oversteer!), that isn’t in the forseeable future.

The third part of the ride may be the best part – riders can race their cars on a test track, have photos taken of them “sitting” in their creation, or create a commercial that features their car.

The final part of the ride has about a dozen production Chevy products on the display.  It won’t be unheard of to see a real concept car there every so often.  Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait until December 6, 2012 to go on the ride (hint, hint Mom…).


My apologies for the late posting.  Candler was right on time.  I, on the other hand, was not.  Ahem.  My apologies!  Editor Mom.

Making A Grand Entrance, or Getting to Thanksgiving in Style

As you know, Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season with a full belly.  At least 80% of all Americans travel for the holiday.  I know that those who are traveling by road will be traveling the crowded interstates.  For those taking the back roads, I’ve put together a list of ten cars that have at least 400 horsepower and seat four people comfortably.  Tell me which one you’d like to take.

  1. Audi S8:  The 2013 Audi S8 has 520 horsepower, yet it isn’t a car that is 6000 pounds and fast in a straight line like a Rolls.  Instead, it weighs 4400 pounds.  With Audi’s signature Quattro AWD system, the S8 will go where a Rolls would never think of going.  Do you know of any full-size sedans other than the S8 than can get to 60 in 3.5 seconds?  Plus, the interior will enclose you in Alacantara and leather sourced from the finest tanneries in the world.  Not a bad way to travel…
  2. Bentley Mulsanne:  Would you like to make an even grander entrance than the S8?   If you do, take the 2013 Bentley Mulsanne.  A 505 horsepower 6.75 liter, twin turbo V8 powers the massive Bentley to a heart-stopping 4.8 seconds to 60.  It might not be as fast as the S8, but it will look better at speed.  All four of you and your lucky friends will be enshrouded in pillowy, massaging seats that have leather.
  3. Cadillac CTS-V Wagon:   The Caddy is one of the more powerful cars here, yet one of the first choices for a back-road blast.  The CTS-V Wagon is fast, with a top speed of 190 mph (governed!), and it will carry turkeys, luggage, and plenty of eggnog and brew for Thanksgiving without breaking a sweat.  Plus, it will look like you are having a blast.  Which you WILL be, right?
  4. Dodge Charger SRT-8:   The Charger has long held a soft spot in my big car heart.  It’s fast, it makes a statement, and it’s loud.  What’s not to love?  Plus, the SRT-8 can be purchased for under $50,000!  60 mph comes up in a show-stopping 4.3 seconds.  This makes it the large family-oriented performance car of the century!
  5. Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec:  The Hyundai is the first Korean performance sedan.  It competes with the Mercedes-Benz E550, yet offers almost as much room as a MBZ S-Class.  It may be smaller than the gigantic Equus, but it’s MUCH more fun to drive.  Plus, it will get people asking what it is.  Some will think it’s a Lexus, others will think is a Mercedes.  Tell them it’s a Hyundai, and take some photos for me!
  6. Jaguar XJL Supercharged:  The 470 horsepower, 5.0 liter engine is powerful enough to move this big boy.  Fast.  The interior is even nicer than the engine.  There is a suede-like material that Jag used for the headliner that is very soft and nice.  The engine is so powerful that you can load up the trunk and have your friends in the back stretched out.  What’s not to love?
  7. Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged:  The Range Rover Supercharged has a 510 horsepower engine that is basically the same one you’ll find in the XJL Supercharged.  This powerful engine will take the nearly 5000-pound SUV to 60 in a mere 5.2 seconds.  Plus, it will haul all your gear wherever you want it.  You can quite literally load up the shotguns and go hunting wild turkeys in the Rockies.  Plus, it’s got  a very similar interior to the XJL Supercharged.  Not bad for an SUV that costs almost $120,000.
  8. Mercedes-Benz GL550:  The GL wowed the 2013 Motor Trend SUV of the Year judges so much that they named it SUV of the year.  It’s the first MBZ to win that title since 2001.  The GL550 doles out globs of torque and 429 horsepower.  It’s powerful, fast, quiet, AND it will follow the Range Rover Supercharged.  For a while.  The Designo interior rivals that of the luxurious S-Class, with comfortable leather seats that seat seven.  Plus, you can take all your gear in the back and still have room.  It’s bigger than an Escalade, yet smaller than a Navigator EL.
  9. Porsche Panamera GTS:  The powerful Panamera GTS will haul four people in relative comfort, thanks to it’s leather-covered Recaro seats.  It has AWD and 430 horsepower.  It’s like the Nissan GT-R Black Edition, with two more doors!  And a rumbling V8!  Plus, it will get 24.5 mpg on the highway!  VROOOOOOOOM!
  10. Tesla Model S Signature Performance Edition:  The 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year deserves to be on this list.  Why?  It’s extremely powerful electric motor produces 416 horsepower at the wheels.  This means that it’s there as soon as you start it.  It might not have the range of the Mulsanne or the Panamera, but it will make the most amazing entrance ever.  It carries almost as much as a Chevy Equinox, plus it has 285 miles of range!  Plus, you can get to 60 in jolting 4.0 seconds!  This is one silent VROOOOOOOOOOOM!

Have fun daydreaming about what could be, when you’re stuck on the interstate wishing you’d taken the backroads. These cars may not be ‘The Family’s New Car’, but they definitely have serious style!   P.S.  Do you have any cars that have at least 400 horsepower and seat four comfortably?  I’m sure you do…

The Family’s New Car – Minivan Style

Due to the popularity of last week’s post, The Family’s New Car, I decided to go ahead and evaluate minivans.     I researched  four top picks:  The Mazda5, the Chrysler Town & Country, the Nissan Quest, and the Toyota Sienna.  Good luck shoppers!

2012 Mazda5: There wasn’t enough information available for me to evaluate te 2013, so here is the 2012 information.  With a starting price of $22,975 for a top-of-the line Mazda5, the Mazda5 undercuts the other minivans by almost $4,000.  It is fun to drive, seats six, and looks good while doing it.  The Mazda5 has a small 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine that has Mazda’s Skyactive engine technology.  This engine pumps out a somewhat-measly 157 horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque.  When loaded down with five people and luggage, the engine struggles to keep the car at 70.  However, the Mazda5 is the only minivan that gets relatively good mileage.  It gets 21/28 city/highway.  Power is fed to the front wheels through a five-speed automatic that is relatively quick, yet outdated for today’s standards.  The Mazda5 has the lowest monthly fuel cost of the four minivans mentioned at $203.  But, the Mazda5 has the smallest fuel tank of the bunch at 15.9 gallons.  Bluetooth, A/C  and climate control, heated/cooled seats, Satellite Radio, and leather are standard and/or in the Mazda5.  All-season tires, a power glass sunroof, and Alloy wheels are also standard.  ABS, an anti-theft system, child-seat anchors, side/curtain airbags, stability control, and traction control are all standard, as well.  The Mazda5 is also relatively spacious.  It is relatively quiet for a minivan, with noise levels mainly staying with minimal amounts of wind noise.

The 2013 Nissan Quest is the car that Motor Trend dubbed the unspoken hero of the minivan world.  With an invoice of $24,222, the Quest undercuts the Chrysler Town & Country by almost $4,000.  It is remarkably fun to drive, with responsive steering, good power delivery, comfortable seating for seven, amazing visibility.  It’s 3.5 liter V6 is shared across the Nissan board, and it is smooth and powerful.  It’s fuel tank can hold up to 20 gallons.  Plus, the Quest gets 19/25 city/highway, with a monthly fuel bill running you $232.  With 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque coming from the engine, the Quest seems like it is a bit underpowered on paper.  When you drive it, there are substantial amounts of torque on demand.  The CVT transmission is smooth, but it buzzes when the engine revs above 4500 rpm.  Considering the fact many CVT’s are noisy transmissions, the Quest’s CVT is smooth.  Bluetooth is standard on the SV trim and above.  Keyless ignition is standard on the S model.  The interior is cloth, but don’t let that throw you off from buying an S.  The seats are supportive and comfortable for long road trips.  All-season tires are standard on the S.  However, the Quest is the only minivan available with steel wheels.  ABS, an anti-theft system, child seat anchors, side/curtain airbags, traction control and stability control are all standard.  The Quest is also one of the most spacious minivans on the market, with almost 60 cubic inches of rear legroom.

The Chrysler Town & Country is the most powerful minivan available for purchase currently.  Chrysler’s new Pentastar V6 is the only engine option, yet it produces 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque.  It is also the most expensive minivan that one can buy for a base model.  It costs $28,735.  However, the Town & Country has a lot going for it.  It’s six-speed automatic has been retuned for maximum fuel-efficiency.  The Town & Country gets okay mileage at 17/25 city/highway.  It also has the largest monthly fuel bill of $243.  A/C with climate control, bluetooth, a built-in hard-drive, navigation, power seats, rear-seat DVD, Satellite Radio, and leather are all standard and/or optional on the base model.  All-season tires are mounted on alloy wheels.  ABS, an anti-theft system, child seat anchors, side/curtain airbags, stability control, traction control are all standard and/or optional.  The EPA says that the Town & Country has up to 196.5 cubic inches of interior room just itching to be used.  Plus, the Town & Country is fun to drive, due to the fact that it has perfect amounts of torque at almost any rpm over 1,000 rpm.  The Town & Country also has responsive steering, but tire howl can be easily achieved by going around a corner too fast.  The Town & Country also has comfortable leather that is standard across the board.

The 2013 Toyota Sienna has long been a bestseller in the minivan segment.  However, the 2011 redesign brought substantial updates but funky looks.  To many (including me), the Sienna looks like a cross between a pug and a bullfrog.  It has a V6 engine that is standard (a four-cylinder was available until the 2012 model year, then cut) that produces 266 horsepower and 245 lb-ft of torque.  It is responsive and quick, but it gets very loud under acceleration.  Drivers will not appreciate the large rearview mirror when driving forward.  With fuel economy ratings of 18/25 city/highway, the Sienna has a monthly fuel bill of $232.  Bluetooth, rear-seat DVD, Satellite Radio, cloth, an iPod dock are all standard/optional.  All-season tires are mounted on alloy wheels.  ABS, an anti-theft system, child seat anchors, side/curtain airbags, and stability control and traction control are all standard/optional.

My first choice to Mom would be the Mazda5.  However, we may need that extra seat, so the Quest would be next on the list.  After that, I would recommend the Town & Country, as it is a good blend of looks, power, and comfort.  The Sienna is last, due to the fact that it is slower than all of the others except for the Mazda5, and it is not very much fun to drive.  If I had to buy any one of these minivans, I would have to go with the Mazda5.  Why?  It looks good, it’s adequately powered, and it is barrels of fun to drive.

Jeep and Capitalism, er, Patriotism

Last year for Veteran’s Day, Jeep came out with a limited-edition Wrangler Freedom Edition.  This year, the Jeep Patriot Freedom Edition is the new Jeep on dealer lots.  Jeep now times a new edition to sell around Veteran’s Day.  This limited-edition Patriot shows our military servicemen and servicewomen that Jeep still remembers those citizens who have fought on behalf of our country.  Based on the Patriot Latitude, the Freedom Edition Patriot is available with front or all-wheel-drive.  Three exterior colors are available:  Bright White, True Blue, and Deep Cherry Red.  A matte-black Army-inspired star lies directly on top of the hood.  The wheels are 17 inch “Mineral Grey.”  “Oscar Mike” badges (military jargon for “on the move”) are on the lower part of the front doors.

Inside, the interior is pretty much the same as a regular Patriot, but Oscar Mike badges are stitched into the front seats.  Unique trim is also spread throughout the interior.  Also, a large sliding sunroof comes with the Patriot Freedom Edition.

The 2013 Jeep Patriot Freedom Edition starts at $22,440, and Jeep will donate $250 from each Freedom Edition sold to military charities.  You can buy a Patriot Freedom Edition at a local Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram/SRT dealer now.

Tales, Jokes, and One Reason NOT to Keep the Original Battery In Your Car!

As some of you might know, my favorite radio talk show about cars, Car Talk, isn’t going to be on air anymore.  Why?  Because Tom and Ray Magliozzi (the co-hosts of Car Talk) are going out of the radio show biz and into the exciting land of retirement, practical jokes, and fond(ish) memories.  I found one very funny tale of WHY to never use matches by a car battery, and a funny joke by a loyal Car Talk listener.

The joke comes first:  “A guy buys a brand-new Mercedes SUV.  He’s surprised to notice there are no buttons on the radio, but the salesperson explains that the radio is voice activated and all he has to do is say what he wants to hear.

The customer jumps in and says, “Country music.”  Willie Nelson starts singing!  “Rock and roll!” he exclaims, and immediately it switches to Elvis.  “Easy listening,” he says, and all at once it sound like he’s in an elevator.

Later that day, he’s driving up Route 128, outside Boston, listening to smooth sounds.  Then a couple of speeding Boston drivers fly by.

“Morons!” he yells.

The radio immediately blurts out, “Hello and welcome to Car Talk, from National Public Radio!”

Of course Tom and Ray aren’t morons.  In fact, they happen to be the SMARTEST morons ever!… (That’s my joke…)

Here’s the woeful tale of Jim and the car battery:

“Dear Tom and Ray:

One Christmas, I was on my way to a family gathering in upstate New York when my car stalled.  In those days, you could pull the caps off the battery to check the water level.  I raised the hood and took off the battery caps.  I couldn’t see, so I took out my lighter.  In my defense, there was no warning that the batter was explosive or not to use matches to warm it up.

A loud explosion blew the top off the battery and acid all over me.  I quickly used snow to get it off my face.  I had a hat and scarf on, so I wasn’t hurt much-except I couldn’t hear anything but ringing.

My wife rolled down the window and asked, “Should I try to turn it over now?  Is it fixed?”

I guess that’s one reason why people have their cars towed when it stalls!  Oops, little mistake there!

Happy Friday!

If This Car Goes Into Production, I’ve Got Dibs!

Chevy is feeling a mite bit jealous of Subaru and Scion’s joint success of the Subaru BRZ and the Scion FR-S, so at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, Chevy came out with two concept cars:  The Code 130R and the Tru 140S.  Chevy threw the Code 130R and the Tru 140S into mock battle on Facebook and Twitter to see which car would win.  I am going to focus on the Code 130R, as it has a stronger chance of going into production.

The Code 130R is based on a shortened Cadillac ATS platform.  For some people, the car may remind you of an everyday man’s (or woman’s) BMW 1 Series coupe.  To me, it looks like a cross between a 1967 Chevy Camaro/BMW 1 Series.  It is just a bit bigger than the FR-S/BRZ, and has less horsepower.  But, it has a similar mission:  To introduce those new to the automobile to the joys of driving.  The concept has a 1.4 liter turbo four putting out a somewhat measly 150 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque.  However, the concept does have GM’s eAssist, which would give the tiny 1.4 about 15 more horsepower.  The gigantic 20-inch tires are going to need a bit more than 163 horsepower to break into a drift.  Car & Driver has heard that if the car makes it to production (very likely), it will likely have these three engines:  a direct-injected 2.0 liter four cylinder as the base engine, the 1.4 liter in the Eco model, and for those who enjoy high-powered drifts, the potent 2.0 liter turbo from the Cadillac ATS (270 horsepower).  That power will get to the wheels via a standard six-speed automatic or an optional six-speed manual.

Here’s a picture for you to drool over.

  • chevrolet-code-130r-concept-side-3

The Family’s New Car – What Will it Be?

So many people have been driving their old cars.  The economy, ya know.  Well, the old cars need CPR (or most likely, a quick and painless retirement).  I decided to research options.  So here you are, a comparison, and contrast, of  the:  Toyota Prius Plug-In, the Toyota Camry Hybrid, and the Chevrolet Volt.  I thought that this topic would interest you, so this post is going to be a bit longer than usual.

Toyota Prius Plug In:  The Toyota Prius plug-in is virtually indistinguishable from a normal Prius.  The only way one can tell the Prius Plug-In apart from a regular Prius are the silver paint on the mirrors, door handles, and tailgate, the car looks the same.  Of course, the blue-and-white PLUG-IN HYBRID stickers help.  There is also a cutout in the left fender that houses the outlet for the charging cord.  In terms of the inside, there are only a few PLUG-IN HYBRID stickers and logos.  The cargo floor is also a couple of inches higher, due to the larger battery pack.  From the driver’s seat, the car is virtually the same as a regular Prius.  The only differences are the fact that the battery pack is much heavier (it is made out of lithium-ion).  The car will take a tortoise-like 11.3 seconds to reach 60.  In three hours (from a 110-volt current), the car will be completely charged.  However, if you have a 220-volt current, you will be on your way in an hour and a half.  If you drive like a senior, you can get 13 miles of range before the car starts the normal hybrid cycle of a Toyota Prius.  If you drive faster, the range will subsequently go down.  Quickly.  You can go up to 62 in full electric mode, but that will drain the battery within minutes.  Accelerating to freeway speed or going up a hill will bring a moan that sounds like Leo when he’s tired from the engine.  Car & Driver gingerly drove the car in the city and were sustained by pure electric power 39% of the time, and got an average of 56 mpg neatly displayed on the navigation screen.  However, there are limited dealers that are authorized to sell the Prius Plug-In, so be sure to contact dealers near you.  The Toyota Prius Plug-In that I configured on the Toyota website came into a grand total of $33,208 (including an $850 destination charge/shipping tax).

Toyota Camry Hybrid:  The Toyota Camry Hybrid has crisper handling than the basic Camry.  The Camry Hybrid has a larger trunk than the previous generation (a gain of 2.5 cubic inches to 13.1 cubic inches) and the right side of the rear seat is now the only side that can accommodate long objects.  Passenger space has increased to 102.7 inches from 101.4 inches.  Toyota has trimmed about 220 pounds from the previous Camry Hybrid, thanks to the use of high-strength steel.  The low-rolling-resistance tires and a slicker drag coefficient of 0.27 makes the Camry Hybrid more fuel-efficient and faster.  The three “optitron” dials in the car’s multi-information display show:  mileage, range, and very important energy flow.  In uplevel XLE models, a leather interior and an infotainment system will run you $1160.  The eco setting accessed through the multi-information display will significantly inhibit throttle openings and will lower the air-conditioning power consumption to a dull roar.  When in pure electric mode, one can travel 1.6 miles below 25 mph.  While the Camry Hybrid won’t win a drag race against a Mustang, it will win a drag race against the basic Camry.  The Camry Hybrid rockets to 60 mph in a monumental 7.3 seconds!  The Camry Hybrid will brake shorter and sooner than the previous generation Camry Hybrid.  Stops have been measured at 178 feet, compared to the older Camry Hybrid’s 200.  Also, the new electric braking system is so smooth that you won’t feel queasy, even if you stomp on the brake pedal.  There is not enough lateral support in the front seats during hard cornering.  There is more rear-seat room, thanks to the car’s redesign and the center console and front seatbacks being redesigned.  This is especially better for the passenger in the center seat.  The Camry Hybrid LE that I configured on the Toyota website came into a grand total of $27,033.  That includes the $850 destination charge/shipping tax, which puts the car on par with the Chevrolet Volt (in terms of pricing).

Chevrolet Volt:  Changes in the battery pack in the Chevrolet Volt have made the car’s range go up to 38 miles in pure electric mode.  The EPA fuel economy for the car has gone up to 98 mpg.  The larger battery pack means that the charging time from a 120-volt current will snap up 10.5 hours of charging time.  With a 240-volt current, that time is dramatically reduced to 4.25 hours.  Any Chevrolet Volt sold in California will automatically come with a low-emissions package that will make it legal to drive in the carpool lane with only one person.  For many owners, work is just within reach of the electric range, so they can charge the car at work and come home without ever turning on the gas generator engine.  When owners DO use the gas generator engine, the cost is usually less than $100 a month.  This is mainly because of the massive amounts of technology stored in the Volt.  The regenerative braking system can eke about 8 more miles of range into the car.  The car will give owners neck-snapping performance in sport mode, and very little acceleration in eco mode.  The Volt that I configured on the Chevrolet website was $42,720, but of you add in the $10,000 discount on the Volt, the Volt will run you a mere $22,720.  Add in the $7,500 tax rebate and the Volt will run you $25,220.

The Kia Optima Hybrid is a hybrid family sedan that competes (ish) with the Camry Hybrid.  It has a lot of bang for the buck, but it has surprisingly bad fuel economy for something with a hybrid logo.  The Optima Hybrid is stylish, fun to drive, relatively fast, and did I mention that it will cause traffic jams because of its looks?  It only costs a mere $26,000 base price!

Here’s where the fun begins!  Comparing and contrasting the three cars won’t be easy.  I never thought it would be.  The Prius won’t win a beauty contest.  That goes to the Volt.  In terms of range, the Volt wins again.  In terms of being family-friendly, hats off to the Camry Hybrid.  In terms of technology, the Prius Plug-In and the Volt are tied.  The Volt wins the performance criteria.  In terms of utility, the Prius Plug-In wins again.  In terms of pricing, the Volt is REALLY trying to end up in your driveway.  The Camry Hybrid is REALLY good at making it into your driveway.  The Prius Plug-In has the potential to sell as well as the conventional Prius.  Which car would I recommend to my parents, or their friends?  I would recommend the Volt to them, as it is the most efficient, fun to drive, and has a good deal of storage space.  Plus, it wins the beauty contest (in my eyes).  It also comes with leather at no added cost, an HOV sticker, and a REALLY cool sound system.  Oh, and did I mention that it was the 2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year!.  My second choice?  The Camry Hybrid.  In years to come, the Camry Hybrid will be easy to find parts for, and it should last us a very long time.  Plus, it’s still family-friendly and it’s a winning formula that’s been proven many times over.  It’s also got crisp handling (a much-needed improvement for Toyota), and it has over 600 miles of range.  Why wouldn’t I recommend the Prius Plug-In to them?  Well, it’s not as fun to drive (important), it looks like it came out of Star Trek, and only certain dealers can service it.  That’s a BIG, BIG problem.  The Optima Hybrid lags behind the others in everything but looks.