Green Car Co

“Green Car Co.”:http://www.thegreencarco.com/product_info/ is for those of us who really want to save some energy. Now that the Scion xB is an overweight monster, beside the Prius, what can someone who cars buy?

# “Plug Prius”:http://www.thegreencarco.com/product_info/universal_piprius_kit/ For just $10K more, you can buy a plug hybrid. (Wow that’s expensive), but it gives you a 16 mile all electric range and with a simple 110VAC charger its just six hours to recharge overnight when electricity is generated for free basically. Its kind of a hack, you add another lead acid battery pack that transfers into the NiMH batteries onboard.
# “Volkswagon Tdi Biodesel”:http://www.thegreencarco.com/product_info/vw_tdi_biodiesel/. Gets 45mpg but you might as well get a Prius then
# “Smart Car”:http://www.thegreencarco.com/product_info/smart_car/. Only two passengers and it is tiny and gets 50mpg, so not that much more than the diesel.

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Toyota Prius

What do you do when an MDX gets 12mpg in the city and 14mpg average. Seems like everyone I know is trying to figure this out. A Highlander (OK, but the third seat is way too crowded and it is a bit noisy). For true econo-cars, 2007 Prius and the Option 6 package is kind of amazing. Two years ago you couldn’t get leather or anything, but the base package. Now the price goes from $21K to $30k, but you can get leather and everything. When you are trying to buy something like this though, it doesn’t seem like there is a good guide anywhere on how to shop for cars online:

# Scion. If you can, don’t buy from the Toyota side of the house. Its too bad the Prius doesn’t have an equivalent on the Scion side. Like Saturn, these folks just have a single price. I love it
# “Costco”:http://costcoauto.com. Last year, Costco didn’t have either the Prius or the Camry Hybrid on the list, but if it is, then you get a no haggle contracted price that is $500-1000 above the invoice. Super easy, you just fill it in the form and then someone contacts you on the web.
# “Autoland”:http://www.firsttechcu.com/auto_center/auto_buying_service/auto_autoland.html. If you belong to a credit union, then you can use Autoland.com to connect and do the same kind of buying service.
# “Ebay”:http://motors.listings.ebay.com/_W0QQa10239ZQ2d24QQa10244ZQ2d24QQa38v1yZQQa38v2yZQQa39Z1981QQa39705ZQ2d24QQa41Z12385QQalistZa39Q2ca41Q2ca38v1yQ2ca38v2yQ2ca10239Q2ca3801Q2ca85Q2ca10246Q2ca33512Q2ca10241Q2ca10244Q2ca39705QQcatrefZC6QQcoactionZcompareQQcoentrypageZsearchQQcopagenumZ1QQflsoZ1QQfposZ98004QQfposZ98004QQfposZ98004QQfromZR2QQfsooZ2QQfsopZ9QQftrtZ1QQftrvZ1QQgcsZ13QQpf_queryZQQpfidZ2473QQpfmodeZ1QQreqtypeZ2QQsacatZQ2d100QQsaprchiZQQsaprcloZQQsatitleZQQsbrsrtZlQQsocmdZListingItemList If you don’t mind a used one, eBay often times has good deals. At a minimum a search will tell you what the street price is. For instance, the Option 6 Prius 2007 is available in Arizona for $27K so at least you get some idea of the price
# “Dealer Cost”
# Haggling. Well, if you don’t have any of these options, then you are left with haggling. First figure out the true dealer cost. Don’t get those dealer installed options, if they want you to have it, then by definition you don’t need it. Go to “Toyota”:http://www.toyota.com/byt/pub/setStartOptions.do?seriesCategory=11&zipHolder=&modelId=&zipCode=98004 and figure out the true list price of the car. The dealers really like to obscure this and by the way for the car we are looking at it is $29,344 without tax
# “Motor Trend”:http://www.motortrend.com/cars/2007/toyota/prius/pricing/. These guys have the prices, it shows that the base price of $22,175 has an invoice of $20,419 and the Touring version is $23,070 with a base of $21,171, so there is 8% margin built in to these cars. This does not include the destination charge.

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Lexus GS Hybrid 2007

!>http://www.lexus.com/assets/models/anchor/small_photos/ASE_prm_img.jpg! Lexus GS Hybrid. Jim mentioned he was getting one of these over the weekend. Wow, what an amazing car. Twice as much as the Toyota Camry Hybrid, it is a screamer. It has a huge electric motor that puts out 120 plus horsepower. It can do 0-60 in less than six seconds. And it is a rear wheel drive car so it should handle better than my understeering Volvo. Anyway, incredibly expensive at say $60K with all the goodies (DVD navigation, etc.). It is the technology guys dream. Things to check in a test drive are:

* Middle rear seat. Some folks are saying that it is really too uncomfortable to use.
* Steering. LA Times said it was vague
* Gas Mileage. What can you really expect. 17-22mpg was the real world experience, what is the real world for a Camry Hybrid, most say about 28 mpg, so there is a real difference.

We had a 540i manual that I really liked, but got tired of it in the first two weeks because it just wasn’t as fun as the original 325i nor in my humble opinion did it look as unique. The BMWs these days look like Hondas. But it was a six speed so it was fun. Ultimately I sold it because it was at the end of its five year warranty and I just couldn’t handle the maintenance costs of these European cars. Same reason its time to go Japanese.

The “LA Times”: loved the car, although it did say that it is so heavy at 4100 pounds that it feels heavy when you are steering it. Also that the active suspension feels a little wierd and takes lots of space away. It has a two-speed CVT system so that at low speeds, it is a very high torque 3.9:1 drive ratio, but at high speeds, it becomes very economic dropping to 1.3:1. The result is an amazing 25mpg in the city and 28 on the highway compared with its 8-cylinder equivalent Lexus which gets 18/25 although in actual real world, Cnet for instance got 17mpg average.

“CNet”:http://reviews.cnet.com/2007_Lexus_GS_450h/4505-10865_7-31833144.html also really like it, although it isn’t the paragon of car rating, this thing really appeals to a car geek. 9/10. As they say it is a showcase of Toyota technology. Options includre a voice activated GPS with Bluetooth hadnsfree calling as well as letting you play a DVD on the 6″ screen in front ($1,900) so you can go to the restaurant listing and then it dials them through your phone. Kind of cool. Also you can get a 16-speaker audio system ($1780) if the standard 10-speaker one isn’t enough. Total cost of that model was $65,794! The standard equipment is amazing with a 10-way power seat, six disc in-dash changer standard. They didn’t like the voice commands very much, you have to train it, unlike the one in our Acura MDX. Anoher kind of strange thing is a radar cruise control which uses a radar to avoid traffic, but basically was so conservatively set it kept going off. They also didn’t like the variable steering which basically at low speeds, increases the sensitivity of the steering wheel, but at high speeds, it damps down the turning ratio. Of course in Seatle, you have to get all the options, there isn’t a choice. It is $65K period, so at least the choices are easy 🙂

“Wikipedia”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexus_GS#Third_generation_.282005-present.29 has a good description of the car and it technology and a good “Edmunds”:http://www.edmunds.com/apps/vdpcontainers/do/vdp/articleId=109609/pageNumber=1 review where it says that the real world fuel efficiency for that driver was 22 mpg and it says a real world 8-cylinder gets 12-14 mpg (my 540i was about that in the city, it could get to 25mpg on the highway, but in the real world, it was getting about 15mpg and our Volvo 850i which does lots of highway is lucky to get 16mpg and our Acura MDX which is mainly a city car gets 14mpg usually). A another good point is that the sport suspension setting really does firm thing up. It really does do 5.5 seconds to 0-60mph but more importantly, it is very torquey and fast at 0 mph because of the electric motor. Main drawbacks are its small trunk (7.5 cubic feet vs. 13 cubic feet for the GS 430, so that fou suitecases would never fit). The center rear seat is raised and would be uncomfortable, unlike the Camry Hybrid which is really designed for five people.

“Road and Track”:http://www.roadandtrack.com/article.asp?section_id=6&article_id=3367 did a quick review but not a full road test.

Another side note is that if you buy it by September 30, you get a full tax deduction. $1500 for this car assuming you aren’t hit with AMT. The rebate falls by half after that. You have to take delivery by then by the way.

“Automobile.com”:http://car-reviews.automobile.com/Lexus/review/2007-lexus-gs-450h-preview/1500/

Camry Hybrid and other 5-passenger fuel-efficient cars

So I need a commuter car that can squeeze all five of us in a pinch. Here are the choices stack ranked thanks to among other things a “Road & Track”:http://www.roadandtrack.com/article.asp?section_id=31&article_id=3430 shoot out between the Civic Hybrid and the Camry Hybrid.

# 2007 Camry Hybrid. Expensive at $25,900 MSRP, but it is large and has good fuel economy. The 2007 Camry’s a much more stylish (heck, they look like the late model BMWs to me and the Lexus, but then all these cars look the same now IMHO). Rated at 43 mpg city and 37 mpg highway, it has all the luxury features including a DVD navigation system, iPod input, keyless entry. It uses a 2.4 liter engine with a 105kW electric motor.”Forbesauto.com”:http://www.forbesautos.com/showmodel/2007/toyota/camry_hybrid/, “Cnet”:http://reviews.cnet.com/2007_Toyota_Camry_Hybrid/4505-10865_7-31690653.html with a 7/10 rating. Some “folks”:http://reviews.cnet.com/2007_Toyota_Camry_Hybrid/4864-10865_7-31690653.html?ctype=msgid&messageSiteID=7&messageID=1919385&cval=1919385&tag=uolst complain though that the cruise control doesn’t work well and the batteries are a huge hump in the trunk (unlike the Prius where the batteries are under the passenger seat). “Road & Track”:http://www.roadandtrack.com/article.asp?section_id=31&article_id=3430 had a good comparison lately.
# Honda Fit. This is the original Civic come back again. Not a hybrid, but very small, so it gets 30 mpg plus. It is really a four passenger car.
# Scion xB. This is actually the car I love because it is huge, but it is just too ugly for the family to want. The most practical. Not a hybrid so it gets about 30 mpg and perhaps the biggest negative is that at highway speeds it positively howls both from wind noise given its shape and the tiny 90 hp engine screaming at 4,000 rpm.

By the way in terms of actually buying a car, the web has made things so easier. So on “TMSBuyatoyota.com”:http://www.tmsbuyatoyota.com/configurator/configuratorFrame.aspx?tda_id=20&dealer_id=1201&zip_code=98004&series_id=25&s_van=GM_STN_BYO&from_bat=1, you can get all your options. For us that is:

* Color. Blue Ribbon Metallic (looks like dark blue to me) or Titanium Metallic (looks like silver to me :_)
* Interior. Bisque Leather (looks like tan to me) or Ash Leather (looks like a lighter grey to me)*
* Accessories. Floor Mats ($159???), Security systme ($359)

For the Hybrid at least, there weren’t any other options. List is $27,038 including the $580 delivery charge.

Honda Apple Link

nuxx.net – Honda Music Link iPod Adapter Review. But don’t get the Honda Music Link. It has software that is supposed to allow voice recognition and selection from the stereo, but as this user notes, it doesn’t work. Instead, I’d recommend getting a Tendeck flexible thingy that plugs into the cigarette lighter and then using the auxiliary MP3 iinput.

Honda Fit Hybrid

Hybrid Cars – Honda Fit Hybrid. More details on this rumored car. The high points:

* Will probably be about $3K more than the $16K list.
* Target is 60 mpg (!!!)
* Will use a 90 hp engine with Honda inline electric motor (20 hp)
* They will probalby allow the electric motor only to power the car at low speeds (<30 mph) and for a short time (< 5 minutes). * Doesn't have regenerative braking * Probalby will launch in a few month

Honda Fit

1Consumer Guide, Edmunds review Honda Fit – Autoblog. The Honda Fit just got the top rating from Car and Driver this month. It is a subcompact that is the size of the original Civic (if you remember that car, we had a 79 Civic called the rollerskate). It is the best selling car in Japan. and gets an amazing 32 mpg without any fancy hybrid technology.

Also it is the car tuners dream and lots of folks at “Hondatuner.com”:http://hondatuningmagazine.com/features/0308ht_spoonfit/ would agree with that.Stock it weighs just 2500 pounds and has a 110 horsepower motor. Not far from the original Civic with its 90 hp that we had. It only comes in a hatchback.

The main innovation as “Edmunds”:http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/Drives/FullTests/articleId=109810 points out is not the nice tight suspesiuon of the 5 speed manual, but the “magic seat” which with one button lets you slide the front seats forward to get in and then the rear seats drop flat if you want without removing the head rests. Also the gas tank is moved to the front so there is lots more leg room.

For the cool folks, the 5 speed automatic has paddle shifters so you can handle it like a manual if you want it gets elssentially identical fuel economy. The so called Sprot trim level (higher end trim) adds security system, fog lights, power windows, cruise control, those cool paddle shifers, stereo with iPod input and about $1300 to put the list price at $15970.

And of course there is a rumor of a hybrid version coming out in later this “year”:http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/News/articleId=109394. Now of course this will be the so called light hybrid, so the fuel economy won’t be anythingl9ike the toyota models.,