• 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid: Hitting That Green-Car Sweet Spot [Review]


    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid
    Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid [Photo: Honda]
    Model options for the 2018 Honda Clarity lineup include a pure electric, a plug-in hybrid and a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is available in two different trim levels: the Base Clarity or the Touring. The base model Plug-in Hybrid has an MSRP of $33,400, while the Touring model is priced at $36,600, excluding an $890 destination charge. Unlike the Clarity EV and Fuel Cell, the plug-in hybrid is sold nationwide.

    WHAT’S NEW

    The Clarity Plug-in, is at the forefront of Honda’s initiative to supersede gasoline-powered vehicles with electrified vehicle technology by 2030. This all-new model is manufactured in Honda’s Saitama factory in the Sayama prefecture, Japan. It follows the original “FCX Clarity”, which was exclusively a fuel-cell vehicle produced between 2008 and 2014.

    The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in hybrid is an attractive, comprehensively-equipped five-passenger sedan that delivers a refined driving experience without compromising driving range, performance or comfort. That sort of flexibility helps cater to a wide range of consumers and driving needs.

    It features a 47-mile all-electric EPA range rating that’s the highest of any plug-in hybrid sedan currently on the market. Not only that, but fitting a 1.5-liter gasoline engine on board enables the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid to receive an EPA-rated 340 miles combined range on seven gallons of fuel. The body sides manipulate airflow, which allows the car to slip through the wind with minimal aerodynamic disturbance. Front air curtains, rear tire covers and rear air curtains  are functional and expressive elements of the Honda Clarity series.

    COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE

    Moving into the cabin, the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in hybrid provides a spacious and premium 5-passenger sedan environment. It features a bright, modern feel and exceptional comfort. The interior is also outfitted with high quality materials and features, with advanced technologies including a host of driver assist, connectivity and infotainment systems. The 8.0-inch Display Audio infotainment system does support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Upgrading to the Touring trim adds navigation, leather-trimmed seats and steering wheel a Leather-wrapped steering wheel, as well as powered driver and passenger seats.

    My test 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid arrived in Touring trim with the exclusive Moonlit Forest Pearl exterior and a black leather interior. Honda set the base price of this particular car at $36,600, which rose to $37,490 after the destination charge.

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid
    [Photo: Honda]

    PERFORMANCE

    Power is provided utilizing Honda’s two-motor hybrid technology. The first piece of that equation is a 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-four engine coupled to a starter/generator motor. Then, on the electric side, there’s a 181-horsepower AC synchronous traction motor coupled to a 17-kWh, 168-cell lithium-ion battery pack.

    The Clarity Plug-In Hybrid runs primarily on its electric motor. It uses the gasoline engine when it needs to generate electricity. The energy it generates is either supplied directly to the electric motor or used to recharge the 17 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Regenerative braking is also on board, as is the way with hybrid cars. That adds efficiency by using the braking energy to help top up the batteries. The result is an EPA-rating of 110 MPGe.

    The system operates in three different driving modes –  EV, Hybrid and Engine – and is able to shift automatically from one mode to another to optimize overall efficiency. In Hybrid Drive mode, the Clarity functions as a series hybrid. Normally it will run on electricity alone, with the engine only used to generate electricity for the motor and battery pack. In Engine Drive mode, a lock-up clutch connects the engine and electric motor to help send power directly from the engine to the front wheels. Unlike most competing hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, the Clarity does not use a conventional transmission, but rather an electric car-style single-speed gearbox.

    Honda placed the battery under the floor to lower the center of gravity. That helps keep the car stable when cornering, with minimal body roll. Acceleration, as with most electric or hybrid vehicles is punchy, particularly off the line. The fixed single gear delivers smooth acceleration, as the car isn’t spending any time fishing through gears.

    The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid’s dual-pinion electric power steering delivers quick, agile and smooth cornering response. The car’s specially designed Michelin Energy Saver tires and the aerodynamic wheels offers low rolling resistance with minimized road noise. All that adds up to a comfortable, economical ride.

    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid
    [Photo: Honda]

    TFLCAR’S TAKE

    The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid represents a refined, affordable option with virtually every feature imaginable. That’s especially true in the Touring model, which has all the infotainment and safety features you expect. And if that’s not enough, there’s a host of available accessories to spruce it up. Apart from its 110 MPGe combined rating, its “gasoline-only” rating 44/40/42 City/Highway/Combined MPG is also competitive in its class.

     

    SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid Touring

    On Sale: Now
    Base MSRP: 36,660
    Price as Tested:
    37,490
    Engine: 1.5-liter DOHC I-4
    Drivetrain (Layout): Transversely mounted front engine, front-wheel drive.
    Horsepower: Combined: 181 hp @ 5,000-6,000 rpm
    Torque: Combined: 232 lb-ft @ 0-2,000 rpm
    Transmission: Fixed single speed
    Suspension: Front: MacPherson strut with 30.0 mm x 4.0 mm tubular stabilizer bar

    Rear: Multi-link with 21.7 x 3.0 mm tubular stabilizer bar.

    Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel discs (vented front) with ABS, VSA with Traction Control, EBD, BA and TPMS.
    Tires: Michelin Energy Saver A/S P235/45 R18
    Fuel capacity: 7.0 gallons
    Fuel economy (EPA): 110 MPGe Combined OR 42 MPG Combined (gasoline only)

    Dimensions:

    Wheelbase: 108.3 inches
    Length:  192.7 inches
    Width: 58.2 inches
    Height:  73.9 inches
    Turning Circle: 38.4 feet
    Curb Weight: 4,059 pounds

    Arv Voss
    Arv Voss
    Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring journalist and member and past officer of several noted automotive journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles as well.
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