New Volvo XC90, VW e-Golf Pricing, Ford's New Hybrids: The Week In Reverse

August 30, 2014

Three years and eleven billion dollars later, Volvo is now firmly part of Chinese automaker Geely—and the Swedish automaker is now showing off the first completely new vehicle developed under its new ownership. The new Volvo XC90 comes with a new generation of engines, including a plug-in hybrid powertrain. Its Sensus touchscreen interface may be the most Apple-like interface in a vehicle this side of the Tesla Model S. And the new XC90 has a few safety firsts too, including a new system that tightens seat belts if the car leaves the road. Prices for a well-equipped XC90 will nudge up to about $50,000 when the XC90 goes on sale in April 2015.

Volkswagen has announced pricing for its 2015 e-Golf, and at $36,265 it’s in a completely different pricing league than the base Golf hatchback, which costs as little as $18,815. That's before the potential federal tax credit of $7,500 and local incentives. VW's first pure electric vehicle for sale in the U.S., the e-Golf comes with standard fast-charge capability, which allows it to be charged to 80 percent in less than a half an hour. We expect the official total range to come in at about 80 miles on a full charge, or more.

Is Ford is planning a new line of hybrid vehicles to compete with the Prius? Reuters reports Ford is working on a secret project dubbed C240, which will produce a new hybrid vehicle for the 2019 model year. Plans are to build the C240 at the Wayne plant in Michigan, with production estimated at around 120,000 units per year. Ford's current hybrids--the C-Max, the Fusion, and the Lincoln MKZ-- were designed as gas-powered cars, then adapted for hybrid powertrains. If rumors are correct, the C240 would be built and marketed solely as a hybrid, just like the Prius. Also like the Prius, Ford's new hybrid will come in different configurations, ranging from run-of-the-mill hybrids to plug-ins.

The 2015 Honda Fit will get new bumpers in a quest to land the insurance industry's top car safety nod. When the Fit first was tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, it earned a poor rating for small-overlap impacts--like hitting a telephone pole. Honda says it quickly reengineered the front bumper to produce an "acceptable" rating, which lands it a Top Safety Pick award. Interestingly, Honda won't just begin building new Fits with the new bumper--it will install them on cars it's already sold. Owners can contact Honda directly to set up their bumper replacement.

And finally this week, tech giant Google caused a stir earlier this year when it unveiled a prototype of its first autonomous car. The car left out some details--things like a steering wheel and brake pedal. The state of California has now weighed in, though, and it's told Google that to get permission to operate the cars on state roads, the cars will have to have those features, so drivers can take "immediate physical control" of the car, if necessary. Though the control-less models have worked fine on closed tracks, with no accidents to date, they'll eventually be navigating real streets in real traffic, so they'll need to be up to code.

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