Electric Vehicles

Does CR-V Hybrid mean an electrified Odyssey, Pilot on the way?

The Honda CR-V Hybrid plays into the company's larger plan to sell more electrified vehicles.

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Earlier this year, the 2020 Honda CR-V made its debut with a new powertrain variant. Dubbed the CR-V Hybrid, the model will likely be able to go around 500 miles between fill ups, when optioned in its lightest variant in optimal driving conditions.

With the addition of the CR-V Hybrid and Honda's recent commitment to electrify two-thirds of its global automobile unit sales by 2030, it's reasonable to assume that the clock is ticking on electrified versions of two of the company's most popular U.S. models, the Odyssey and Pilot.

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid red back rear tailgate trunkHonda has introduced the CR-V Hybrid for the 2020 model year.Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

With electrification, there are a few ways for manufacturers to go. There's a more traditional hybrid, with a battery attached to one to four motors that uses mostly gasoline in combination with an electric power boost. There is also a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) powertrain, which allows customers to plug in their car's battery to an outlet and receive electric power to be used instead of gasoline while allowing the customer to retain their gasoline fuel tank for use for when the electric power runs out, or to supplement power availability at high speed.

Many futurists see PHEVs as being a good next step for buyers looking to have the best of the EV and gasoline-powered world.

"AutoPacific's data suggest that Odyssey customers would really respond to a plug-in hybrid powertrain," said Kim. "Our 2019 New Vehicle Satisfaction data show that 41 percent of 2019 Odyssey owners are willing to consider a plug-in hybrid powertrain next time, compared to just 24 percent of all new vehicle buyers this year. Honda has long had a reputation for powertrain efficiency and innovation, so a high-tech fuel efficient PHEV powertrain for Odyssey could make for an excellent brand fit."

2019 Honda PilotPlace your bets on Honda offering electrified powertrain options for the Pilot and Odyssey in the not too distant future. Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Honda builds the Odyssey, Pilot, Passport, and Ridgeline beside each other at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama. The current Pilot generation was launched first, in 2016. It underwent a facelift for the 2019 model year. The Ridgeline was re-introduced in 2017 and the current Odyssey generation debuted in 2018. Passport was added back to the Honda lineup in 2019.

Consumers are likely about three years away from seeing a redesigned Pilot and even further from a redesigned Odyssey, but could be closer to seeing new powertrain choices introduced as the company pushes hard to that 2030 goal. This would be a similar formula to what Honda has done with the CR-V, which had its current model introduced in 2017 and got a refresh this year.

"We are expecting a mid-cycle refresh for [Odyssey in] the 2021 model year," said Ed Kim, Vice President, Insights, AutoPaciifc. "We think the PHEV powertrain is likely to come out with the mid-cycle change, so a fall 2020 introduction wouldn't be impossible."

The Pilot and Ridgeline have a flat load floor that sits relatively high off the ground. This type of setup allows for slightly easier electrification design, because the battery pack can be situated along the bottom of the vehicle. However, the Odyssey only has 4.5-inches of ground clearance which, on the surface, seems like an impediment.

"A minivan actually makes really good sense for implementing a plug-in powertrain," said Kim. "Due to the lower sliding door tracks, the floor is a bit higher, and that leaves room under the floor for batteries. This is exactly what Chrysler did with the Pacifica Hybrid, mounting its batteries where its Stow-n-Go second row seats would normally go under the floor. It's easy to imagine Honda doing something similar with Odyssey; like the Pacifica, Honda should be able to incorporate a battery pack under the floor in a way that doesn't impede on interior space. And, in a minivan, interior space is of course extremely important."

Chrysler already sells a PHEV version of the Pacifica, the Pacifica Hybrid, so it makes sense that Honda would be exploring electrified versions of its minivan.Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

There are significant fuel-saving and quickness advantages to driving hybrid or PHEV vehicle. Honda says that the 2020 CR-V Hybrid, "brings quicker off-the-line performance and is anticipated to achieve a 50 percent higher city fuel economy rating than the non-hybrid CR-V." These advantages are likely to carry over into any future Honda vehicle development.

It's important to note that Honda designs its vehicles unlike most manufacturers, from the inside out. This means that customers are likely to see benefits from hybrid or PHEV powertrain adoption rather than the sacrifices, like the higher-riding rear seats and diminished cargo space, some automakers force consumers to make should they want to choose an alternative powertrain. However, hybrid and PHEV models tend to come at a higher price than traditional gasoline-powered models.

Currently, Honda sells the electrified Accord Hybrid, Insight, and Clarity in the U.S.

When contacted about this story, a spokesperson for Honda said, "We don't comment on future products."

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The Hemi Orange package brings unqiue style to the Durango.

Dodge

The Dodge Durango isnt the newest or most refined SUV on the market, but it offers great comfort, good tech, and a handful of raucous powertrian options. The long-running family hauler is due for an update, but in the meantime, Dodge has given it a new Hemi Orange package with unique styling touches.

Dodge already offers the Hemi Orange package fo the Challenger and Charger, and now it's available for the three-row Durango. The package is available for the R/T trim, which comes with a 5.7-liter V8.

Dodge Durango Hemi OrangeDodge offers four exterior colors with the package. Dodge

Much of the Orange package's content comes on the outside, where Dodge adds orange and gunmetal hod stripes, black taillights, and grey/orange badging. The SUV rides on black 20-inch wheels, and Dodge offers different black "Lights Out" 20-inch wheels. Four exterior colors are available: Destroyer Grey, Diamond Black, Octane Red, and White Knuckle. Inside, the Durango gets orange sticthing and unique patterns in the upholstery. Dodge says the stitching extends throughout the interior, including to the gauge cluster, armrests, console lid, and steering wheel.

Two upgrades are available for the Hemi Orange Durango. The first is the Orange Plus Package, which adds a power sunroof, a 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, and a load of driver aids. The Tow N Go package is available for four-wheel drive models, and brings the 20-inch Lights Out wheels, orange brake calipers, and a Bilstein high-performance suspension system.

The Durango R/T Hemi Orange is available now. It carries a price tag of $1,995. The Orange Plus package costs $4,500 and the Tow N Go package costs $5,095.

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The CX-50 is surpsingly capable off-road.

Mazda

I have driven all of the Mazda vehicles that have been sold in the US market over the past three decades. On everyday roads and on racetracks. I’ve appreciated their “zoom-zoom”. Good power. Punchy torque just where it was needed. Well-balanced and sporty handling. A bit of growl for the versions that called for it. Plus, tasteful-but-modest styling and more or less elbow room, depending on the model. Mazda’s have been made for sports-car enthusiasts and to ferry families. But, I had never known a Mazda called an “overlander”. Until now.

2023 Mazda CX-50Towing capacity extends to 2,000 pounds.Mazda

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 moves this traction-sophisticated automaker into the lands where the pavement ends and now takes the brand ‘off-track’. Although it’s not a new thing for many of today’s carmakers to add a backcountry model or two to their lineup, it’s new for Mazda. I traveled to Santa Barbara, California to check out this all-new crossover built on Mazda’s seventh-generation small SUV platform that is shared with the smaller CX-30. This 5-passenger utility is longer, lower and wider than the CX-5 that rides on the previous generation’s underpinnings. The CX-50 has been crafted with a roomier second row and more cargo room for the goods and gear that weekend warriors and adventurers want to carry.

The CX-50 comes with a choice of two engines: a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine with cylinder deactivation that gets 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, and Mazda’s Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter turbo-charged powerplant with 256 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque; both shift through a six-speed automatic transmission. The sport ute can tow up to 2,000 lbs. with the naturally aspirated motor and up to 3,500 lbs. with the turbo-charged mill and Intelligent Drive Select (Mi-Drive) that brings a tow mode as well as Normal, Sport and Off-Road. The newest Mazda model has been made for North America only and is built in Alabama. It is the first Mazda vehicle with auto start/stop that can be deactivated.

2023 Mazda CX-50Mazda is a master of upscale interiors. Mazda

The new crossover starts at $26,800 and comes in S, S Select, S Preferred, S Preferred Plus, S Premium, and S Premium Plus with the base motor. Turb-charged versions come in Turbo, Turbo Premium, and Turbo Premium Plus that tops out at close to $42,000. A long list of technology and safety features are standard or available. Mazda says that Meridian, a fourth turbo trim will arrive soon with even more off-road cred; it will be set up with 18-inch black wheels AT, hood graphics and other backcountry goodies.

When you look at the CX-50, the first thing you’ll notice is exterior styling that speaks to its adventure-ready mission. Muscular bodywork, such as extra cladding, wide fender flairs and larger, more aggressive tires mean that this crossover has been designed not only to give a nod to the looks of a rugged crossover but to provide enhanced traction and a tad more suspension stretch for motoring over uneven terrain and along bumpy dirt roads. Planted on its haunches with functional air vents, it eschews minivan styling with a low and wide footprint that allows owners to have easy access to high-strength roof rails for loading gear on top; the roof has been made stronger than other Mazda crossovers to accommodate heavier loads, such as a roof-top tent. A panoramic moonroof- a first for Mazda- and attractive antiglare hood graphics and are tasteful additions.

The interior is attractive and roomy, with horizontal lines and “cleanable” surfaces as a nod to outdoor endeavors. Our Turbo Premium Plus model had bright orange reverse stitching that popped the cabin that has been crafted with uplevel trims and materials and brought heads-up display. A 7-inch infotainment screen is standard, while the top models get a 10.25-inch version. A wireless charging pad and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all trims. Of note, is the rear power and programmable liftgate to the wide and deep rear cargo compartment, with a load floor that flush with the liftgate opening to help slide heavy items in and out of the back. An available line of cargo accessories makes stowage easier.

2023 Mazda CX-50The CX-50 is family roadtrip ready.Mazda

How did it handle over the 200-plus miles of our ride and drive? The Turbo Premium Plus CX-50 offers a lot like; many of its driving attributes are consistent with Mazda’s tuning and handling priorities across its product line. Traveling along coastal highways, carving mountainous twisties with tight turns and accelerating on flat and straight well-graded pavement, it has great Mazda manners: i.e., there is enough power and torque in the right bandwidth to move it well; precise steering with a slightly heavily-weighted leather-wrapped steering wheel and well-modulated brakes, especially with towing a 3,500-lb. load. We enjoyed using Sport mode for carving corners, as it brings elongated shifts from the six-speed automatic; a crisp response comes when sport shifting in “manual mode” and provides a quick throttle response.

We tried out the Off-Road mode on a course that included flat and uneven dirt roads, as well as hill climb and descent. Although there is no downhill descent control system, the brakes worked well, along with manual gearing. Of note, Mazda would be wide to add downhill descent engineering for steeper and slicker terrain. We were able to test the difference between Normal and Off-Road over a special section of the course with sandy corners and a winding track at a speed of 30 mph showing the improved traction in the Off-Road programming and the aid of Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control that brings a bit of magic to transfer torque to the wheels where it is needed to keep the intended track-think of it like an enhanced traction control program that helps with steering and yaw control.

2023 Mazda CX-50The CX-50 comes with off-road driving modes. Mazda

Other aids for off-road and backcountry travel are: the i-Activ All-Wheel Drive system that is standard equipment on all CX-50s, with a 50/50ish power transfer front to back; 8.6 inches of ground clearance; an 18-degree approach angle and a 24-degree departure angle; and an optional 360-degree camera system.

*EPA reports: base motor fuel economy 24 city/30 highway mpg, while the turbo option gets 23/29 mpg and can run on regular or premium fuel.

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