Toyota Mirai, masterpiece or mirage?
The Wild West of driver assistance technology and we round up the best cars of 2016.
It's time to check the tech.
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This is CNET On Cars.
Welcome to CNET On Cars.
The show all about high tech Cars and modern driving.
I'm Brian Cooley.
Well, after a perpetual motion machine, nuclear fusion and Facebook stock price, the hydrogen fuel sale car comes next on things with apparently no down side.
But does it really belong on that list?
We wanted to see what it's like to live with one of these machines.
So let's get out there and spend some time with the 16 Toyota Mirai Fuel-Cell hydrogen-powered vehicle and check the tech.
Toyota's got a problem.
It's called Prius.
You see, after you broke the industry wide open and established the first and really well selling hybrid car.
What do you do for an encore?
And you do need an encore.
Because if you don't, you leave the table to Chevy Volt or Tesla Model 3 or In their minds, God forbid, Honda clarity.
Now there's really only one direct competitor to this car and that would be Honda's Clarity.
That's their fuel cell vehicle coming late 2016.
By the time you see this, it may already be on the market.
Now, auto makers now that if you make a really different car, and it doesn't look different, you kinda tripped yourself up.
So, this looks different.
And to the uninitiated eye, both this and the Clarity, and many would say, the Prius and the Honda Insight back in the day, All ask quite a bit of the uninitiated I, but made an impression and said, I'm different.
To me this looks like a bigger Camry crossbred with a wolverine, giving it that angrier face and meatier haunches.
Now, I'm not going to spend too much time on the cabin of this car.
It's basically stock Toyota stuff.
Even though it doesn't look quite that way.
There's a whole lot of glass piano black.
Black touch surfaces in this vehicle and eyebrow display all up Prius.
A lot of it falls nicely to the hand it's gonna beautifully angled thing that a lot of Lexus car doing lately.
The eyebrow display of course easily suffers from the possibility of TMI on the green front giving you one of this screen that shows you all about your green driving habit with most drivers I would Don't care about.
Drive controls ar pretty simple and pretty dainty.
This little Prius-like shift controller.
I wouldn't even call it a shifter or shift knob.
Press for park.
No paddles or any nonsense like that.
A bunch of drive modes though, eco mode.
If I want to go a lot faster, I'll step harder on the pedal.
That's all I need for power mode.
Under the armrest here, we've got a standard Qi technology wireless charging cradle.
There are two major technologies out there, Powermat and Qi.
This is the one we've got in this car.
And again, all Mirai have the same trim.
So everything I'm showing you is standard.
And over there is an interesting button.
It says H2O.
That's the bladder button to be honest.
Since hydrogen fuel cell cars' only exhaust is water, it does pool up here and there.
And if you hit that button you can empty the container before you pull into your pristine garage.
If you have one of those.
Now, under here is a world like none other I've ever shown you in any of our videos.
You expect to find an engine, and there isn't one, at all.
There is instead, an electric motor, and a fuel cell stack.
Air comes in the face of the car through these many grills.
That oxygen is combined with the hydrogen coming out of the tank, and they meet.
In the fuel cell, or the fuel cell stack.
In those plates they have a reaction that sends off electrons.
And those electrons, some of which go directly to the front drive motor for the front wheels only.
Some of them though go off to the battery in the back of the car.
So in a sense, this is an electric, electric hybrid.
It's got two sources of electric power at any given moment that are coming to the wheels but it all starts with the chemical reaction that takes place in the fuel cell.
This gives you about 312 miles of range on a five kilogram weight based fill up of hydrogen.
Okay fueling one of these guys looks and feels a lot like fueling a regular gas car.
You pop open the door, there's a little nozzle in there.
That's your high pressure hydrogen transfer nozzle.
Now you go to the pump Which also looks kind of familiar but notice it dispenses in kilograms of hydrogen, not the gallons we're used to.
Ok, which pump do I use?
This isn't regular and high test, these are pressures, H35 is for older hydrogen cars.
At around 5,000 psi or 35 megapascals.
This is 70 megapascals, that's about 10,000 psi.
Now the nozzle of course looks a little different, this isn't your typical fueling nozzle.
It's an interlocking high pressure connection that also does infrared communication with the car with the collar on the [UNKNOWN] right there.
Now let me get this guy here, and I just have to sort of Clip it on.
I think we're good to go.
So we're seeing our sale on top and the amount of fuel we're getting on the bottom.
And that's measured in weight.
Note that here in California a five kilogram fill up of hydrogen costs around 75 bucks for the Mirai.
That's pricey compared to a $45 fill up for a V6 Camry that goes farther.
That's part of the reason Toyota pays for your first three years or $15,000 worth of hydrogen when you buy a new Mirai.
It's just the beginning, right?
Shane Steven's company truezero operates the pump where we tanked up.
The biggest factor is actually scale.
So today to produce the raw hydrogen It's actually very inexpensive.
It's probably half or less than half of the cost of gasoline.
Really where the cost is is in new methods of transporting it, the stations themselves.
We're investing a lot new equipment and we're not at the volumes or the technology maturity where we can get cheap.
But we're actually expecting to see how nitrogen competitive with gasoline within the next Two or three years, within five or ten years, it'll probably get lower, if not half the price of gasoline.
And while there are a slew of gas stations on virtually every corner in suburban America, there are very few hydrogen stations right now.
We think, actually, by being strategic, even to serve the entire California population, you would probably only need 12 or 15% of the number of fueling locations compared to gasoline.
The state of California targets 50 hydrogen station by 2017, 100 around the state by 2020.
And the perception of that being enough will be helped by the coincidence that, at least in urban areas, we're getting used to living with a lot fewer gas stations anyway.
But Tesla's Elon Musk is among those who think hydrogen will never make any sense, no matter how many stations you build.
Hydrogen is an energy storage mechanism, it's not a source of energy.
If you, say, took a Solar panel and use that energy from the solar panel to just charge the battery pack directly compared to trying to split water.
Take that take the hydrogen, dump the oxygen, compress the hydrogen to an extremely high pressure or liquefy it.
And then put it in a car and Run a fuel cell.
It is about half the efficiency.
So why would you do that?
It makes no sense.
Toyota senior exec Bob Carter says that's what they said about hybrid.
For years the use of hydrogen gas to power automobiles has been seen by many smart people as a foolish quest.
Hydrogen in plentiful and there are many ways to produce it, and many of those are sustainable.
A recent paper by the respected team of Michael Seaback and Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute assert, it is possible for Fuel Cell cars to involve the least amount of petroleum used per mile measured from the well to the wheel.
Depending on the source of hydrogen use.
Okay now, on the road I really like Mirai in that everyday sense.
One of the first things you notice is how conventional it is.
It doesn't feel like you're driving anything weird in any sense.
It's spritely, though not punishingly fast.
It doesn't have the kinda throw you back in the In the seat performance of a Tesla, the ride quality is not sloppy but its very comfortable.
Now when you lean on it like I'm doing now going up a hill accelerating pretty full tilt, you get a lot of electric noises out of a ride more than I think fit with its very refined ride quality.
You do have a slightly alluded trunk, not bad but its not a cavernous thing its got a little bit a tightness toward the back Back there.
And it's only a four seat car.
You have a fixed, non-seatable, center rear console.
Now this was a bugaboo for the Chevy Volt in it's first generation.
Only would hold four in a very similar config.
They addressed that in Gen two [UNKNOWN] still back on a four seat [UNKNOWN] As everyday cars go, I like this one.
Now as you can imagine with any moon shot product like this, the entry price is high, but so are the incentives.
You start off at $58,300 delivered for a Mirai and there's only one kind you can get, loaded.
After that come the incentives.
First, the IRS is gonna give you an $8,000 tax credit, California's credit is currently $5,000 and Toyota is putting what they call a trail blazer incentive on the hood, another $7,500 off.
And then I'm gonna ballpark a $7,300 fuel savings over three years Compared to if you had a V6 Camry in California driving the same miles as you would this car.
That's about 30,500 now after all the math is done and that's a much more realistic number for a lot of people.
Now you gotta buy into all the math and you have to have all those incentives be applicable to you.
But there's another calculus that you've also gotta work on and that is a raging and ongoing argument About what makes more sense in terms of real green policy.
To generate voltage that comes down a line network to charge an electric battery car, or to create and transport hydrogen to fuel one of these.
That's another topic.
Sounds like a car tech 101.
Find out more about the Toyota Mirai and a lot more details about the guts and architecture and construction in our pieces over at Road Show.
Now the Mirai was absolutely the most innovative Technology to arrive as a 2016 car, but there were a whole lot of others worth noting and when I come back, we're gonna do our top five list of the best rated 2016 cars in the opinions of the Road Show editors when cnet On Cars returns.
Welcome back to CNET On Cars.
Coming to you from our home here at the Mount Tam Motor Club, just north of The Golden Gate Bridge.
Well here we are, just past Labor Day.
As we're shooting this show and that means The end of the last model year traditionally and the beginning of the new one, so let's take a look back at the 2016 cars that got the highest ratings from the editors at Roadshow as we say goodbye to a model year.
[SOUND] Number five, kind of a sad story to be honest, it's a requiem for a brand, it goes to the Scion iA.
The iA actually tied the next car on our list but since it's a remnant of a dead brand I'll slot it down here at the bottom.
The iA by the was is basically a badge engineered Mazda 2 but with a sad little face.
So that should tell you exactly what to do if you want a great little car for as little as 16 grand.
[SOUND] Number four brings us to our first truck but not our last one on the list.
As we take a look at the Toyota Tacoma, doing really well this year.
The Tacoma's excellent off-road and comfortable on-road and it can be had with a six speed manual and Toyota's very good EnTune infotainment system.
No wonder it crushes the sales race against Colorado and Frontier, that last of which we'll meet in a moment.
Number three is a vehicle that has really set an entire car brand on a new course.
The much beloved Volvo XC90.
Whole new look, tech tour de force.
The cabin tech is almost breathtaking and it works well.
How m any car makers get both of those things combined?
We remain amazed how well Volvo can move 4400 pounds of SUV with a two liter [UNKNOWN] And of course that means they mean a 24 MPG average, almost as good as a Beetle.
Number 2 takes the car that some enthusiasts scoffed at for a long time and they don't scoff anymore.
We love the latest generation Audi TT Roadster.
That virtual cockpit is a winner of course, as are the best exterior looks yet for a TT.
Handling and performance: they're as good as those looks would suggest.
And you may find yourself sitting in your TT in the driveway, so fast is its WiFi hotspot.
Before I take you to number one, what fun would it be to not first stop off at number zero?
The lowest rated car that was touched by the Roadshow reviews team this year Was the Nissan Frontier.
To be sure the Pro Four X trim is the one we really didn't like in the Frontier.
We just didn't think it was a good value.
But overall the Frontier needs an interior and exterior makeover to catch up with Tacoma, Canyon and Colorado.
I know it's a truck but almost nothing comes with an LCD screen that small anymore.
Our number one highest rated car of all the model year 16's we touched
Sits in a pantheon alongside three series, F-150, Honda Accord.
But it's the most fun of all of them and that is the Mazda MX5 Miata.
Quick, sure-footed, efficient, and with a level of simple- Connection to the road that is perhaps unequaled by any car.
Mazda resists the impulse to **** up what works which infects so many other car makers.
And then there's that tantalizing RF concept.
[SOUND] Okay, let's read some of your emails now.
First one is coming in from Bill.
He is Oregon.
He's writing here about car class.
He says, I recently saw a BMW X1 commercial that claimed the "best in class" cargo.
In the "fine-print-fast-talk"at the end of the commercial, it was noted that this class consisted of The X1 Mercedes GLA and Audi Q3.
I immediately thought he says, were's the Lexus NX in that list?
So, who decides these classes, is there a regulatory body, or is this all marketing and branding?
Well Bill this is interesting, the classes of vehicles out there don't follow one bible.
There's a bunch of folks writing list of the class.
Let's look at some of them.
First of all, they're all well-named.
By the way you've got your friends over at NHTSA, sort of your federal safety good news.
And they've got classes for variety of the work they do.
They have five classed based on weight, as well as an SUV class, a truck class and a van class.
And those are based more on configuration.
Then you've got the Highway Loss Data Institute.
Here are the folks that are checking in on behalf of the insurance companies.
And they've got their own way of slicing and dicing car classes.
They're based on a combination of length and wheel base.
And they also have a luxury class and a sports class for things that don't fit in the other categories.
The next one we've got here is gonna be our old friends at the EPA.
And of course, we know that they're going after fuel economy and emissions to class cars.
And the way they do it, is a big 8 classes and they're based on total passenger and cargo volume inside the vehicle.
And they have another category for two seat cars like little Miatas and Fiat 124s and such.
And then the final factor, which maybe matters the most in some ways, is conventional wisdom.
What car seems to compete with what other cars?
Look at the Cadillac CT6 we recently reviewed.
As we pointed out, by some metrics it looks like it rights the 5 series.
By others, it appears to punch against the seven series.
And in many ways, those perceptions are what matter most for the consumers that are heading to showrooms.
Okay, our next email comes in from Roheet in New York City.
He says, Is it America's general hatred of diesels or some kind of laws that prevent really good diesel engines from coming to the U.S.?
He says, I've got a X3 diesel and absolutely love it.
He says I also think you guys should make episodes weekly instead of me having to wait two weeks for a new On Cars.
All right Rohit, last question first.
That would just about kill us.
But good news is we are working on bringing you more On Cars episodes more frequently instead of making you wait the long two weeks between shows.
So sit tight for that we'll have some good news on that coming up soon.
Now let's talk about diesels and why they still basically struggle in the U.S. Well, they're doing a lot better than they used to.
The first problem with diesels here is the memories of the 80s.
This the world's first diesel V8 in a passenger car.
Back then American car makers made a big push around some times of real difficult fuel economy and prices.
To bring out a new wave of theses, late 70s early 80s in particular, and these cars were crap.
I mean they were spewing smoke, as all diesels did in those days.They were noisy, they wer e slow and they were unreliable, they were just lousy power trains, not well done.
It was a pre tech era.
As a result, Americans learned to hate them.
And then you had really well made diesels, typically Mercedes, a lot of C class.
Diesels in those day that was slow zero to 60 in days not seconds.
They spewed a lot of junk out of the tail pipe and they made a noise like 10,000 cobblers putting heels on shoes.
It was not a pretty time and a lot of folks have not forgotten that and the next thing you got as we go forward into a time when diesel are beautiful, fast, clean and wonderful today is the fuel cost tick Diesel costs more in America than gasoline.
We've always had cheap gas here, and diesel is a little bit more than gas on a national average in recent times, largely because of taxes and distribution costs.
But who cares?
As a consumer, all I know is, that costs more, and I'm not really sure I'm gonna earn it back with the higher MPG of the engine.
Or at least, not sure I'm gonna do so immediately.
There's also a car cost issue.
Diesel models in the US tend to be more premium.
That's the ones that they bring here.
And they tend to have high premium on, not just a trim.
But also the diesel power train costs more to make in most cases.
It's a more heavy duty engine.
It's got a exhaust scrubbing technology a gas engine car doesn't have installed on it.
That's makes the vehicle a little harder to do a earn back on from supposedly lower prices.
One of the big exceptions, would have been Volkswagen.
They had a wide array of diesels across their line at affordable prices.
But they didn't do diesel any favors.
Their ability to bring emissions scandal onto an entire brand, almost onto an entire auto industry, also tripped up The whole diesel picture for other makers in this country.
Okay, we come back to take on more of your emails, including who says how driver assistance work?
Or is anybody minding the store?
When c/net On Cars returns.
Welcome back on cnet ONCARS, I'm Brian Cooley.
We're deep in the middle of your e-mail, let's get back to it now.
This one comes in a two for, actually.
One from Kevin in Dallas and one from Brandon in Taiwan, they're kind a same topic.
So, Kevin asks, "I've got a 16 Honda Accord Sport with Honda Sensing." Honda Sensing is their package of driver-assist, like adaptive cruise and lane departure and all that.
He says, "I love the car but the 'collision mitigation system,'" in his words is "ULTRA-OVERLY-SPAZZY!" He says, "The other day, I was in the turn lane.
The car in front of me did a u-turn." I proceeded normally, but my Honda Sensing system thought the u-turning car up front was a likely collision, and slammed on the brakes.
He says it held the brakes for a good three to four seconds, all while his [UNKNOWN] stuck out in the intersection.
He asked his local dealership he says, and they said there's no way to adjust the sensitivity.
We got another, similar request from Brendan here in Taiwan.
Says I recently bought a Mazda 6.
First car he's had with cruise control.
One of the first things he noticed is how relaxed the resume function is.
This is adaptive cruise you're talking about, when it goes back up to speed.
He says Mercedes and Infiniti products are far more aggressive about how their cruise control resumes throttle when there's space ahead.
Appearing to open up to full-barrel and kicking down at least one gear and he wants to know why are they so different and can that be adjusted?
Okay guys, good questions.
Now a lot of this goes to the roots of where self driving cars are going because these driver assist systems you're talking about are just the building blocks of self driving cars.
Now, this is, of course, really new technology, all of it.
In the US, it's gonna fall to NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
One of the first places we'll see them lay down some dictum on how these systems work will be with the coming regulation in 2020 for forward collision warning and braking, automatic braking by the car, tied to that.
The states also have a lot to say right now About self driving cars.
In terms of how those vehicles are going to operate on the road it's still a patchwork.
I expect we're going to see much more federal regulations of self driving that may trickle down more as well to driver assist, which are a lower form of technology of course.
For now though it's up to the car maker to decide how when and how aggressive, Of system either stocks one year cars or reaccelarates the other one.
And just days before our show, NHTSA announced the sweeping new plan to regulate soft driving cars based on over a dozen new criteria from censors to ethics and reserving the right to block any of them from sale if they're not satisfied.
As usual, thanks so much for watching.
Hope you enjoyed this episode.
Keep the emails coming it's firstname.lastname@example.org.
I read everyone that comes to my personal inbox and put as many as I can in the show as I think you can see.
I'll see you next time we checked the check.