2015 Lexus NX Crossover

This week Lexus introduces their entry into the compact luxury crossover SUV field for 2015, the all-new NX.

Exterior style has the latest iteration of the brand’s spindle grill styling, deep skirted front fascia and sweeping lines all around. LED lighting is standard front and rear.

Inside the new NX is a world of luxury and technology, the the first of their products to get a new touch-pad remote interface for the infotainment and menu screen controls.

This replaces the brand’s venerable mouse puck that has been so well loved in Lexus vehicles. I can’t wait to test it and see if it works as well.

Notable features of the interior include an available wireless phone charging tray inside the center console. Design wise, the sporting and highly architectural lines of the cabin are the most daring from Lexus yet.

The all-new NX 200t gets Lexus first-ever turbocharged gas engine with a 235 horsepower 2.0 liter four-cylinder connected to a six-speed automatic.

A hybrid model NX 300h has the latest generation Lexus Hybrid Drive with a sportier transmission which has a kick-down feature. Manual shift points give a sportier feel when the driver wants it.

Both models are available in front-wheel and all-wheel drive. NX 200t has a new dynamic torque control all-wheel drive system while the NX 300h hybrid has a separate electric motor mounted at the rear axle.

We’ll bring a full review later this year when we get behind the wheel of the 2015 Lexus NX models for a complete test drive.

Nissan Leaf with Nano Paint

What do you get when you combine a zero emissions Nissan Leaf electric car with a breakthrough paint technology that repels mud, rain and dirt? It’s what Nissan calls the “world’s cleanest car.”

Demonstrating its potential on the Nissan Leaf, the company has applied a specially engineered superhydrophobic and oleophobic paint that is designed to repel water and oils.

The “self-cleaning” paint called Ultra-Ever Dry, creates a protective layer of air between the paint and the surrounding environmental elements which works to stop water and road spray from sticking.

The coating, created by UltraTech International, has been undergoing testing by engineers at Nissan for potential production car use. The company says thus far it has responded well to repel rain, spray, frost and sleet.

Nissan hasn’t announced production intent yet, but says it is considering the coating technology as a future aftermarket option.

The cleanest car in the world they say? Well I imagine the powerful car-wash industry will be lobbying against this new breakthrough to keep it locked away from consumers where it well belongs.

Volvo XC90 T8

Volvo this week announced the top line trim for their upcoming 2015 XC-90 luxury SUV, the T8.

While T8 would have previously meant a V8 engine, the new T8 has what Volvo calls Twin Engine technology. Since the company is adopting an all-four cylinder engine strategy, well something had to be added.

The T8 is a plug-in hybrid which has a 300 plus horsepower 2.0 liter supercharged and turbocharged Drive-E engine up front mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission.

At the rear is an 80 horsepower electric motor exclusively powering the rear wheels, thus no drive-shaft exists between the front and rear axles.

This combination allows the XC90 T8 to deliver up to 400 system horsepower under full accelleration which will be class leading power for the three-row SUV when it comes to market.

Also class leading will likely be fuel economy as the system can operated on electric power alone for extended periods due to its plug-in battery.

It operates in hybrid mode most of the time, and even in gasoline mode will get exceptional fuel economy with its Drive-E engine.

For those not interested in the high-end T8, a T6 model will be available with a 316 horsepower Drive-E four-cylinder engine, still offering plenty of power and fuel efficiency.

Free EV Charging

Free electricity is also in the news this week for owners of several electric car brands as Tesla, Nissan, and Volkswagen announce expanded programs for customers.

Volkswagen has partnered with ChargePoint, one of the largest national networks for public charging stations to provide 2015 e-Golf electric car owners with free charging services.

E-Golf owners will get a free membership in the ChargePoint network and access to a phone app to locate some 18,000 public high-speed charging stations around the country.

Nissan Leaf owners too will enjoy the company’s new “no charge to charge” program as well. New Leaf buyers are now offered free charging at eligible public stations in 10 markets across the United States.

They will enjoy fee access to charging at more than 2,600 public stations available in the initial program markets, with plans for hundreds more to come soon.

Not to be outdone, Tesla announced this week a milestone in their Supercharger network exclusive to their vehicles, last month delivering more than 1 GWh of energy to Model S vehicles in a single month.

The company says that energy accounts for a collective 3.7 million miles driven, 168,000 gallons of gas saved, akin to driving to the moon and back seven and a half times.

At a Tesla Supercharger, Model S customers can get half a charge in as little as 20 minutes completely free of ……charge.

Test Drives

In our test drives this week we smoked up mother earth with the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle TDI. Well not really, it is a clean diesel after all.

The Beetle TDI is the most fuel efficient of the bugs offering up to 41 mpg highway as ours was equipped with a six-speed manual transmission.

All teasing aside about smoke, the TDI runs as clean and powerful as most mainstream gasoline counterparts, but offers much more in terms of fuel economy.

It’s style inside and out was fun to behold as was its driving character. For the full review click on the link below.

This week we’re testing the 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, the off-roadified version of Jeep’s new compact crossover SUV.

With big knobby tires, raised ground clearance and manly red tow hooks, it promises adventure and a more masculine personality than the soccer mom versions of the Cherokee.

Also in our garage this week is the 2014 Hyundai Tucson, the smallest SUV offered by the Korean brand.

With few competitors in its field, the Tucson offers the size and packaging of an SUV with the maneuverability and fuel efficiency of a compact car.

To see these and a great many more reviews, log onto TestDriven.TV or our YouTube Channel.

Reality Check: Dodge SRT Hellcat

For our Reality Check segment we shake off all the good fuzzy vibes of our green cars newscast with a revisit to the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat’s tire frying performance.

Dodge boasted this week the new 707 horsepower muscle car can lay down the quarter mile in an astonishing 11.2 seconds at 125 mph right off the showroom floor. With drag radials it can knock that time down to 10.8 seconds at 126 mph.

Richard Rawlings of TV’s GasMonkey Garage is seen here racing a 71 Dodge Challenger with a 426 Hemi, once the pinnacle of Mopar performance from back in the day.

This is sure to cause even more mayhem in the online bench racing wars of the forums and in social media. The Hellcat is already earning plenty of online lovers and haters arguing passionately it sucks or it rules.

It’s just mind blowing where we’ve come from the dark performance days of the mid-70’s and 80’s. Enjoy it while its here folks, cuz it ain’t lasting for ever.