Drive Revolution 2014 showcases fuel-efficient vehicles

By Mary Lowry

Recognizing the continually growing need and demand for motor vehicles that don’t feed on fossil fuels, or at least don’t consume them in gluttonous amounts, the Northwest Automotive Press Association (NWAPA) last year created a new annual event called Drive Revolution.

For the event, NWAPA invites automakers to bring their newest, most fuel-efficient or alternative-fuel vehicles to the Pacific Northwest, where members of the group spend two days evaluating the vehicles, test-driving them, and gathering information from car company product communications experts.

Drive Revolution 2014 took place recently in Portland, where cars were staged at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). From there, the test route included highway, freeway and congested downtown driving. Included among the 18 tested vehicles were hybrid, electric, diesel and natural gas models. As a NWAPA member and proponent of environmentally beneficial things, it was my great pleasure to be there.

After learning about each vehicle’s unique solution to reducing reliance on gasoline, participating NWAPA members selected our favorites in four categories — Alternative Fuel, Electric, Hybrid and Green Luxury — as well as an overall winner.

Among alternative fuel vehicles, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI was the top vote-getter. With a newly enhanced turbodiesel engine, this Golf delivers an irresistible blend of excellent fuel economy, practicality, sportiness and reasonable pricing.

“Volkswagen has led the diesel passenger car market for years, and the Golf TDI proves that they’re likely to stay on top for a while,” said Jeff Zurschmeide, event co-chair.

In the fast-growing EV (electric vehicle) segment, NWAPA members selected the Fiat 500e as their top choice. Good news for the Northwest is that the Fiat 500e, previously limited to California sales and leases, is now available in Oregon. Washington, I hope, isn’t far behind.

“The Fiat 500e is attractive and fun,” said Drive Revolution co-chair Bengt Halvorson. “It remains a model that will, with a short test drive, convert people who hadn’t even thought about electric cars into EV enthusiasts.”

Nearly all automakers are offering some type of hybrid this year, and the Drive Revolution competition included passenger cars and SUVs in hybrid form. With its combination of hybrid fuel efficiency, traditional luxury and performance, the Lexus CT 200h took honors in the hybrid category.

“This Lexus represents the state of the art in both small-car luxury and hybrid technology, and the combination is impressive,” said Nik Miles, NWAPA president.

The Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec (clean diesel, 38 mpg on the highway) scored highest in the Green Luxury category. “Luxury is synonymous with Mercedes-Benz, and the new four-cylinder Bluetec diesel model fully lives up to the longtime reputation of the marque — all with confident performance, absolutely no compromises in comfort, and the fuel efficiency of a small car in a spacious luxury sedan,” Halvorson said.

All models entered in the event were eligible for the overall winner prize. Volkswagen’s 2015 Golf TDI accumulated the most votes and was awarded the title of Northwest Green Vehicle of the Year for 2014.

“Drive Revolution is a forward-looking event that brings together a variety of solutions for the critical question in modern personal transportation: How can we reduce dependence on fossil fuels without sacrificing utility, comfort and performance?” Nik Miles said.

The Northwest Automotive Press Association is a nonprofit professional organization with members active in print, broadcast and electronic media. The group presents annual scholarships supporting journalism students at the University of Washington, Washington State University, the University of Oregon, and Portland State University.