2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid: weekend drive review

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For several years, the Chevrolet Volt was the sole plug-in hybrid with electric range notably above 20 miles—though it became clear Chevy never figured out how to market its virtues to the public at large.

Now it has a strong competitor in the form of the 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid, a mid-size sedan with five seats and a rated 48 miles of electric range that offers far more interior space than the Volt and equals its 42-mpg combined fuel-economy rating.

We first drove the plug-in Clarity in December, and now we've had a chance to spend four days with it, covering 570 miles.

DON'T MISS: 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid: early owner's first impressions

By and large, our impressions of the Clarity Plug-In remain those we registered after our first drive event. Honda also thinks it's figured out how to explain the virtues of its plug-in hybrid; let's hope it's right.

It's a large mid-size four-door sedan with a very pleasant and quiet interior, the range rating is fairly realistic, and its plug-in hybrid powertrain delivers a remarkable mix of electric smoothness and low fuel consumption for a car this big.

We're not fans of the exterior styling, which stems from its origins as a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle. That led to its high, bulbous tail, which had to accommodate large, transverse high-pressure hydrogen fuel tanks.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid, Hudson Valley, NY, Apr 2018

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid, Hudson Valley, NY, Apr 2018

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The Clarity was subsequently adapted into an 89-mile battery-electric version that's effectively a compliance car, and the plug-in hybrid model that we tested. It will represent the bulk of Clarity sales of about 25,000 a year going forward.

While December's first drive was in the temperate Napa Valley wine country, our four days with a white plug-in Clarity saw temperatures from 30 degrees F into the mid-50s F, including two unexpected snowstorms.

We were still able to get 30 to 48 miles out of a fully charged battery, depending on temperature but even more on speed, with highway speeds chewing up miles far faster than indicated range.

READ THIS: 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid first drive

With an expanded version of our customary test cycle of two-thirds highway miles and one-third city and suburban travels, we were able to observe the Clarity at highway speeds both in all-electric mode and then as a hybrid with the long-range battery depleted.

A set of hilly back roads in the Hudson Valley—hillier even than Napa Valley—also gave us a sense of how the car's plug-in hybrid system and its small 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine coped with maximum power demands on steep hills.


 
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