Performance Tested - 2017 Honda Clarity Long-Term Road Test

2017 Honda Clarity Long-Term Road Test

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2017 Honda Clarity: Performance Tested

by Mike Schmidt, Senior Manager, Vehicle Testing

2017 Honda Clarity

As the only fuel cell vehicle in our fleet currently, the 2017 Honda Clarity is unique but not completely foreign. It delivers a smooth flow of electric power like many of the traditional EVs we've tested, which makes it a comfortable daily driver. Its Honda roots are evident in the form of both interior layout and driving manners. And this isn't the first car with a hydrogen fuel cell that we've tested.

It's certainly not a performance car, but we still took it to the test track to get some numbers and see how they stack up against our 2016 Toyota Mirai. Take the jump to see how the two of them compare in a place where neither is particularly comfortable. It's the battle of the hydrogen beauties.

Vehicle: 2017 Honda Clarity

 

Vehicle: 2016 Toyota Mirai

Odometer: 738 miles

Odometer: 2,780 miles

Date: March 14, 2017

Date: April 19, 2016

Driver: Jonathan Elfalan

Driver: Jonathan Elfalan

Price: $58,490

Price: $58,335

 

 

Specifications

Specifications

Drive type: front-wheel drive

Drive type: front-wheel drive

Transmission type: direct-drive

Transmission type: direct-drive

Engine type: hydrogen fuel-cell hybrid EV

Engine type: hydrogen fuel-cell hybrid EV

Electric motor horsepower: 174

Electric motor horsepower: 151

Electric motor torque: 221 lb-ft

Electric motor torque: 247 lb-ft

Brake type (front): one-piece ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers

Brake type (front): one-piece ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers

Brake type (rear): one-piece solid discs with single-piston sliding calipers

Brake type (rear): one-piece ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers

Suspension type (front): independent MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar and hydraulic shock absorbers

Suspension type (front): independent MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar and hydraulic shock absorbers

Suspension type (rear): double wishbone rear suspension with coil springs, trailing arms, stabilizer bar and hydraulic shock absorbers

Suspension type (rear): double wishbone rear suspension with coil springs, trailing arms, stabilizer bar and hydraulic shock absorbers

Tire size (front): 235/45 R18

Tire size (front): 215/55 R17

Tire size (rear): 235/45 R18

Tire size (rear): 215/55 R17

Tire brand: Michelin

Tire brand: Michelin

Tire Model: Energy Saver A/S

Tire model: Primacy MXV4

Tire type: low-rolling resistance all-season

Tire type: low-rolling resistance all-season

As-tested curb weight: 4,105 lb

As-tested curb weight: 4,060 lb

 

 

Test Results:

Test Results:

Acceleration:

Acceleration:

0-30 mph: 3.4 seconds
(w/ TC on: 3.3)

0-30 mph: 3.2 seconds
(w/ TC on: 3.2)

0-45 mph: 5.4 seconds
(w/ TC on: 5.3)

0-45 mph: 5.6 seconds
(w/ TC on: 5.6)

0-60 mph: 8.5 seconds
(w/ TC on: 8.4)

0-60 mph: 9.1 seconds
(w/ TC on: 9.1)

0-60 mph with 1-ft rollout: 8.0 seconds (w/ TC on: 8.0)

0-60 mph with 1-ft rollout: 8.8 seconds (w/ TC on: 8.8)

0-75 mph: 13.4 seconds
(w/ TC on: 12.8)

0-75 mph: 14.3 seconds
(w/ TC on: 14.1)

1/4-mile: 16.5 seconds @ 82.3 mph (w/ TC on: 16.3 @ 84.7)

1/4-mile (sec @ mph): 16.8 seconds @ 80.6 mph (w/ TC on: 16.8 @ 81.0)

 

 

Braking:

Braking:

30-0 mph: 33 feet

30-0 mph: 31 feet

60-0 mph: 129 feet

60-0 mph: 126 feet

 

 

Handling:

Handling:

Skidpad lateral acceleration: 0.81g (0.80g w/ESC on)

Skidpad lateral acceleration (g): 0.75g (0.75g w/ ESC on)

 

 

Comments:

Comments:

Acceleration comments:

Acceleration comments:

Acceleration in the Honda Clarity is pretty straightforward. As suspected there isn't much you can do to make this thing accelerate any quicker than flooring the accelerator. The quickest run was the first, and that was 8.4 seconds, and it just kept getting slower after that. The Clarity leaves the line a little less briskly than a traditional EV. There's a bit of a jet stream-like sound that initiates when you go full throttle and as the power ramps up. There's still a good amount of torque once the system kicks in, but it doesn't feel as immediate or punchy as a battery electric vehicle. I kind of dig the jet noises, though.

The Mirai shows excellent response off the line, thanks to instantaneous torque from the electric motor. There is no real perceivable difference between Eco and Power modes when accelerating at full throttle. In fact, the runs get continually slower, meaning the initial "key up" run was quickest. The Mirai is completely silent until you step on the accelerator. This is followed by a series of high-pitched tones and whines as the systems switch on to produce electricity and the motor winds up. Acceleration torque feels most prominent from 0 mph to about 50 mph, and then levels off noticeably right after that. Turning traction control off has no effect on the launch as there's no wheelspin to be had. Also, if you overlap the brake and throttle pedal applications in an attempt to power brake in the launch, you'll receive a warning on the dash that says you've overlapped them (a precaution prompted by the previous "unintended acceleration" debacle).

Braking comments:

Braking comments:

This feels like a brake-by-wire system as the pedal has a springy feeling to it and will go all the way to the firewall. There's no ABS sensation through the pedal, although you can hear the ABS in the cabin. Good straight-line stability and the car tracks dead straight. Because the car is so quiet, you hear a lot of the ABS pump through the footwell and some tire noise, but it isn't overly intrusive. Nosedive is very mild, and the brakes have a little bit of odor following the last run. Braking isn't the Clarity's strong suit, but it's a lot heavier than I suspected.

There's a little bit of instability at the initial brake actuation. The brake pedal is pretty soft, a little squishy, but the travel is short and it's easy to reach maximum braking force. There is a moderate amount of ABS noise and tire squeal that is more audible since the car is so quiet, but you don't feel any of the brake pulses through the pedal, which is a little unnatural feeling. There is also a surprisingly small amount of nosedive. Almost zero, actually. But there is some noticeable brake odor and a max increase in stopping distance of 5 feet after six stops.

 

 

Handling comments:

Handling comments:

The seat-of-the-pants feel in the Clarity is pretty good. It's got nice direct steering and is pretty well composed. However, the car handles noticeably better going counterclockwise than clockwise. The weight feels located lower in the body, and it's able to maintain a nice consistent line. If it had better tires it would be even more fun. With stability control on or off, there isn't any real noticeable difference around the skidpad, and if traction control is intervening, it's nearly imperceptible. There's a small difference in the skidpad runs, but I would guess it's more due to the delicate tires getting too hot under the 4,100 pounds of mass. The steering builds effort nicely and has a nice, smooth action and good weighting. Transient response with stability control off is decently good. The car will allow for a little bit of rotation, but the stability isn't ever completely off. It's enough to feel like you aren't on a short leash, but it won't allow you to get out of control. Directional changes don't happen too quickly, but there also isn't a lot of body roll, which adds an air of stability.

Although the Mirai is heavy and possesses low levels of tire grip, with the traction/stability control systems turned off the car will allow for some surprisingly aggressive inputs. It isn't quick or sporty, but it is predictable and relatively composed in its handling, which is something we didn't expect. With the system turned on, if you drive a clean steady line around the skidpad all you'll hear is a clicking noise by the front wheels from what we believe to be the brakes being actuated. If you push past this point slightly, the front inside wheel brakes will activate to dial out some of the understeer. Go further and the system will grab significantly more brake and jerk you into line. The steering has a pretty soft on-center feel but is direct otherwise. However, road feel is minimal to nonexistent.

In the case of these particular vehicles, performance at the track is not the primary attraction. So in that vein, here is a comparison of the fuel economy data we've collected on each to-date:

Honda Clarity (after 2,600 miles)                Toyota Mirai (after 7,900 miles)
Average fuel economy (mpkg): 59.7              Average fuel economy (mpkg): 58.9
Best fuel economy (mpkg): 66.0                     Best fuel economy (mpkg): 74.3
Worst fuel economy (mpkg): 49.3                  Worst fuel economy (mpkg): 41.9
Best range: 269.9 miles                                   Best range: 283.4 miles

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