People buy SUVs for any number of reasons, including generous interior room, all-weather capability and a commanding driving position. Hybrid SUVs do all those things but add some unique advantages of their own.
Some hybrid SUVs are EPA-rated for almost 50% greater fuel economy than their gas-only counterparts, a substantial increase. But more than fuel savings, it can mean a near-50% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. It’s like having your cake and eating it, too.
In California, hybrid vehicles are exempt from the state’s smog check program, saving the owner time and money during registration renewal. In addition, the hybrid system takes some of the load off the mechanical systems, so consumables like brake pads may last longer. Highway warriors will likely appreciate the extended cruising range, meaning less time spent in gas stations.
All good things have a price, and hybrid SUVs do have a price premium. If the advantages work in your favor, here are our picks for great hybrid SUVs.
The mid-size RX450h is both the best-selling hybrid SUV and the least SUV-like vehicle here. What that probably means is the “Lexus” part is more important than the “SUV” part. Indeed, RX450h upholds the Lexus banner with a comfort-biased chassis that offers strong acceleration, and it has luxury features including maple or walnut interior trim. However, many features you might expect to be standard in this class (such as leather-trimmed seats or rear armrest storage) are actually optional, so the RX450h requires careful shopping. The Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain produces dramatic improvements in city mpg ratings, though highway mpg ratings are up only modestly.
EPA-rated fuel economy: 30 city/28 highway/29 combined mpg.
Yukon Hybrid is an interesting blend of old and new tech. It combines an old-school 332-horspower, 6.0-liter pushrod V8 with two electric motors good for a combined 369 horsepower. The motors share space with a 4-speed gearset inside the transmission housing. Electronic wizardry decides what power source operates when. Some low speed operation can be electric-only, high- load can be gas-only, and sometimes both systems share the load. The important thing is that from the driver's seat, it all feels like a normal full-sized 8-passenger SUV while getting class-leading fuel economy.
EPA-rated fuel economy: EPA-rated fuel economy: 20 city/23 highway/21 combined mpg.
For the 2013 Highlander Hybrid, the emphasis is on “Highlander.” In other words, all the things that make the regular Highlander such a great mid-size family SUV are here. Roomy interior? Check. Flexible seating arrangements? Check. Safety features? Excellent reliability? Check and check. To that, add Toyota’s proven Hybrid Synergy Drive and the result is a 7-passenger SUV that has the same combined fuel economy rating as a Mazda 3. Outside, Highlander Hybrid has subtly unique exterior trim, including the fog lamps, badging and some chrome. Inside and out, Highlander Hybrid makes a strong case for being among the best family SUVs available.
EPA-rated fuel economy: 28 city/28 highway/28 combined mpg.