I’m working on a couple of pieces outside the news cycle this weekend — “Best Hybrid Cars” and “Best Electric Cars.” The pieces are ones that I’ve considered for a long time, but generally felt hesitant/unequipped to write, but I’m taking a plunge now.
Unfortunately, I have not yet driven all hybrid cars on the market, and to be even more specific, I haven’t owned/driven any hybrid cars for a very long period of time. To genuinely be qualified to come up with a list of the best hybrid cars, theoretically, I’d say that one should have driven every single model for a decent amount of time (a month?), but that is essentially impossible. However, there are some factors that I think allow me to jump forward several steps, and if others are going to go and write such lists, I feel I may as well give it my best effort.
How I Easily Jumped Past Dozens of Hybrid Cars
It’s certainly not hidden — I think plug-in electric cars are fundamentally way better than conventional cars, including conventional hybrids. You can conveniently charge at home. You can enjoy awesome instant torque. You have the potential for much more efficient driving, zero-emissions driving, and much less use of gas/oil. Although this is implied above, it’s worth emphasizing that zero-emissions driving results in huge health benefits and is critical to stopping global warming.
So, as you might have guessed by now, if it doesn’t have a plug, it doesn’t qualify for my list of the best hybrid cars on the market.
That said, I’ve got a number of other cars I’m excluding right off the bat as well:
- The BMW i3 REx, since the car is really meant to be driven on electricity and the small range extender is basically just there to save you in a very unlucky situation. You are not really supposed to drive the car on gasoline.
- Cars that cost over $100,000. Sorry, but that’s just too far outside the realm of reality for most people. And if you have $100,000+ to put into a car, simply put it into a Tesla Model S P85D — it has acceleration like a supercar, drives like a sports car, has a ridiculous amount of space, is apparently the safest car ever mass produced, is on another level with its infotainment/tech features, looks very nice, and comes with free Supercharging.
10 Best Hybrid Cars
In the end, I’m left with a fairly short list of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Still, there are a dozen or so on the market to choose from, and ranking them isn’t super easy. Naturally, they aren’t all in the same class, which makes comparison… “iffy.” So let me say that I am trying to take into account value for the money and broader competition in each class. I’m also taking into account the many reviews and comparisons I’ve read, feedback from owners, sales numbers, and (of course) the things that I think matter most in a car.
On to my “very scientific” ranking…
10. Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid
Last year, it was reported that the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid accounted for about 9% of all Porsche Panamera sales. This is with most buyers probably not even knowing that a plug-in variant was on the market. The Panamera S E-Hybrid was nearly disqualified from this competition, as it slides in at $96,100 ($91,348 after the US federal tax credit for EVs), but it is a pretty awesome car by many accounts, so if you have enough money for a P85D and a Panamera S E-Hybrid, you may find it worth your cash.
The Panamera S E-Hybrid gets to 60 mph (or 100 km/h) in about 5 seconds, seats 4, has an all-electric range of 22 miles (35 kilometers), and has an “average fuel economy” of 50 MPGe — which makes it as efficient as a Toyota Prius for something like 3 times the fun. 22 miles is really not bad for a a plug-in hybrid with such power, and it would get most people all the way to where they need to go on the smooth hum of an efficient electric motor.
9. Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid
The Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid, a newer plug-in car model from Porsche, slid in front of the Panamera S E-Hybrid for a couple of reasons. One is that it comes in about $20,000 cheaper ($77,200, or $71,864 after the US federal tax credit for EVs). And the other is that it is a crossover, which is a design that seems to appeal to and is useful for a much larger segment of the market. The downside, compared to the Panamera S E-Hybrid is that it just gets 14 miles (23 kilometers) of electric range on a full charge.
I’m personally not that big on crossovers and SUVs, so take my viewpoint here with a grain of salt, but I actually think this is the best-looking crossover or SUV on the market.
Despite its utilitarian focus, the Cayenne S E-Hybrid can get to 60 mph (or 100 km/h) in just 5.4 seconds. I think you’d still get a lot more for your money by going for the Tesla Model S (or reserving a Tesla Model X), but there’s still a lot going for the Cayenne.
8. Cadillac ELR
It was quite hard to determine where to place the Cadillac ELR. At a rather high base price of $75,000, and a very modest 0–60 time of 7.8 seconds, it’s actually hard to justify the ELR being on the list. On the other hand, there are some great deals out there on the ELR, the car is eligible for the full $7,500 US federal tax credit, the car comes with a huge helping of luxury, and its 37 miles of all-electric driving is really not too shabby. Also, for those who are into the style, it passes as the hottest-looking cars on the market. The ELR hasn’t seen huge sales, but I’ve seen many happy reviews from owners, and I don’t think anyone regretting the purchase.
7. Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid
Initially, I had this car much higher up the list, but I eventually dropped it down to #7 because of its rather high price. At about $62,000 (a current exchange rates and based on the UK price of £40,558), it’s really not in the range of many people, and why not spend a little extra and just get a Tesla Model S?
Still, the Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid has received a lot of praise. It is luxurious, gets from 0 to 60 mph (100 km/h) in under 6 seconds, has 5 seats and good amount of space, and has 31 miles (50 kilometers) of electric range (based on European testing). You could do much worse for $62,000!
6. Ford C-Max Energi
The Ford C-Max Energi is a solid buy for just $31,770 before incentives ($27,763 after the US federal tax credit). It seats 5, has 21 miles (34 kilometers) of electric range, and has a fuel economy of 100 MPGe on electricity and 43 MPG on gas. If you feel like you need the crutch of a gasoline engine and you don’t want to spend over $30,000 on your car, there are probably only a couple of better options on the market, and I think that’s why it is the 6th-best-selling electric car on the US market so far this year.
5. Ford Fusion Energi
By the way, the Ford Fusion Energy is the 5th-best-selling electric car on the US market so far this year, and that’s one of the reasons why it also falls 5th on this list. The Fusion Energi is a couple thousand dollars more expensive than the C-Max Energi, at $33,900 ($29,893 after the US federal tax credit), but it seems to be worth that extra cash. Basically, it offers a bit more space and comfort than the C-Max Energi, but I think it also looks much better. Otherwise, however, the specs are the same: 21 miles of electric range, 100 MPGe on electricity and 43 MPG on gas, and 5 seats.
3/4. Audi A3 e-tron & Volkswagen Golf GTE
The Audi A3 e-tron and Volkswagen Golf GTE tie on this list of best hybrid cars because they are built on the same platform. So, what’s left is really just a very subjective matter of styling and brand. The cars get 31 miles of electric range on a full battery, which is decent but not great… (although, that’s a rating from Europe, which means the real-world range is much lower — estimated to be around 18 miles).
The cars can get up to 60 mph (100 km/h) in just 4.9 seconds, which is pretty dern attractive at a price point of approximately $40,000 before any incentives. Despite the sporty focus, they are quite practical cars and seat 5. Unfortunately, these cars are only available in Europe at the moment.
2. Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In
The Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In is the best-selling electric car of any kind in Europe so far this year (even ahead of the Nissan LEAF and Tesla Model S). It is a crossover/SUV that has served the niche well while waiting for its first competitor to hit the market. The Outlander Plug-In also sells very well in its home country of Japan, and North Americans are simply wondering when they will finally get to taste the vehicle.
The spacious vehicle seats 5 comfortably, comes with 30 miles (48 kilometers) of electric driving range (based on European testing, so probably under 20 in the real world), and is stylish. It’s no speed demon, clocking in at around 11 seconds when going from 0 to 60 mph (100 km/h), but that’s not what most people are looking for when they buy a crossover/SUV. At £33,249 (before the UK’s £5,000 plug-in car grant) or ~$50,850, the Outlander Plug-In isn’t cheap, but it’s a lot of car for the money.
1. Chevy Volt
The Chevy Volt won all kinds of big awards when it came out, and for good reason. The Volt has a good all-electric range of 38 miles, or 61 kilometers, and it is getting even more with the 2016 refresh, 50 miles (80 kilometers). Focusing on the 2016 Volt since it is just around the corner, the price is just $33,995 before incentives ($26,495 after the US federal tax credit). It apparently takes the Volt about 9 seconds to get to 60 mph, but its all-electric instant torque still impresses and thoroughly pleases most owners.
Before the Model S came along, the Volt, based on owner surveys conducted by Consumer Reports, was the most-loved car in America for two years running. It is the 4th-best-selling electric car on the US market so far this year (behind the all-electric Tesla Model S, Nissan LEAF, and BMW i3) despite the fact that a much better version is coming out later this year. If you’re looking for an affordable plug-in hybrid car, I think you’ve got to consider the Volt — it’s the best around from what I’ve heard, read, and seen.
Images: Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid and Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In by Zachary Shahan | EV Obsession | CleanTechnica (CC BY-SA 4.0); Cadillac ELR by Mariordo (CC BY 3.0); all others by manufacturers.