“2. They’re slow and no fun to drive”
There’s no avoiding the fact that the Prius is slow. But it is slow to get better fuel economy. Many cars use an Eco mode that smooths out the driver’s inputs to achieve better fuel economy. Thankfully, the Prius has a ‘power’ mode that makes the car a bit more responsive – and in our tests it resulted in only minimal changes in fuel economy. Other hybrids don’t compromise driving dynamics over fuel economy.
Lexus’ new batch of hybrid vehicles, the ES300h and GS450h, have both been praised for their fun to drive persona.
The GS450 in particular sends a total of 338-hp to the rear wheels, and has two driver selectable sport modes in order to make the GS as fun and lively as possible.
“The different drive modes support the fun to drive character of the GS,” says Bill Kwong from Lexus product communications. “Sport S mode is when the driver wants to feel acceleration while maintaining ride comfort. This mode changes the powertrain control, enhances throttle mapping and changes transmission gear shift timing,” says Kwong.
For those who want to kick it up a bit more, there’s Sport S + mode. In Sport S+ the vehicle enhances the adaptive suspension and loosens up its traction management to let the car get a little more loose on a track. With a 0-60 time of 5.6 seconds the GS450h still manages to get 29 mpg city, 34 highway and 31 mpg highway.
Smaller hybrids can also be fun. The Honda CR-Z and Lexus CT200h deliver instant torque thanks to their electric motors, and sustain that fun to drive attitude with peppy four-cylinder engines. The CR-Z is also the only hybrid available with a manual transmission.
“The CR-Z has the highest take rate of manual transmission (outside of the Civic Si) in the entire Honda range,” said Chris Martin from Honda public relations. “The car was designed from the get-go to be a sporty, yet fuel efficient car, and the manual transmission is key to that,” he explained.
The CR-Z is perfect for the driver who wants an engaged feeling with the car and still wants good fuel economy.
Even Porsche has a hybrid sports car (yes it’s a sedan, but it’s very much a sports car): the Panamera S Hybrid. This car is a combination of luxury and performance, zipping to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, along with a top speed of 167 mph. The Panamera S Hybrid delivers a total of 375 hp by pairing an electric motor with a supercharged 3.0L V6, and hooking them up to a fuel-friendly 8-speed automatic transmission. All this leads to 22 mpg city and 30 highway.
Supercars aren’t exempt from using hybrid technology either. German automaker, BMW has looked to hybrid tech to improve the performance of its cars, with the upcoming BMW i8 highlighting the brand’s efforts. While the i8 isn’t out yet, this plug in hybrid looks like a supercar and has some surprising performance credentials for an eco-friendly cruiser. An estimated 78 mpg rating comes by way of a 170-hp electric motor powering the front wheels, which joins forces with the 223 hp, three-cylinder engine that powers the rear-wheels. The two engines provide all-wheel thrust that will take the i8 to 60 mph in under 5 seconds.
That’s not the only hybrid powered supercar. Acura is planning to revive the NSX with a hybrid drivetrain while the new 784-hp Porsche 918 Spyder can lap the Nurburgring in 7:14, putting it in the upper echelon of supercars. The 918 Spyder uses two electric motors, and a 4.6-liter V8 to make all of its power, but some engineering wizardry will assist in helping the car get an estimated 78-mpg.