Future Hybrid Cars: the 2013 Edition

Sami Haj-Assaad
by Sami Haj-Assaad

Hybrid technology is improving at an impressive rate and is continuing to find its way into more and more vehicles.

A significant number of new and exciting hybrids are coming to market this year and early next. No, these aren’t all Prius wannabes. There are some interesting cars on the way, like the ultra efficient VW XL1 seen above. Check out some of these hybrid luxury sedans, rugged crossovers and even a pair of supercars.

If you’re not yet convinced to hop on the hybrid bandwagon, this should help. And if you already are, but haven’t found the right gas-electric vehicle for you, perhaps it’s coming soon to a dealership near you.

2014 Acura RLX.

It might not look it, but the new RLX luxury sedan from Acura is going to share quite a bit with the NSX supercar. It might not be as sleek and compact, but by using similar hybrid technology under the hood, the RLX will prove to be an agile limo, and hopefully a gas miser.

The hybrid powered RLX is considered to be the sporty model, thanks to its use of Acura’s super handling all-wheel drive system (SH-AWD.) Using a beefy V6 engine for the front wheels, and two electric motors for the rear wheels, the RLX will pump out a combined 370-hp, and return 30 mpg combined. If that combined mileage number looks low, take a look at what the competition is doing: the Mercedes-Benz E400 Hybrid and BMW ActiveHybrid 5 both return 26 mpg, but are only rear-wheel drive. A more efficient competitor is the Lexus GS450h, which returns 31 mpg combined.

It will be interesting to see how these two sporty Japanese luxury cars match up. For those looking for more information on the RLX, check out our review on the FWD model, with Acura’s precision all-wheel steering (PAWS.)

Discuss the Acura RLX SH-AWD at rlxforum.com

NEW YORK (Mar. 27, 2013) – With the introduction of an all-new fourth-generation Pathfinder for the 2013 model year, Nissan's legendary adventure-ready Next Gen SUV took a major step forward in refinement, enhanced fuel economy, cutting-edge technology and family utility. Now, for the 2014 model year, the evolution of the Pathfinder continues with the introduction…

Nissan’s last venture into hybrid technology was short lived, with the Altima Hybrid being offered for only one generation. But with the Nissan Leaf the Japanese company has learned quite a bit about electric powertrains, and efficiency. Those lessons are going to be applied to the new Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid, which ditches the usual V6 for a supercharged four-cylinder engine, which works in tandem with a 15 kW electric motor.

The hybrid powertrain makes a combined 250 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque, not far off the V6’s 260 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque. The biggest difference is with the Pathfinder’s fuel economy. Buyers will notice a 24 percent improvement over the V6 model. Expect 25 mpg city, 27 mpg on the highway and a combined mpg number of 26 mpg. Nissan also says the Pathfinders off-road capability and 3,500-lb tow-rating will not be affected by the new powertrain.

Discuss the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid at pathfindertalk.com

Earlier this year, Audi announced that the upcoming 2015 A3 e-tron plug-in will hit the US market. That means the LeMans winning technology will soon be available in an affordable and practical package. Sure, they’re not exactly like the LeMans race cars, but with 204 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, this little Audi will guarantee a good time.

Power comes from a 75 kW electric motor and a 1.4L turbocharged gasoline engine, and helps the little hatchback hit 60 mph in 7.6 seconds. That number might not be impressive to you, but it is when you consider that the A3 e-tron will get 156 mpg. Audi says the car can travel 31 miles in its all electric mode, and when that range is depleted, the fuel-rationing 1.4L engine kicks in. Want to save your electric juice? Drivers can choose when the electric engine or gas engine turn on, or can even choose to drive the two together in a hybrid mode.

The rugged and off-road capable XV Crosstrek (itself a crossover-ified Impreza) has been chosen as the first ever Subaru model to sport a hybrid powertrain. Using a 13.4 hp electric motor alongside a 2.0L boxer engine it will bring improved fuel economy to the AWD softroader – though it’s not yet clear how much. However, the Subaru will be using a slightly older battery tech, with nickel-metal hydride batteries providing juice to the new powertrain. The new equipment adds 209 lbs. to the overall weight of the car, and while that’s not a huge gain, Subaru still revised the XV Crosstrek’s steering and suspension to ensure the same, if not better driving dynamics.

The hybrid will also get a number of other fuel saving technologies. Active grille shutters will improve aerodynamics and the air conditioning system uses is optimized for reduced draw on engine power. Finally, like many other hybrids, the XV will use a start/stop system to turn off the engine when the car is stopped. Fuel numbers and pricing hasn’t yet been announced for the XV Crosstrek Hybrid, but it should be impressive, since the normal XV gets up to 25 mpg city, 33 highway and 28 mpg combined. Expect the hybrid to hit dealerships later this year.

Discuss the Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid at SubaruXVForum.com

Mitsubishi had limited success with the quirky i-MiEV, its low-cost electric car. With the Outlander, Mitsubishi is hoping to create some real buzz, and by making a plug-in hybrid model, the Japanese automaker might just succeed.

The model has already been released in Japan, but a glitch is preventing the Outlander from launching in the US until January 2014. According to the Japanese fuel economy cycle, the PHEV gets 44 mpg combined, which might be a bit higher than what we can expect in the US. Still, the Outlander achieves its improved mileage thanks to pairing its 2.0L four-cylinder engine with two 60 kW electric motors. Each electric motor provides power to the two wheels on either axle. Helping to keep those electric motors in action is a 12 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which allows the Outlander to drive 30 miles without any help from the 2.0L gas engine. Charge times are expected to be about four hours, although a quick charge will get the Outlander PHEV to 80% in 30 minutes.

The new Infiniti QX60 Hybrid is projected to realize 26 miles per gallon fuel economy (combined city/highway driving) – a 24 percent increase over non-hybrid QX60 models and is expected to have best 7-passenger fuel efficiency in the premium segment.* Most significantly, it does so with absolutely no compromise of performance, interior roominess or cargo…

Following in the footsteps of the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid, the more luxurious Infiniti QX60 will be getting the same powertrain, instead of the V6 hybrid setup that’s already available in the impressive M35h hybrid sedan. The hybrid option is expected to add a reasonable $3,000 premium, and will net the same 24 percent improvement in fuel economy. The QX60 Hybrid will stand next to the old M35h Hybrid in the Infiniti lineup, and uses a similar lithium-ion battery and electric motor to provide power through its one-motor/two-clutch system.

This hybrid powertrain should suit the Infiniti well. Hybrids are known for their quiet operation and smooth power delivery. By use of a CVT, the new QX60 should be a smooth and fuel efficient luxury crossover.

New for 2014 is the Panamera S E-Hybrid, the brand’s first production plug-in hybrid. While a hybrid version of the Panamera S was available in 2013 the new E-Hybrid will expand upon the first gen vehicle’s technology and has a bigger 9.4 kWh lithium-ion battery which provides juice to the electric drivetrain. The new electric system features almost double the power of the old hybrid, making 95 hp instead of just 47.

The Panamera S E-Hybrid also uses a potent 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, which helps the four-door Porsche to rocket to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds, and reach a top-speed of 167 mph. The extra torque of the electric motor is also available on demand, when you need an extra boost when passing a slowpoke on the highway. Porsche expects the new plug-in to get more than 20 miles of pure electric driving range, and mpg numbers are expected closer to the official launch of the new car. Porsche already has a price in mind for the Panamera S E-Hybrid, starting at $99,000 before taxes and destination.

Building on Infiniti's legendary sports sedan design, performance and technology leadership, the all-new 2014 Infiniti Q50 is designed to create a new, distinct level of customer engagement when it launches in the North American market in summer 2013. The Q50 rollout will be followed by other Infiniti global markets later in the year.

The luxury sport-sedan is about to get a healthy charge from Infiniti with the new Q50 Hybrid. Aimed at taking on the recently introduced BMW ActiveHybrid3, the new Q50 Hybrid is a combination of brains and beauty. Underneath its sleek and stylish exterior is a mighty 3.5L V6, which is married to a 50 kW electric motor. Together they make a whopping 354 hp, enough to make people think twice about laughing at a hybrid badge.

Those engines are paired to a seven speed automatic transmission, and will be available in either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive configurations. Starting at $43,700 the Infiniti is about $2,000 cheaper than the BMW Activehybrid3 and still packed to the brim with impressive luxury technology.

Discuss the Infiniti Q50 Hybrid at InfinityQ50.org

With Infiniti and BMW offering hybrid sport sedans, we can hope Lexus does the same with its dramatic looking IS300h. Currently planned to go on sale in Europe and Japan only, Lexus has put its impressive hybrid technology to work in the latest generation of the IS, with a combined output of 220 hp going to the rear-wheels.

The ES300h, which uses the same powertrain, manages to get 40 mpg combined, and you can likely expect the IS300h to get the same mileage, with its smaller size, and more powerful setup. While the sport-sedan segment might shy away from CVTs, Lexus has seen nothing but success with the quirky transmissions, so expect it in the IS-hybrid. The hybrid IS also gets a few drive modes, which change the behaviour of the cool sedan. There’s EV mode for electric-only driving, Eco mode which results in optimum fuel efficiency, but dull throttle response, and then there’s Normal and Sport modes, which improve throttle and steering for a sharper, more engaging drive.

Discuss the Lexus IS300h at my.is

A hybrid powertrain doesn’t always mean that the car is going to be a bore to drive. In fact, at the latest Geneva Motor Show, two automakers proved that hybrid technology is a key player in high performance exotic cars too. Despite their green-creds, the gorgeous and fast McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder and La Ferrari are the poster cars for a new generation.

In the LaFerrari, a 163 hp electric motor helps out an 800 hp V12 to blast the Italian exotic to 60 mph in less than three seconds. The electric motor’s battery is located under the floorboards, and is assembled in the same spot as the Ferrari Formula One team’s Kinetic Energy Regeneration System (KERS). Like other hybrids, the batteries can be recharged both under braking, but Ferrari has an extra trick that converts extra torque from the V12 to electricity to store in the car’s battery. It all sounds pretty awesome, but the Ferrari lacks the ability to drive under pure electric power, which means its MPG numbers might not be as impressive as its total output numbers. Not that anyone driving one will care. Only 499 LaFerrari’s will be made, each one costing about $1.3 million.

In contrast, the new McLaren P1 has an all-electric driving range of 12 miles, meaning you can take it to the corner-store and back without waking the neighbors. After that, the fury that is the twin-turbo V8 comes alive, working with the 176 hp electric motor to make a total of 903 hp. It blasts to 60 mph in three seconds, and is sure to be one of the fastest cars around your favorite race track. And after all that fun on the track, you can plug it in at home, and enjoy another 12 miles of emission free driving the next morning. Each car costs roughly $1.3 million and production is limited to 375 examples of the incredible supercar.

Finally there’s the Porsche 918 Spyder, which is a followup to the engineering marvel that is the Carrera GT. With electric motors at each axle, the Porsche is expected to make more than 795-hp, thanks to its V8 engine. It’s incredibly thrifty too, with a combined fuel economy rating of about 78 mpg, likely on the more lenient European standard. Expect it to come in under $1 million before ticking the option boxes.

Discuss these supercars at luxury4play.com

Sami Haj-Assaad
Sami Haj-Assaad

Sami has an unquenchable thirst for car knowledge and has been at AutoGuide for the past six years. He has a degree in journalism and media studies from the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto and has won multiple journalism awards from the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada. Sami is also on the jury for the World Car Awards.

More by Sami Haj-Assaad

Join the conversation
  • JayR JayR on May 02, 2013

    Pretty useless lineup of cars for the vast majority of us. There were a couple of interest, but for the most part . . . not.

    • Stephen Marcus Colmar Stephen Marcus Colmar on May 10, 2013

      I agree. The new Elio 3 wheel is going into production next year. 50mpg city 85 hwy with an inline 3cyl 1liter making 70hp gas motor priced at $6800. 0-60 9.5sec speed over 100mph. That's the way I'll go!