Although the gleam is long off the apple, America hasn’t given up on the sport utility vehicle (SUV) just yet. While sales of conventional SUVs have dropped dramatically, hybrid SUV models are selling quite well … and for good reason. Hybrid SUV mileage ratings are substantially higher than their conventional counterparts. With that in mind, we spent a good part of this past year testing SUV mileage, with a big focus on the most fuel-efficient hybrid SUVs.
Although some of the choices can be quite pricey, there’s little question that the best SUV mileage results are found in the hybrid models. This has lead to remarkable bursts of popularity within more affluent and progressive segments of the car-buying public.
Here’s a case in point …
Last week, while out testing a Toyota Highlander Hybrid, I stopped at a Whole Foods Market to pick up dinner. I thought it was unique when I parked next to a Lexus RX400h Hybrid SUV. Then I got out of the Highlander and looked across the row … there was another 400h parked directly across the way. As I walked up the row towards the store, another Highlander Hybrid glided past. There were four big expensive hybrid SUVs within a thirty foot (or so) radius
It was one of those “you had to be there” moments. Luckily, I had a camcorder with me and recorded the moment for posterity.
The rise in gas prices has forced a sea change. Big families need the room, comfort, and convenience offered by SUVs … and rather than give them up, they’re willing to adapt and purchase the most fuel-efficient models, even at a substantially higher cost. With the new breed of SUVs, gas mileage is a selling point, rather than a roadblock. A five- or seven-passenger SUV can deliver 30 miles per gallon (MPG) on the highway and even higher in the city … when equipped with the right drive train.
The great stuff is right around the corner. While the current crop of hybrid SUVs can achieve 30 MPG, the kid gloves will come off once America begins to convert the fleet of SUVs to plug-ins and mileage rises to 100 MPG or more with a 40 mile per day driving range. The after market technology exists to make this happen today.
But it’s not just about the hybrids. An influx of high-MPG clean diesel SUVs will make a huge dent in fuel bills, without demanding a massive price tag. Clean diesel power is ideal for long-range highway cruising.