You’ve got to be a little nutty to buy an expensive hybrid SUV. They cost more than comparably performing gas-powered versions; the mileage advantage isn’t always that great; and they are still generally trucks in disguise—with the exceptions here noted.
My thinking is that people will want well-performing hybrid SUVs for three basic reasons: to be seen as cutting-edge; because they need the driving flexibility and confidence a hybrid SUV gives; and because they believe in making an environmental contribution.
The latter reason is the only one that holds water. And, maybe, because one wants to encourage the new technology.
The cars we mention here all cost way over $50K, though the U.S. price on the Audi Q5 Hybrid (right) has not been set. Reviews of that car have been favorable, though it’s smaller and less powerful than its bigger German brothers. All the usual Audi accolades apply—smart use of space, sumptuous interiors, good handling and drivetrain. Surprisingly, the Q5 Hybrid will accelerate to 62 mph in 7.1 seconds.
There is one other big benefit from hybrid technology that few people mention: power and torque. The idea for the Touareg Hybrid, according to David Undercoffler of the L.A. Times, was “to give buyers V-8 power with V-6 fuel economy. It does this in spades.”
…VW rummaged around the corporate parts bin and found a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 used in various Audis. The automaker paired it with an electric motor and got a total output of 380 horsepower and a whopping 428 pound-feet of torque.
With a 0-60 acceleration time of 6.2 seconds, this is not so much a “save the whales” hybrid as it is a “you’re crowding my on-ramp” hybrid.
Touaregs are not eco-cars. They will tow over 7,000 lbs, and pull from squat to full torque immediately.
The 2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid (right) is a more sophisticated version of the Touareg, built on the same platform and with much of the same mechanicals, though costing $5,700 more. Porsche cut some weight from last year’s cars and upgraded all its Cayenne models, but the powertrain is the same as the Touareg Hybrid’s. Save your money.
The gas-powered Cayenne Turbo is another matter. Its 500 hp/516 lbs-ft will take you to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. With fabulous brakes, all-wheel-drive and other goodies to match, this will be the fastest SUV in your neighborhood. If you can cough up the $104,800 price of entry, that is.
Which of these cars, if any, makes the most sense to you as a luxury hybrid?