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10 of the Best Hybrid SUVs of 2018

Which of these is the best hybrid SUV 2018 has brought us?

Despite their popularity reaching all-time high, crossovers and SUVs still haven’t managed to resolve their fuel efficiency issues. True, they’re getting better year in, year out, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. This is where hybrid systems come in handy. Problem is, even hybrid SUVs often fail to impress when it comes to fuel economy. Sure, they’re better than their conventional gasoline counterparts, but improvements are often marginal. That’s why we’ve seen a number of hybrid SUVs get the axe over the years. But we’re here to decipher which is the best hybrid SUV 2018 has to offer? Not to lament the long-gone unsuccessful hybrid SUVs and crossovers.

Answer to that question, however, probably doesn’t exist. The same way there’s no answer to the question what’s the best car overall. It’s all a matter of perspective of respective buyers and their needs. And it often goes down to the quality of their conventional counterparts. The following 10 hybrid and electric SUVs and crossovers can be considered best overall. We’ve included vehicles of all sizes and prices, as well as crossovers and SUVs with both the all-electric and classic hybrid powertrains.

Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e

Although much more advanced and reliable than before, the Mercedes-Benz GLE Class can’t hide the fact it still hides behind the M Class’ mask. Not enough time has passed in order for us to forget the M Class and its numerous issues. But then again, the GLE Class is the only Mercedes-Benz SUV that offers a hybrid powertrain. At least in the U.S. GLE 550e plug-in hybrid finds motivation in a 3.0L twin-turbo V6 backed by an electric motor. The setup is good enough for 436 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque, and propels the 5,500-pounder to 60 mph from standstill in just 5.2 seconds. It also allows up to 19 all-electric miles and the EPA rates it at 21 mpg combined. What’s best, batteries can be recharged in only 2 hours.

As always, the Mercedes-Benz GLE offers a quiet, comfortable ride in a luxurious cabin filled with advanced tech goodies. 550e, however, requires the use of a drive selector mode in order to utilize its full potential. It starts from around $67,000 which is $15,000 more than what the base GLE 350 costs. And it can’t exactly pull as much weight as its gasoline counterpart. While all-wheel drive GLE 350 can tow up to 7,200 pounds, 550e’s towing capacity stops at 4,410-pound mark. Despite the mandatory all-wheel drive. Yet, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more refined urban-looking luxury hybrid SUV than the GLE 550e.

Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

The Acura MDX Sport Hybrid might be trailing behind its competitors in few important categories, but its compelling nature simply draws us towards it. The MDX is stylish, well-appointed, sporty, spacious and refined. Sure, it might not have the fuel economy or standard set of features of its competitors, but that shouldn’t discourage potential buyers from at least taking it into consideration. One of MDX’s biggest downsides is its sub-par cargo space of only 15 cubic feet behind the third row. Fold down the seats, and you’ll get 68 cubes of space which is still short of being a class-leading figure. It’s also somewhat less upscale than competition, but its ride quality, sporty handling and solid acceleration more than make up for it.

Speaking of performance, the Acura MDX Sport Hybrid comes with a 3.0L V6 engine mated to one front and two rear electric motors. Total horsepower output amounts to 321 horsepower, while torque stops at 289 lb-fts. In addition to well-balanced hybrid powertrain, MDX hybrid offers a 9-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifting manual mode. It’s not without its flaws, but still does the job admirably. It can seem indecisive at times, due to its sheer complexity. Despite a few shortcomings, the Acura MDX Sport Hybrid counts among best hybrid SUV choices currently available. Especially for those who emphasize on ride quality rather than practicality and refinement.

Toyota Highlander Hybrid

The Toyota Highlander is one few SUVs whose hybrid models are undoubtedly better than their conventional counterparts. Especially considering the fact that base Highlanders come with anemic 185-horsepower 4-cylinder engine. Hybrid models, on the other hand, have no issues with potency whatsoever. Their combo of 3.5 L V6 engine and electric motors is good enough for 306 horsepower. Thanks to all that power and CVT transmission, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid exhibits almost instant acceleration despite being 300 pounds heavier than gasoline models. And all that is topped by very good fuel economy figures of 29 mpg combined in base LE trim and 28 mpg combined in more upscale trims which come with larger wheels.

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid, however, comes with a few shortcomings of its own. It’s not the best looking vehicle around, but that’s hardly what matters. What’s important are its somewhat cramped cargo space – especially behind the third row of seats – and lackluster handling which doesn’t help to make already uninspiring Highlander to drive any better. Base LE hybrids start from around $37,000, while top Limited models with the Platinum Package cost around $48,000. Considering most electric and hybrid SUVs and crossovers come from luxury badges, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is actually quite a good deal.

Volvo XC60 T8 eAWD Plug-In Hybrid

Both Volvo XC90 and XC60 hybrids are great rides, but we have decided to go with the latter here for a few reasons. For starters, smaller of the two is more affordable to begin with. XC60 T8 eAWD hybrids are all within $53,000 to $57,000 range, while its XC90 counterparts cost between $65,000 and $70,000. However, even the smaller of two Volvos can get pricey quick enough if you don’t pay attention to extra options’ costs. Then, there’s a reduced gap design-wise between the two. The 2018 Volvo XC60 has received a full makeover and now looks much more in tune with its larger cousin. The fact they share the same powertrain only goes in XC60’s favor.

2.0L turbocharged and supercharged 4-cylinder alone is good enough for 316 horsepower. With the help of a 87-horsepower electric motor, total figure climbs to 400 ponies and 472 lb-ft of torque. The setup also returns 26 mpg combined which, in this instance, would given the XC90 the advantage. Comfort, refinement and safety equipment are, of course, superlative. It’s a Volvo after all. Problem is, much like the XC90, the XC60 too suffers from boring drive and lifeless steering. This simply isn’t a vehicle for driving enthusiasts. It’s designed with a mission to get you from spot A to spot B in the most comfortable way imaginable, and it passes that test with flying colors. nothing more and certainly nothing less.

BMW X5 xDrive40e

The X5 has never been considered the best of BMW’s. SUVs and crossovers simply aren’t in Bavarian automaker’s DNA. Despite that, the BMW X5 is one smooth-driving, quality vehicle as long as you don’t take it off the pavement. Apart from the usual qualities like upscale interior and lots of available amenities, the X5 xDrive40e hybrid also offers up to 14 miles of gasoline-free drive and ratings of 24 mpg combined or 56 MPGe according to the EPA. Stock hybrid X5’s start from $63,500 which is $6,500 more than what the entry-level gasoline X5 costs. Be prepared to pay much more than that, however, as every German luxury automaker offers their base models without even some of the most basic equipment in order to turn your attention from the fact they’re actually extremely expensive.

As far as the powertrain itself goes, the X5 xDrive40e finds motivation in a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder mated to a 111-horsepower electric motor and a 9.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Total power output comes to 308 ponies which should be enough for most people. Especially considering how comfortable the X5 can be and how unassuming its drive quality is. Germans will even offer you optional third row of seats, but you’ll be lucky if you manage to fit couple of larger bags there. It’s small even for children and we fail to see the legitimacy of its presence there.

Kia Niro

There aren’t a lot dedicated hybrid subcompact crossovers on the market right now. In fact, the 2018 Kia Niro is the only one. As a subcompact, Korean hybrid vehicle exhibits a few shortcomings. However, fuel efficiency of the Toyota Prius helps it rank among the best hybrid SUVs 2018 has to offer. Speaking of Niro’s shortcomings, first and foremost, it lacks the cargo space of its competitors. Being on the small side, however, that’s understandable. Then there’s the issue with its powertrain. As you might have guessed, 1.6L 4-cylinder and electric motor which together make 139 horsepower, aren’t enough to avoid sluggishness. The Kia Niro does offer a Sport mode which serves as a remedy for its sluggish ride, but choosing it dabbles with subcompact’s fuel economy ratings. And don’t even think about the all-wheel drive as Kia doesn’t offer one with the Niro.

Fuel economy in standard Eco mode comes to 52 mpg in the city and 49 mpg on the highway in FE models. Switch to the aforementioned Sport mode with direct shifting gearbox, and you won’t see 50 mpg combined, however. Then again, most models are rated at 49 mpg combined, while the top Touring trim rates much lower at 43 mpg combined. New for 2018 is a plug-in hybrid version of the car. Although it still hasn’t arrived, the 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid will feature a larger electric motor and a larger 9.6 kWh battery pack (as opposed to conventional hybrid’s 1.6 kWh lithium-ion unit) for around 25 miles of all-electric range. This will make this dedicated hybrid crossover even more focused on fuel economy and, more importantly, it’ll give its buyers much needed gasoline-free commute range. And all that starting from $23,000.

Lexus RX 450h Hybrid

The stylish Lexus RX might not be the the best SUV 2018 has to offer, but it’s right there in the contest. It doesn’t offer any class-leading features and specs, but there’s a lot there that makes it competitive regardless. Apart from the obvious upscale demeanor – both inside and out – the Lexus RX hybrid boasts a sporty powertrain built around conventional models’ 3.5L V6 engine. It’s sporty only on paper, though as V6’s stock 259 horsepower grow only up to 308 ponies with the help of battery and electric motors. Even the available Sport mode is choked down by the uninspiring CVT gearbox. However, lack of any real sporty powertrain snap is offset by a very good fuel economy that amounts to 30 mpg combined with the mandatory all-wheel drive.

As always, the Lexus RX offers plenty of tech and safety features. Despite coming with standard forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control, the Lexus RX only earns a 4-Star NHTSA overall rating. IIHS, on the other hand, gives it a Top Safety Pick+ award. The Lexus RX 450h hybrid starts from around $53,000, but gets expensive in a hurry. Sportier 450h F Sport models, on the other hand, start from $56,500. Both offer extremely comfortable interior with emphasis on comfy, spacious seats. However, due to paying too much attention to occupants’ comfort, Lexus engineers failed to provide adequate cargo room. Something has to give, right?! Overall, though, Lexus RX hybrids stand out as adequate performers in most relevant fields.

Tesla Model X

The 2018 Tesla Model X sets the template for electric car performance. Not only for electric and hybrid crossovers and SUVs, but for the segment overall. It currently offers by far the longest gasoline-free range which varies depending on a chosen model and battery pack. The 75D offers a 75 kWh lithium-ion battery and 237 mile range. The 90D, as its name suggests, comes with a 90 kWh battery capable of putting up 257 miles of range. Finally, 100D and performance P100D models come with the largest 100 kWh battery pack and offer up to 289 miles of all-electric range. Not only that, but P100D will accelerate to 60 mph in under 3 seconds. At the same time, base models require up to 6 seconds which is still remarkable for a vehicle that weighs north of 5,000 pounds. Be prepared to sacrifice some of Model X’s range if you decide to fully utilize its accelerating potential, however.

Another one of Tesla Model X’s strong points is the industry-leading autonomous driving technology. It’s capable of fully taking control of the vehicle, but comes at a hefty price of $5,000 or more. Speaking of prices, base models start from north of $80,000, while larger battery packs warrant borderline six-digit stickers. Finally, the Model X P100D costs close to $150,000. As it is the case with the Model S, you also get a huge 17-inch touch screen display with abundance of menus and options, and somewhat minimalist luxury interior. There’s plenty of space to go around, but Model X isn’t as roomy as some of its competitors. It’s definitely a niche vehicle at this point, but it has no real competitor out there.

Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid

The 2018 Porsche Cayenne is right there among the most refined and best-fitted SUVs on the market. Of course, all that costs as the Porsche Cayenne stands out as one of the most expensive vehicles in its class. Optional extras can be extremely expensive and Germans offer plethora of these to consider. This is why the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid should be a choice for those with enough money to spare, but also for those who put performance above all else. For Cayenne S E-Hybrid performs better than most of its competitors. Heck, it even beats most of gasoline-powered SUVs thanks to a total of 416 horsepower and 435 lb-ft of torque. Courtesy of a 3.0L supercharged V6 and electric motors.

Not only does the Cayenne S E-Hybrid return respectable 22 mpg combined, or 46 MPGe, but it can also travel up to 14 miles on electricity alone. As long as you don’t push it above the 78 mph mark, that is. Of course, all that power and quick acceleration wouldn’t be enough without sporty handling. Luckily, Cayenne has that too. Despite weighing almost 5,500 pounds, it handles corners like a pro. Still, it’s questionable whether all that’s worth at least $80,000 (easily north of $100,000). Especially considering Cayenne’s sub-par cargo volume and already aging styling.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid represents everything the 2018 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid is not. Apart from both of them being crossover SUVs and hybrids, that is. Japanese compact is an affordable efficient option that gets the job done without flashy gadgets and corresponding interior styling. It’s roomy and appointed just the right way, comfy, and relaxed to drive. Not particularly fun, but composed and easy to handle. Powered by a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine and a 67-hp electric motor, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid develops a total of 194 horsepower. It’s able to travel up to 20 miles on electricity alone and returns 32 mpg combined if driven properly.

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid offers plenty of available drive assistance aids and other tech features for its class. A rearview camera, a forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking are all standard from the get-go. Moreover, both the IIHS and the NHTSA rate the RAV4 with their highest respective scores. You’ll agree that this is an impressive list of features for a car that starts from $27,000. On the other hand, most expensive RAV4 Hybrid Limited models cost $34,000. The Toyota Rav4 Hybrid confirms its status as a true bargain by offering plenty of space both for passengers and their cargo, thus earning its status of being the best hybrid SUV 2018 has to offer. Or at least being one of 10 such offerings.

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Nikola Potrebić
About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much.

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