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Sporty and luxurious hybrids becoming new normal for automakers

Sporty and luxurious hybrids becoming new normal for automakers
The Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sports Turismo reaches 60 mph in a blistering 3.2 seconds. (Porsche)

In the same way that the Prius proved that a mid-range hybrid could catch on with the driving public, Tesla has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that efficiency can be fancy too.

The latest unveil from the Silicon Valley automaker is the all-electric $200,000 Tesla Roadster. With a powerplant that cranks out 650 horsepower and a blazing 0 to 60 in just 1.9 seconds, the roadster will definitely be an eye-catcher on the road if it escapes the concept phase. Meanwhile, the rest of the industry is hoping to catch up with Tesla with a wave of new luxury cars that are forward thinking in both energy and technology.

Aimed at the same drivers who have been drooling over Tesla, the Jaguar I-Pace is slated for production in the second half of 2018. The British automaker's first electric compact SUV is both a beautiful and energy efficient beast, capable of around 220 miles on a single charge. The car's 90 kWh lithium-ion battery achieves 80% charge in just 90 minutes and 100% in two hours with a rapid charger.

Designed for road trips, the I-Pace seats five and offers 18 cubic feet of rear cargo space plus additional storage in the front. The dashboard revolves around a 12-inch navigation touchscreen and 5.5-inch secondary screen for infotainment and climate control, as well as vehicle performance indicators controlled by vibrating touch switches on the steering wheel.


Land Rover is leaping on the "green" bandwagon with the 2019 Range Rover PHEV. With an all-electric range of 30 miles, owners of this snazzy plug-in/gas hybrid can commute or complete daily errands on a single charge. Power derives from a 13 kWh battery pack, 85 kWh electric motor and 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder Ingenium engine linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Rover's regenerative braking automatically blends the gas engine and electric motor to deliver optimum performance and efficiency.

Inside the passenger cabin, the dashboard-mounted Interactive Driver Display announces how efficiently you're driving and delivers real-time data on both the electric and combustion power units. A GPS-enabled intelligent routing screen displays the nearest charging points along your route, as well as the most energy-efficient ways to reach where you're going.

Don't be fooled by the fact that the new Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sports Turismo is a station wagon. This energy-efficient four-door is true to the brand's lineage: It's one of the German automaker's most powerful production vehicles of all time. With a top speed of 192 mph and a G-force jolting 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds, the plug-in hybrid Panamera certainly isn't Granddad's station wagon. That doesn't even take into account the svelte styling, panoramic sliding roof, wide-opening tailgate or a spoiler that changes positions depending on the driving mode.

The Panamera's twin-turbo V-8 engine, combined with a 14.1-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and electric motor, produces 680 horsepower and 626 pound-feet of torque. The pure electric range is 30 miles; recharging takes anywhere from two-and-a-half to six hours depending on your charger type. Being a station wagon, there's plenty of room for a family of five.

BMW is launching a convertible version of its plug-in hybrid coupe called the i8 Roadster, a cool two-seater with a roof that folds down in 16 seconds, even when the car is moving up to 31 mph. It's not just the ragtop that sets it apart from the hardtop version. The Roadster features a refined high-voltage battery with increased capacity and range — 18 miles on pure electric power before the turbocharged three-cylinder gasoline engine kicks in. And it can zip from 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds on its way to topping out at 155 mph.

Introduced in 2005 as the Zephyr, the Lincoln MKZ was slow off the mark in terms of performance, styling and sales. But the latest version — redesigned for 2017 — holds its own against other vehicles at the intro end of the luxury spectrum.

First off, it looks terrific, especially the redesigned grille and headlights, the fully retractable glass roof and the slightly flared trunk lid. But the MKZ hybrid also delivers in the performance department: A 2.0-liter GTDI, 245 horsepower four-cylinder engine and 1.4kWh lithium-ion battery give the car plenty of pep and an estimated 41 mpg in city.

Looking down the road, Mercedes-AMG Project One hybrid promises to transfer the latest and most efficient Formula 1 technology from the track to ordinary streets and highways. From the steering wheel and the sculptured racing seats to the gull-wing doors and an aerodynamic shape reminiscent of 1970s Le Mans champs, the Project One is designed to achieve a true performance racing feel.

Four electric motors — one in the turbocharger, one on the combustion engine with a link to the crankcase, and the two in the front wheels — integrated with a 1.6-liter V-6 hybrid petrol engine generate performance that seems downright sinful: More than 1,000 horsepower and a top speed of around 217 mph. Mercedes-Benz says that Project One — seen for the first time in the U.S. at the LA Auto Show — gives a good indication of what to expect from the upcoming production model, and perhaps luxury hybrids in the future.

– Joe Yogerst, Custom Publishing Writer