Electric SUVs are on the way – just about every manufacturer has one in the pipeline – but in the meantime a sort of stopgap is being offered in the form hybrid 4x4s. Here are five hybrids that we find intriguing.
Although we don’t really experience it in South Africa, emissions are becoming a critical issue when it comes to vehicle design. In places like the United States, Europe, and even China, manufacturers are increasingly being forced to conform to tough emissions regulations. While most carmakers appear to be betting on electric technology in the long term, this tech is still in its infancy, with only the earliest of early adopters queuing Teslas and Jaguar I-Paces.
While electric technology is still being refined, a stopgap is required that will allow car companies to drive down emissions without requiring a complete manufacturing overhaul. The answer: hybrid technology. To be sure, a modern hybrid drivetrain almost invariably makes use of electric tech, but by combining it with internal combustion engines that can do most of the heavy lifting, the whole undertaking becomes more practical. In a sense, then, hybrid vehicles are just a stopgap – a short-term solution that’s something of a compromise – but they can still be practical and fun. These five hybrids show just what this technology is capable of producing.
5. KIA NIRO HYBRID
The Kia Niro, which was launched in certain markets last year, is not a showstopper. While it is modern and attractive, it doesn’t have the overt futuristic styling that you see with some hybrids. The Niro looks like your typical compact SUV. Most people probably won’t even notice that it’s a hybrid, but that is exactly what makes it so great. It wears its eco credentials so lightly that it brings hybrid tech to a whole new market. The SUV isn’t overly impressed with itself. It is a rather conservative mainstream creation that can bring hybrid technology to the masses. The fact that it is a hybrid isn’t its defining feature. Instead, it’s a practical family SUV that just happens to be a hybrid. The Niro is powered by a four-cylinder powerplant and an electric motor/generator that’s mated to a six-speed automatic transaxle.
4. AUDI Q7 E-TRON TDI
The Audi Q7 e-tron TDI is worth a mention because it is a diesel hybrid. While almost every other hybrid out there is based on a petrol engine/electric motor combination, the Audi’s electric motor is mated to an oilburner. Predictably, fuel consumption is almost absurdly low, especially for a vehicle of the Q7’s size. In fact, you can apparently cover close to 1 300km by filling the vehicle’s 75-litre tank once. With regions like Europe souring on diesel somewhat (and emissions scandals muddying the waters), we probably won’t see many more diesel hybrids, but it’s nevertheless impressive technology that drops fuel consumption down to astonishing levels. According to Audi, the V6 oilburner can chug along at a mere 850r/min, with the electric motor switching on and off so softly that it’s impossible to notice in the cabin. The engine/electric motor combo produces 278kW of power and 700Nm of torque.
3. MASERATI LEVANTE HYBRID
Maserati announced in 2017 that it will be releasing a hybrid version of its Levante SUV. This is hardly surprising, since manufacturers like BMW,
Mercedes-Benz and Porsche all offer high-performance hybrids. In the case of the Levante, the hybrid tech will apparently come from the Fiat Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, an MPV also produced by FCA. That a Maserati will share its electric technology with an MPV might sound somewhat disappointing, but it makes sense, since the company believes that no more than 10% of Levante sales will consist of hybrids. Also, Maserati has promised that the vehicle will boast the sort of performance you’d expect from a performance SUV.
2. VOLVO XC40 T5
It has been announced that Volvo’s funky new XC40 will be made available in hybrid form this year. According to reports, it will be built on the company’s new compact modular architecture (CMA), and will boast a three-cylinder petrol mill mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The engine will also be mated to a 9.7kWh battery and a 55kW electric motor. The plug-in hybrid will be good for an all-electric range of around 50km.
1. PORSCHE CAYENNE S E-HYBRID
Although details are still a little scarce, it has been confirmed that Porsche’s latest Cayenne will, like the outgoing model, be available in hybrid form. The vehicle will purportedly be fitted with the same 500kW (yes, 500kW!), engine/electric motor combo that’s been installed in the latest Panamera. This is a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 (with electric motor) that develops 500kW of power and 850Nm of torque. Acceleration from 0–100km/h is just 3.4 seconds in the hybrid Panamera, so it should be fairly similar in the Cayenne. No that’s the sort of hybrid SUV we can get behind.
Text: GG van Rooyen