Is a Hybrid SUV Actually Worth the Cost?

The age of the hybrid SUV is upon us. Consumers can choose from multiple large crossovers and even some full-size SUVs with hybrid powerplants. But most of your larger hybrid SUV options cost a lot, off-setting any of the fuel savings you might enjoy. But driving a hybrid SUV does have some other benefits that might surprise you.

Can buying a hybrid SUV save you money?

An affordable hybrid SUV, such as Toyota’s RAV4 hybrid or the Honda CR-V hybrid will likely pay for its added cost with fuel savings in under five years. But it all depends on how often you drive and what kind of driving you do.

Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe plug-in hybrid suv plugged into a solar charger by a pond, trees visible in the background.
2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe | Stellantis

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You may have noticed that upgrading to a hybrid powertrain really helps out a vehicle’s city mpg fuel rating. This is because hybrid drivetrains store your forward momentum during stop/go driving. Here’s how it works:

A hybrid pairs two forms of propulsion, usually a small gasoline engine and a powerful electric motor/generator. When you stomp on your brake pedal that electric unit becomes a generator, creating drag, slowing your car, and filling up its oversized battery with electricity. Then, when you tap the gas, this unit switches to being an electric motor and helps your gasoline engine to launch your car.

Many hybrids can actually accelerate up to a fairly high speed before they need to start their gasoline engine. In this case, you may have to look at your tachometer to tell if your gasoline engine is even running.

The more stop/go driving you do on the daily, the more a hybrid powertrain will save you gas–and thus money. If your daily commute and most of your trips are interstate driving, a hybrid drivetrain won’t be able to save you much fuel.

Hybrids are actually powerful, premium drivetrains

Red Toyota Venza hybrid crossover car parked in front of a house at night for a promo photo, a starry sky visible in the background.
2022 Toyota Venza | Toyota

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Many generations of hybrid cars were known for their fuel savings–not their performance. But with improvements in electric motor and battery technology, hybrids have grown much more powerful.

Take, for example, Jeep’s plug-in hybrid Wrangler 4xe. Most reviewers are shocked by how quickly the big SUV accelerates. But the truth is that the 4xe’s combination of turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 and electric motor make a combined 470 lb-ft of torque. This is the same amount of power as Jeep’s new premium engine, the 6.4-liter HEMI V8 in the Wrangler 392. And the Wrangler 4xe costs $15k less than the 392. That’s a lot of torque for your money!

Ford and Toyota have positioned their hybrid pickup truck drivetrains as premium engine options. The PowerBoost and i-FORCE MAX, respectively, come standard on top trim F-150 and Tundra trucks. This is because they offer massive towing capacities and acceleration, paired with lower fuel consumption.

You are doing your part to help—in more ways than one

A family drives through a forest, orange fall leaves visible through their hybrid SUV's glass sunroof.
2023 Toyota Sequoia | Toyota

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You’ll burn more gasoline in your hybrid Ford Explorer than you would if you traded it in for a Toyota Corolla. That said, the Ford Explorer hybrid benefits the world in a way that a traditional Corolla cannot.

When you choose to buy a hybrid vehicle, whether an SUV or not, you are investing in the future of hybrid technology. Your purchase will help the automaker pay off their research and development on the technology that went into your vehicle. Strong sales of these vehicles will then incentivize the businesses that build them to develop more

So while your hybrid SUV may not be able to claim the world’s smallest carbon footprint, it still does a little something to help transition us to renewable energy.

Next, find out whether the Wrangler 4xe makes a good daily driver or watch

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