Volvo (VOLVY.PK) recently took the wraps off its latest iteration of the XC90, the second-generation of its popular SUV that for the last ten years has remained virtually unchanged. Every inch of the car has been gone over and reworked, from the sumptuous interior that can make the best of Germany blush to its exceedingly elegant and understated exterior. The engineers were sure to put some work in under the hood, too, and rumor has it that the new XC90 — which will be landing at dealerships next year — will have a plug-in hybrid suit in its wardrobe.
This means that the XC90 will become the only seven-seater SUV to boast such a powertrain, and although it likely won’t come cheap, it represents a big and significant step forward toward more fuel-efficient SUVs. There’s no official word out on the specs of such a Volvo, but estimates are discussing the possibility that it may boast as much as 400 horsepower and carry with it an all-electric mode for shorter distances, which would make the XC90 one of the most efficient full-size SUVs in the world.
Historically speaking, hybrid SUVs haven’t lived up to the expectations that consumers have. Often, the systems add gratuitous amounts of money to the MSRP with negligible gains in fuel economy. The Volvo could soon change that, but it’s worth noting that these cars have come a long way in the last several years.
Here are six competitors that the Volvo will be matched up against in terms of capabilities.
Audi Q5 Hybrid
Kicking things off is the Audi Q5 Hybrid, the only hybrid SUV in Audi’s fleet (at least for now). The brand pairs its highly regarded 2.0 liter TFSI engine with a 54 horsepower electric motor, allowing the Q5 to achieve fuel economy ratings of 30 on the highway and 24 in the city, increases of 2 and 4 miles per gallon, respectively, over the base model. Is it worth the $12,000 premium over the standard Q5? Perhaps not, unless the driver is commuting a lot. Buyers may instead wish to check out the TDI diesel version, which gets even better mileage than the hybrid.
Lexus RX 450h
The Lexus RX 450h might be one of the most popular hybrid SUVs on the market. Unlike others, which use electric motors more as torque and performance fill, the RX is more adapted to efficiency and can manage 32 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway,for a combined rating of 30 miles per gallon — in an SUV, no less. At over $47,000, it’s by no means a cheap vehicle, but for discerning consumers looking for a capable and fuel-efficient luxury SUV, the RX sets the benchmark.
Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid
At $35,000, the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid is easily the most affordable hybrid SUV on the North American market — for the time being. It boasts a 25 mile per gallon city rating and 28 on the highway (over the 20 and 26 of the conventional model), and offers seven seats, but many might want to ensure that they’re driving enough to make the $6,000 price premium worth it. For those who are looking for a luxury touch, Nissan offers the Platinum Premium trim, which packs nearly the whole options menu on board for an MSRP of $45,250.
Porsche Cayenne Hybrid
The Porsche Cayenne Hybrid is the cream of the proverbial crop when it comes to hybrid SUVs; it starts at nearly $77,000 ahead of a jaunt through Porsche’s famously expensive options list, and despite its electrical infusion, it’s still very much a Porsche. Total output is rated at 416 horsepower, made up of a 333 horsepower combustion engine and a 95 horsepower electric motor. While it tops out at 151 miles per hour, Porsche didn’t offer it’s fuel consumption numbers, but we’d expect that they aren’t fantastic. A plug-in variant might be on its way, but nothing has been substantiated yet.
Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Like the Nissan, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid won’t compete with the Volvo on a luxury level, and it’ll likely cost considerably less, but its hybrid nature and seven-seat potential make it a direct competitor for consumer dollars. The Highlander Hybrid is only available in one well-appointed, $47,000 trim, making it among the most expensive Toyotas available; it achieves 27 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway, putting it in-line with many midsize sedans.
Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid
Volkswagen isn’t generally considered a luxury nameplate (though they’ve tried in the past), but the Touareg is about as luxurious as one can reasonably expect from the brand before encroaching on Audi territory. Pound-for-pound (and dollar-for-dollar), the Touareg is likely the biggest threat to the new XC90, as it boasts a 380 horsepower hybrid system comprised of a supercharged 3.0 liter engine coupled to its 47 horsepower electric motor. Since it’s more performance-oriented, the Touareg hybrid — which retails for about $65,000 — manages just 20 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on the highway.