Performance isn’t widely associated with hybrid technology – how could it be when the most well-known car in the segment is the Toyota Prius?
But the versatility of electric motors, and specifically the many ways in which they can be used to aid a range of combustion engines, means that speed and power are just as attainable through hybrid technology as huge fuel efficiency is. This has been pertinently demonstrated by the latest wave of supercars – namely the LaFerrari, the McLaren, and the Porsche 918 Spyder.
You don’t have to spend house prices to put a performance hybrid on your drive, however, as a number of automakers are turning to the technology for one little-known reason: these cars will out-perform their purely gasoline siblings one moment yet return far superior fuel efficiency the next.
This is possible because while the electric motor – often mounted within the car’s transmission – adds to total power output during acceleration, it’s also strong enough to function alone for short bursts (or many miles if it’s a plug-in hybrid equipped with a larger battery pack) in during city driving.
Combined with regenerative brakes to charge the battery and ‘decoupling’, where the engine is disengaged from the transmission for ultra-efficient coasting, the advantages of the an auxiliary electrical system to efficiency quickly reveal themselves at the pumps.
Below, listed from slowest to fastest, are eight of our favorite performance hybrids.
Click on the image of each car to go to the Buyer’s Guide for that model
The slowest car on this list is arguably the best all-rounder. As a Mercedes it majors on comfort and a combined fuel economy of 26mpg is respectable given E400’s size and weight – not to mention a total power output of 329hp. A rare sight on the road, and certainly not cheap, it’s faster and more economical that the gasoline-only E-Class, but that comes at a $5,000 premium.How fast?
0-60mph takes 6.7 seconds, top speed is limited to 155mph
How much? $56,700
After founder Henrik Fisker left and most of the staff were laid off, one of the US’s youngest automakers seemed doomed. A recent buyout by Chinese firm Wanxiang, however, means that while it’s currently impossible to buy a new Karma, that will hopefully change by next year
. Design is the main selling point for the luxury plug-in hybrid, but it also boasts a 32-mile electric range and a sustainably-sourced interior.How fast?
0-60mph takes 6.3 seconds, top speed is 125mph
How much? $100,000 (est)
Seen here in ‘F-Sport’ trim, a redesign has boosted the appeal of this hybrid Japanese sedan considerably. Like the Mercedes E400 Hybrid it’s comfortable and deceptively quick, but a combined fuel economy of 31mpg makes it the winner of the two. Owners can expect Lexus’ legendary customer service and bulletproof reliability, both of which come at a price.How fast?
0-60-mph takes 5.6 seconds, top speed is limited to 155mph
How much? $59,450
Porsche thinks it will sell around 10,000 of these a year. Given the seemingly indecent price tag and the compromised driver feedback that’s a bold claim, but there’s a lot more to the Panamera S E-Hybrid than speed alone.For a start it’s a plug-in hybrid, which means that, depending on your circumstances, it has a commutable electric range of around 20 miles. Factor in it’s ability to seat four in supreme comfort and its combined fuel economy of 31mpg, and the huge performance is just a nice bonus.
How fast? 0-60mph takes 5.2 seconds, top speed is 167mph
How much? $99,000
If you’re prepared to swap performance for practicality, the BMW ActiveHybrid has a new rival – one wearing the same badge. That rival is the 328d xDrive Sport Wagon – an all-wheel drive diesel 3 Series that returns a combined 35mpg compared to the ActiveHybrid’s 31mpg. Where you’ll lose out, however, is performance – the hybrid 3 Series delivers 340hp in a relatively compact package. Decisions.How fast?
0-60-mph takes 5.2 seconds, top speed is limited to 155mph
How much? $49,900
We reviewed this car recently and it made a good impression
. For a start it’s incredibly easy to drive fast – the fly-by-wire steering and huge grip mean the Japanese super-saloon goes where it’s told without hesitation. Massive torque makes it quick off the mark, too, but it’s the potential fuel economy gains when you’re not in the mood for larking about that mark the Q50S Hybrid such an attractive everyday proposition. We managed 34mpg on a 200-mile test route.How fast?
0-60mph takes 4.9 seconds, top speed is 149mph
How much? $44,300
Early reviews have made it clear that the carbon fiber BMW i8 isn’t a match for the Porsche 911 purely as a driver’s car. But consider the plug-in hybrid’s 20-mile electric range, carbon dioxide emissions of just 96g/mile, and a combined 94mpg, and it’s clear that the i8 is not a car focused solely on performance. The price is dear, but there’s nothing else like it in terms of design, performance and sustainability.How fast?
0-60mph takes 4.4 seconds, top speed is limited to 155mph
How much? $135,295
We’ve included the Porsche for the simple reason that it’s the only one of the three hybrid supercars (the others being the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari) that you can still buy. The way electricity and gasoline have been used to maximise performance is frankly frightening, with a V8 engine aided by not one but two electric motors delivering a total 887hp. As a plug-in hybrid, however, the 918 Spyder can still manage around 20 miles in zero-emissions mode.How fast?
0-60mph takes 2.5 seconds, top speed is roughly 214mph
How much? 781,155 euros