Tag Archives: plug-ins

Ferrari 296 GTB
EVs ExplainedFeatures

Five myths about plug-in hybrids debunked (and four downsides to buying one)

When anything in life offers the best of both worlds and with little compromise, it’s almost always a solid choice. Diet Coke, the Long Beach Grand Prix, salty and sweet candy—life’s full of it. How does the LBGP come into play here, you may ask? Because it offers some of the best motorsports action, ever, and it’s not stuck out in the middle of nowhere. Another area where you’re having the best of both worlds is plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) ownership. That’s because these economical steeds offer all the convenience of being primarily powered by an internal combustion engine, yet also have an electric motor that tackles some propulsion and boosts overall fuel economy.

However, there are some common misconceptions about PHEVs out there that need to be addressed. By that same token, there are some actual downsides to discuss as well, as having all the information one needs before diving into owning one is just as important. Let’s plug in!

Image credit: Jeep

Myth: PHEVs are slow and not fun to drive

While a lot of folks who are well in tune with the automotive industry may say this isn’t actually a common misconception, it’s important to clear the air and ensure that even the most casual observers know what’s up.

PHEVs are actually quite the opposite: They’re quicker than their non-hybrid and full-hybrid counterparts. That’s because the electric motor is more integrated into acceleration, thus providing all that sweet instant torque to rip off the line. The latest 2023 Toyota Prius Prime, which I’ve had the opportunity to sample for myself, is the perfect example—the normal hybrid is no slouch for its class, but the Prime is shockingly fun to rip around in.

Additionally, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe is quite possibly the neatest off-road experience, ever. Battery-sourced instant torque bodes so well for crawling, and the silent powertrain really helps out the senses with precision inputs. If you listen carefully with the doors removed, you can hear its all-terrain tires’ individual tread blocks grasp at the terra firma.

Don’t forget that the BMW XM is a PHEV as well. It may not be a looker, but it’s quite fast. So is the Ferrari 296 GTB, the McLaren Artura, and several other super and hypercars.

Image credit: McLaren

Myth: PHEVs’ EV-only range is too short

While PHEVs of yore only possessed a handful of miles when in EV-only service, this figure’s only gone up as battery technology has progressed.

For example, the aforementioned 296 GTB can go a whole 15 miles solely on battery power. OK, that’s actually a poor example, what I meant to justify my point with is the 2024 Volvo XC90 Recharge, which can go as far as 32 miles humming along. Er, that’s an improvement, but not the best example, either. The Prius Prime and its larger RAV4 Prime cousin both get over 40 miles of EV-only range, but weirdly, the latest Range Rover Sport has ‘em all beat: a reported EPA-rated 51 miles.

McLaren Artura Powetrain X-Ray
Image credit: McLaren

Myth: PHEVs have just as high maintenance and repair costs as ICE vehicles

This one’s coming from the EV, more specifically BEV (battery electric vehicle), owners who could be considered hardcore, true believers in an EV-only lifestyle. As reported by Consumer Reports a few years back (thanks to Torque News), PHEVs will have slightly lower costs of ownership over the lifetime of a BEV. BEVs have the lowest costs in the short term, but still, PHEVs’ are nowhere near an ICE car’s.

On the flip side, the convenience factor of PHEV ownership is quite appealing and is the best example of the best of both worlds: Excellent overall fuel economy, some battery-only range, lower running costs than an ICE vehicle, a smaller battery with a smaller replacement cost than an EV, no dependence on our nation’s current charging infrastructure, and more.

Image credit: Volvo

Myth: As PHEVs’ battery-only range increases, you might as well just buy a BEV

This one’s quite easy to extinguish, and again was reported on by Torque News: You might as well buy a BEV with all that electric-only range. This completely disregards many folks lacking local charging infrastructure, range needs, and more. Plus, what if you want to be unencumbered by charging infrastructure while on a lengthy road trip? It also means that some households may not need to park an additional car in their driveway to satisfy longer-range needs.

Again, this is best of both worlds content. Many folks can fulfill their daily range needs, potentially over the course of a day or two, and not have to worry about plugging in once they’re out of juice. Plus, PHEVs have regenerative braking that helps charge the battery, thus always having at least a little bit of zap in the metaphorical tank.

Myth: PHEVs don’t have the same tax benefits as BEVs

This one’s also easy to extinguish: Green Car Reports does a great job clarifying the IRS’ guidelines by sharing that there are still some excellent tax benefits to cash in on for 2023 and 2024. MSRP comes into play, and it must be a model that’s made in the USA, Mexico, or Canada, and has a battery that’s made in the USA. But there are still some solid options out there. In fact, that latter bit about made-in-USA applies to BEVs as well.

For example, any qualifying (because there are income restrictions—again, it’s complicated) Jeep 4xe buyer could receive up to $3,750 off their taxes, and Chrysler Pacifica PHEV buyers could count on as much as $7,500 off.

Image credit: Toyota

Downside: PHEVs are expensive

Still, even with some federal tax relief, PHEVs have a higher up-front cost compared to ICE vehicles. It’s amortized over time in fuel savings, but that doesn’t help out folks’ shorter-term budgeting that affects the household balance sheet month-to-month.

It doesn’t help that the average new vehicle costs around $48,000, either.

Downside: PHEVs are heavy

This is par for the course with anything sporting a lithium battery somewhere bolted up to its chassis. They’re not as portly as full-on BEVs, but weight is weight, which means increased tire, brake, and bushing costs. And, it’ll always have an adverse effect on handling, no matter how you slice it. Well, unless it’s a Ferrari 296 GTB, where the battery helps keep weight well-centered within its wheelbase. And even then, it still weighs less than 3,300 lbs, which most would say is plenty for its 654 horsepower to handle. Can you tell I really want to drive a Ferrari 296 GTB?

Downside: PHEVs are complex

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. You’ve got two separate powertrains at work, additional sensors, potential drivetrain additions to send their power to the wheels, a battery with its own electrical connection environment, and more. Plus, you can’t forget packaging, as the added battery presents a challenge to engineers and may result in either a larger vehicle than otherwise or a vehicle that’s more difficult to service. Or both.

Therefore, there’s more stuff to malfunction, fail, and extend/expand a factory-recommended maintenance schedule.

Image credit: Chevrolet

Downside: We need more series plug-in hybrids

Remember the Chevrolet Volt? That intuitive little fella was a series plug-in hybrid (SPHEV), more commonly known as an extended range electric vehicle (EREV). This means that only the electric motor handles propulsion while the internal combustion engine handles onboard charging duty, like a locomotive. This means you’ve got an onboard generator to cut down on visiting the charging station, or you can completely skip any combustion by plugging it in regularly like a BEV—it’s up to you.

Because of this, the Chevy Volt was truly something special, but sadly it went out of production in 2019. The upcoming 2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger (kudos to Dodge for its name) will be an EREV, and the rotary-powered Mazda MX-30 R-EV could come to the US market someday, but otherwise, there’s nothing on sale as new at the moment. Which is a shame, as it’s a very appealing concept.

It’s important to address and analyze common misconceptions about PHEVs, especially considering the fact that they offer so much convenience over BEVs, yet burn far less fuel and have far fewer emissions than ICE vehicles. At the same time, it’s important to keep their downsides in mind, as it’s important to be well-educated on the matter before you make any major financial decisions.

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale in the mountains
Image credit: Gabe Carey (Acceleramota)

read more
Genesis GV60 Magma concept front fascia closeup
Buying Guides

14 upcoming cars we’re itching to drive in 2024 and beyond

Auto shows are in full swing. Manufacturers drop press release after press release. Suddenly, it seems like the car industry has almost finished healing from its ransacking at the hands of COVID and supply chain shortages, and new cars are more abundant and more alluring than ever. Affordable cars, dream cars, daily drivers, and high-performance piss missiles, oh my! It’s a fun, if polarizing, time to be a car nerd or even just a new car buyer, so let’s take a peek at some of the hottest new cars worth looking out for in the foreseeable future.

Genesis Magma lineup

Car gods, be praised! We whined, and they listened. Genesis has finally unveiled concepts for the Magma family, its future high-performance lineup in the same vein as BMW M, Mercedes AMG, Lexus F, and Audi Sport GmbH. Details of the cars are unknown, but there will be a mixed crop of EV and gasser Magma cars. First to hit the scene will be a full-production GV60 Magma EV and the limited-run G80 Magma Special.

2025 Toyota 4Runner

After a quintillion years in car years, the current-gen Toyota 4Runner will soon be the outgoing one, as Toyota teased an all-new iteration on their social media. Details are scarce other than a close-up image of the tailgate badge and the knowledge that it’ll most likely be based on the same architecture underpinning the Tacoma and Land Cruiser. Expect a 2024 reveal and a 2025 product release, as well as carryover 2.4-liter turbocharged hybrid and non-hybrid powertrains from the Taco and Land Cruiser.

2025 Porsche 911 hybrid

Unlike most of the cars here, the 911 hybrid has not been officially revealed or teased in any capacity. But it’s coming. Test mules have been spotted meandering around Europe. Their appearances have only gotten more frequent with the turn of the new year, and some claim that we should expect an official debut come summer of 2024 when the 992.2 facelift arrives for the 2025 model year. We expect a 911 Hybrid to rock a turbocharged flat-six and a small lithium-ion battery driving all four wheels and enabling some trick torque vectoring.

Kia K5 hatchback (wagon)

Just look at it. Isn’t she a beauty? An affordable wagon. Leave it to the Koreans to at least style a car in a manner that at least exudes the vibe of upscale-ness, inside and out, even if we know it’ll be built to a low price point to sell at a low price point. Expect the standard K4 sedan’s naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter four pushing 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet through a CVT and its 1.6-liter turbocharged powertrain pushing 190 horsepower and 195 pound-feet through an eight-speed auto.

2025 Ford Mustang GTD

I know it’s probably beating a dead ‘Stang by now, but the GTD isn’t out yet! And it’s no less cool moseying around from rotating auto show pedestal to rotating auto show pedestal. For the seventeenth time, bask in its GT3 race car-inspired, soon-to-be-Nürburgring-lapping glory as Ford’s new six-figure halo car for Mustang and motorsports fans alike. Ford aims for 800 ponies out of the GT500-derived 5.2-liter supercharged V8 and a sub-seven-minute ‘Ring time.

‘Electrified’ Honda Prelude

Like the 911 Hybrid, the Prelude’s specs are all up in the air. But we know it’s coming. It has to atone for the death of the Accord and Civic coupes and the rise of the GR86/BRZ and Nissan Z. The concept shows off Michelin tires surrounding some stout Brembos, and maybe there’s even a hybridized Civic Si or Civic Type R motor under that hood.

2024 Dodge Charger

Considering Dodge’s recent moves toward electrifying its lineup, starting with the Dodge Hornet R/T, it’s no surprise that the new Charger Daytona swaps its iconic Hemi V8 for a 400-volt EV powertrain. For car enthusiasts, though, nothing quite matches the resounding charisma of an internal combustion engine. And they can still get that with the Hurricane-equipped Six Pack variant.

2025 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N

In a piece for TechRadar, Leon Poultney called the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N “the first genuinely fun EV.” And he’s not alone. While I haven’t had the chance to drive one,  in my New York Auto Show demo ride, I was blown away by how well it simulated the experience of being in a gas car—minus the carbon emissions.

2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger

I’m no truck guy, but the powertrain Ram conceptualized for the Ramcharger is like a Chevy Volt on steroids. Although it can plug into a DC fast charger for 145 miles of all-electric road time, this isn’t a full BEV. And despite the 3.6-liter V6 under its hood, the gas engine has no mechanical connection to the wheels. Instead, two electric motors—one in the front and one in the back—propel the Ramcharger, with the help of a 70.8-kWh battery not much smaller than that of a Tesla Model Y. Only when the battery dies does the engine go to work, burning fuel to recharge the battery if the battery runs out of juice and you can’t reach a charging station.

2025 Lucid Gravity

We’re all tired of third-row SUVs. Believe me, this Mazda CX-90 review sucked the soul out of me for like two months. Still, the Lucid Gravity appears to be one of the more polished examples in its class. Fans of the genre will appreciate its soft-touch premium interior, expansive infotainment displays, and for the Tesla-averse, physical inputs where they’re needed. Best of all, the front trunk doubles as a seat for reverse tailgate parties.

2027 Rivian R3

Remember the Lancia Delta? No? Well, then you probably live in America, where the five-door Italian hatchback was never released. Nonetheless, the Rivian R3 borrows from the Delta’s design language—or at least its wider-stance Integrale variant. The R3, however, is a cute little electric crossover built on Rivian’s new compact crossover platform—one I could very much see myself in when the Tonale lease is up in a few years. Oh yeah. I said a few years since Rivian was so kind, giving us from its 2024 unveil to its speculated 2027 release to drool over it.

read more
Toyota Prius Prime
New Car Reviews

Toyota Prius Prime review: Look how far we’ve come with toasters on wheels!

Growing up, I earned my learner’s permit driving my mother’s absolutely ratchet first-generation Honda Civic Hybrid. Remember that piece of boring, banal, borderline-indistinguishable, and certainly unmemorable mediocrity? Hopefully not. However, a couple of years after I stepped up to adulthood and earned my license, my mom bought a 2008 Toyota Prius. In those days, the purposefully fugly second-gen Prius served as something of a West LA status symbol but also served the fam well as a damned good car: getting superb mileage, with plenty of room for pets and gear, and over the years, proved reliable as the day is long (once we installed a cat shield to foil constant thievery, anyhow). 

But more about the old Prius later because last year—boom!—Toyota hit us with a total redesign, a radical revamp, a veritable resuscitation of the entire concept of the commuter hybrid. And now, I finally got the chance to revisit those early days of hybrid driving in a 2024 Prius Prime, the plug-in version that best suits this West LA commuter crowd.

Skip to section:

Toyota Prius Prime
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Price and specs

Base price:$32,975
As-tested price:$34,434
Engine:2.0-liter inline-four with dual electric motors
Transmission:Single-speed + CVT
Drivetrain:Front-wheel drive
Power:220 horsepower combined
Torque:139 pound-feet
Weight:3,461 pounds (3,571 pounds as-tested)
0-60 mph:6.7s (11.2s in full EV mode) 
¼-mile:15.1 seconds @ 94 mph (hybrid), 18.7 seconds @ 75 mph in (full EV)
Top speed:112 mph
MPG:50 city, 47 highway, 48 combined
Battery capacity:13.6-kWh lithium-ion
All-electric range:44 miles (39 miles as tested)

Prius Prime exterior design

Toyota’s advertising campaign leading up to the LA Auto Show debut of the new Prius ended up coming across as a bit funny since, even considering the svelte and futuristic styling, nobody will ever consider this common car a “black sheep.” And yet, damn if that new design doesn’t hit the nail on the head. Just look at the pics! Anyone remember the first-gen Echo twin? My, how far we’ve come.

Now, my boss here at Acceleramota has already covered the “base” (non-Prime) Prius, so go ahead and click back through his review before continuing to learn more about my time with the Prime. 

The only thing I might add, in terms of exterior styling, is that I parked the Prime next to my mother’s still-cranking, sun-faded, and bird-shit-splattered 2008 Prius just for comparison—and the new car’s roofline looked around five or six inches lower! So much so that I actually Googled the official measurements. It turns out the 2024 model rides exactly 2.8 inches shorter. Not as much as my eyeballs perceived, in fairness, but a serious statement about how stellar styling can make so much of a difference in a car’s profile and presence.

What’s hot?– Some style, at last
– Plug-in hybrid system allows for choice at a reasonable cost
– Simple, stark interior
– Noticeably improved aerodynamics
– Vastly improved performance and handling

Prius Prime pricing breakdown 

The non-Prime that Jeric drove starts at $27,950, and adding the plug-in capabilities bumps the price up by $5,025. The Prime comes in three trim levels, with the SE at the bottom of the gradewalk sporting manually-adjustable fabric seats, an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen, a slicktop roof, and 17-inch wheels for max range. Stepping up to the XSE swaps on 19-inch wheels, which result in slightly less electric range and diminished fuel economy stats, plus a parking assist system. And the XSE Premium, topping the lineup at a $39,670 MSRP, comes with a 12.3-inch touchscreen and the choice of a glass roof or an optional solar panel roof to soak up photons on sunny days.

As tested, my SE tester’s window sticker reads just about as basic as possible. Options limited to a cargo mat in the rear, door sill protectors, and wheel locks result in a $34,434 price tag—almost how I might spec my own Prius Prime. Leather or faux-leather seats might be nice for my pets and the generally filthy life I lead.

(link opens in same tab)

Prius Prime interior and tech

As on a non-plug-in Prius, most of the interior and tech options come standard depending on the Prime’s trim levels: both the eight-incher and the larger screen support wireless Apple CarPlay, thankfully. For Prime specifically, though, the small gauge cluster display needs to combine EV and ICE readouts. The resulting barrage of constantly shifting charge levels, range estimates, so-called “EcoScore” and “EcoZone” stats, and driver aid widgets all get lost in their own wash, to an extent.

Toyota Prius Prime
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Toggling to a simplified screen cleans up some of the mess, and really, just drive more slowly to max out the range in either HV (hybrid) or EV (fully electric) mode. Otherwise, the rest of the interior—despite a lower roofline—comes across as spacious and simple, with plenty of leg and headroom for tall drivers (even in the backseat).

And kudos to Toyota for delivering a straightforward design exactly as it should be: just a toaster that toasts toast as efficiently as possible.

It’s finally Prime Day!

A bit of battery power goes a long way

Slotted in between one of the most ridiculous press loaner schedules of my professional career—as I played car Tetris with a Ferrari 296 GTS, Porsche 911 Dakar, Bentley Continental GTC Azure, and an MV Agusta Dragster America—the Prime was arguably the most important car. And I can admit to feeling a bit of excitement before actually receiving it!

Too excited, maybe, because I promptly ruined the all-electric range without even realizing it by driving straight out to the Valley in full EV mode. A big whoops but a nice lesson on figuring out the toggles and switchgear before blasting through traffic in a plug-in hybrid (while thinking that Toyota had finally solved the hybrid drone sound the whole time). But luckily, I always snag a pic of the odometer when I first get into a press car so I can report my stats and figures for that inaugural drive.

In all, I used 68% of the reported battery capacity to drive 21 entirely unaware all-electric miles. That falls right in line with the claimed EV range of 44 miles, and even better, over the course of that jaunt, the overall combined EV and ICE range actually went up by three miles.

Next, I used the supplied charge cable (housed beneath the rear cargo deck) to plug into a standard 120-volt garage outlet for almost exactly three hours. In that time, the Prime added 33% charge—again, just about spot on for the onboard computer’s prediction of a nine-hour window to fully charge up the petite 13.6-kWh lithium-ion battery. Then I drove 11 more miles in hybrid mode and checked in again to discover that doing so used zero additional percent of battery charge. 

I spent the rest of my time in the Prime trying to max out the hybrid and EV range, but I also pushed a little harder just for fun. More official testing might skew the results, presumably, but so far, Toyota’s engineering seems pretty perfect. Especially considering the typical use case, when commuters might do most of their daily driving in full EV mode and top off the battery at home every night. For longer road trips—after remembering to remember to switch into HV mode—driving over 500 miles per 10.6-gallon tank shouldn’t even require too much hypermiling diligence.

Lower, sleeker, faster, stronger

On the 405 freeway, always a true test of suspension dynamics, the Prime’s lower and tighter suspension definitely produces a bit more rollicking than a second-gen Prius. But then again, in town or on a winding road, the new setup makes most driving much more fun: peppy and quick, with a 220-horsepower combined rating, and the torque delivery is almost full-EV-like given that an electric motor modulates the ICE engine’s power on the way to the e-CVT system. I missed a bit of the hybrid glide path ride quality of earlier Priuses, but I would definitely take those 99 additional ponies versus the previous gen and even some slight torque steer in trade.

Toyota Prius Prime
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Equally as important, this generation seems to include more sound insulation to reduce hybrid drone and wind/tire noise—though speaking of wind, the exterior redesign also finally solves the sailing phenomenon of the second-gen on long highway bends, which was always a truly sketchy sensation.

In terms of nits to pick, the typically frustrating Toyota driver aids still chime and ding incessantly. The fact that the Prime also defaults to EV mode, rather than sticking in hybrid mode after a power cycle, requires a bit more attention than I expected. And relatively slow charging rates limited by the onboard 3.5-kW charger, without Level 3 capability, means that, for example, anyone who does space out and forget to switch into HV mode can’t rectify their mistake particularly quickly.

Toyota Prius Prime
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle
What’s not?– Still a hint of hybrid drone
– Automatically reverts to full EV mode instead of hybrid
– Digital gauges are still small and in a silly location
– Naggy driver aid chimes
– Slow charging rates, no Level 3

Have we reached peak Prius?

Toyota openly wants to stick with hybrids as much as possible in the foreseeable future and only plans to build EVs reluctantly. Much of the argument makes sense since minimizing the use of lithium and other rare earth minerals while maximizing the use case of each individual vehicle will serve both customers and the environment best. Prime stands as a testament to that commitment (as does, considering perhaps a contrapositive, the peculiar Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra situation).

But if government regulations don’t snap back to reality—oh, there goes (the Lucid) Gravity—then Prius may need to go full electric in the near future, as well. All of which means that there’s a solid chance this little blue car might just be peak Prius Prime, the final form of one of the most important and influential automobiles in world history—no exaggeration, truly, despite my obvious penchant for obscene hyperbole.

Toyota Prius Prime
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

And this Prime indisputably takes a major leap forward, even if the tech does so slightly less. When a fourth-gen plug-in Prius drops a good chunk below $30,000 on the used market in the next couple of years, even a rear-drive sports car and four-wheel-drive rally racing fanatic such as myself might be tempted. And that is, truly, the greatest compliment I can give.

read more
Volvo S60 Recharge
Buying GuidesFeatures

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with the longest all-electric range

As the world heads towards complete electrification by the end of the decade, many car manufacturers are looking for ways to go all-electric. While some automakers have eagerly jumped on the electrification bandwagon by rolling out all-electric models, others are taking a smoother route and introducing plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) in their current vehicle lineup. While adding a small battery and an electric motor might seem like a minor tweak, it can make a world of difference, especially when it comes to fuel economy. 

For folks who want to cut down on their fuel costs, a PHEV can be a very smart choice. These cars pretty much give you the best of both worlds: you can use electric power for short trips and switch to the gas engine for longer drives. But with so many options in the market, picking the longest-range plug-in hybrid can become a real head-scratcher. To find the perfect long-range plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, it’s important to understand what each option offers based on your specific requirements.

(link will open in same tab)

BMW 530e

What’s hot?

  • Comfortable passenger seating 
  • Tons of powertrain options

What’s not?

  • Rivals provide much more luxurious interiors
  • Optional packages (with desirable features) can burn a hole in your pocket

The BMW 5 series has always set benchmarks that people still use to compare with newer executive sports sedans. The 530e plug-in hybrid pairs the same exquisite powertrain offerings with an electric motor providing an all-electric range of 62 miles in WLTP tests or roughly 50 miles in EPA tests.

The recently unveiled 530e has a total power output of 299 horsepower, 11 more than the last-gen 530e, and an impressive 332 pound-feet of torque, up by 22. Knowing BMW’s strong performance, that should translate to more than adequate acceleration numbers. The 530e also benefits from the tons of upgrade packages offered by BMW and can be customized to make it your unique car.  

Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid

What’s hot?

  • Comfortable seating
  • Plenty of cargo space

What’s not?

  • No all-wheel-drive option
  • Slower acceleration and handling could be better

The Ford Escape PHEV is the only front-wheel drive SUV from this list of the longest-range plug-in hybrid cars. This hampers performance in poor weather but improves fuel efficiency and all-electric driving range by quite a lot. So, if you don’t plan on taking this off the tarmac, you won’t miss the AWD.

The Ford Escape has an all-electric range of a respectable 37 miles on a single charge. The Escape has a 2.5L four-cylinder engine combined with a 14.4 kWh battery pack powering the electric motor to produce a total of 210 horsepower. 

Karma Revero

What’s hot?

  • Luxurious and exclusive design
  • Blisteringly fast acceleration

What’s not?

  • Tight cabin space and almost nil cargo space
  • Engine noise and vibration

The Karma Revero (formerly Karma GS-6 and Fisker Karma) is the fastest accelerating car from the current pool of long-range PHEVs. It is a sleek-looking sports sedan that’s essentially the PHEV version of its current full-size sedan and is quite exclusive in terms of price and availability. It gives aggressive styling along with a massive 536 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque from its BMW turbo three-banger powertrain (older versions had a GM EcoTec four-cylinder). To top it off, it offers a substantial 61-mile all-electric range.  

It is difficult to recommend this car to families, however, as the seating is quite cramped up at the back, and the ride quality could do with more comfort. Think of it as more of a sports sedan for that one eclectic buyer and maybe a couple of passengers every so often.

Land Rover Range Rover PHEV

What’s hot?

  • Practical and luxurious
  • Comfortable and refined

What’s not?

  • It’s a heavyweight
  • Mediocre cargo space

Big, bold, and now able to help the rich skirt past taxes when driving through the heart of London. The Range Rover PHEV is a complete package from the pool of long-range plug-in hybrids currently available. It is quite capable in off-road conditions and provides a great experience to the driver and the passengers. 

This posh and elegant utilitarian can travel up to 51 miles on a single charge in the all-electric mode, which is quite impressive for such a hulking thing. It also produces a combined power of an impressive 400 horsepower with a maximum torque of 472 pound-feet. 

Toyota RAV4 Prime

What’s hot?

  • Impressive fuel economy
  • Generous cargo and passenger space

What’s not?

  • Handling capability doesn’t match its speed
  • Longer than average braking distance

The Toyota RAV4 Prime unfortunately goes unnoticed due to its cousin, the Prius Prime, which is a shame given the RAV4’s practicality and impressive performance. The RAV4 prime is comparatively bigger and gives it a longer range of 42 miles. This car easily covers most daily commutes before actually engaging the internal combustion engine. 

The combined power the 2.5-liter four-banger engine produces, along with the electric motor, is a healthy 302 horsepower and a combined torque of 288 pound-feet, enabling hot hatch and entry-level sports car-rivaling performance numbers. Toyotas are generally known to be reliable machines, and the same goes for this PHEV setup. 

Lexus NX 450H+

What’s hot?

  • Best safety and reliability scores according to IIHS & JD Power ratings.
  • Impressive tech list for the standard model

What’s not?

  • Sub-par handling
  • Lesser back seat space

The Lexus NX 450H+ is another SUV in the list of long-range PHEV cars with an all-electric range of 37 miles. It has a motor on each of the axles, which enables the driver to have an all-wheel drive system. The NX 450H+ has a combined power of 304 horsepower and can do 0 to 60 mph in a quick 5.9 seconds – all this while also maintaining an efficiency of 36 mpg and a grand total range of 550 miles. Talk about a great pick for interstate cruising.

Toyota Prius Prime

What’s hot? 

  • Balanced ride and handling
  • Comfortable front seats

What’s not?

  • Slower acceleration
  • Limited rear headroom 

The latest iteration of the Toyota Prius is the perhaps best design of its lifecycle. This is not the only change, as the Prius now has a much more capable electric motor paired with an equally capable gasoline engine. It is quite impressive to see that the model that popularized PHEVs is still alive and well. 

The Toyota Prius Prime has an all-electric range of 46 miles. The Prius Prime has almost doubled its combined power output to 220 horsepower, whereas the electric motor can produce 161 horsepower on its own, which was more than the last Prius Prime did in total.

Volvo S60 Recharge

What’s hot?

  • Fresh, mature, and sporty design
  • Superb fit and finish of the interior

What’s not?

  • The design could be a hit-or-miss if you like ’em flashy
  • Kind of expensive

The Volvo S60 Recharge is the most efficient offering by Volvo. And we can’t not talk about safety when it comes to Volvos, so here’s a fun fact about the S60 Recharge – the 2022 model was IIHS’s top safety pick of the year in the mid-size luxury sedan category.  

It has an impressive all-electric range of 41 miles, considering the amount of power produced by this car. The S60 recharge produces 455 horsepower and 523 pound-feet of torque combined while retaining an impressive 69 MPGe rating. 

Hyundai Tucson Plug-In Hybrid

What’s hot?

  • Futuristic looks help redefine the Korean brand’s image
  • Spacious and practical interior

What’s not?

  • Dull base engine
  • Its handling leaves room for improvement

The Hyundai Tucson is one of the Korean manufacturer’s most unnoticed offerings, so to offer a PHEV version for it seems like a good decision. The Tucson PHEV knocks out most of its long-range PHEV competitors thanks to its peppier handling and commuter-friendly behavior.  

The Tucson has a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-banger bolstered by a 13.8 kWh battery, which produces a combined total of 261 horsepower and 257 pound-feet of torque. This is sent to all four wheels and is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.

BMW X5 xDrive50e

What’s hot?

  • Comfortable ride
  • Well-balanced handling with plenty of grip

What’s not?

  • Not a connected drive like BMWs of old
  • Extra charges for driver assists is highly controversial

The BMW X5 xDrive50e has competitors from almost every brand in the market as it falls in the mid-size luxury SUV segment. The car, however, stands out in the segment thanks to its perfect mix of power, performance, and utility. It has loads of features and dozens of personalization options to make it your unique car. The X5 xDrive50e has an all-electric range of 40 miles.

The xDrive50e has a total power of 483 horsepower and has a torque of 516 pound-feet. The electric motors here are paired with a turbocharged straight-six engine. 

read more
Toyota Prius lineup
Buying GuidesFeaturesNew Car ReviewsQuick Take Reviews

These are the best plug-in hybrids we’ve driven for 2024

Electric vehicles are a solid choice for buyers looking to cut their carbon footprint and stop paying for gas, but they’re not the best electrified vehicle choice for everyone. Plug-in hybrids help bridge the gap, offering electric range with the security of a gas engine when there is no option to charge. They’re slightly more expensive than regular hybrids, but they offer a fantastic compromise for people who aren’t ready to make the jump to full electric. Heck, the site’s founder even owns one!

That said, we’ve rounded up our favorite PHEVs for 2024 here, but if you want to see our monster list of best cars, head here. The models on this list offer great tech, upscale interiors, and solid performance. Care to take a look at the best plug-ins the market has to offer? Perfect. Then let’s get rolling.

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Quarter View
Image: Chrysler
  • Starting price: $51,095
  • Horsepower: 260 hp
  • Torque: 262 lb-ft.
  • MPG combined: 30 MPG
  • MPGe combined: 82 MPGe
  • Battery capacity: 16 kWh
  • EV range: 32 miles 

Laugh all you want at minivans, but the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is genuinely one for the books. Interestingly, it used to be the only hybrid van on the block, but that changed when Toyota introduced the latest Sienna. But Chrysler beats it out with plug-in functionality and a surprisingly stout 32-mile range estimate. On top of that, it returns 82 MPGe and up to 30 mpg with its gas powertrain. The Pacifica Hybrid also brings comfortable minivan handling and confident-but-numb steering. 

Though aging, especially compared to its more recently updated rivals, the Pacifica Hybrid’s interior offers fantastic comfort and solid space for people and gear. Leather upholstery and heated front seats come standard, and the second-row captain’s chairs bring good padding and support. Chrysler uses Stellantis’ Uconnect infotainment system, which is easily one of the most intuitive and easy-to-use interfaces on the market. Even if it’s not the newest system to date, it rewards buyers with rapid touch response and a brainless-to-navigate layout that even our new editor-in-chief can attest to, having experienced many modern Stellantis/FCA vehicles. It runs flawlessly on the standard 10.1-inch touchscreen and brings wireless smartphone connectivity, Bluetooth, USB inputs, and six speakers. 

Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV

Hyundai Santa Fe plug-in Front Quarter View
Image: Wikimedia Commons, Alexander Migl
  • Starting price: $42,410
  • Horsepower: 261 hp
  • Torque: 258 lb-ft.
  • MPG combined: 33 MPG
  • MPGe combined: 76 MPGe
  • Battery capacity: 13.8 kWh
  • EV range: 32 miles

The Hyundai Santa Fe was an all-new model in 2021 and gained a frugal plug-in hybrid powertrain last year. While not a performance vehicle by any stretch of the imagination, the Santa Fe Hybrid offers brisk acceleration and reasonably athletic handling. At the same time, it maintains easy-going ride quality and offers a quiet cabin. 

With the recent overhaul, Hyundai moved the Santa Fe in a more premium direction, giving it an upscale interior with excellent materials quality and handsome design. Hyundai’s infotainment tech is less complicated than many other brands’ systems, and it runs smoothly on the Santa Fe PHEV’s standard 10.25-inch touchscreen. Other standard tech includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, wireless charging, and HD radio.

Hyundai Tucson PHEV

Hyundai Tucson PHEV front quarter view
Image: Hyundai
  • Starting Price: $38,475
  • Horsepower: 261 hp
  • Torque: 258 lb-ft.
  • MPG combined: 35 MPG
  • MPGe combined: 80 MPGe
  • Battery capacity: 13.8 kWh
  • Range: 33 miles

The Hyundai Tucson was recently overhauled, which brought sharp style, updated hybrid functionality, and better tech. This SUV offers a smooth ride, solid acceleration, and a refined hybrid system that smoothly hands off between gas and electric components. All-wheel drive comes standard, and Hyundai opted for a six-speed automatic over a CVT here, which significantly improves drivability. At the same time, the SUV returns up to 80 MPGe combined and 38 mpg in gas mode. 

Regardless of trim, the Tucson offers a spacious, upscale interior with solid materials quality. There’s good head and legroom in both rows of seats, and passengers in the front enjoy comfortable buckets with good padding and support. An 8-inch touchscreen comes standard, bringing wireless smartphone mirroring. Wireless charging, SiriusXM radio, Bluetooth, and dual-zone automatic climate controls are also standard. 

Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe

Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe PHEV front quarter view
Image: Wikimedia Commons, Alexander Migl
  • Starting Price: $60,490
  • Horsepower: 375 hp
  • Torque: 470 lb-ft.
  • MPG combined: 23 MPG
  • MPGe combined: 56 MPGe
  • Battery capacity: 17.3 kWh
  • Range: 26 miles

The Grand Cherokee 4xe was launched by Jeep following the success of the plug-in hybrid Wrangler. The SUV offers a decent all-electric range with energetic acceleration, though the transition between gas and electric powertrain elements can sometimes be awkward. Four-wheel drive is standard, and a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission helps the powertrain maintain smooth, quiet operation. And, okay, so it’s not the most efficient of this gathering at only 23 mpg and 56 mpge combined, but it sure packs a healthy wallop of power and torque, great for off-the-line jumps and highway passes.

The Grand Cherokee offers comfortable seating for up to five people. Jeep offers a range of upscale features, including leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, massaging seats, and a heated steering wheel. An 8.4-inch touchscreen comes standard, along with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, six speakers, and a 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster.

Jeep Wrangler 4xe

Jeep Wrangler Willys 4xe PHEV on rocks
Image: Stellantis
  • Price: $60,360
  • Horsepower: 375 hp
  • Torque: 470 lb-ft.
  • MPG combined: 20 MPG
  • MPGe combined: 49 MPGe
  • Battery capacity: 17.3 kWh
  • Range: 22 miles

Surprised that this made it? Come on, now. The Jeep Wrangler 4xe has become America’s best-selling plug-in hybrid, and its powertrain delivers good acceleration with a reasonable all-electric range. However, like the Grand Cherokee, the Wrangler 4xe’s powertrain sometimes stumbles in the handoff between the electric motors and gas components. The Wrangler can also be a handful to manage on the highway, as its off-road suspension makes it feel busy and sometimes unsettled at higher speeds.

It must be noted that while the Wrangler 4xe is the least efficient member of this club, it may as well be a Prius among standard Wranglers, eking out a healthy 20 mpg and 49 mpge combined. Hey, after all, it’s still a big ol’ Wrangler, sculpted by a wind tunnel if the wind tunnel was out of service. But try going to Moab in a Corolla Cross.

The new Wrangler is much more luxurious and plusher than its predecessors, but this is still a rugged off-road SUV we’re talking about. Jeep did a good job at balancing materials quality throughout the Wrangler’s cabin, as there’s a mix of low-rent and upscale materials throughout. The SUV comes standard with a 7-inch touchscreen running Uconnect infotainment software. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, along with eight speakers and Bluetooth. Higher trim levels get a larger 8.4-inch screen and navigation.

Toyota Prius Prime

Toyota Prius Prime XSE PHEV rolling shot
Image: Toyota
  • Price: $32,975
  • Horsepower: 220 hp
  • Torque: 139 lb-ft.
  • MPG combined: 48 to 52 MPG
  • MPGe combined: 114 to 127 MPGe
  • Battery capacity: 13.6 kWh
  • Range: 39 to 44 miles

Toyota redesigned the Prius and its Prime plug-in variant back in 2023, giving it a striking appearance overhaul that made it surprisingly attractive from a design standpoint. It doesn’t just look better, it’s also more engaging to drive, with more power and far better acceleration than the previous generation.

The plug-in powertrain provides solid acceleration and refined operation, and there are up to 44 miles of all-electric range on tap in the most efficient models (it varies on the wheel/tire package). Regardless of trim level and tires, Prius fans are in for one of the most efficient plug-ins by a vast margin and one of the most improved generations of Prius, period. And no better is that reflected than its cabin.

The Prius Prime’s interior feels more upscale and premium than in years past. Toyota implemented heavy updates to the infotainment system, making it easier to use and more intuitive. Front-seat space and comfort are both top-notch, but folks in the back seat may find a shortage of headroom because of the car’s sloping roof. An 8-inch touchscreen comes standard, along with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, and Amazon Alexa functionality. 

Volvo XC60 Recharge T8 PHEV

Volvo XC60 T8 PHEV
Image: Volvo
  • Price: $57,900
  • Horsepower: 455 hp
  • Torque: 523 lb-ft.
  • MPG combined: 28 MPG
  • MPGe combined: 63 MPGe
  • Battery capacity: 18.8kWh
  • Range: 35 miles

The Volvo XC60 Recharge T8 PHEV blends Volvo’s safety and luxury aesthetic with an advanced plug-in powertrain and great tech. The SUV delivers up to 35 miles of all-electric range, and acceleration isn’t wimpy by any measure. At the same time, the XC60 maintains a comfortable ride, though it’s not as athletic as some rivals. An eight-speed automatic transmission sends all that delicious, fiery power to all four wheels, and the stout powertrain operates smoothly in most situations.

Oh, did anyone mention this thing pushes 523 pound-feet? The Grand Cherokee 4xe sprints, but this is definitely a hard charger, with magazine-tested zero-to-60 runs in the low-four-second range and quarter-mile sprints in the high-twelves. For reference, that’s Mustang GT territory. But you’d never know from a mere glance at its opulent innards.

Volvo’s austere Scandinavian design gives the XC60 a calming, serene feel, and the materials are top-notch, no matter where you look. The front seats are supportive and generously padded, complementing a spacious back seating area that comfortably accommodates adults. Volvo moved to Google-based infotainment, which operates well on the 9-inch display. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.

read more
Dodge Hornet R/T
FeaturesNew Car Reviews

The Dodge Hornet R/T is America’s little Italian hybrid hot hatch for better and worse

I never go into the world of crossovers expecting much in the way of creativity or differentiation. Small family crossovers are all mostly drawn from the same cookie-cutter template. But that’s also to say they all do their job commendably well. They’re all roomy. They’re all reasonably fuel-efficient. They’re all easy to drive, easy to live with, and easy to use for all your family, commuting, or household needs. They’re fine cars, and if you throw a dart at anything on the board, you’ll probably land on something you’ll enjoy. Maybe not as a driving enthusiast, obviously. But it’ll serve its purpose well. And that’s why I’m so excited to sample an oddity like the Dodge Hornet R/T.

Where have you been the whole time, you shifty little rat?

In a sea of dull but glaringly obvious choices in the market, here comes the Hornet R/T (and, by extension, the Alfa Romeo Tonale) to rule its only little corner of the kingdom and do it its own way. In R/T guise, it can be had with a spunky plug-in hybrid akin to the RAV4 Prime. Except, unlike that longtime favorite, this diminutive crossover has… wait, Brembo brakes? Wait, dual-valve Koni shocks? Michelin Pilot Sport All Season 4 tires? Metal paddle shifters? Hold up. Something’s special about this gold jellybean on stilts, and I’m going to get to the bottom of this.

Skip to section:

Dodge Hornet R/T
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

🚦Get ready, set, full disclosure! Some of the links powering our posts contain affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase, even if it’s not from the page we linked. Affiliate links are not always an endorsement of the product. To really help us keep our headlights shining to make more content like this, subscribe to the Acceleramota newsletter.

Price and specs

GTI and GR86 fans, read it and weep. The Hornet R/T is indeed a threat. 288 horsepower and a sports car-rivaling 383 pound-feet place it squarely within the realm of entry and mid-level performance cars, and the big kid magazines’ test teams have the test numbers to prove it. Thank the 1.3-liter turbo four-banger assisted by a plug-in hybrid system consisting of two AC motors (one more than Tonale, likely resulting in its higher torque figure) and a 15.5-kWh battery, with the latter half of the powertrain being capable of up to 32 miles of EV-only commuting up to 84 mph. However, that impressive spec sheet comes at a wince-inducing price tag for our tester, which stickers at a hefty $52,405.

Base price:$41,400
As-tested price:$52,405
Engine:1.3-liter turbocharged I4 + 2 AC motors, 15.5-kWh lithium-ion battery
Transmission:6-speed automatic 
Drivetrain:All-wheel drive
Power:288 horsepower
Torque:383 pound-feet
Redline:7,000 rpm
Weight:4,200 pounds
Zero-to-60 mph:5.5 seconds
¼-mile:14.2 seconds @ 96 mph
MPG:29 combined
MPGe:77 combined
Observed MPG:29.2 MPG
EV Range:32 miles
Fuel Capacity:11.2 gallons
(Author’s Note: Performance numbers reflected in Car and Driver’s review from October 2023)

Hornet R/T exterior design

Oh, thank the car gods that Italy had the heaviest influence in designing this vehicle. Yes, this is still very much an Alfa Romeo Tonale underneath, from the shape to the glass and the rear fascia. The starkest change is really just that Dodge Charger-fied mug, which itself looks pretty damn decent, and the headlights are still very much Tonale, albeit with a different lighting pattern inside the lens.

Dodge Hornet R/T
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

If you care not for family crossovers, then perhaps you’ll find nothing remarkable here. But one must admit it’s a refreshingly smooth and elegant way to do a RAV4 rival, with hardly any sharp creases aside from the questionably functional hood vents and Dodge grille. The smooth, paper-thin light bar streaking across the rear hatch is a fun Euro touch, as are the dual-exit exhausts that protrude through the bumper rather than beneath it. Oh, and there’s no denying how gorgeous Acapulco Gold is, and I don’t even like yellows on cars.

Cough, Tonale still looks better. Just by a bit.

Perhaps what is most enjoyable is that it’s not a diminutive two-row crossover pretending to be something sportier, bigger, or more “off-roady” than it really is from the outside. It looks small. It’s styled small. It is small. It’s honest without being drab, which should be enough to lure at least a few prospective car buyers away from Toyota or Honda lots.

What’s hot?– Intoxicating power for a family crossover
– Nimble, responsive chassis
– “Just right” damper tuning with many talents
– “Just right” size for urban excursions
– Useful EV range with commendable regen abilities
– Italian styling

Hornet R/T pricing breakdown

Before we dive into our specific tester, do note that you can get lower-rung GTs for a starting price of $31,400. Not bad! GT and more tech and luxury-laden GT Plus trims feature a Dodge-exclusive, all-ICE, non-hybrid 2.0-liter turbo powertrain not currently offered on U.S. Alfa Tonales. For a notable ten-grand discount off an optionless R/T, you score a comparable 268 horsepower and 295 pound-feet, with performance figures that are barely slower. Hmm, interesting. However, no paddle shifters are available for that powertrain’s 9-speed auto, and there are obviously no hybrid drive modes or EV-only capability.

Our R/T Plus starts at $46,400 and adds a sizeable moonroof, Harmon Kardon audio system, heated and ventilated power seats, and power liftgate. Acapulco Gold adds $595, although other colors can be had for $495 or free. The $2,345 Tech Package adds surround-view cameras, front, rear, and side parking assist, and Level 2 autonomy with adaptive cruise and lane centering. Lofty, sure. Worth it? We’ll discuss it momentarily. But get this.

What gimmicky bundle of ironic coolness has me rolling my eyes to the back of my skull while also screaming “HELL YEAH” is the availability of the (drum roll) Track Package. Track. Package. You can spec your hybrid family compact crossover with a $2,595 track pack. Although this pack features a severe lack of oil coolers, stupid wings, or carbon ceramic brakes, you do get 20-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport All Season 4 tires, red-painted four-piston Brembos, and adaptive twin-valve KONI shocks.

I iterate once more: Hell yeah.

Dodge Hornet R/T
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Hornet R/T interior and tech

Inside is a standard Stellantis affair with a unique Italian flair, resulting in a cabin that’s practical and comfortable without being a boring hodgepodge of flat surfaces. The center console and transmission tunnel gradually rise to meet the climate controls on the dashboard, leaving an angled surface for your wireless charger. And the center console storage bin provides ample space for wallets, phones, garage clickers, or maybe four or five small hot dogs. Maybe.

Dodge Hornet R/T
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Rear passenger space is ample, with a fold-down center armrest with cupholders and a rear cargo area passthrough, which may come in handy from time to time, as the rear cargo area doesn’t appear any more spacious than a large hatchback. With 22.9 cubic feet of cargo volume, it’s roughly on par with a Kia Niro but down on a RAV4 or Ford Escape by several cubic feet. At least rear-seat passengers get their own climate vents plus USB charging, but I suppose that’s expected in this era and at that lofty price point.

Dodge Hornet R/T
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

The aforementioned Tech Package means our Hornet tester is graced with Level 2 autonomy in the form of lane centering and adaptive cruise. Surround-view cameras bunched with front and rear parking sensors and blind spot monitoring mean the Hornet should (theoretically) be uncrashable. Or so you’d hope. If any of these doo-dads bug you for whatever reason, they’re defeatable via hard buttons or through settings in the 10.25-inch uConnect touchscreen. The latter also houses wired and wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, built-in nav (hallelujah!), and readouts for performance gauges, electric charge, and more. The standard digital gauge cluster can also display accompanying readouts for fuel economy and which half of the powertrain, gas or electric, is using how much energy.

A different kind of commuter car

Fascinating. This two-row family crossover excels as a two-row family crossover. I never would’ve guessed.

Slap it in Hybrid or Electric via the drive mode button on the wheel, and let the Hornet R/T deliver you from your typical bland commuter car woes. The perforated suede seats are cozy. The heated steering wheel is toasty and fits beautifully in your hands. The uConnect touchscreen is fast, responsive, and immediately easy to learn in a matter of minutes. A vertical stack of shortcut buttons keeps CarPlay, music, or nav functions at a finger’s touch at all times.

Dodge Hornet R/T
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Out on the open road, the Hornet is fairly quiet and comfortable. In fact, I’d argue it exceeds expectations for something with such a small stature and short wheelbase. Props to the Track Pack’s KONI dampers for excellently dispatching most of what Cali roads have to throw at it. Speed bumps, expansion joints, point holes? Pfft. The Hornet moseys on over all of them with little harshness sent through the cabin, only occasionally wallowing over large undulations as one would expect from a smaller car, like a tiny vessel over a large wave. But even over the largest lumps, it’s as composed and settled as can be. And to think its Tonale twin is even more refined, according to a little birdie who helped engineer it.

Don’t let the cutesy silhouette fool you into thinking it’s a cheap tinker toy. The Hornet is a genuinely well-mannered city car with an affinity for navigating the concrete jungle.

Most impressive was the commendable EV range afforded by the Hornet’s wee battery pack. An EPA rating of 32 miles places it near the upper echelon of plug-ins alongside other strong contenders such as the Alfa Romeo Tonale (33 miles), Ford Escape Plug-In (37 miles), and the Kia Niro Plug-In (33 miles). During my stint bouncing back and forth between Glendale and Redondo Beach, I found that best-case range to be easily believable, consistently getting 30 to 31 miles of EV range. The eSave and Sport modes prioritize gas operation to preserve and even assist with battery charge once you’re low on electrons, but oftentimes, the Hornet will always find that extra ounce in its cells for the occasional power boost off the line or on the freeway.

What’s less impressive is the total range, which could only ever be roughly 360 miles, including Electric mode. After reading the specs, you know instantly the R/T works best as your lifted city runabout. Fear no parking garage or tight back alley in the Hornet. But possibly fear interstate expeditions, as you have more frugal options. Ho-hum fuel economy in gas-only operation, further hurt by how the Hornet rarely operates as a “normal hybrid” like Toyotas, and a small fuel tank (a little over 11 gallons) means fill-ups are cheap but more frequent than you’d like if your commute sees a lot of freeway miles.

Dodge Hornet R/T
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Don’t get me wrong, an EPA combined rating of 29 mpg and my 29.2 mpg average, even factoring in some hard canyon runs, aren’t bad at all! But a RAV4 Prime gets 38 combined, and its Ford Escape equivalent gets 40. What a shame this only functions as a normal hybrid a fraction of the time, heavily prioritizing gas-only or electric-only, even in Hybrid mode, because the Hornet saw mileage figures of 40 to 42 mpg in my hands when it does. Fail. Once more, at least fill-ups will be cheap.

Dodge Hornet R/T
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Questionable hybrid operation paired with wonky lane-centering programming that struggles with cornering and a service warning that randomly appeared a thousand miles premature and never went away without tricking it with a specific start-up sequence makes for a crossover SUV that’s tough to recommend to the average consumer. Like seriously, this tech has been around for many years, yet it feels like an early adoption here.

I’ll write them off as hiccups in this early-build Hornet specifically, but still. Oh, Italy. Why are you like this? Oh, I can take a guess why. You must have had your priorities elsewhere, such as trying to turn the Hornet into…

A different breed of hot hatch

Gotcha, suckers! You thought this was a family car? Shut up and get to the pits. Monza beckons for a new champion.

Should anyone dare to take the R/T badge a little seriously and head for the hills with Sport mode engaged, the Hornet will oblige with the best driving experience a car of its size and class could possibly deliver. Make sure you sprung for the Track Package before you do. Trust.

Dodge Hornet R/T
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

The 235-wide Michelin Pilot Sport All Season 4 tires are a godsend. They were great on a base C8 Corvette Gabe and I had previously sampled. They’re stellar here, enabling enough grip that you feel like you’re going to grip roll this golden egg down the hill, but thankfully, the KONI shocks do a commendable job at keeping body motions in check. They reportedly firm up in Sport mode. Frankly, the difference, if any, is negligible and still comfy enough for daily duty. You feel the body tilt in corners, but it takes a set and rotates right around with assistance from the torque-vectoring electric motors, almost never getting upset by mid-corner bumps and undulations despite the thin tire sidewalls and short wheelbase.

Dodge Hornet R/T
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Steering was expectedly a tad numb and light, but there was just an ounce of feedback coming through to let you know there was a bump or the road surface had changed. A little more weight could do nicely, but at least it was reasonably quick and accurate for what’s ultimately still a family car. You can tackle most right-hand city streets and tight canyon bends without ever crossing arms, which is always nice.

Brakes? Effective. But a little wooden-feeling, needing a heavy foot to haul it down from the lofty speeds the plug-in powertrain is capable of. Which, by the way…

Dodge Hornet R/T
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Did I mention this thing was fast? Because it’s fast. Quite fast. The big kid magazines have consistently clocked sprints to 60 mph around five and a half seconds, mirroring some V6 and turbo-four pony cars and posing a serious threat to GR86s and Miatas everywhere. The 1.3-liter pushing damn-near 30 pounds of boost out of its itsy-bitsy turbo must surely lag like a Group B rally car, but thankfully, its hybrid half fills in the torque more than adequately enough. Engage PowerShot mode, and you get 15 seconds of electric overboost with an extra 30 horsepower. Because that’s just what I needed on the way to Trader Joe’s. Whether that 30 horsepower is on top of the 288 or if the 288 is with PowerShot is unclear. But quick is quick.

Best of all, Sport mode’s battery regen, whether from the brakes or the engine itself, is far more aggressive than in eSave. Basically, whenever you’re not asking for juice for full-throttle sprints, it’s juicing the battery instead. This effectively means you can enter your local canyon road with a near-dead battery and come out with it nearly fully charged!

No charger? No problem. Just run for the hills (or your nearby freeway on-ramp).

As for the six-speed auto, it’s definitely no ZF or DSG. But it gets the job done and is thankfully responsive-ish to the familiar Alfa Romeo metal shift paddles. Sure, there were a few slight, quarter-second delays on a few upshifts. But its relative lack of sporting intent is forgiven when the paddles are this damn fun to click-clack around, just like its distant corporate cousins costing multiples more.

Dodge Hornet R/T
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco
What’s not?– Unremarkable mpg in gas-only mode plus small gas tank equals short range
– Rarely functions as a normal hybrid
– Brakes require a heavy foot for performance driving or emergency stops
– Somewhat small cargo area
– Italian electronic annoyances
– The Hornet GT and Alfa Romeo Tonale exist

Too lovable but too flawed

Could you tell I’m smitten? It’s got style! It’s got swagger! It’s got speed, handling, and real-world urban commuting chops! After only five days, I fell in love with the Hornet R/T. I just don’t know if I can ever recommend a Hornet R/T. Here’s why.

If you insist upon a plug-in for the handy all-electric capabilities, the Tonale exists. For a few grand more than the comparable R/T, you can nab the actual donor car that’s arguably far more attractive and, frankly, more authentic because it’s the original one. The performance, despite being down on torque, is nearly identical. And according to a former engineer behind the project, it’s quieter and more refined.

Dodge Hornet R/T
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Back in Detroit, there’s the Hornet GT, which trades its plug-in powertrain for an all-ICE 2.0-liter powertrain with comparable performance, fuel economy, and total range for $10,000 less. A Hornet R/T could buy you one comparable GT without the worry of charging and with leftover dough for a decent Fiat 500e if that’s your jam. Both corporate cousins leave the R/T in an odd spot between, “You got to really want it,” and, “I could use that spare couple thousand bucks.”

But looking at the R/T for what it is. If you don’t mind drinking Dodge’s Kool-Aid and partaking in the Americanized Italian hybrid for all it gets right, and in spite of all it gets wrong, then be my guest. And for most urban commutes, it’ll be more than enough. You may never even feel the crunch of its comparatively unremarkable range if you never leave the asphalt grid. It’s just roomy enough for friends and their shopping if they’re not big spenders, and you have all the ground clearance and agility in the world to dart between lanes and around parking lots in total, all-electric comfort. And if you want to show them a party trick on the way to your favorite downtown bar, Sport mode and PowerShot ought to do the trick.

Dodge Hornet R/T
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

It’s hard to look at the Hornet R/T without seeing the sheer scope of its market and all with whom it competes. But on its own, it’s a rambunctious little RAV4 alternative with more charm and driving enjoyment than that cookie-cutter crossover will ever have. Hey. At the very least, I’m glad it exists.

read more