What's Next for Hybrids

Buying & Leasing a Car

What's Next for Hybrids

A preview of models to come.

If you want to buy a gas-electric hybrid, you currently have ten models to choose from, ranging from the two-seater Honda Insight to the Chevy Silverado pickup truck. But by the end of next year, a handful of hybrids will be added to the environmentally friendly lineup. Most carmakers have hybrids in the pipeline, but these are the models with the surest prospects:

Lexus GS 450h

The GS 450h comes from the same company that produces the Toyota Prius. Both cars combine a gasoline engine with electric-motor power but, after that, the comparisons end. Whereas the philosophy behind the Prius is to use the electric motor to maximize fuel efficiency, the purpose of the 450h's electric power is to maximize performance.


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What's Next for Hybrids

The GS 450h accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds -- about the same as the Porsche 911, and about half a second faster than the gas-engine V8 GS 430. It also improves fuel economy by about 5 mpg. The GS 450h will arrive at dealers in May, about the same time as the Toyota Camry hybrid. (For a longer review, see "A Mean, Green Machine.")

Saturn Vue Green Line

Next up -- probably available in July or August -- is the Saturn Vue Green Line, a small SUV hybrid. It's expected to deliver 27 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway, or about a 3 mpg improvement over the regular Vue. GM says the sticker price will start below $23,000, making it the least-expensive hybrid SUV on the market. But you also sacrifice fuel economy compared with the other small SUV hybrid, the Ford Escape. The Escape gets 36 mpg in the city and 31 on the highway.

Chevy Tahoe

The 2008 Tahoe will come in a hybrid version that the company estimates will improve fuel economy by 25% over the 20 mpg highway of the base gas-engine Tahoe. The "two-mode" hybrid powertrain (one mode is for low-speed and light-duty operation and sometimes uses electric only power; the other mode adds electric power to gas-engine operation for towing and highway driving) will also be available in the GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade.

Nissan Altima

Nissan's CEO, Carlos Ghosn, isn't a huge hybrid booster, but his company is buying the technology from Toyota to produce a hybrid powertrain for its popular Altima sedan. Details are hard to come by, but expect to see it this fall, as a 2007 model.

Next: Special Report: How Green is My Hybrid?