Since the early 2000s, automakers have offered hybrid sport utility vehicles to the public. Although some hybrid SUVs get only marginally better gas mileage than conventional models, others perform exceptionally well. Crossover SUVs employ unitised construction, in which the body and frame are assembled as one unit. Such designs are lighter than traditional, thirstier SUVs, which are built with a separate body on top of a heavier, separate truck chassis.
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Ford Escape Hybrid
The 2010 Escape Hybrid is equipped with a conventional internal combustion engine and two electric motors. The 2.5-litre engine and electric motors generate 177 horsepower. The Escape alternates between the electric motors and conventional engine depending on driving conditions. At certain speeds, it operates on battery power alone. Its braking system is regenerative, meaning the vehicle's rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery is recharged as the vehicle is braking. The Environmental Protection Agency reports the all-wheel-drive Escape earns 34mpg in the city and 31 on the highway.
Mazda Tribute Hybrid
Mazda and Ford have had a long and productive relationship sharing vehicle platforms and technology. The Mazda Tribute Hybrid benefits from its relationship to the Escape Hybrid. The Tribute shares the same platform as the Escape, but it's cheaper to buy. The Tribute features a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine identical to the Escape's, along with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) which allows the transmission to shift continuously through an infinite number of ratios, thereby maximising fuel efficiency. According to the EPA, the 2010 Mazda Tribute Hybrid earns 34mpg in the city and 31 on the highway. Like the Escape, it earns better gas mileage in city driving because the electric motors do most of the work in slow, stop-and-go conditions.
Toyota Highlander Hybrid
The 2010 Highlander Hybrid is a traditional, full-sized sport utility vehicle equipped with a 3.3-litre V-6 engine that produces 208 horsepower. Twin electric motors complement the gasoline engine and boost the vehicle's total output to 270 horsepower. Its best feature is the ability to drive on battery power alone for up to two miles at speeds under 25mph. This is remarkable for a large SUV that features three rows of seats and 94.1 cubic feet of storage space. The all-wheel-drive Highlander equipped with an automatic transmission earns 27/25mpg, according to the EPA.
Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
Another full-sized SUV, the 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid produces less-impressive fuel efficiency numbers than other models. The Tahoe hybrid achieves 21mpg in the city and 22 on the highway, according to the EPA, but it's also powered by a massive 6-liter V-8 accompanied by two electric motors. Driving conditions dictate whether the Tahoe is propelled byr battery power alone or a combination of battery and gasoline. To save fuel, the engine automatically shuts down half its cylinders in non-demanding driving conditions. The Tahoe generates 332 horsepower and is a behemoth at 2812kg.
Chrysler Aspen Hybrid
The Chrysler Aspen Hybrid is another full-sized SUV with mammoth power under the hood and a weight in excess of 2268kg. It is unique in the hybrid field in that its legendary Hemi 5.7-litre engine wields 340 horsepower and, in this application, works as a two-mode gasoline-electric system, allowing it to run on electricity up to 30mph. It earns 18/19mpg.
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