Top 10 Best MPG AWD SUVs/Crossovers

Top 10 Best MPG AWD SUVs/Crossovers

subaru,crosstrek,mpg, awd

Subaru’s latest AWD model ups its MPG

The Wheels You Need with the Fuel Economy You Crave

So the scientists announced this last week (ed note: we originally wrote this three years ago–and updated it since–but the climate change news has not gotten any brighter in the intervening years) that the world has hit another milestone. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has hit a concentration not seen for millions of years. While many in the environmental community might see this as the point at which personal transportation should be curtailed–starting with SUVs or Crossovers–it is clear the automotive market is not going to make such a quick shift.

Sport utility vehicles and crossovers (crossovers being sport utility vehicles based on a car rather than truck chassis) are more popular than ever in 2017, even as the general trend toward higher MPG vehicles moves forward.  The reason is simple: they are functional. One trip to Costco is enough to convince many families that a Prius won’t cut it. Regular trips up to the mountains in the winter to ski could similarly motivate a car buyer to look for an all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicle rather than the front-wheel drive found on most high-mileage hybrids. Cars don’t always cut it.

Tesla,Model X,falcon doors,mpg,electic car

Winging it…on electricity

All of which leaves the environmentally conscious consumer with some tough choices. If your lifestyle points you toward an SUV or crossover, you still want to do what you can to minimize your contribution to further CO2 in the atmosphere.  The first electric SUV has appeared (after one short-lived version, the RAV4 EV was on the market for a brief time), but the Tesla Model X is out of most buyers’ price range. Plug-in hybrids are just hitting the market this year and more are promised, but again most are luxury first and SUV second. A few hybrid and clean diesel models are out there, so the key is to check out the most fuel efficient models that fit your needs.  Since one of those needs with this class of vehicles usually entails a good amount of distance travel, we’re use the highway fuel economy as the benchmark for our Top 10 list.

While cars, especially smaller ones, appear to be able to top the 40 mpg mark without much difficulty and are pushing even higher with plug-in models, AWD and 4WD models, with extra hardware and usually a larger size, have historically found 30 mpg on the highway a tough mark. No more. We’ve got an EV and several plug-ins that boast sophisticated technology that offers welcome progress on the MPG front. The downside is all this new hardware comes at a serious premium. But not far down the list are gasoline-powered models delivering mid-30s fuel economy.

The numbers are based on the federal fuel economy tests, so of course your mileage will vary. We’ve updated this list and pruned out some of the two-wheel-drive interlopers. We expect this list to keep growing, offering mpg-conscious car buyers even more options.

The Top 10 SUVs/Crossovers

1. 95 MPGe – Tesla Model X EV – So how does almost 100 mpg sound for an SUV? Is that worth $70 or $80,000? Tesla’s foray into the SUV space is an all-wheel-drive, all-electric crossover with seating for seven adults and their luggage. It is based off of Tesla’s Model S sedan (which it now outsells) and features two electric motors (of varying sizes depending on the model) and a variety battery pack sizes and performance levels. Oh, and it also has gull-wing (falcon in Tesla parlance) doors. And loads of tech features, including fairly sophisticated self-driving capability. The car will deliver about 250 miles of range in the high-end model; 220 in the “entry-level” model. When we did a brief test drive, we were impressed. The Toyota RAV4 EV was the first SUV with a plug, but in two iterations it only had a brief run and totaled about 3,000 vehicles. Tesla passed that mark in its first year on the market and continues crank them out of its Fremont plant.

Tesla Model X

Tesla Model X

2. 56 MPGe BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV – BMW took its most popular SUV and added a plug. It seems simple, but the process entailed added technology. Thankfully, BMW has not subtracted any of the positive attributes of its all-wheel-drive SUV. Forget to plug in and you’re back to mid-20s fuel economy. It has 14 miles of all-electric range augmented by more than 300 horsepower of gasoline-fueled power, which is helpful if you’ve carrying a full three rows of passengers. We have a review of this model.

3. 53 MPGe – Volvo XC90 AWD PHEV – The first plug-in Volvo has arrived. We saw it some time ago and are pleased that it has been delivered intact with great fuel economy along with all of the usual Volvo safety equipment and great wagon space. Without plugging in the fuel economy drops to the mid-20s. It’s all-electric range is about 14 miles. A week in the wagon reinforced out initial impression.

4. 50 MPGe – Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e – The latest addition to the plug-in SUV crowd comes from Mercedes-Benz. This five-passenger SUV can shut down its 400+ horsepower V-6 biturbo engine and move on electric power to maximize fuel economy. Its default mode is a hybrid drive that will shift from gas to electric power.

5. 47 MPGe – Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid PHEV – To offset some performance models with less-than-stellar fuel economy, Porsche is leading the way by offering plug-in versions that promise enhanced MPG. The company’s SUV adds an electric motor than can give 16 miles of EV range. On gas alone the car is in the low 20s MPG. 

2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid

2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid

6. Tie 34 MPG – Nissan Rogue Hybrid/Toyota RAV4 Hybrid In case there was any question about the competitive nature of the automotive market, these two models should settle the debate. Locked into a battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of the hot compact class of crossover, both companies have added hybrid systems to their hot-selling small SUVs. Its working as both effortlessly deliver stellar fuel economy a the no-fuss hybrid system that makes most of the decisions for the driver. The market loves them, too, (in hybrid and non-hybrid mode) as in early 2017 both models are among the top-selling models in the U.S. We tested both here, here and here.

8. Tie 33 MPG – Lexus NX 300h – A new entry takes a top spot as Toyota fields a hybrid version of the RAV4 with a Lexus badge. The fuel economy numbers are for city driving. As is typical of hybrids, it gives you more MPG around town than out on the highway (31 highway and 33 combined). These numbers are for the two-wheel-drive version; moving all four wheels knocks off one or two MPG. We tested it when it first came out and found it a competent machine.

2105 Lexus,NX 300h,fuel economy,mpg

Lexus NX 300h

8. Tie 33 MPG – Honda CR-V Honda’s best-selling crossover tops 30 MPG with all-wheel-drive on board. We’ve driven this compact utility several times and find it a real winner in its class, coming in only a shade below hybridized versions of its competition. Since it isn’t a hybrid or plug-in hybrid, it also has an edge in affortability.

8. Tie 33 MPG – Jaguar F-Pace – It’s highly unusual for a Jaguar to show up on the best-MPG list, but the F-Pace is something a little different. Jaguar added an efficient clean diesel engine to bump its fuel economy into the range of usually more efficient but smaller crossovers. We’ve experienced the engine in a sedan and believe it should deliver some solid performance for this new entry.

8. Tie 33 MPG – Subaru XV CrosstrekSubaru continues to test the market with vehicles that depart from its typical cars. The Crosstrek has a 2-liter version of the traditional (for Subaru) horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine producing 148 horsepower when paired with the CVT automatic. It bumps up the MPG of the popular Crosstrek.

Just missing the Top 10 mpg mark are a half-dozen models

Not that long ago 30 mpg for an all-wheel-drive vehicles was unheard of. As you can see above, it is quickly becoming the ticket of entry in this class of vehicles. The variety of models is astounding and the range of features runs the gamut from affordable small crossovers to SUVs capable of carrying more than a family of four and taking the group well off the highway.

We used the federal fuel economy numbers from the EPA at  to rank these models. Lurking just below the Top 10 (which of course is actually 11  models) are a variety of vary capable cars, all of which come in 4WD with a variety of engine options. Ones to check out are the Mazda CX-3, Lexus RX 450h Hybrid, Honda HR-V, Nissan Murano Hybrid, Buick Encore, Subaru Forester, Mercedes-Benz GLA250, Infiniti QX30, Subaru Outback, Audi Q5 Hybrid, Chevrolet Trax, BMW X1 xDrive, Jeep Renegade and Toyota Highlander Hybrid for some other 30+ MPG cars. The variety has never been greater.

And coming soon:

The onslaught of new models focused on fuel efficiency will continue as automakers strive to reach fuel economy and greenhouse gas targets set by governments around the world. Models announced, but not yet introduced include plug-in versions of several more BMW and Mercedes SUVs. We’ve also been waiting for the U.S. introduction of the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid, which is already on the market in Japan and Europe. It’s expected to have 20-25 miles of all-electric range and could turn in mpge (mileage factoring in the electric range) well above 50.

Other similar stories you might enjoy:

First Drive: 2017 Tesla Model X

Road Test: 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e

Road Test: 2016 Volvo XC90 PHEV

Road Test: 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid

Road Test: 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Road Test: 2015 Lexus NX 300h

Road Test: 2016 Honda CR-V

Road Test: 2013 Subaru Crosstrek

 

 

News: 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

News: 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

What Took You So Long, Toyota?

Gee, Toyota, you introduced that little thing you called RAV4 to the U.S. in 1995. It ushered in what we now call a crossover vehicle—the combining of some of the attributes of a sport-utility

Toyota, RAV4,cute ute,crossover

The original cute ute

vehicle with the underpinnings of an automobile.

Of course we didn’t know then it was a crossover vehicle, so we just called it a “cute ute.” The three-door version was especially cute.

Then, four years later you brought us a not so cute, but very fuel efficient, little car called the Prius. It ushered in the gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain that, by the way, confused a lot of folks at

first.

Of course people aren’t confused any more. There are more than 30 hybrid models sold in 90 world markets bearing either the Toyota or Lexus names and sales have exceeded eight million globally.

What’s interesting is, none of the eight-plus million hybrid vehicles sold have a RAV4 badge. After all, Ford sold an Escape Hybrid crossover along with its Mercury Mariner Hybrid sibling from 2005 to 2011 with some 200,000 finding driveways.

So Toyota, have you ever wondered how many RAV4 Hybrids you might have sold if you brought it out say 10, or even five years ago?

Finally, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Is Here

2016 toyota,RAV4,Hybrid,mpg

2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

We probably won’t find out the answer to our headline’s question, but we do know the 2016 RAV4 Hybrid has just arrived at dealer showrooms, and it looks like a good one. It was previewed when the Lexus NX 300h Hybrid hit down last year.

There are two model offerings, both with standard all-wheel drive. First is the XLE that starts at $29,270, including a $900 destination charge. The uplevel Limited is priced starting at $34,510. Both are priced just $700 more than their equivalent gasoline-powered RAV4s. That snuffs the argument that hybrids are priced thousands more than standard vehicles.

As for fuel economy, the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid receives an EPA rating of 34 mpg city/ 31 mpg highway/ 33 mpg combined for both models. That’s nearly 33 percent better than the all-wheel drive gas model’s 25 mpg combined rating.

With the average price of gasoline around $2.21 per gallon, it would only take most drivers three to four months to make up the $700 difference between the RAV4 Hybrid and the gasoline-only RAV4.

Proven, Familiar Hybrid Drivetrain

The 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid uses Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, a system similar to those in the Camry Hybrid, Lexus ES 300 and the Lexus NX 300h small luxury crossover. That means a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gas engine is combined with a small high-torque electric motor through the powersplit transaxle. An additional rear-mounted electric motor provides all-wheel drive capability.

This provides a pretty good jolt of performance with a combined 194 system horsepower and 206 pound-feet of torque, which is good for a 0 to 60 mph run in 8.1 seconds — about a second quicker than gas-powered RAV4 models. The system varies power between the gas engine and electric motor, or combines both as needed, all seamlessly.

Regenerative braking changes the electric motor to a generator that captures the kinetic energy when the brake is applied, storing it in a small nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) hybrid battery pack. Toyota says the hybrid can travel on electricity only for about a mile at a speed of 25 mph.

Updated Outside And Inside

2016 Toyota,RAV4 Hybrid,mpg,interior

A new interior as well

Accompanying the arrival of the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is a refresh for the compact crossover. The front looks sharper with a redesigned grille, thinner LED headlamps and restyled bumper. New rocker panels sharpen the sides and tie in the front and rear bumpers for a more flowing profile. Available LED taillights add a nice touch to the backside.

Inside changes are minimal: revised cupholders allow for mugs with larger handles, lower center console LED lights, a new sunglass holder and a 12-volt outlet for rear passengers. A hybrid specific display within the 4.2-inch TFT gauge-cluster screen shows fuel consumption and the status of the hybrid powertrain.

The RAV4 Hybrid is one of the first models to offer the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) new multi-feature advanced safety package, standard on the Limited, available on the XLE. It bundles forward-collision warning, a pedestrian pre-collision system, lane-departure alert, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams.

In addition to TSS, the XLE features a standard Blind Spot Mirror and the Limited has a standard Blind Spot Monitor with rear cross traffic alert. Optional on both trim levels is a new Perimeter Scan 360-degree camera system that uses a surround-view camera system to see potential obstacles.

2016,toyota, RAV4 Hybrid,mpg,fuel economy

Hybrid technology finally reaches the compact ute

Toyota’s Entune Audio system features a 6.1-inch touchscreen, AM/FM/CD, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, a USB jack and Siri Eyes Free.

Final Word

This might seem to be an inauspicious time to introduce a new hybrid. Sales of hybrid vehicles were down 14 percent in 2014, they’re down nearly 16 percent in 2015 and the national average price for gasoline is $2.21 per gallon.

But in case you haven’t noticed, that gasoline price has increased a couple of cents in the past week and is expected to edge up some more in the coming weeks. In other words, that makes the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid’s value proposition a little more enticing.

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