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Alfa Romeo Tonal rear view.

Alfa Romeo, one of Italy’s legendary performance brands, returned to the U.S. market in 2006 to reassert its Italian heritage with the sporty 4C. Since then, the Guilia coupe and Stelvio SUV have done an admirable job relaunching the brand.

The newest Alfa, the Tonale luxury subcompact SUV, speaks to buyers here that overwhelmingly skew toward crossover and SUV models. The Tonale, with its performance styling, advanced engine/battery technology, all-wheel drive, and high levels of utility, offers a combination that has never before been available in an Alfa Romeo.

Alfa Romeo Tonale plug-in hybrid engine.

First Alfa Romeo PHEV

Tonale is not only Alfa’s first hybrid powered car of any kind, but also its first plug-in vehicle. When fully charged – which takes somewhere under three hours with a Level 2 charger – the Tonale will deliver an EPA estimated range of 33 miles on battery power alone. With a combined average rating of 29 mpg and 77 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) on electric power, total range on both gas and electric power brings about 360 miles of driving.

Green Car Journal editors' recent time behind the wheel of a Tonale allowed experiencing how this sporty and efficient Alfa performs on the open road and while negotiating the meandering, twisty canyons of California's Central Coast. As with all Alfa Romeos, performance is expected, and in this case delivered via Tonale’s 1.3-liter MultiAir turbocharged four-cylinder engine that provides 180 horsepower to the front axle. The rear axle is separately powered by a 121 horsepower electric motor generating 184 lb-ft torque. The sum of all this is a best-in-class power rating of 285 hp and 347 lb-ft. torque, all in. A 15.5 kWh lithium-ion battery provides power for the electric drive system. An integrated high-voltage belt starter-generator mounts to the engine to assist in delivering smoother drive cycle transitions and start-stop capability. Notably, at times we found the Tonale delivering slightly more than its rated 33 mile battery electric range.

Alfa Romeo Tonale is High Tech

The Tonale sports a host of family friendly features that allow this stylish Alfa to hold lots of things, as SUVs are required to do. Along with the ability to transport your stuff, the Tonale’s standard content is also quite high. Among its many systems are Adaptive Cruise Control, Intelligent Speed Assist, Blind Spot and Rear Cross Path Alert, Lane Departure and Lane Keep Assist, and Forward Collision Warning with Automatic Emergency Braking for pedestrians. Yep, they are all there. Level 2 autonomy with Traffic Jam Assist is also available, as is an optional 360-degree camera system.

Three versions of the Tonale are available, starting with the Sprint edition, then the Ti, and finally the high end Veloce version that we drove. All three feature an excellent Uconnect 5 system with information displayed through a 10.25- inch center-mounted touch screen and a 12.3-inch drivers’ dashboard screen. Each screen can be customized by the driver to display the data most desired. In addition, an on board Alexa system allows connecting to the vehicle via voice commands – no inputs necessary.

Alfa Romeo Tonale interior.

Style Defines Alfa Romeo Tonale

The Tonale is one of the best looking subcompact SUVs on the market with its exceptional style and signature Alfa Romeo grille set into the surrounding bodywork. Its sculpted side profile flows past cool alloy wheels and is pure Italian. An elegant interior continues to delight, with a blend of brushed aluminum and suede-like seat upholstery. The stamp of Alfa approval adorns each seat back – very cool.

Alfa Romeo’s Tonale is covered by a four year/50,000 mile limited warranty with a full powertrain warranty for the same length of time. Pricing for the base Tonale Sprint is $43,845 with the Ti coming in at $46,500 and the Veloce $51,040. The Tonale Veloce we drove, with its extras and destination charge, featured an as-tested price of $57,290.

Jeep Grand Cherokee front end.

Jeep is on a roll. This enduring brand, symbolically aligned with the American persona due to its rich history here, is certainly getting it right. Long popular with those seeking on- and off-road capabilities and the rugged image that comes with that, there’s a Jeep model to fit diverse desires and needs. The Jeep Grand Cherokee, introduced in its fifth generation in 2021, is at the luxe side of the spectrum.

Beyond the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s obvious benefits for families – roominess, high functionality, desirable features, and style – this full-size SUV offers something that’s increasingly important to a great many new car buyers today: electrification. This comes in the form of the Grand Cherokee 4xe model, a plug-in hybrid offering efficient hybrid operation as well as the ability to plug in, the latter capability enabling 25 miles of zero-emission, on- and off-road driving on battery power at the flick of a switch.

Plug-in charging port in Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe.

Best-Selling PHEV

We’ve noted Jeep’s interest in electrification for some time as part of Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep electric concept vehicle explorations, most notably back in 2008. Jeep started its modern electrification push with the ever-popular Wrangler, introducing the Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid variant in the 2021 model year. By 2022, this model laid claim to being the best-selling plug-in hybrid in North America. That’s saying a lot given the wide array of PHEVs now available to consumers.

The electrified Grand Cherokee 4xe is the expected, and welcome, follow up. Sporting an appealing and sophisticated design, the Grand Cherokee 4xe features distinctive Jeep styling cues, low-silhouette headlights and taillights, a handy roof rack, and angular, metal-trimmed through-the-bumper exhaust. Blue front tow hooks are exclusive to the 4xe model, as is a chargeport found at the driver’s side front fender.

Rancho-Guadalupe Dunes Preserve sign.

Jeep Grand Cherokee on the Road

We recently had the opportunity to take a road trip in Jeep’s electrified Grand Cherokee 4xe, which included a fascinating visit to the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge on California’s Central Coast. Our time behind the wheel illustrated why this is such a popular model. The ride is comfortable and performance solid, with all the acceleration you need delivered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder engine and a pair of electric motors. Together, this package delivers an abundant 375 hp and 470 lb-ft torque that’s delivered to the road via a TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission. Energy is provided by a temperature controlled 17 kWh lithium-ion battery pack packaged beneath the vehicle’s floor and protected by skid plates.

Driving modes are selectable on a panel at the lower left of the steering column – Hybrid, Electric, and e-Save. The first enables driving in gas-electric hybrid mode using both the combustion engine and electric motors. Electric mode uses motor-battery propulsion exclusively for zero-emission driving. The e-Save function allows running without any use of battery power, allowing a driver to save maximum energy for all-electric driving in desired areas, such as on trails. The Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system features controls on the center console that allow optimizing driving characteristics with selections for Sport, Rock, Snow, Mud/Sand, and Auto. Hill Descent Control and 4WD Low are also selectable on the center console. Shifting to Park, Reverse, Neutral, and Drive is handled with a rotary dial.

Driving mode selections in Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe.

Trail Rated Jeep PHEV

We drove mostly in hybrid drive during our trip, though we did spend time driving exclusively in electric mode when we had the ability to charge up during our journey. Both deliver all the acceleration you really need. Overall efficiency while driving in conventional mode is pegged at a combined city/highway 23 mpg by EPA. Driving exclusively on battery power nets a 56 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) combined rating, all the while running emissions-free.

Though we didn’t do serious off-roading during our journey or tow any toys along with us, this vehicle’s capabilities in these areas are considerable. The Trail Rated Grand Cherokee 4xe features Jeep’s Quadra Trac II 4x4 system with two-speed transfer case, up to 10.9 inches of ground clearance, and is capable of towing up to 6,000 pounds. This electrified Jeep can also ford up to 24 inches of water without issue since all high-voltages electronics are sealed and waterproof.

Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe on road.

Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Interior

During our drive, we really came to appreciate this Jeep’s accommodating interior and thoughtful appointments. The automaker’s latest Uconnect 5 infotainment system is integrated, along with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Driver information, system controls, and entertainment functions are displayed on three digital display screens. The far-right screen, which can be turned on and off with a dash-mounted switch, offers the right-seat passenger digital entertainment, co-pilot and navigation assistance, and camera viewing. Found at the front of the center console are USB and USB-C ports, a port for 12-volt DC accessories, and an HTML port.

Seats are upholstered in handsome gray leather with contrast stitching, a luxury-oriented theme carried throughout the interior with leather-trimmed door panels, center console, dashboard, and steering wheel. Sophisticated gray wood accents on the dash and door panels a stylish touch. Front seats are nicely bolstered for support and comfort.

Accommodating Third Row Seats

Seating in in the rear of this full-size SUV is quite accommodating, affording plenty of legroom and headroom. Rear seating features a center fold-down armrest with drink holders, plus 60/40 split seatback functionality to enhance rear cargo-carrying capacity. Rear side windows offer lift up sunshades, a nice touch. Back seat passengers are provided controls at the rear of the center console for their own seat heaters, a display with controls for heating and air conditioning, and registers for directing airflow as needed. Below that is a 115 volt, 150 watt AC plug for a computer or other devices that use standard household current. Also found here are USB and mini USB ports for mobile devices.

Of course, advanced driver assist systems are part of the package. The Grand Cherokee 4xe includes standard adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane departure warning with active lane keep assist, full-speed collision warning with active braking, intersection collision assist, and much more. Beyond the daily convenience afforded by a rear back-up camera, rear park assist sensors, and a 360-degree surround view camera system, there’s also parallel and perpendicular park assist to make any kind of parking situation easier.

Display screen in Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe.

Electric Drive is Handy

High levels of comfort, expansive connectivity, and confident driving are delivered in good measure by the Grand Cherokee 4xe. The fact that this is also a plug-in hybrid with 25 all-electric miles at the ready for our usual daily drives is a resounding plus.

We have many years of experience living with different plug-in hybrid models, and have found that our trips to gas stations are infrequent and our around-town driving handled almost exclusively on battery power. That is, until another road trip beckons and we head off with confidence knowing will be driving largely on hybrid power, with no charging stops needed unless they are convenient and fit into our schedule. This was our experience with the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe and we just wish it were staying longer in our care.

Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe second row seating.

2022 Hyundai Tucson plug-in hybrid on highway.

The Hyundai Tucson has long been a popular choice for those desiring the functionality of a crossover SUV at a reasonable price. Making the case even stronger now is an expanded list of Tucson offerings highlighted by plug-in hybrid and enthusiast-oriented N Line models that have joined the line’s gas-powered and electric hybrid variants.

Conventionally-powered Tucsons are equipped with a 2.5-liter engine delivering 180 hp and 195 lb-ft torque, delivering 26 city/33 highway mpg. PHEV and hybrid Tucson models share a 1.6-liter, turbocharged and direct-injected inline four-cylinder gas engine. These are equipped with Hyundai’s Continuously Variable Valve Duration technology that optimizes valve opening duration to improve power, efficiency, and emissions. The hybrid gets a 59 horsepower electric motor and 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery that brings 226 total system horsepower and up to 38 city/38 highway mpg.

2022 Hyundai Tucson PHEV charging.

PHEV Has Bigger Battery, More Power

With the addition of the plug-in hybrid’s 90 hp electric motor and a larger 13.8 kWh lithium-ion battery, total system horsepower increases to 261 hp and 258 lb-ft torque. EPA rates the Tucson PHEV’s electric-only range at 33 miles and fuel economy at 80 MPGe, with a 35 mpg combined city/highway mpg rating running on gasoline. Hyundai says the model’s onboard 7.2 kW charger will allow charging the battery in less than two hours when connected to a 220-volt Level 2 charger.

The remainder of the Tucson PHEV’s drivetrain consists of a six-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and a standard HTRAC AWD system with selectable drive modes. All Tucson models, including the PHEV, have a maximum tow rating of 2,000 pounds. The PHEV’s curb weight is a few hundred pounds higher than the conventional and hybrid models, so its payload capacity is commensurately less, rated at 1,012 pounds for SEL models and 1,166 pounds for Limited versions.

2022 Hyundai Tucson PHEV front end detail.

A Better-Driving Hyundai Tucson

A higher level of driving dynamics is delivered to match the Tucson’s sporty new exterior design. The AWD PHEV and hybrid models are built with Hyundai’s e-handling technology that, under certain road conditions and driving inputs, applies an incremental amount of electric motor torque to the wheels. This enables the e-handling system to affect vehicle weight transfer – and therefore the tire’s contact patch – to improve cornering.

Tucson models are equipped with a number of safety technologies as part of Hyundai’s SmartSense Safety Feature suite. Standard safety features on both the SEL and Limited models of the Tucson PHEV include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane-Keeping Assist, Driver-Attention Warning, and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist. Limited models add such features as blind-view and surround-view monitors and Remote Smart Parking Assist.

2022 Hyundai Tucson PHEV interior.

Hyundai Tucson Tech

The Tucson PHEV’s interior amenities vary depending on model. Both SEL and Limited are equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities and have USB charging points for front and rear passengers. Stepping up to the Limited adds a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch color touchscreen (SEL has an 8-inch screen), a Bose premium sound system, and wireless device charging.

Prices start at $25,800 for the standard 2.5-liter powered Tucson with the hybrid coming in at $29,750 and the plug-in hybrid $35,400.

Alfa Romeo Tonale driving.

The all-new Tonale is a big deal for Italy’s Alfa Romeo. This automaker has been around the block – and the track – for some 110 years now, but we understand if Alfa Romeo is a name that’s escaped your new car shopping list. This storied brand offers intriguing style, a sporting nature, and the kind of attractive Italian design that calls for a second glance as one passes by. It’s just that Alfa Romeos don’t pass by nearly as often as, say, other mainstream European brands like Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Volkswagen, or even MINI. British and especially German brands are ubiquitous on our highways. But Italian cars? Not so much in the scheme of things.

That isn’t to say that Stellantis, parent company of the Italian Fiat, Maserati, and Alfa Romeo brands, wouldn’t like to change that, especially when it comes to its hopefully rising star Alfa Romeo here in the States. It’s just that this nameplate isn’t ingrained in the American psyche like Stellantis’ indigenous-to-the-U.S. brands Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and RAM. So, Alfa Romeo sells in quite small numbers here relative to most of its European competitors.

Alfa Romeo Tonale crossover SUV.

There’s change in the wind. Alfa Romeo’s champion for an evolving auto market is its all-new 2023 Tonale, a compact all-wheel drive crossover SUV that expands the brand’s offerings here in a most important way. SUVs are huge sellers these days because of their desirable functionality and style. Compact crossover SUVs in particular are top-of-mind with buyers as fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions play a larger part in the decision making process. Add to that the availability of a plug-in hybrid powerplant – a first for Alfa Romeo – and things really start to get interesting.

The All-New Tonale

The Tonale is a statement of high-fashion Italian design, perhaps not unexpected from a company born in Milan, Italy’s hub of fashion and industry. Attention to the senses pervades this SUV. The model is eye-appealing with its fluid, aggressive, and sensuous lines that take the expected compact SUV form and add artistic depth, contour, and flair. Of course, its distinctive nose features the marque’s signature, shield-like ‘scudetto’ grille that’s been integral to Alfa Romeo since its 1948 models. This grille is accented by a pair of horizontal grilles below and flanked by a three-LED headlight design at either side. Wrap-around taillights deliver an appealing look at the rear. Capping this off are very distinctive alloy wheels that further the aggressively stylish persona of this new model.

Inside is a driver-focused cabin finished in leather and Alcantara suede accented by aluminum trim. The black Alcantara on the well-bolstered seats integrates laser-drilled holes with red backing and contrast stitching to enhance the interior’s sporty and high-end look. Leather headrests are accented with contrast red stitching and red Alfa Romeo logos.

Drivers will appreciate the Tonale’s readily accessible controls on the instrument panel, center console, center display, and steering wheel, the latter also offering available aluminum shift paddles. Driver information is presented on a 12.3-inch instrument cluster screen ahead of the driver and a 10.5-inch center touchscreen display with Uconnect 5 infotainment features. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, and over-the-air update functionality come as a matter of course.

Advanced electronics is part of the package, as expected. Among the most desirable driver assist systems are standard  adaptive cruise control, intelligent speed assist, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist, with Level 2 autonomous driving and traffic jam assist available. Also standard are safety and convenience features including blind spot and rear cross path detection, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and traffic sign recognition.

Two Engines, Including a Plug-In

This Alfa’s base powerplant is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that’s said to provide best-in-class standard horsepower, delivering 256 horsepower and 295 lb-ft torque. It connects to a nine-speed automatic transmission. As is the case with many combustion powerplants today, engine stop-start technology is integrated to increase efficiency, though we don’t yet know what that fuel efficiency number will be. It connects to a nine-speed automatic transmission.

The big news is the Tonale’s plug-in hybrid powertrain that reportedly makes it the most efficient crossover PHEV in the segment. This hybrid system uses a 180 horsepower, 1.3-liter MultiAir four-cylinder turbo and high-voltage belt starter-generator to power the front wheels. Power at the rear axle is provided by a 121 horsepower electric motor that ups the ante to 272 total system horsepower for expected levels of performance. This power is delivered to the road via a six-speed automatic transmission. Both plug-in hybrid and conventionally powered Tonales offers standard Q4 all-wheel drive.

Tonale’s plug-in hybrid drivetrain is energized by a 15.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack the maker says is good for a 30 mile all-electric driving range. After that, as battery power wanes, the Tonale reverts to its efficient hybrid drive. Three selectable driving modes – dual power/dynamic, natural, and advanced efficiency – are offered to tailor the driving experience via a DNA control. ‘Dual power’ is the performance mode, with both the motor and combustion engine providing maximum power. The ‘natural’ selection optimizes efficiency and driving performance with a balance of electric and mechanical power. All-electric driving, with variable range depending on current battery state-of-charge, is delivered with the ‘advanced efficiency’ mode.

Alfa Romeo’s new Tonale will be offered in base-level Sprint, uplevel Ti, and more sport- and luxury-oriented Veloce trim levels. While cost has yet to be disclosed, the aim is to be priced competitively in its compact crossover segment, which means a likely entry point in the mid-$30,000 range, rising to perhaps $50,000 or so for the top-of-the-line Veloce. We’ll know more as the model gets closer to its official launch expected late this year.

Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe at trailhead charging station,

While Jeep’s all-new Grand Cherokee is offered with 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and 5.7-liter V-8 engines, it’s the 4xe plug-in hybrid that really has our attention. The 4xe drivetrain is like that in the Jeep Wrangler 4xe introduced last year, which combines two electric motors, a 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injected I-4 gasoline engine, and a 400-volt, 17-kWh battery pack.

In Grand Cherokee 4xe, one motor replaces the conventional alternator and is used to power the engine’s start/stop functions and charge the battery. The second motor replaces the torque converter in the TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic transmission. Clutches control the power flow from this motor generator, enabling either pure electric power or a combination of torque from the motor and engine. In total, the system produces 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft peak torque. Jeep is estimating an all-electric range of 25 miles, 57 MPGe fuel economy, and a total range of more than 440 miles. Towing capacity is rated at 6,000 pounds, a little lower than the 6,200-pound capacity of the V-6-powered 2021 Grand Cherokee.

Jeep Grand Cherokee off-roading.

Three Driving Modes for this Jeep

Three different E Selec modes allow the driver to tailor the powertrain’s output to suit trip conditions. Hybrid mode combines torque from the motor and engine. Electric mode is used for pure electric propulsion until the battery reaches minimum charge or the driver demands more torque – while passing, for example – which engages the engine. When saving battery power for trail or inner-city driving is desired, eSave mode can be selected so the Grand Cherokee 4x3 runs on engine power only.

The Grand Cherokee has a long history of winning awards for its off-roading capability, and Jeep plans to maintain that legacy with the 4xe. Limited and Overland models are equipped with Jeep’s Quadra-Trac II drive system, with a two-speed transfer case and 2.72:1 low range ratio. Trailhawk and Summit models have the Quadra-Drive II system, which adds an electronic limited-slip differential in the rear axle. The Selec-Terrain traction management system, standard on all 4xe trim levels, offers five selectable terrain modes and modifies 4x4 torque split, throttle control, brake and steering response, the suspension system, and stability and ABS systems to suit those circumstances.

Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe interior.

Jeep’s Quadra-Lift air suspension system, standard on all but the Limited model, can raise the Grand Cherokee up to 11.3 inches for greater ground clearance and automatically adjusts shock tuning for road or trail conditions. Skid plates protect the batteries mounted under the floor. High-voltage electronics are sealed and waterproof, enabling the 4xe to ford water up to 2 feet deep. Jeep has already tested the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk on California’s legendary Rubicon Trail, where it made the rocky Sierra Nevada crossing on electric power alone.

Rugged But Civil Off-Roader

What makes the Grand Cherokee truly ‘grand,’ though, is its combination of rugged capability and civilized amenities. The 2022 version is “the most technically advanced Grand Cherokee ever,” says Jeep, with more than 110 safety and security systems that range from adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring to an available night-vision camera with pedestrian and animal detection. A new Active Driving Assist program allows Level II automated driving.

Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe center display.

The Grand Cherokee is also equipped with Jeep’s fifth-generation Uconnect5 infotainment system, which can be linked with up to three 10.1-inch and two 10.25-inch digital displays in the cabin. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability are built in, as is Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant and Fire TV. Video content can be streamed via an in-vehicle 4G Wi-Fi hot spot or a mobile device hot spot, or it can be downloaded and played without connectivity thanks to storage capacity in each rear high-definition display.

Jeep says its Grand Cherokee will arrive at dealerships later this year with the plug-in 4xe coming early in 2022.

The Santa Fe’s new plug-in hybrid powerplant comes a year after the all-new generation 2021 model saw its first hybrid option. Hybrid power was just one of many important upgrades for this five-passenger, mid-size sport utility vehicle last year. Along with its bold new look, Santa Fe gained upgraded electronics, additional driver-assist systems, and two new efficient 2.5-liter/2.5-liter turbo engines plus the efficient 1.6-liter hybrid.

Augmenting the standard hybrid’s 1.6-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder turbo engine and 90 horsepower electric motor is this year’s PHEV’s plug-in capability and larger battery pack. Power is transferred to the wheels through a smooth-shifting six speed automatic transmission. Electrical power is stored in a 12.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which should provide enough juice to propel the Santa Fe up to 30 miles in pure electric mode.

Available in SEL Convenience and Limited trim levels, Santa Fe is a right-sized package measuring in at 188 inches in overall length and 74 inches tall, riding on a 108.8 inch wheelbase. The Santa Fe PHEV is sure-footed for all-weather duty courtesy of Hyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel-drive system complemented by four drive modes.

Its interior features large digital touchscreens including a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster display, an 8-inch audio display, and a widescreen 10.25-inch navigation display. Wireless device charging, smart phone integration, and BlueLink are provided. Leather upholstery and ventilated front seats are standard equipment. The Santa Fe features multiple cameras positioned around the vehicle to give the driver a better view of surrounding conditions and obstacles. The front camera also serves to provide forward collision avoidance and active cruise control functionality.

For added convenience, Santa Fe PHEV has a self-parking function and cross-traffic backup alert. Hyundai calls this safety suite Reverse Parking Collision Avoidance Assist, or PCA for short. It will warn the driver if a collision risk is detected while backing up under challenging conditions, such as reversing out of a driveway into cross traffic.

Model-specific styling helps the PHEV variant stand out with a bold and aggressive grille treatment, 19 inch alloy wheels, and a panoramic sunroof. Initially, Santa Fe PHEV will be available in eleven states including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Expect a MSRP of $40,535  for the SEL model and $46,545 in Limited trim.

The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan.

Clearly, Chrysler’s original minivans had a great run, and for good reason. All were based on the same platform featuring a low floor and an overall design that allowed the ability to park in a typical garage. Plus, they drove like cars and not trucks due to their passenger car-like construction. Offering different flavors of the minivan under the Dodge, Plymouth, and Chrysler brands – with varying levels of sophistication – was a smart move as well. But alas, change is inevitable even within notable success stories. Enter the Pacifica Hybrid.

The company’s sixth-generation minivan broke new ground in 2017 as the Chrysler Pacifica replaced the Town & Country. Featuring an exciting new design on an all-new platform, among its many innovations was the inclusion of the Pacifica Hybrid variant, the first and only plug-in hybrid minivan in the U.S. market to this day.

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan driving.

Pacifica Hybrid Gets a Refresh

Four years later, the Pacifica Hybrid now features a redesign with deeper sculpting and sport-utility influences. It’s available in Touring, Touring L, Limited, and Pinnacle iterations, all powered by a 3.6-liter Atkinson V-6 engine mated with electric motors and a nine-speed electrically variable transmission.

This transmission incorporates two electric motors that drive the front wheels via a clutch, rather than using just one motor for propulsion and the other for regenerative braking. The one-way clutch is located on the input side of the transmission and the output shaft of the motor. This one-way clutch enables power from both ‘A’ and ‘B’ motors to act in parallel, delivering the full torque of both motors to the wheels. The system provides a combined 260 horsepower. All Pacifica Hybrid models feature front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive available on the Touring L model.

Interior of Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan.

Energizing the electric drive system is a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack comprised of six 16-cell modules. The pack is located under the second row of seats. The benefit of this battery placement is that it doesn’t infringe on interior space, so cargo-carrying capacity is not sacrificed. The battery pack provides 32 miles of battery electric range and charging to full capacity can be done in two hours using a 240-volt charger. Total hybrid driving range is 520 miles.

Features Enhancing Family Safety

A suite of driver assistance systems is available either as standard or optional equipment, depending on trim level. Among these are a 360° Surround View Camera, Rear View Camera, Full-Speed Forward Collision Warning with Active Braking, Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Monitor, Adaptive Cruise Control, Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist, and Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist. 

Rear passenger monitoring in the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.

Pacifica Hybrid’s Uconnect 4 system comes with a standard 7-inch or optional 8.4-inch touchscreen, standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and available 4G Wi-Fi. Uconnect 4 with the 8.4-inch touchscreen displays vehicle performance, power flow, driving history, and adjusts charging schedules for less expensive off-peak hours.

The conventionally-powered Pacifica minivan offers a base price of $35,045, while the Pacifica Hybrid starts at $39,995 for the Touring L model and travels upward to $50,845 for the Pinnacle edition.

Power diagram for the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.

The efficient plug-in hybrid variant of BMW’s third-generation X3 premium compact crossover, the X3 xDrive30e shares drivetrain components, technology, and driving characteristics with the automaker’s 330e plug-in sports sedan. Manufactured in Spartanburg  North Carolina on BMW’s refreshed cluster architecture (CLAR) platform, the X3 x30e PHEV blends the efficiency of a hybrid powertrain, super low emissions, and instantaneous low to midrange torque for a spirited drive experience.

Motivation comes from BMW’s 2.0-liter direct injected, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine paired with a 107 horsepower electric motor. The result is 288 total combined horsepower and 310 lb-ft torque that provides a zero to 60 mpg sprint in 5.9 seconds. Fuel efficiency is EPA rated at 60 MPGe while driving on battery power, with a combined city/highway rating of 24 mpg on gasoline. It features an overall driving range of 340 miles on 13.2 gallons of gas plus 18 miles on battery power.

A frame-cradled, air-cooled 12.0 kWh lithium-ion battery supplies energy to the motor. Charging is via an on-board 3.7 kWh charger. Charge time is 3.5 to 6 hours depending on source. Gear shifting is delegated to the time-tested ZF 8-speed Sport Automatic transmission featuring sport and manual shift modes, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and launch control. All-weather traction is enabled by BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive.

The 5-passenger compact SUV features a driver-centric cockpit layout with premium materials like Sensatec upholstery, dark oak wood trim inlays, and quality hard and soft touch surfaces. Front seats feature 10-way power adjustment, with the rear offering 40/20/40 split and fold-down functionality with adjustable seat backs for passenger comfort. A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch center information display provide information and controls, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

Standard equipment includes ‘smart key’ recognition and personal settings memory, a futuristic yet comprehensive electric drive monitor, remaining electric-only range minder, and navigation-controlled chassis efficiency monitoring. The latest in driver assist and active safety technology is offered. Rounding out this very comprehensive package are voice-activated commands, integrated navigation, optional 360-degree surround camera, premium audio, and automatic three-zone climate control. A two-way power glass moonroof is optional.

All this comes at a base price of $49,600, about $6,600 more than the conventionally-powered X3 xDrive 30i.

The Q5 is offered in three models, two of which combine electrification with Audi’s 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder turbocharged engine. The Q5 55 TFSI e plug-in hybrid positions an electric motor between the engine and seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission to produce a total of 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft torque, and earn an EPA rating of 50 MPGe. Those output numbers rival the 3.0-liter, 349-horsepower TFSI V-6 in the range-topping SQ5. The Q5 45 is powered by a new, mild-hybrid variant of the TFSI engine that produces 261 horsepower and 273 lb-ft torque.

Audi is marketing the Q5 TFSI e as part of a ‘Plug-in Trifecta’ for 2021, with its A7 and A8 sedans also available with TFSI PHEV powertrains. These additions move Audi closer to its goal to electrify 30 percent of its U.S. model lineup by 2025.

The Q5 TFSI e can be operated in all-electric, hybrid, and battery-hold modes. A 14.1 kWh battery pack, located under the rear cargo area, enables the Q5 to travel up to 19 miles on electric power alone, according to EPA estimates. Audi says the battery can fully charge in 2.4 hours when plugged into a 240-volt charger. The maker also engineered the battery to act as a source of heat for the Q5’s cabin via a heat pump integrated into the pack.

A standard feature aboard the PHEV Audis is Predictive Efficiency Assist, which is designed to increase the energy regenerated under braking when the vehicle is rolling downhill or approaching a slower-moving vehicle. When the Q5 is equipped with optional satellite navigation, additional input is factored into the energy regeneration, including road curves, speed limits, a the road’s vertical profile. The system prompts the driver, via feedback from the accelerator pedal and a signal in the head-up display, to let up on the accelerator to take advantage of as much kinetic energy as possible.

External cues that set off the TFSI e from other Q5 models are subtle. The plug-in hybrid is equipped with S Line exterior trim, including a honeycomb version of the automaker’s Singleframe’ grille and more aggressive front and rear diffusers. It rolls on standard 19.5-inch double-spoke-star wheels or optional 20-inch, 10-spoke wheels. An optional Sport Plus package combines the 20-inch wheels with adaptive air suspension.

The Audi Q5 TFSI e plug-in hybrid comes at a base price of $52,900, just over $9,000 more than the conventionally-powered Q5.

It’s no secret why the RAV4 is such a global hit. Beyond its obvious style, this is a model that carries a lot of gear, gets excellent fuel economy, and exhibits the traditional high standards for fit and finish found with Toyota products. What’s not to like? Toyota's latest variation, the RAV4 Prime, brings a plug-in hybrid variant to the model that adds to its appeal with 42 miles of all-electric driving range and 600 miles of total range.

RAV4 Prime is powered by the automaker’s 177 horsepower, four-cylinder DOHC engine and a pair of electric motors, one at the front and another at the rear, for on-demand four-wheel drive. Total combined power is a stunning 302 horsepower, which Toyota points out makes it the second-fastest car in its lineup behind the marque’s Supra sports car.

Available in two models, SE and XSE, RAV4 Prime combines lessons learned with Toyota’s other hybrid success stories like the groundbreaking Prius. While many competitors have focused on moving toward all electric power, Toyota has opted to focus on refining hybrid technology to motivate its electrified models. The RAV4 Prime presents an excellent example: Simply, it’s a popular and appealing plug-in crossover SUV offering on- and off-road capability with exceptional drivability, handling, and performance.

There’s a wealth of technology at work beneath the skin in the RAV4 Prime that makes it not only powerful, but exceptionally functional and efficient. Its 18.1 kWh battery is positioned beneath the floor, so it doesn’t impact interior and cargo space. Beyond its truly usable all-electric driving range, the RAV4 also delivers a 94 MPGe rating while operating on battery power. Recharging the battery is handled via a 240-volt home or public charger in about 4 ½ hours, or in about 12 hours when plugging into a conventional 120-volt AC outlet. When faster 6.6 kW charging is available, the RAV4 Prime can charge up in about 2 ½ hours.

Inside, driver and passengers enjoy heated and cooled leather seats, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, JBL audio, and a handy conductive phone charging pad. The RAV4 Prime also comes will all the advanced safety and driver assist systems desired these days including Toyota's Safety Sense 2.0, which includes pre-collision with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist, and road sign assist. Also available is front and rear parking assist with automated braking, and rear cross traffic braking.

On the outside, the Prime edition features special badging and 19-inch alloy wheels, the only indications that call out this new and advanced version of the RAV4. Cost of entry for the RAV4 Prime is $38,100.

Somewhat smaller than Lincoln’s first plug-in SUV, the Aviator Grand Touring, the Corsair is a luxury-oriented, two-row crossover that injects comfort and class into a compact premium crossover segment dominated by European offerings. It's offered in both conventional gas- and plug-in hybrid-powered variants.

When one looks to Corsair, its distinguishing characteristics and luxury appointments mean there’s no mistaking it for anything other than a Lincoln. Its attractive design features creased and organic dynamic bodylines, a Lincoln-esque diamond patterned grille, and oversized alloy wheels. Inside is a premium leather-upholstered, wood-accented, and tech-rich cabin. The compact Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring lives large enough for four to five well-sized adults and a complement of weekend luggage.

At the heart of 2021 Corsair Grand Touring beats a 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder, Atkinson cycle gas engine and a twin electric motor planetary drive system. A constant variable transmission transfers torque to the front wheels. A third motor producing 110 lb-ft torque is dedicated to driving the rear wheels, bringing the confident traction of all-wheel drive. Combined, this powertrain delivers an estimated 266 horsepower.

EPA fuel efficiency is rated at 33 combined mpg and 78 MPGe when running on battery power. It will drive 28 miles on its lithium-ion batteries with a total range of 430 miles. Conventionally-powered Corsairs net an estimated 22 city and 29 highway mpg, and 25 mpg combined .

A driver-centric cockpit offers infinitely adjustable and heated leather seating surrounded by wood and burnished metal accents. A comprehensive dash and infotainment display, back-up dashcam, pushbutton drive commands, head-up display, parking assist, and smartphone keyless access are standard or available. Top-of-the-line Co-Pilot 360 driver assist, electronic safety, and personal connectivity features are offered. Corsair Grand Touring’s 14.4 kWh battery module is located beneath the model’s body pan, resulting in a lower center of gravity and unobstructed rear deck cargo space.

The Corsair Grand Touring has an MSRP of $50,390, about fourteen grand more than the conventionally-powered base model. It's expected to make its way to Lincoln showrooms sometime this spring.

As part of Jeep’s plan to offer electric drivetrain options for all its nameplates over the next few years, the Wrangler is being offered with a plug-in, gas-electric hybrid powertrain in the 2021 model year. The Wrangler 4xe will be available  in three models – 4xe, Sahara 4xe, and Rubicon 4xe – the latter equipped with a 4:1 transfer case and other hard-core off-roading equipment found on conventionally powered Rubicon models.

The Wrangler 4xe powertrain uses a turbocharged, direct-injected, 2.0-liter inline-four engine, two high-voltage motor-generators, and a 400-volt, 17 kWh lithium-ion battery pack located beneath the second-row seat. One of the motors, mounted to the front of the engine instead of a conventional alternator, handles the Wrangler’s stop/start functions and sends power to the battery pack. A 12-volt battery is still used to power the Jeep’s accessories. The second motor is mounted in front of the eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission in place of a conventional torque converter.

Dual clutches manage power from the engine and electric motor, enabling them to work in tandem or allowing the Wrangler to operate in electric-only mode for up to 25 miles. In total, the powertrain develops 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft torque, and it delivers up to an estimated 50 MPGe. To retain the Wrangler’s ability to ford 30 inches of water – part of the brand’s ‘Trail Rated’ capability – its electronics are sealed and waterproof.

The Wrangler 4xe offers three E Selec driving modes. ‘Hybrid’ uses the motor’s torque first and then combines torque from the motor and engine when the battery reaches a minimum charge level. ‘Electric’ powers the Jeep via the motor only until the battery is at minimum charge. Then there’s ‘eSave,’ where power comes primarily from the engine, allowing battery charge to saved for later use. All three modes are available when the Wrangler’s transfer case is in either 4Hi or 4Lo.

An Eco Coaching readout via the Jeep’s Uconnect system illustrates power flow through the system and the impact of factors that include regenerative braking, which itself has several modes. With 4WD engaged, all four wheels contribute power to the system under braking, and a Max Regen setting can slow the Jeep faster while it’s coasting and generate more power for the battery pack.

Like all Wranglers, the 4xe models will be equipped with skid plates, tow hooks, and other ‘Trail Rated’ accessories. Electric Blue exterior and interior design cues set the 4xe models apart visually from other Wranglers. Jeep’s Wrangler 4xe will be on sale by the end of the year at an expected base price of about $40,000.

Now in its second generation, BMW’s 330e plug-in hybrid sport sedan comes to market with measurable improvements in electric-only driving range, fuel efficiency, and a neat trick or two. Long the benchmark of premium compact sport sedans, BMW’s 3 series first presented an ‘e’ variant in 2016, a bit early to capture the growing electrification movement in North America. Fast forward to today, and you’ll note  every major and minor car and light truck manufacturer is turning to electrification. And this brings us to a more powerful and fuel efficient 2021 BMW 330e PHEV, a logical step toward total BMW fleet electrification.

Looking to the exterior of BMW’s latest and greatest 3 series variant, one is hard pressed to discern it from its 330i I.C. stable mate. Case in point: A modern plug-in needn’t look Bladerunner-esque to be ‘green,’ nor lack sport performance characteristics and panache. The beauty and marketing genius of the 2021 BMW 330e is the car’s appeal to the sport driver in all of us, without jeopardizing our collective environmental inclinations. Simply, it looks like a BMW.

Torque 4-cylinder goes electric

Seamless electric motor integration juices up an already torque-rich twin-scroll turbocharged, direct injected, variable-timed 2.0-liter DOHC gasoline engine. This results in a combined 288 horsepower and 310 lb-ft torque, an increase of 24 horsepower and 12 lb-ft torque over the first generation offering. New for 2021 is BMW’s Xtra boost function that delivers an additional 40 horsepower for up to 10 seconds, with or without remaining battery reserve. 

Torque transfer is delegated to the time-tested ZF 8-speed Sport Automatic transmission, featuring integrated steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, sport and manual shift modes, and ‘launch control.’ BMW xDrive all-wheel-drive is an available option for greater traction and all-weather driving.  Performance tuned suspension, selectable variable dynamic drive modes, auto start-stop, regenerative braking,  and personalized electric assist steering rounds out the performance package for an exceptional driver-centric commute. There are real performance benefits that come with electrification  A non-hybrid base model 330i claims a lesser 255 horsepower and 294 lb-ft torque in the low- to mid rpm range, with no benefits of electrification, fuel efficiency, or electric-only drive capabilities.

The base 2021 330e PHEV retains its rear axle drive, sports performance heritage. Sport drivers will appreciate this compact BMW’s power-to-weight ratio and new-found lower center of gravity, thanks to the under-passenger seat positioning of the 330e’s increased charge capacity, air cooled 12 KWh lithium-ion battery pack. Drivers will enjoy an estimated 20 mile electric-only driving range, combined with an estimated combined fuel efficiency of 71 MPGe that represents a range increase of 8 miles over the earlier 330e. Combined driving range is estimated at 290 to 320 miles on a full charge and 10.6 gallons of premium gasoline.  

The 330e cabin environment is pure BMW and shared with the conventional 330i, conservative yet elegant in detail. Appointments include Sensi-Tech fabrics, burnished wood details, and an anthracite grey contrasting headliner. Standard equipment includes the latest in driver assist and active safety technology, a rather intuitive electric drive monitor, range minder, and navigation-controlled chassis efficiency monitoring. Also standard is premium audio, 14-way power adjusted front seats, automatic three-zone climate control, a two-way power glass moonroof, rain sensing windshield wipers, and more.

The BMW 330e is available at an MSRP of $44,550 with the all-wheel drive xDrive version coming in at $46,550. An interesting side note is that when factoring in anticipated Federal and State tax rebate incentives, the 2021 BMW 330e comes to market at less cost than the conventionally-powered 330i, while affording single drivers to HOV lane access and greater fuel efficiency.

We’ve spent plenty of time now behind the wheel of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT as part of our long-term test of this highly functional vehicle. We can tell you this: It’s obvious to the Green Car Journal staff why the Outlander PHEV was named the magazine’s 2019 Green SUV of the Year™ and now the 2020 Family Green Car of the Year™.

First of all, it’s a joy to drive. The Outlander PHEV is spacious, well-appointed with an upscale leather interior, and reasonably priced for a plug-in hybrid crossover in today’s market, at $36,295 for the SEL S-AWC and $41,695 for the GT S-AWC. It’s rated at 74 MPGe on electricity and 25 combined mpg on gas, so it’s quite thrifty when driven as intended – as an electric vehicle for around-town driving and as an intelligent hybrid when the need calls for longer distance travels.

This is what we do on a daily basis. We plug in at night with a 240-volt wall charger, top off the batteries while parked, and start the day off with a full charge. Most of our driving, which is likely a reflection of what most folks will experience, is daily use for commuting and running errands within this vehicle’s EPA rated 22 miles of battery-powered driving range. That means if we’re diligent about charging every night – happily, at our utility’s discounted electric vehicle rate – we won’t be visiting a gas station anytime soon.

Of course, if circumstances dictate a daily commute that’s longer than the Outlander PHEV’s rated range and there is on-site charging available at the workplace, it’s possible to effectively double all-electric range by plugging in at work for the drive home. Four hours at 240-volt Level 2 charging at work or at a public charger brings the Outlander PHEV’s pack back to a full charge from a depleted state. If a rapid charger is available, then the battery can be energized to 80 percent capacity in just 25 minutes.

The importance of plug-in hybrid power is that regardless of battery state-of-charge, there’s never anxiety about range. While this Mitsubishi crossover’s battery range is suitable for zero-emission motoring around-town, the Outlander PHEV itself is geared for any transportation needs required. It offers a 310 mile overall driving range that we’ve found very workable and convenient for longer drives and road trips when we do travel beyond those 22 electric miles.

Beyond its electric capability, we’ve found many reasons to appreciate our time in the Outlander PHEV. It’s right-sized for a family of five and it’s comfortable, with loads of room up front and plenty of room afforded by the rear seats. The rear seats three, but with only two in the back there’s a handy pull-down center console and armrest to deploy with cupholders and storage. A 120-volt AC outlet is located at the back of the center console for plugging in a laptop or other device that requires household power. USB power is also available front and rear.

We also appreciate the driving experience. Acceleration is brisk and handling confident, with excellent steering input. The Outlander PHEV offers a smooth ride and is well isolated from road noise. Its series-parallel hybrid drivetrain intelligently balances power from its 2.0-liter engine and twin electric motors under most driving circumstances, providing optimum performance and efficiency. Transitions between electric and combustion power are seamless and virtually unnoticeable, even if you’re looking for them. An EV Drive mode is also driver selectable via a console-mounted switch to allow traveling exclusively in electric mode, with the engine kicking in only when additional acceleration is needed. Steering wheel paddles can be used to control the vehicle’s level of regenerative braking force.

As is the case with most drivers today, we’ve come to appreciate the many sophisticated on-board systems working behind the scene to ensure our safety, and the safety of others. We fortunately haven’t had the need for forward collision mitigation, but we know the system is there in the background. The Outlander PHEV’s many driver assist systems – from adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams to rear cross traffic alert and lane departure warning – inspire that extra level of driving confidence. Particularly helpful every day is the center display’s birds-eye view of the vehicle’s surroundings as we’re backing up.

It's not lost on us that we enjoy a measure of exclusivity while driving this long-term tester. While the Outlander PHEV has been sold worldwide for years – achieving the distinction as the world’s best-selling plug-in hybrid – it has only been here in the U.S. since the 2018 model year. Plus, the Mitsubishi brand’s presence in the U.S. market is significantly smaller than competitors like Honda and Toyota, so you won’t see as many Outlanders on the road as you will CR-Vs or RAV4s. But that’s a good thing if you’re looking to drive something that stands apart from the crowd…which our stylish, PHEV-badged Outlander PHEV GT certainly does.

Lincoln’s new Aviator comes in two versions, the conventionally-powered Aviator and the Aviator Grand Touring plug-in-hybrid. Both luxury SUVs feature a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine, which in the Aviator is rated at 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft torque. The Grand Touring adds a 101 horsepower electric motor and a 13.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Adding the electric motor to the V-6 increases output to a combined 494 horsepower and 630 lb-ft torque.

That kind of power means the Aviator Grand Touring has V-8 big block-like performance, with acceleration coming on strong courtesy of an electric motor that deliver loads of torque from zero rpm. Hybrid power also means better fuel economy than a conventionally powered model, with the Grand Touring variant offering an EPA combined fuel economy rating of 23 mpg, compared to 20 mpg for the all-wheel-drive version of the conventional Aviator. The Aviator Grand Touring comes only with AWD while the conventional model has the option of rear-wheel drive.

The Aviator Grand Touring uses Ford's innovative new modular hybrid transmission that’s also used in the Ford Explorer Limited Hybrid and Ford Police Interceptor Utility Hybrid  It was created by essentially inserting an electric motor and disconnect clutch between the engine and torque converter on Ford's 10-speed SelectShift automatic transmission. The MHT shares about 90 percent of its components with Ford’s conventional 10-speed automatic.

Drivers are afforded 21 miles of all-electric driving in the plug-in hybrid for typical around-town needs. The Aviator Touring’s 13.6 kWh battery pack features under-floor packaging that does not infringe on interior space, so this 7 passenger SUV’s cargo-carrying capacity is not compromised when the third row seating is folded flat. Charging a depleted battery takes three-to-four hours using a 240-volt Level 2 charger.

All Aviators have five Lincoln Drive Modes that change the suspension settings, steering, shift points, and ride height with the optional Air Glide Suspension. The  Aviator Grand Touring has two additional modes – Pure EV for all-electric driving and Preserve EV to save stored electrical energy for later use. The Aviator can tow 6,700 pounds while the Aviator Grand Touring can tow 5,600 pounds.

Lincoln's all-new Aviator offers a point of entry at $51,100 for the base rear-drive model, with the Grand Touring plug-in hybrid variant coming in at $68,900.

We’ve been driving Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV for 6,000 miles now as part of an ongoing experience with this long-term test vehicle. Over the months, our plug-in hybrid crossover has served as a daily commuter as well as our go-to ride for quick weekend getaways and the occasional longer trip. This time, we decided to see what it’s like to be behind the wheel on a genuine road trip for a solid week, from our offices on California’s Central Coast to the southern reaches of Washington State.

First, let’s say this: The capabilities of the Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid – Green Car Journal’s 2019 Green SUV of the Year™ – lend a sense of confidence. We knew that we could charge the Outlander’s batteries when desired and convenient to gain about 22 miles of all-electric range during our travels, a nice plus. But we were also aware that taking the time for charging wasn’t necessary. This crossover’s EPA-rated hybrid range of 310 miles would be plenty to get us where we wanted to go, without hesitation or delays. That’s an important thing when packing a few thousand miles of combined day and late-night driving into a seven day period.

Our trip began by heading northbound from San Luis Obispo, California on US-101, where we crested the Cuesta Grade and continued toward the busy San Francisco Bay corridor three hours ahead. We were hoping an early departure would allow avoiding the unpredictable traffic there. Success! It turns out that late morning near the Bay Area provides a decent travel window with reasonably free-flowing traffic. Then it was onward toward Oregon on US-101, transitioning to I-680 and I-505 and ultimately the long stretch of I-5 that would take us to Washington State.

Since this was a road trip, adventure is built into the journey. That means if something interesting presents itself along the way, we may just stop to check it out. Sure enough, this happened less than an hour north of Sacramento, where a series of highway billboards enticed travelers to stop at Granzella’s Restaurant in Williams, a sleepy, postage-stamp-size of a city that’s home to about 5,000 people. It was lunchtime, so why not?

We found plenty of cars in Granzella's parking lot but also no wait inside. Food choices here are plentiful, with options for ordering from a fully-stocked deli or sitting down for a home-style meal in their restaurant. Being traveler-oriented, Granzella’s encourages you to wander around inside, checking out their sports bar, wine room, coffee bar, and olive room, plus of course the array of gifts aimed toward travelers. There’s also a separate Granzella’s Gourmet & Gifts store across the street and Granzella’s Inn across the way if an overnight stop is needed. We were on a tight time schedule, so it was back on I-5 for another 550 miles of road time before our anticipated arrival in Vancouver.

Daily experience in a long-term test car lends a thorough sense of what it's like to live with a vehicle, offering an opportunity to fully experience its capabilities. Beyond that, longer drives like this allow uninterrupted hours behind the wheel to reflect on a vehicle's features, large and small, that either enhance the driving experience or fall short of expectations.

We can say it is hard to find fault with the Outlander PHEV. This crossover provides a spacious and well-appointed cabin offering very comfortable and supportive seating for long drives, plus plenty of room to store all the stuff needed for long trips. Our considerable time on the road was made all the more pleasant since the Outlander PHEV’s ride is smooth and handling confident, with plenty of power for any driving situation we encountered.

Along the way we made good use of this model’s Apple CarPlay capability. Of course, driver assist systems like adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, blind spot warning with lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, and rear-view camera enhanced the driving experience and sense of safety. Its heated steering wheel is a real plus. While always handy, we really came to appreciate this crossover’s retractable cargo cover that kept things out of sight and more secure while parked at restaurants and hotels during our week on the road. We also made use of its convenient power lift gate multiple times every day.

The Outlander PHEV’s total driving range of 310 miles is well-suited to longer trips like this. Range is something we rarely think about on a daily basis since our everyday driving is typically less than 20 miles, so often enough we’re driving on battery power and there’s no need for gas at all. When we do drive farther to nearby cities, the Outlander PHEV seamlessly transitions from electric to hybrid power once the battery is depleted. There is no range anxiety because we can travel as far as needed on gasoline. Back in the garage, we charge again overnight and we’re once again driving on battery power.

It’s worth noting that the Outlander PHEV has a smaller gas tank than the conventionally-powered Outlander, 11.3 versus 16.6 gallons, resulting in less overall driving range than the conventional gas model. This is due to design changes for accommodating this PHEV’s 12 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and other PHEV drivetrain components. Packaging the vehicle’s electric componentry in this way means the battery and other necessary equipment do not infringe on passenger or cargo space, something that’s bothered us for years in some other electrified models. So, all things considered, we’re good with trading some hybrid range for additional roominess, especially since refueling at a gas station is quick and easy.

Speaking of ‘refueling,’ there was the potential for quickly charging at an array of public fast charge locations during our drive. A growing number of Level 3 charging opportunities are located along major routes in California and other states, and the Outlander PHEV is capable of CHAdeMO DC fast charging to 80 percent battery capacity in 20 minutes. We didn’t feel the need on this trip, though we have done this at other times.

That said, charging at the Level 2 charger at our hotel in Vancouver, the Heathman Lodge, was a real plus. Once we arrived in Washington, we plugged in several times to get an overnight charge and enjoyed our no-cost electric drives around town. During these drives the Outlander PHEV motors along on zero-emission battery power at an EPA estimated 74 MPGe.

Driving through Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, there’s no denying you’ll find some pretty incredible scenery ranging from mountain ranges, imposing dormant volcanoes, and awe-inspiring redwood forests to scenic coastlines, rivers, and lakes. You will also find an obsession with the mythical Bigfoot. Suffice it to say there will be plenty of places to stop with ‘Bigfoot’ included in their theme, and lots of opportunities to buy souvenirs. As a side note, we did an ‘On the Trail of Bigfoot’ road trip adventure and article several decades back, so this definitely brought a smile to our face.

Along our drive we had the opportunity to visit cities large and small, drive through a redwood tree, take in scenic coastal areas in Oregon like Newport and Lincoln City, and in general enjoy the benefits of a real road trip. Of course, there were stops at roadside fruit stands, interesting eateries, and places with character that simply called to us for a closer look. Photo ops were abundant.

During our trip we came to truly understand why Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV is the world's best-selling plug-in hybrid vehicle. Taking advantage of technology development and learnings from this automaker’s earlier i-MiEV electric vehicle program, the Outlander PHEV combines advanced parallel and series hybrid drive, along with Mitsubishi’s Super All-Wheel Control system technology developed through Mitsubishi's Lancer Evolution. Plus, for those with the need, the Outlander PHEV can tow 1500 pounds.

This is one high-tech crossover, offered at a surprisingly affordable entry price point of $36,095, considering the cost of competitive crossover SUVs with similar capabilities at tens of thousands of dollars more. It features efficient hybrid power that integrates a 2.0-liter gasoline engine and generator along with a pair of high-performance electric motors, one up front and one at the rear.

The Outlander PHEV operates in three modes automatically chosen by the vehicle's control system to optimize efficiency and performance. In Series Hybrid mode the electric motors drive the vehicle with the engine augmenting battery power and generating electricity to power the motors. Electrical energy is also delivered to the battery pack. The 2.0-liter engine assists with mechanical power at times when quick acceleration or hill climbing are needed.

Parallel Hybrid mode finds the gasoline engine driving the front wheels with the two electric motors adding additional power as required. The engine also charges the battery pack in Parallel Hybrid mode under certain driving conditions.

Then there’s all-electric driving solely on batteries, selectable with an ‘EV’ control on the center console. We have found EV mode ideal for around-town travel or regional drives near our offices, and in fact we’ve noted no discernable difference when driving in all-electric or hybrid modes.

While regenerative braking in all modes is done automatically with the vehicle feeding electricity back to the battery pack during coast-down, there’s the added advantage of controlling how aggressively regen works. This capability is controlled through six levels of regenerative braking selectable by convenient steering wheel paddles, with one mode allowing coasting for blocks.

The Outlander PHEV proved to be an exceptional vehicle for our Pacific Northwest adventures, offering everything we could want in a long-distance cruiser. With our road trip adventure now a pleasant memory, we’re looking forward to our continuing daily drives and explorations in our long-term Outlander PHEV test vehicle over the coming months.

Sport-utility vehicles have been popular for some time, although you wouldn’t know it by reading all the hype these days about their new-found domination of the market. Yes, SUVs are trendy, they’re spacious, and their functionality can’t be overstated. But we’ve known that for years, ever since the Jeep Cherokee of the 1980s enjoyed widespread success and pretty much defined the modern SUV.

But this is a new day and SUVs have transformed. While some full-size SUVs continue to be body-on-frame models with legendary hauling, towing, and off-roading capabilities, most are not. They defer instead to the lighter and smoother-riding unibody construction common to passenger car models.

Today’s SUVs, or crossover SUVs like the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Hyundai Kona Electric shown here, have become car-like in most respects. Some, like the four-wheel drive Outlander PHEV, continue to offer the off-road capabilities we’ve come to expect from SUVs over the years. Others often provide more sedate off-road capabilities if they embrace off-roading at all. The tradeoff is a comfortable ride and a highly desired car-like experience, even as they continue to offer SUV styling, functionality, and carrying capacity.

Is it a wonder that crossover SUVs are being offered as plug-in hybrids or all-electric vehicles by a growing number of automakers? Nope. In fact, it’s entirely predictable. Vehicle manufacturers recognize the growing desire for these high-functionality vehicles combined with greater efficiency and electrification. Enter the world of plugin SUVs and crossovers that are here now in growing numbers, with a virtual wave of new plug-in SUV models coming. Here's a look at what's in the pipeline:

AUDI will be bringing a plug-in hybrid version of its Q5 crossover to the U.S. sometime in 2020, It will not carry ‘e-tron’ badging since this is reserved for Audi’s fully electric models. The Q5 PHEV will use a turbocharged direct injection engine that works together with an electric motor integrated in the transmission. A 14.1 kWh lithium-ion battery beneath the floor is estimated to provide about 25 miles of all-electric driving on the European WLTP cycle, with a lower projected range here under EPA’s tougher test cycle.

BMW will now build electrified versions of its mainstream models, not unique electrics like the i3 and i8. Thus, the iX3 will be based on BMW’s conventional X3 SUV with an electric drive system under the hood and batteries beneath the floor. The iX3 will use the company’s fifth generation electric car architecture with motors that don’t require rare-earth metals, making them cheaper and likely easier to produce. More densely constructed battery packs with increased capacity will also be used to save cost and weight. The new motor develops 270 horsepower and is powered by a 70-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, delivering a range of 249 miles on the European driving cycle that will be less when tested on the EPA cycle here. Since conventional X3s are already built in the U.S. it’s likely the iX3 will be sold here as well.

The plug-in BMW X3 xDrive30e compact SUV will arrive in the U.S. sometime in 2020 as a 2021 model. This AWD crossover combines a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a 107 horsepower electric motor, offering a total output of 293 horsepower. Also coming is the X5 xDrive45e iPerformance plug-in hybrid. It uses a 112 horsepower electric motor integrated into the car’s eight-speed automatic transmission and a 3.0-liter, 286 horsepower turbocharged inline-six engine. Its 24 kWh lithium-ion battery is expected to provide about 40 miles of electric-only range. BMW’s iNext is still in concept form so details about this electric crossover are scarce. It will also use the BMW fifth-generation battery design and a 120 kWh battery pack for more than 400 miles of range.

FISKER is planning an electric SUV for introduction in late 2021, although details are slim at this point. The effort is headed by Henrik Fisker, who designed and sold a luxury plugin sedan through the former Fisker Automotive earlier this decade. Fisker Inc. says it will offer an advanced SUV with a range of 300 miles on lithium-ion batteries. That it will offer a futuristic, elegant, and muscular look as claimed by the company is no surprise, considering Henrik Fisker previously designed such iconic cars as the Aston Martin DB9 and BMW Z8. The Fisker SUV is projected to have a base price under $40,000.

FORD will offer standard hybrid and plug-in-hybrid versions of the new 2020 Escape SUV. Both will use a 2.5- liter four-cylinder engine with two electric motors. The hybrid will use an underfloor 1.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack while the plug-in will integrate a 14.4 kWh pack, with the latter providing an electric range of 30 miles. The Escape hybrid goes on sale this year with the plug-in hybrid arriving in 2020. While Ford will be producing a 2020 Explorer PHEV, it’s for Europe only and at this point there are no plans for it to join the hybrid in the U.S. An electric crossover with styling inspired by the original Mustang is expected to appear in late 2020.

The automaker’s Lincoln luxury brand will be offering a 2020 Aviator PHEV here that’s built on the same platform as the Explorer. It will share that model’s twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 and 99 horsepower electric motor to provide a combined 450 horsepower and 620 lb-ft torque. The 2020 Lincoln Corsair, replacement for the MKC, is also offering a plug-in hybrid version at launch. Given Lincoln’s plans for electrification, there’s a decent chance that full-electric variants will be added a few model years down the road. The Corsair shares many parts with the new Escape PHEV, but its styling is unique with distinctively Lincoln DNA. Lincoln is also planning an electric crossover based on Ford’s Mustang-inspired EV.

GM’s star in the electric crossover field is it Chevy Bolt, a winner of Green Car Journal’s 2017 Green Car of the Year®. Since its introduction, the Bolt has provided an impressive 238 miles of battery range at an affordable price, with better battery chemistry now increasing the 2020 model’s range to 259 miles.

Moving forward, GM is looking to its luxury brand Cadillac to take a higher profile in the company’s upcoming electric vehicle efforts in the U.S. While the General has only provided a glimpse of its developing electric vehicle program, we know it will include a 5-passenger electric Cadillac SUV with a range greater than 300 miles. Slated to appear in Cadillac dealerships around 2022, it will be the first built on GM’s new BEV3 platform that’s adaptable to front-, rear-, and all-wheel-drive, plus vehicles of various dimensions. GM has conceptionally shown 11 possible vehicles, from seven-passenger SUVs to small crossover utilities, that could be built on the BEV3 platform.

JEEP will offer plug-in-hybrid versions of the Renegade and Compass as 2020 models. Both will use a 1.3-liter turbocharged engine and an electric motor to produce a combined 240 horsepower, offering an electric-only range of about 31 miles. The electric motor powers the rear wheels, so a driveshaft is not needed for 4WD. In addition, Jeep is likely to offer a PHEV version of the Wrangler at some point, though it’s not known if this will make it to American roads.

MERCEDES-BENZ will be introducing its new EQC, the first in a growing family of all-electric vehicles to be produced under the EQ brand. The crossover features two electric motors, one at each axle, providing the EQC an impressive 402 horsepower and 564 lb-ft torque that’s delivered to the road through 4MATIC all-wheel drive. Along with standard 240-volt Level 2 charging, the model’s 80 kWh lithium-ion battery is capable of DC Fast Charging from 10 to 80 percent state-of-charge in 40 minutes. Rated at an estimated 220 mile range, it will be sold next year as a 2020 model with an estimated price of around $70,000.

RIVIAN, a new brand on the scene, says it will begin production of its seven seat R1S electric SUV in 2020. Rivian’s ‘skateboard’ architecture locates its battery pack in the floor at the middle of the vehicle. The all-electric SUV is powered by four motors, two per axle, with each providing torque to a wheel. Three battery pack and electric motor configurations will be offered. The 180 kWh battery variant is mated to motors with a total output of 700 horsepower, delivering a claimed range of over 400 miles. A 135 kWh variant with 754 horsepower will provide a range of about 300 miles, with the base 403 horsepower, 105 kWh model delivering 250 miles. The R1S SUV is expected to start at $72,500.

TESLA already offers the Model X electric SUV and plans to supplement this with a more compact Model Y variant. It will be built on the same platform as the existing Model 3 sedan and available as a seven-seater. Standard and Long Range versions of the rear-wheel drive SUV are planned, plus a base Dual Motor model and a Performance model with all-wheel-drive. A 230-300 mile range is promised. While we’ve found Tesla to offer only higher-priced, higher content new models at launch, the company says its Standard version will cost $39,000, the Long Range $47,000, the Dual Motor AWD $51,000, and the Performance variant $60,000. Tesla says the Model Y may appear as a late 2020 or 2021 model, but since the company has a history of launching models later than promised we’ll just have to wait and see.

VW will offer a production version of its ID Crozz concept as the first of several new battery-electric vehicles to sold in the U.S. The ID Crozz is powered by a 200 horsepower electric motor located between the rear wheels with another 100 horsepower motor between the front wheels, providing all-wheel-drive. An 83 kWh lithium-ion battery pack beneath the floor is expected to provide up to 300 miles of driving range. Fast-charging with a commercial 150 kW charger will take just 30 minutes to regain 80 percent battery capacity. The model is expected to go on sale in 2020.

Of course, other automakers are fielding plug-in SUV concepts and there will surely be additional production models announced in the near future. This field is fluid and automakers are responding to plug-in SUV demand in real time, so stay tuned.

Ford has completely redesigned America’s all-time best selling SUV, the Ford Explorer. Redesigned from the ground up, the fourth-generation 2020 Explorer returns to the truck-like roots of its first two generations with a longitudinal-engine, rear-drive architecture. Moving away from the outgoing third-generation Explorer’s more car-like, front drive-based transverse-engine powertrain delivers improved on- and off-road capability and greater towing capacity. The Explorer lineup now includes base, XLT, Limited,  and Platinum models. All include the Explorer ST and Explorer Hybrid choices.

Two EcoBoost engines are available. A 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder standard on base, XLT, and Limited models is rated at 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft torque. The 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 that powers the Explorer Platinum produces 365 horsepower and 380 lb-ft torque. Both are mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Explorers equipped with the 2.3-liter engine and Class III Trailer Tow Package can tow up to 5,300 pounds. With the 3.0-liter engine this increases to 5,600 pounds. That represents a 77- and 12-percent increase in towing capacity from previous Explorers, respectively.

The all-new Explorer ST, the newest SUV from Ford Performance, is the most powerful Explorer ever with a specially-tuned 3.0-liter EcoBoost engine projected to make 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft torque. It will reach a targeted top track speed of 143 mph.

Explorer Hybrid features a 3.3-liter, naturally aspirated DOHC V-6, 10 speed modular hybrid transmission, and a liquid cooled lithium-ion battery built into the chassis below the second-row seats, thus preserving cargo and passenger space. Total combined power output is 318 horsepower. Both rear- and four-wheel drive versions are available. An EPA-estimated range of over 500 miles is expected between fill-ups in the rear-wheel-drive model.

The new Explorer’s wheelbase grew six inches even though the new model is only fractionally longer in overall length, resulting in more passenger space in each of its standard three rows of seats. Explorers equipped with the available E-Z entry second-row bench seat can accommodate four foot-wide sheets of plywood or drywall flat on the floor for the first time. Second-row captain's chairs are optional as are PowerFold third-row seats. A power liftgate is offered.

Improved off-road capability is provided with intelligent four-wheel drive, available with both engines. An all-new Terrain Management System features an easy-to-use dial in the center console for selecting normal, trail, slippery, sport, tow/haul, and a new eco modes in rear-drive-drive only models. Explorers equipped with four-wheel drive add a deep snow and sand mode for improved off-road performance

The 2020 Explorer comes with an 8-inch digital touch screen offering SYNC 3 and FordPass Connect with 4G LTE Wi-Fi for up to 10 devices. FordPass Connect provides remote access via a smartphone to lock, unlock, locate, and start the vehicle, as well as monitor key vehicle diagnostics. A wireless charge pad is available for recharging compatible mobile devices. Up to four USB ports are provided, including new type-C variants that allow charging next-generation mobile devices. Also available are up to three 12-volt DC outlets and one 110-volt AC outlet.

Explorers come standard with Ford Co-Pilot360, a suite of driver-assist technologies that includes Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, Pedestrian Detection, Forward Collision Warning and Dynamic Brake Support. Also included are a Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane-Keeping, and a Rearview camera with built-in lens cleaner and Auto headlamps with auto high-beams. Optional Ford Co-Pilot360 technologies include Evasive Steering Assist that provides steering support to help avoid a collision, plus Post-Impact Braking that provides braking after a collision to lessen injury and damage caused by a secondary crash.

Ford’s all-new Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Speed Sign Recognition is also available. In addition to automatically slowing when traffic ahead slows and helping keep the vehicle centered in its lane, the system uses cameras to read speed signs. It adjusts cruise control settings as necessary when combined with the available navigation system.

The all-new Explorer introduces the automaker’s Active Park Assist 2.0. Standard on Explorer Platinum, this feature allows parking in a parallel or perpendicular spot with the touch of a button without requiring a driver to work the steering wheel, gear shifter, gas pedal, or brake. Available reverse brake assist, also standard on Platinum, uses radar and ultrasonic sensors to detect an object in an Explorer’s path, applying brakes automatically to avoid a collision when backing up at low speeds, such as when exiting a driveway.

An available 10.1-inch, portrait-mounted touch screen allows navigation maps to fill the entire screen for easy viewing or split the space with audio information. The screen uses capacitive glass like that found in smartphones and tablets, providing quicker and more responsive interaction with the updated SYNC 3 system. The more intuitive layout of Explorer’s standard SYCN 3 provides compatibility with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Waze navigation. The touch screen shares information with an available 12.3-inch, all-digital instrument cluster that displays important vehicle information such as speedometer and fuel level.