With 2025 CAFE standards looming – at least until President-elect Trump makes good on his promise to kill the EPA – it’s no surprise our 10 Best Engines cup runneth over this year with green cars.
We’ve had pure EVs and hybrids, but the most common alternative-powertrain model in our parking garage is the plug-in hybrid.
With PHEVs you can have the best of both worlds: electric power for daily commutes and gasoline power for when you need to aggressively accelerate, or make those unexpected long-distance jaunts and don’t want to worry about where to charge.
We’re testing several plug-ins: the BMW 330e, Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Ford Fusion Energi, Toyota Prius Prime, and two 2016 10 Best Engines returning winners, the Chevy Volt and the Hyundai Sonata PHEV.
These eco-friendly cars have electric motors that deliver immediate low-end torque. On the downside, sometimes the gasoline engines can be overly loud or the all-electric range might be scant, from 14 on the low end with the 330e to 33 on the high end with the Pacifica.
But a carefully applied throttle and some models’ ability to regenerate lots of energy via braking can extend the EV experience.
With the 330e, while my range initially melted off fast, I was able to build it back up a bit. After 10 days with the 330e, even with its enticing 310 lb.-ft. of total torque, every editor topped 37 mpg, outstanding for a German luxury sport sedan.
The Sonata, impressing us with an ability to aggressively regenerate braking energy to the battery, was no slouch this year, either.
Two of my colleagues topped 58 mpg in the Sonata plug-in. By the time I got behind the wheel the battery was nearly drained and the trip computer was showing a measly 35.3 mpg.
After my short, city-street commute home, and after a night of charging and some highway and city driving the next morning, I pushed it back up to 44.0 mpg.
By keeping the Prius Prime’s battery charged, yours truly stayed mainly in electric mode and got a fantastic 168 mpg. The office tally was a not-shabby 63 mpg.
And while cooler temperatures kept our Volt from getting the EPA-estimated 53-mile range on a charge, my colleagues regenerated a lot of electricity. Editor Dave Zoia started with 38 miles on the battery and still had 7 miles of range left after a 35-mile trek home.