What if U.S. auto consumers have the option to get superior fuel economy and added power in a utility vehicle while reducing emissions? If they are anything like drivers around the world, they’ll jump at the chance to get a plug-in hybrid or electric SUV. Unfortunately, there have been no such rides available since the small-volume Toyota RAV4 EV ended its run in California.
The good news is there are several utility vehicles with at least some electric power coming to America in late 2015 or early 2016 — on top of the models already rolling into U.S. dealerships. These new releases are far from afterthoughts or compliance cars from automakers indifferent to electric vehicle technology. In fact, the world’s top luxury automakers are releasing their first plug-in utility vehicles in the coming months: Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW are on board.
As a result, the movement toward greener, better-performing vehicles will take a giant step forward. While there may be more competition for charging stations in public, at least you can hope for shorter lines at the gas station.
Here are the six plug-in utility vehicles, including one crossover electric vehicle, set to make their debuts on the U.S. market by spring 2016.
1. Volvo XC90 T8
Volvo appears to have knocked one out of the park with the XC90 T8 Twin Engine Plug-in Hybrid that has already entered the U.S. sales market. With a base price of $68,100, drivers get access to 400 horsepower, 472 pounds-feet of torque, and 25 miles of electric range. With three rows of seats and an elegant interior, this XC90 T8 is unlike anything we have ever seen. Whether it becomes a game-changer remains to be seen, but you can’t blame the automaker for trying. In a test of the gasoline T6 model, Autos Cheat Sheet was highly impressed.
2. BMW X5 xDrive40e
Is the 2016 X5 xDrive40e the “best of all worlds” as BMW advertises? That depends on what you need in a utility vehicle, but 308 horsepower, 332 pounds-feet of torque, and 13 miles of electric range will fit the bill for U.S. consumers in love with the German brand. The X5 plug-in is BMW’s first PHEV from the core brand and should arrive before fall 2015 ends. Pricing has been set at $63,095.
3. Mercedes-Benz GLE550e
You cannot expect Mercedes-Benz to be left out of the party as luxury hybrid SUVs start hitting the U.S. market, and the GLE550e is the brand’s answer to the question. We caught a glimpse of the model at the New York Auto Show in April, but the finished product is expected to arrive in the U.S. late in 2015. It should offer about 19 miles of electric range as well as 426 horsepower and 479 pounds-feet of torque. This wave of plug-in utility vehicles from Europe means business.
4. Audi Q7 e-tron quattro
Not to be outdone by its German rivals, Audi plans to bring its own powerhouse plug-in utility vehicle to the U.S. with the Q7 e-tron quattro. Though not confirmed yet, Audi expects this model to make it to America and, if it landed, the Q7 e-tron would be the first plug-in hybrid matched to a clean diesel (3.0 TDI) engine. This car’s specs are — even relative to the segment competition — eye-popping at 373 horsepower and 516 pounds-feet of torque. Economy specs are impressive as well with 35 miles of range and a 117 miles per gallon equivalent.
5. Tesla Model X
For those who expected to be underwhelmed by the Tesla Model X, there was disappointing news from Fremont in early September. First, the delivery of the first (Signature Series) models is finally on schedule for September 29. Second, there are some appropriately ludicrous performance specs that already leaked from the Tesla Motors Club (via InsideEVs). Model X will cover 240 miles on its 90 kWh battery and power to 60 miles per hour in under four seconds. There will be 503 horsepower in the back motor and 253 horses in the front motor. It’s one bad machine, and it comes with the sticker price to prove it ($132,000).
6. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has been a home run in foreign markets and has led the pack in plug-in sales in England for much of the past few years. By far the most humble entry so far in this budding segment, expect U.S. consumers to pounce on the plug-in Outlander if the marketing does its job. Alas, it will be the last of the group to make it to dealerships, but Mitsubishi is optimistic it will make it to America by Spring 2016. With 30 miles of electric range and a sticker price that appeals to a broader set of consumers, this hybrid utility vehicle has potential.