7 Splendid High-End Hybrids

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The image most commonly associated with the hybrid vehicle is one of a sleepy, numb little car that gets good mileage but offers little else, making it easy to forget that hybrid technology can be found industry-wide, in many more formats than the utilitarian hatchbacks and liftbacks that are so often correlated with the hybrid reputation.

It should also be pointed out that hybrids are now accounting for some of the fastest production cars on the planet. It is McLaren’s insane P1 that can make it from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds (and on to a top speed of 217), and the Porsche 918 Spyder that managed a six minute, 57 second lap time at the Nurburgring Nordschleife. Ferrari is in on the hybrid game in a big way, too, with the beastly 950 horsepower LaFerrari.

Between the two extremes — from the humble Toyota (NYSE:TM) Prius to the mighty P1 — hybrid tech has found itself nestled comfortably in many luxury applications, where the systems serve the spectrum from performance-enhancing to fuel-saving. Here’s a handful of seven luxury hybrids, which above all can at least guarantee the utmost comfort for the buyer. The following are not ranked by any particular measure.

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1. Lexus LS 600h L

At $120,060 (for the base model), the Lexus LS 600h is by no means a cheap car. In fact, its among the most expensive models that you’ll find on this list. The LS certainly falls into the “performance enhancing” category, since its electric drivetrain is tied to a powerful 5.0 liter V8, and totaling 438 horsepower ultimately. This unfortunately means the LS musters an unimpressive 20 miles per gallon combined, a one-mile advantage over the base LS.

However, the LS 600h wasn’t designed for fuel economy. It was designed for the smoothest ride possible, and offers one of the more impressive interiors in a luxury car under the Rolls-Royce and Bentley price point. However, Lexus also offers options that are more geared for the fuel- and price-conscious. The smaller GS 450h starts just shy of $60,000 and can manage 34 miles per gallon on the highway.

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2. Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

Like the Lexus, the Cadillac (NYSE:GM) Escalade Hybrid was designed with smooth performance in mind over substantial fuel savings (though they are impressive for such a large vehicle). Though it offers substantial room for passengers, the hybrid system is hooked up to a 6.0 liter V8. Still, the Escalade can pull 20 miles per gallon in town, and 23 on the highway, some commendable numbers for an SUV of its size.

While that doesn’t seem all that impressive, when compared next to the numbers from the convention model — 14 miles per gallon city, 18 on the highway — the hybrid system does make a noticeable difference for those willing to shell out the extra cash.

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3. Infiniti M Hybrid

“The fastest accelerating full-hybrid on the planet” is how Infiniti describes its M35h, which delivers a dynamic mix of 360 horsepower and fuel economy rated at 27 miles per gallon in the city, and 32 on the highway. This is a result of Infiniti’s blend of a 3.5 liter V6, and a 50 kWh lithium ion battery pack. Starting at $54,750, the M35h is among the more ‘affordable’ options for a luxury hybrid (relatively speaking, of course).

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4. Lincoln MKZ

The Lincoln (NYSE:F) MKZ, one of the first vehicles to go through Lincoln’s radical redesign, was aimed specifically at better fuel numbers over raw performance. It’s one of the most affordable, too, with a starting price of $36,190. The MKZ brings fuel numbers of 45 in both the city and on the highway, and is leading Lincoln’s charge in the pursuit for a younger customer base.

What really sets the MKZ apart from its competition — aside from its distinct new styling — is that the car does not charge a premium for being a hybrid model, whereas nearly every other vehicle commands a higher price tag than the conventional models. The MKZ Hybrid costs the exact same amount as the MKZ outfitted with Ford’s EcoBoost engine, leaving the only choice on the table as being fuel savings, or power.

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5. Cadillac ELR

Though it’s aimed to be Cadillac’s most efficient vehicle to date, the ELR — which shares its underpinnings with the Chevrolet Volt — commands a price of around $75,000, to start. However, like the Volt, the ELR has the added perk of being able to travel for a period on electric energy alone, before the gasoline engine kicks in at all — ideal for urban dwellers and city folk.

The sleeker shape, two-door body, and a hugely upgraded interior help redefine the ELR as a true Cadillac, and put it at an arm’s distance from its Volt cousin. However, whether the sticker price will hurt its chances among the throngs of much larger players remains to be determined.

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6. Mercedes-Benz E400 Hybrid

For the E-Class, Mercedes-Benz coupled its 3.5 liter V6 (akin to the Infiniti) to a 27 horsepower electric motor, giving the sedan a city mileage rating of 24 (up from 21 in the standard E350) and 30 miles per gallon on the highway (unchanged). The fuel economy benefits are relatively negligible, yet the E400 Hybrid commands a $6,000 or so premium over the more conventional model.

Aside from the additional bump in horsepower and the driver-selectable “ECO” mode, the hybrid — like the LS and Escalade — seems more designed for smoother performance rather than stellar fuel economy. As one woud expect, the new generation of E-Class will come as tech-laden as physically possible, once the lengthy list of options are put to good use.

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7. Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid

Given its older sibling has set one of the fastest times around the famed Nurburgring in Germany, one would expect the Porsche Panamera to boast some impressive hybrid credentials. It does, too. With 416 horsepower, it’s one of the most powerful daily driver hybrids, and is able to make it to 60 miles per hour in 5.2 seconds. All this goodness comes at a Porsche-like price of $99,000.

Though the 2014 model’s fuel economy numbers have yet to be released, the figures from the 2012 edition stood at 22 in the city (compared with 18 for the conventional model), and 30 on the highway (27 with the standard V6). For 2014, it wouldn’t be an outlandish assumption that these figures have been improved on, with a plug-in variant on the way.

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