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    Two Stylish Crossover Hybrids

    By Philip Ruth–

    The days of the internal-combustion engine are numbered, as more manufacturers roll out aggressive timelines to go all-electric. Even General Motors, which not long ago was a green pariah for killing the electric car, has pledged an all-electric fleet by model year 2035. 

    That’s only 13 years from now, and it assumes that a charging infrastructure will be firmly in place by then. Range anxiety is less of an issue as many current EVs, pricey as they can be, will go as far as their owners need to on a daily basis. 

    For those not ready to fully jump into this electrified future, the answer can lie in a gas-electric hybrid, which has come a long way from the earliest Priuses and Insights. I’d groan a bit when a hybrid came for review, as its responses were generally slow and syrupy. Now, more than two decades on, gas-electric hybrids are our well-developed ushers into the unfolding electric era. 

    This week’s test subjects, the Toyota RAV4 Limited AWD and Hyundai Tucson Limited Hybrid AWD, exemplify the state of gas-electric art—mainly because their performance is smooth and powerful enough to make you forget you’re saving fuel. 

    While more expensive than their gas-only brethren, these hybrids would seem to make good financial sense. These numbers have been crunched almost identically by both companies, as less than $100 separates their sticker prices. Using the Hyundai for an example, the hybrid adds only $1,150 to the gasser’s $36,350 bottom line, while it increases overall EPA mpg from 26 to 37 mpg. At our recent pump prices of five dollars per gallon, it wouldn’t take long to amortize the added electricity. 

    Both are also available in plug-in versions that have significantly more power along with electric-only ranges for exhaust-free errand running. Prices for the plug-ins increase to the $42,000 tier as they move you closer to an all-electric experience. 

    Though they spec out closely to each other, the Tucson and RAV4 hybrids have very different feels behind their wheels. For drivers who like decisive performance, the Hyundai has two advantages. First, it has more low-end torque—258 lb.-ft. of it, which is all available at a low 1,500 rpm. By contrast, the Toyota twists out 163 lb.-ft. up at 3,600 rpm. 

    Second, the Hyundai translates that torque to the wheels via a six-speed geared transmission, versus the Toyota’s CVT. This gives the Hyundai an almost muscular vibe when heading up and down San Francisco’s hills, while the RAV4 is perky enough but has a softer response.

    On the other hand, the RAV4 felt a bit plusher and quieter than the Tucson, with its ensconcing front seats and expansive roominess. Mad props to the Hyundai, however, for its interior trim, which looks chic and modern enough to be lifted from a luxury car designed five years from now. 

    Outside, they both make bold statements with dramatically-contoured sheet metal. This is icing on the cake for these two stylish and sensible crossovers. 

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant with an automotive staging service.

    Published on January 27, 2022