Fast Lane Goes Code Green

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AS EN­ERGY-EF­FI­CIENT AND en­vi­ron­men­tally clean as they may be tool­ing around on of­fice com­mutes and kid car­pools, most tra­di­tional elec­tric and hy­brid ve­hi­cles, with their small size and lim­ited range, haven’t passed what we call the Boul­derto-Vail First-Chair Test—a gear­loaded slog over two moun­tain passes, of­ten on treach­er­ous icy roads. But there’s no longer a need to grade these ve­hi­cles on an en­vi­ron­men­tal curve, as the auto in­dus­try has re­sponded with eco-friendly op­tions that of­fer per­for­mance along with the cargo space of small SUVs.

The pop­u­lar RAV4 now of­fers Toy­ota’s Hy­brid Syn­ergy Drive sys­tem, which blends a 2.5-liter four-cylin­der en­gine with three elec­tric mo­tors and a 245-volt nickel/metal hy­dride bat­tery BY ANDY STONE­HOUSE

pack. That bumps the RAV4 to a peppy 194 horse­power and boosts mileage to 31 MPG on the high­way. Elec­tronic on­de­mand all-wheel-drive is also stan­dard on the hy­brid model, with a re­tuned sus­pen­sion to help sup­port the RAV’s cleaner but faster per­for­mance.

Par­tial electrification also rad­i­cally up­dates the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hy­brid, ren­der­ing the new ver­sion of that ac­claimed three-row SUV a 325-horse­power ul­tra­cruiser— and adding seven ex­tra city MPG in the process. The MDX bor­rows the elec­tric-mo­tor sys­tem found in the com­pany’s NSX su­per­car and com­bines it with a 3.0-liter en­gine that de­ac­ti­vates cylin­ders to save even more fuel. Acura is also mov­ing into semi-au­tonomous

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