Fast Lane Goes Code Green
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