2014 Honda Accord Plug-In HybridEnlarge Photo
2014 Honda Accord Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid
While they're technically 2014 models, the all-new Honda Accord mid-size sedan will offer its Plug-In Hybrid early next year and the conventional Hybrid model shortly thereafter.
So we've added them into this list because they're important new entries in the hybrid field.
Honda has been known for its mild-hybrid system, which since 1999 has used a small electric motor to supplement the gasoline engine and to act as a generator to recapture otherwise wasted energy by recharging a battery pack on engine overrun or braking.
The company concluded several years ago that for larger models--crossovers and mid-size sedans--it would need a larger, more powerful system with a pair of electric motors, similar to systems offered by Toyota and Ford.
The Accord Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid are the first vehicles to use the system, but they certainly won't be the last.
We drove a prototype 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid and found it smoother, more powerful, and more comfortable than the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid.
The Accord Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid will compete directly with the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Energi models, and by early spring, all four of them will be on the market.
Their conventional hybrid modes will also compete with the Toyota Camry Hybrid, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Kia Optima Hybrid, and an upcoming new Nissan Altima Hybrid in 2014.
2013 Lexus ES 300hEnlarge Photo
Last year, Lexus quietly killed off its unsuccessful HS 250h model--the first hybrid car Toyota has ever withdrawn from the U.S. market.
No worries, Lexus lovers: There's a replacement for you, in the form of a hybrid model of the redesigned 2013 ES mid-size luxury sedan.
Like the Camry Hybrid on which it's based, the hybrid ES uses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine--tuned to run on the more efficient Atkinson Cycle--paired with the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive system.
The result is a combined 40-mpg rating from the EPA, which is both better than the HS achieved (at 35 mpg combined) and close to the Camry Hybrid rating, despite being heavier, more luxurious, and considerably more luxurious.
As with the related Toyota Avalon Hybrid, however, we suspect that a future Lincoln MKZ Hybrid model (based on the all-new 2013 Fusion Hybrid) will poses some serious competition to the ES 300h.
But now, at least, Lexus has a hybrid offering in the relatively high-volume mid-size near-luxury class--and it's not the unloved HS, which was oddly proportioned, slow, and remarkably noisy under full power.
Our first drive indicated that the new 2013 ES 300h "moves confidently and smoothly," and outdoes the outgoing HS with "better interior space, superior refinement, and even better mileage."
2013 Toyota AvalonEnlarge Photo
The redesigned 2013 Toyota Avalon full-size sedan is often viewed as a sort of Buick for Toyota buyers.
With marginally edgier styling and a fastback profile for 2013, the new Avalon also offers a new powertrain option: the first hybrid ever made available in Toyota's largest, plushest, cushiest sedan.
It's essentially the engine and Hybrid Synergy Drive system from the redesigned Camry Hybrid, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with Toyota's two-motor-generator system.
And in the large, feature-laden Toyota Avalon, it returns a creditable 40-mpg combined EPA rating.
For comparison, that's far better than the combined 29 mpg for the Buick Lacrosse with eAssist, the mild-hybrid four-cylinder version of Buick's largest sedan, which is a direct competitor for the big, comfortable Toyota.
But just as the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid handily trounces the Camry Hybrid's fuel-economy rating, there may be a world of hurt in store for the hybrid Avalon.
There will undoubtedly be a hybrid version of the new 2013 Lincoln MKZ, probably as a 2014 model.
Since the outgoing 2012 MKZ Hybrid was already rated at 39 mpg--and the Fusion Hybrid that will spawn the new MKZ Hybrid comes in at 47 mpg--we expect the Avalon Hybrid to lose its big-car efficiency crown next year.
Meanwhile, Toyota continues toward its goal of a hybrid offering for every vehicle in its complete model line--which it says it will have done by 2015.