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car review

The Volvo XC60 Recharge has a beautiful interior, 400 horsepower, and about 30 kilometres of electric range.Handout

I’m driving a 2013 Acura RDX, purchased new in 2012, with 230,000 kilometres on it. I love it and my mechanic says I can get 300,000 kilometres out of it, but I’ll need to replace it at some point. I really want a hybrid or PHEV. I can’t go full electric due to limited range, remoteness, and distance from charging stations in the mountain passes to get to Calgary, Vancouver, or Kelowna from my small mountain community.

There’s a Toyota dealer in town and Lexus offers hybrid and PHEV in their NX models. Acura has no RDX hybrid. I could go with the RAV4 Prime or hybrid, but it’s not as nice as what I’m used to for long drives. Subaru has no Outback hybrid either. I don’t want to go American. I’m 63, so I will have this vehicle for a long time. Should I wait until more options are available in hybrids? I really look after my cars, so I could if I have to. – Tracey

Gentile: Unfortunately, Tracey, there is a lack of supply when it comes to new vehicles, especially hybrids and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), because of the global shortage of semiconductor chips. But because you’re not in a rush and you’re driving a reliable vehicle, time is on your side. You can do the research and wait for some new PHEVs that are coming down the pipeline soon.

Richardson: I wonder why Tracey says she doesn’t want to go American? I hope it’s not because she thinks they’re still the old slapped-together, poorly designed clunkers of decades ago. Old habits can die hard.

The 2022 Lexus NX is Lexus’s first plug-in hybrid.Handout

Gentile: True. But who are we to judge? At least she knows what she wants and doesn’t want. Let’s start with one of my favourites, the 2022 Lexus NX, Lexus’s first plug-in hybrid. It rolls off the line in Cambridge, Ont. – that’s right, Canadian-made. I think Tracey would love that.

Richardson: It ticks all the boxes, for sure, with a base price for the hybrid of about $50,000 and an extra $10,000 for the more powerful plug-in. I drove one in Arizona recently and it’s very nice for long drives. Plenty of torque for mountain roads, too. The purely electric driving ability is rated at 61 kilometres, which is good for a PHEV.

Gentile: Good? It’s great for a PHEV – it’s one of the longest EV ranges you can get with a plug-in hybrid. Most PHEVs have about 30 kilometres of range, which seems pointless to me. I can’t even be bothered to charge it for that little range.

Richardson: You’re not alone in feeling that way. But the RAV4 Prime has seven more kilometres of range, and the Lexus NX is a luxurious version of it. This new generation, though, is more of a stand-alone model than the gussied-up RAV of the previous NX.

Gentile: Tracey mentioned the Toyota RAV4 Prime, but in her words, “it’s not as nice” as a Lexus or her Acura. She also mentioned Subaru – there’s no Outback PHEV, but there is a Crosstrek plug-in hybrid. It has all-wheel drive and an electric range of about 27 kilometres. Unfortunately for Tracey, it’s only sold in Quebec.

Richardson: Yup. Lots of help for Subaru’s bottom line in Quebec, where the provincial government imposes costly penalties if they don’t sell enough electric vehicles. The B.C. government does the same thing, but the penalties aren’t as expensive. This doesn’t help drivers in the rest of the country where the car isn’t sold, does it? The new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is an obvious option though, don’t you agree?

Gentile: I agree. It’s a nice vehicle and very popular – it’s Canada’s top-selling plug-in hybrid. But Tracey is used to driving a luxury vehicle, an Acura RDX, and unfortunately Mitsubishi doesn’t come close to the luxury feel inside that she’s used to. What about a Volvo XC60 Recharge plug-in hybrid?

Richardson: That will give her the feeling of luxury, for sure, and Volvo’s made a huge commitment to electrification. And there’s a Volvo dealer in Kelowna, so no less convenient than her Acura. It starts at around $70,000 plus taxes.

Gentile: Volvo has ambitious plans to be a fully electric car company by 2030 – that means no more internal combustion engines in its future. But for now, the Volvo XC60 Recharge has everything on Tracey’s wish list. It has a beautiful interior, 400 horsepower, and about 30 kilometres of electric range. The only thing she might not like is the centre touch screen – it’s not the most intuitive and can be frustrating because simple manoeuvres are often complicated with multiple steps.

Richardson: BMW makes a plug-in hybrid version of both the X3 and the X5, but I’ve not driven either of them to recommend them.

Gentile: I’m sure they’re just as good as the conventional cars, but the pure-electric range for the X3 is as low as the Volvo, at just 29 kilometres. The X5 PHEV is much better at 50 kilometres, but its overall fuel consumption is thirsty at 8.5 litres per 100 kilometres. Both Bimmers burn premium fuel, too.

Richardson: If she opts for the Lexus, the new NX recommends premium gas for its best performance, but it’s quite happy to run all day on cheaper, regular gas. It’s also the first model to include a touch screen and ditch the frustrating mouse pad of before, which she might have in her RDX. Every year, technology becomes more capable, but often simpler, too. That’s another reason to hang on another year before replacing her car.

Gentile: And more new players are coming to the market, like Jeep’s second plug-in hybrid, the 2022 Grand Cherokee 4xe. It has about 40 kilometres of electric range and a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, mated to two electric motors and an eight-speed automatic transmission. It would be right at home in her mountain community.

Richardson: We can’t recommend the Jeep because we’ve not driven it yet to know if it’s any good, but I think Tracey should be waiting a while anyway. If there’s another 70,000 kilometres left on her Acura, this gives her plenty of time to ride out the higher prices caused by the current chip shortage.

Gentile: Or she could go with a conventional hybrid like a Toyota Venza; she’ll get the fuel economy savings and she doesn’t have to plug it in. But for now, she’s better off driving her Acura for at least another year; by then, there will be even more PHEVs to choose from.

Richardson: And who knows? Maybe in another year, we’ll know about an RDX hybrid.

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