These days, it’s not hard to find an SUV with third-row seating, but locating a hybrid SUV that seats more than five is more challenging. For the 2012 model year, only four vehicles fit the bill. Here they are, in alphabetical order:
2012 CADILLAC ESCALADE HYBRID
This large luxury SUV commands attention with regal styling, powerful engine, and confident handling that belie its truck roots. Reviewers have looked favorably on the myriad of standard features, towing capacity, and roomy interior — especially the ability to seat eight people, a rare trait among hybrids.
The Escalade Hybrid is driven by a 6.0-liter V8 engine combined with two 60-kilowatt electric motors and a battery pack. It’s all tied together by an automatic transmission called “Two-Mode.” Total output is 379 horsepower. Fuel economy is 20 mpg city/32 highway for both rear- and all-wheel drive. Compared to the regular Escalade, it’s an improvement of 5 mpg — impressive for such a behemoth.
At low speeds, this hybrid is driven by electric power only, creating an extremely peaceful and smooth ride. Higher speeds engage the hybrid powertrain while the cylinder deactivation system works flawlessly. The regenerative braking system changes the feel of braking a bit.
Depending on the trim level chosen, the Escalade Hybrid starts at $73,850 and comes with features such as adaptive suspension, power liftgate, blind-spot warning system, rear parking sensors, sunroof, tri-zone automatic climate control, heated/ventilated power seats, heated second-row seats, rearview camera, navigation, and rear DVD system. A complete set of safety devices is included.
2012 CHEVROLET TAHOE HYBRID
As an 8-passenger large SUV that can tow 6,200 pounds, the Tahoe Hybrid offers a more cost-effective and everyday version of its cousin, the Escalade Hybrid. The automotive press notes that its greatest value as a hybrid can be found in the stop-and-go traffic of city driving.
The Tahoe Hybrid is powered by a 332-horsepower 6.0-liter V8 engine with two 60-kilowatt electric motors and a battery pack. The total combined output is 379 horsepower. The unusually complex transmission uses three planetary gearsets and four clutches, but it adapts itself to driving conditions to maximize efficiency. Fuel economy is 20 mpg city/23 highway for both rear- and four-wheel drive.
The only trim available starts at $51,665 and includes rear parking sensors, remote engine starter, tri-zone automatic climate control, heated power front seats, split folding second-row seat, folding removable third-row seat, rearview camera, navigation, and voice controls. A sunroof and DVD system are optional. A full set of safety devices are standard as well.
Transitioning from the electric motors to the gasoline engine makes the car shudder slightly, but the acceleration is good for a vehicle this size. Handling isn’t as smooth as other vehicles, but the towing capacity more than makes up for it.
2012 GMC YUKON HYBRID
Yet another GM cousin, this 8-passenger large SUV offers a greener way to haul people and cargo. It’s one of the more powerful SUVs on the market, but it’s also one of the heaviest.
The Yukon Hybrid uses a 6.0-liter V8 engine and a pair of 60-kilowatt electric motors; the latter alone can accelerate the vehicle to about 25 mph. Fuel economy is 20 mpg city/23 highway.
Two trim levels are offered with a starting price of $52,165 and standard navigation, rearview camera, rear park assist, tri-zone automatic climate control, remote starter, power front seats, and folding removable third-row seat. The DVD system and sunroof are optional. Full safety devices are included.
Handling is similar to the Tahoe Hybrid.
2012 TOYOTA HIGHLANDER HYBRID
Image Credit: Toyota Pressroom
This 7-passenger crossover hybrid garners rave reviews for its fuel economy, performance, versatility, and attractive cabin. The ride is smooth and comfortable, and it offers both strong acceleration and respectable towing capacity.
The powertrain consists of a 3.5-liter V6 engine and three electric motors for a combined total of 280 horsepower. This setup is paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive system. One electric motor is dedicated to the rear wheels for times when extra traction or acceleration are needed. Fuel economy is 28 mpg city/28 highway; both categories are identical because the regenerative braking makes the most of city-style driving.
Switching between gasoline and electric power is almost undetectable, and two driver controls offer the ability to drive solely on electric power — at low speeds and for short distances — or to tweak the throttle response for better fuel economy.
The two trim levels start at $38,140 and, depending on the trim chosen, come with such features as power front seats, sliding/reclining split second-row seat from which the center section can be removed, split folding third-row seat, rearview camera, power liftgate, and sunroof. Navigation and rear DVD system are optional. A full set of safety devices is included, as is a hill-start assist feature.
The Highlander Hybrid has received high marks for its quality materials, comfortable cabin, seats that fold flat into the floor, satisfying acceleration, and confident handling.