Best hybrid and electric sports cars
Some of the best sports cars on sale today are hybrid and electric-powered. We round up the most exciting ones you can buy.
Hear the terms hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric car and you’ll probably think of a model like the Toyota Prius hybrid or all-electric Nissan Leaf. These popular alternative-fuel cars don’t represent the full story, however, because the engineers of sports cars, performance saloons and even fast SUVs are using those advanced technologies, too.
Electric power might seem at odds with the idea of a sports car but it’s actually a really good fit. Electric motors can deliver all their power from a standstill, while many petrol cars need to be revved hard to achieve peak performance. That means that hybrid and electric sports cars are very quick off the line, often pinning you back in your seat.
In models like the Honda NSX, adding electric motors to wheels other than those powered by the petrol engine can effectively make the car four-wheel drive. This can boost traction, grip and safety – even in poor weather conditions. It also opens a Pandora’s box for manufacturers, because electric motors can juggle power between the wheels almost instantaneously, allowing for even greater agility.
Of course, electrified sports cars bring benefits in terms of efficiency, too. Even those who can afford a sports car might not enjoy stopping for fuel every couple of hundred miles or the negative image of a ‘gas guzzler’. Driving a car with high emissions also brings higher taxes, and you’ll need to pay a lot in congestion charges if you want to enter some cities in a conventional sports car.
Manufacturers also have to meet increasingly tough legislation on engine emissions across their entire model ranges. If a manufacturer spends billions making its superminis, hatchbacks and crossovers emit less CO2, it’s no good to have a dirty range-topper skewing the figures.
The list below includes sports cars, but also the best alternative-fuel saloon cars and SUVs for keen drivers who want excellent performance. There are plenty of fast electric SUVs, like the Audi e-tron, BMW iX3 and Mercedes EQC, while hot hatches like the Volkswagen Golf GTE and Skoda Octavia vRS iV are also embracing plug-in hybrid power.
Concerns were raised when it was revealed that Porsche were working on an electric car but the Taycan is as good as any other Porsche sports car. The range-topping Porsche Taycan Turbo S comes with a supercar price and the pace to match - it has 750bhp and a 2.8-second 0-62mph time - but even the base model reaches 62mph in a quick 5.4 seconds.
Inside, it’s a mix of the sportiness you’ll find in the Porsche 911 and the very latest tech, which further enhances its futuristic feel. Part of its repertoire is super-fast charging, which allows the battery to be recharged to 80% in around 20 minutes. When the battery is fully topped up, you can travel up to 300 miles before needing to plug in again.
The Tesla Model S isn’t just a sports saloon. It’s a car that in its most potent guise will out-accelerate anything else you can buy new. With a 0-60mph time of just two seconds (yes, you read that right), the new 1,006bhp Model S Plaid outguns nearly all existing supercars - including the Bugatti Chiron. It may have been on sale for eight years now, but the Model S continues to be a game-changer, and rivals are struggling to catch up.
Lesser models are available, and all are capable of more than 350 miles on a charge (the ‘Long Range’ model currently offers 412 miles). Tesla also operates a network of super-fast chargers, called Superchargers, which we think are the best chargepoints around. The Model S bristles with technology, most of which is operated through a huge touchscreen with an always-on internet connection, which means software updates are continually downloaded. There are masses of space inside, and there’s a second storage space under the bonnet because there’s no engine.
Although the Tesla Model X was arguably the first electric performance SUV, plenty of rivals are now lining up to take a slice of the same pie. The Jaguar I-Pace not only undercuts the Model X quite considerably, but it can also manage around 300 miles on a single charge.
It also lives up to Jaguar’s sporting heritage, thanks to a power output of 396bhp and a 0-62mph time of just 4.8 seconds. All this performance comes with a spacious interior and two boots, as well as the ability to glide silently past a traditional fuel station. The I-Pace is far from the only luxury electric SUV but the Jaguar is still the best choice for keen drivers.
Despite its six-figure price tag and immense performance, the Honda NSX has been conceived as the everyday supercar. That means it’s easy to drive when you want a relaxed commute, while its petrol-electric hybrid powerplant is rated at 565bhp, offering the potential to accelerate from 0-62mph in around three seconds.
Like most cars of its ilk, the NSX allows you to tweak various settings to make the drive sportier or more comfortable. But whatever the setting, the four-wheel-drive system provides a huge amount of grip and the steering is wonderfully direct. If you’re looking for a commuter car and a weekend track toy, the Honda NSX will fit the bill with its Jekyll-and-Hyde character.
The Lexus LC is a stunning coupe that’s designed to cross continents with speed and style. In this respect, it rivals revered models like the Mercedes SL, Porsche 911 and Aston Martin DB11, but it’s also quite different for two striking reasons. Firstly, while the models mentioned above have styling influenced by heritage and past models, Lexus is a younger brand and the LC looks like a concept car you can buy.
Secondly, the LC is available as a hybrid, with a 3.5-litre petrol V6 combined with an electric motor in the LC 500h. This marriage results in figures of around 34mpg and CO2 emissions of 184g/km. The acceleration backs up the arresting design, too, with 0-62mph taking five seconds and a top speed of over 160mph.
The fabled Mustang badge on an electric SUV? Purists were up in arms, perhaps unsurprisingly, when Ford announced the Mach-E, which sits alongside the existing V8-powered Ford Mustang coupe and convertible. Ford has attempted to give it a coupe look, a bit like the Tesla Model Y, and the interior is clearly inspired by Tesla too. There’s a vast portrait touchscreen that controls most of the car’s functions but a few more buttons scattered around - so it should be fairly easy to operate the Mach-E.
The most efficient Ford Mustang Mach-E is the standard rear-drive model, capable of nearly 380 miles of range, while the all-wheel drive version trades some range for a five-second 0-62mph time. A ‘GT’ model is due, promising to reduce that time to just 3.7 seconds.
Porsche has truly embraced plug-in hybrid technology, as evidenced by the fact the Porsche Panamera Hybrid isn’t just one model, but an entire family within the model line-up. This spans from the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid all the way to the Turbo S E-Hybrid – the most powerful Porsche Panamera in history. Fitted with a 4.0-litre V8 and electric motors, the Turbo S E-Hybrid can hit 62mph from a standstill in 3.4 seconds and not stop accelerating until it reaches 192mph. Those are supercar figures and there’s a six-figure price tag to match.
Running costs should somewhat ease the burden though, because the 4 E-Hybrid can return 113mpg and emits 56g/km of CO2, while the faster model returns 97mpg and emits 66g/km. Head into the city and you can drive in all-electric mode for up to 31 miles.
The MINI has long been one of the sportiest superminis and now it’s available with a zippy electric powertrain. Zero-62mph takes 7.3 seconds, which is pretty close to the petrol-powered MINI Cooper S, and it’s just as fun to drive as any other version. There’s a little more body roll thanks to the weight of the batteries, but this is a car that can put a smile on your face in town and on twisty back roads.
Putting an electric motor in the MINI also improves refinement, although the space on board limited the size of the battery. The 28.9kWh battery is smaller than the one you get in a Renault ZOE, so the MINI is said to manage 144 miles on a charge - 100 less than the eco-minded ZOE. Recharging to 80% takes 35 minutes from a public fast charger or two and a half hours from a wallbox.
The BMW 5 Series 530e gained its place on this list due to its sub-six-second 0-62mph time and its excellent driving characteristics. Now, there’s an even more powerful 545e version, using the same powertrain as the impressive BMW X5 xDrive45e. A 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor combine to give 387bhp and 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds, helped by standard four-wheel drive.
On the other hand, the 530e and 545e boast 37 and 33-mile electric ranges respectively, with CO2 figures low enough to make them very cheap in Benefit-in-Kind tax for business users. You’ll struggle to get anywhere near the quoted 157-201mpg figures if you regularly use all that performance, but if you have a particularly short commute (and charging point access), it may be possible to use no fuel at all in everyday driving. Elsewhere, it's business as usual – the 5 Series is a very accomplished car, and while the PHEVs are heavier than some petrol or diesel versions, it’s only slightly less composed and comfortable.
That’s a Volvo, you might be thinking. Well, yes and no, because Polestar is an offshoot of Volvo, and it’s focusing on electric and hybrid models. The Polestar 1 was the brand’s first model, a plug-in hybrid coupe with stunning looks and some really impressive stats. With two electric motors and a petrol engine on board, it packs 601bhp and can get from 0-62mph in four seconds, yet offers a 77-mile electric range.
You’ve really got to want one, because it has a six-figure price tag, and there are other compromises too. It’s left-hand drive, for a start, so some junctions and overtakes will take some thought. The batteries need to go somewhere too, and the Polestar 1 shows the difficulty of squeezing them into a svelte coupe. You get a small 143-litre boot, so you’ll need to pack very light if you’re planning to take it on a weekend away.