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.
There are several reasons for this, the first of which is just the same need to save fuel and cut emissions as applies to the Prius or Leaf. Manufacturers 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.
As media attention increasingly focuses on pollution from the tailpipe, customers are also demanding cleaner models. 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 taxation and could even limit access to major cities like London if bans are introduced in the future. In contrast, many of the sports models on this list are eligible for the government’s Plug-In Car Grant and are exempt from the London Congestion Charge.
Engineers have also found hybrid and electric technology can make powerful models even faster and better to drive. Electric motors are relatively compact and can provide instant thrust to the wheels without a traditional gearbox. One or more electric motors placed around the car can supplement the power of an internal combustion engine or replace it entirely.
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.
The list below includes sports cars, but also the best alternative-fuel saloon cars and SUVs for keen drivers who want excellent performance. If you aren’t as worried about going quickly, take a look at our guide to the best hybrid and electric cars, or for a more focused approach, our round-up of the best electric cars, best hybrid cars or best hybrid SUVs.
Here's what we thing are the 10 best hybrid and electric sports cars you can buy today.
If you’re after a car that provides near-supercar performance allied to styling that delivers a knockout punch, you simply can’t look past the BMW i8. With carbon-fibre construction under that stunning bodywork, which has been shaped to cut through to its gullwing doors, it’s exactly the kind of car the future always promised – yet it’s available here and now assuming you’ve got the £100,000-plus asking price. Under that sensational styling sits the same 1.5-litre petrol engine as you’ll find in a MINI. Yet here, it’s tuned to 225bhp and paired with a 129bhp electric motor. It’ll dispatch 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds and really does thrill when you throw it into some corners. Because it’s a plug-in hybrid, though, it can travel 23 miles on electricity alone and 134.5mpg economy is possible. Carbon-dioxide emissions of just 49g/km mean it’s exempt from both road tax and the London Congestion Charge.
The Tesla Model S isn’t just a sports saloon. It’s a car that in its most potent guise will out-accelerate any other model you can buy new. With a 0-60mph time of 2.5 seconds (yes, you read that right), the Model S P100D is fractionally slower to 60mph than the LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder hypercars (both of which are sold out), making it the third-fastest-accelerating car ever. Lesser models are available, and all are capable of more than 250 miles on a charge (the 75 and 90D models can muster 304 and 346 miles respectively). Tesla also operates a network of super-fast chargers, called Superchargers. 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 the boot is large enough to allow the installation of two optional, if very small, rear seats. That means the Model S is also the fastest seven-seater money can buy.
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 will soon be joined by the Audi e-tron and other rivals, but the Jaguar is likely to be 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 44mpg and CO2 emissions of 149g/km. The acceleration backs up the arresting design, too, with 0-62mph taking 4.7 seconds and a top speed of over 160mph.
The ‘iPerformance’ part of the 530e’s name should give some clues as to why it features on this list. This is a 248bhp plug-in hybrid that can manage 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds and reach a top speed of 146mph. On the other hand, it boasts a 29-mile all-electric range with its batteries fully charged and emits just 49g/km of CO2, with a claimed average economy figure of 141.2mpg. You’ll struggle to get anywhere near that figure 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 530e is heavier than some petrol or diesel versions, it’s only slightly less composed and comfortable.
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 BMW i3 is one of the most desirable small electric cars, and it’s probably the most attainable on this list. While it’s not going to set a scorching time at a racetrack, the faster i3s model will provide entertaining real-world performance - electric cars produce all their power immediately so acceleration feels much quicker than you might expect. Its futuristic looks continue on the inside, and it’s equally impressive underneath too; a carbon-fibre chassis is super-strong and keeps weight down, and is normally used for six-figure supercars.