The auto industry is all about innovation, moving forward. From safety features to interior gadgets, cars are at the forefront of design and technology (most of the time). A huge part of that forward-ness lays in fuel economy (mixed with saving the planet, of course).
Recently, I spent a few days on the not-so-sunny (at the time) West Coast in Huntington Beach, CA testing out the brand new 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid. With a new look along with a new Plug-In Hybrid version; I was excited about the prospect of driving this new Hybrid. Unfortunately, that excitement was short-lived.
Here’s the thing: It seems that the auto industry is going one of two ways; they’re either luring us in with ludicrous horsepower or with ludicrously low fuel numbers that inevitably come via an all-electric or hybrid power source. Logically all the performance goes with all the horsepower, and all the lack thereof goes with the hybrids.
Why is that?
Have the like of the 918 Spyder not proven to us that high-performance PHEVs are actually possible? I know, I know, that’s an extreme case and I’m obviously not saying every Prius should drive like a 918, but what I am saying is that my hybrid need not put me to sleep while I’m behind the wheel.
The Hyundai Sonata Plug-In Hybrid was a lovely car inside and out. Gorgeous to look at and loaded to the gills with lots of technological gadgets and goodies to keep all on board content and well-connected, the Sonata seemed like the complete package. Then I tried to pass someone on the highway. It was like the go-pedal was disconnected. Horrible.
And it’s not the only hybrid I’ve experienced as such. I mean, think about every ECO button in any car from any manufacturer. What does ECO equal? Molasses mode. It means your throttle response is now non-existent, that if you want to pass someone you better hope they’re parked.
I have a theory: If manufacturer made it a point to make their hybrid and PHEV models more dynamic, more enticing to drive, they’d sell more. The allure of saving money on fuel while still having fun behind the wheel is a huge pull for buyers. This I can guarantee. I’ve talked to a lot of car buyers over the years, and the general consensus I hear when someone is considering a hybrid or PHEV is that they are willing to sacrifice driving dynamics to save fuel. But why? Don’t we have the technology to challenge that?
Has Tesla not proven this a moot point? I’m not saying the Nissan LEAF should rival the Tesla, don’t get me wrong here, but what I’m saying is some of that dynamism, that performance aspect, should be able to trickle down to the masses. In other words, a Hyundai Sonata Hybrid/PHEV should not be as unpleasant to drive as a Mitsubishi Mirage in the name of saving on fuel costs.
Hybrids and PHEVs are great. I realize I’m not always one to offer them props or even say they’re good, but that’s 100% to do with the fact that I’m a driver. I will sacrifice my weekly Starbucks (or a new pair of shoes) to put more fuel in my car if it means I get a bit of performance. And I know I’m not the only one.
Manufacturers listen up: You want to sell more of your hybrids and PHEVs? Make them more interesting to drive. You’re welcome.