It won’t surprise you to learn that we love electric cars here at Electrifying. But we’re also realistic and know that the transition to pure-electric cars is a big step for some people, which is why we know hybrids have their place.
Hybrid power can be particularly good for large SUVs and 4x4s. These vehicles can be costly to run due to their (normally) big engines, their larger dimensions and for a multitude of other reasons, but hybrid ones can be surprisingly light on your wallet.
And when we say hybrid, we’re meaning full-hybrids (or ‘self-charging hybrids’) and plug-in hybrids; the former uses a combination of the petrol engine and a small electric motor to power the car and never needs plugging in. The latter, you guessed it, has a larger electric motor and battery and needs to be plugged into a charging point to be topped up with electricity.
Here we reveal our favourite hybrid 4x4s. As ‘4x4’ is traditionally a term applied to more hardcore, off-road-ready vehicles, all these cars come with four-wheel drive and most are a little more suitable for a life plugging a muddy field when fitted with the right tyres.
10. Jeep Renegade 4xe
Our pick: Upland
Price: From £36,500
Range: 26 miles
Unlike many small SUVs, the Renegade has a pretty impressive level of off-road ability when you go for the cleverly named ‘4xe’, and for that reason alone it makes our list.
Under the bonnet lies a 1.3-litre petrol engine that drives the front wheels, while a 59bhp electric motor drives the rears. In the middle sits an 11.4kWh battery that provides up to 26 miles of electric running, and there’s the choice of 187bhp and 237bhp power outputs. All cars get Jeep’s 'Selec-Terrain' traction control system that gives different settings for sand, snow and mud, while higher trims get off-road-ready tyres and styling features such as tow hooks.
Admittedly there are far more refined and comfortable small SUVs on the market, but few have the off-roading ability to match their looks in the way the Renegade does.
The Renegade has proper off road ability
9. Toyota RAV4 Plug-in/ Suzuki Across
Our pick: Design
Price: From £44,100 (Across: £48,129)
Range: 46 miles
Knowing Toyota’s long history with hybrids, it won't surprise you to know that the RAV4 is a great hybrid SUV. But there’s also a plug-in hybrid version offered and it deserves a look if you want very low running costs and the added benefit of four-wheel drive.
The Plug-in features a 182bhp 2.5-litre petrol engine and a 180bhp electric motor that both power the front wheels, while there’s also a 54bhp electric motor for the rear wheels. That gives this family SUV a whopping 302bhp – slightly unnecessary, admittedly, but what’s more impressive are the eco credentials. Thanks to an 18.1kWh battery, the RAV4 can manage up to 46 miles of pure EV running, which is a match for some more premium plug-in 4x4s on this list, and 22g/km of CO2 puts it into one of the lowest tax brackets.
The RAV4 is a little pricey and there’s no seven-seat version offered, but if you want Toyota’s fabled reliability in a tax-busting 4x4 package then the RAV4 impresses. As a side note, the Suzuki Across is identical to the Toyota but comes in one highly specified (and highly expensive) trim level.
8. Subaru Forester
Our pick: 2.0i XE Lineartronic
Price: From £37,990
If you live in a remote part of the country and want a hybrid 4x4, then you’ll probably already be aware of the Forester’s legendary reputation. But if you’re more of a city dweller who needs the occasional assurance of four-wheel drive then perhaps move on.
That may sound harsh but the Forester forges a different path from more fashionable SUVs. It focuses on outright dependability in the harshest of British winters rather than kerb appeal at the local supermarket.
It’s a full hybrid (or ‘self-charging hybrid’) and as such has a tiny 0.57kWh battery, meaning most of the car’s power comes from the 2.0-litre ‘Boxer’ petrol engine. The Forester falls short of the refinement and comfort levels of even the most average family SUV in feeling a bit coarse to drive, and its mid-30s mpg fuel consumption isn’t outstanding. But it will outgun some of the best tough 4x4s on the market, thanks to its permanent four-wheel drive and high ground clearance.
Subarus have a legendary reputation among country folk
7. Volvo XC60 Recharge
Our pick: T6 Plus
Price: From £51,767
Range: 49 miles
It’s been around for a while now, but the Volvo XC60 Recharge plug-in hybrid is still a classy choice.
Like all other Volvo PHEVs, the XC60 uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine that’s both turbocharged and supercharged to give power and smoothness. Volvo has been constantly updating the XC60 and the most recent model gets an 18.8kWh battery which is good enough for up to 49 miles of pure electric running. That’s pretty impressive and will allow most owners to do many journeys without waking up the petrol engine. There are two versions – a T6 with 345bhp and a T8 with a whopping 448bhp, and it’s the former we recommend.
It isn’t the most dynamic to drive and without suitable tyres might struggle in severe weather, but the XC60 is a wonderfully relaxing car to drive with a quality, well designed interior.
The XC60 will do up to 49 miles of pure electric running
6. Land Rover Defender P400e
Our pick: X-Dynamic S
Price: From £72,205
Range: 32 miles
If you need a proper, rugged 4x4 that also happens to be a hybrid then we’d forgive you for not considering anything other than the Land Rover Defender. The British brand’s modern take on the iconic Defender comes in a wide variety of engines, and the P400e plug-in hybrid is proof that big 4x4s needn’t cost the earth to run.
It’s powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine and an electric motor, and comes with the same raft of off-road gadgets as other Defenders meaning it’ll be the perfect car if your commute to work involves driving over the Cairngorms. Up to 113mpg, 70g/km of CO2 and up to 32 miles of electric range are useful too.
Just be aware though that 32-mile range is a little paltry compared to some other 4x4s on this list (even some other Land Rovers), rivals are cheaper on company car tax, and there’s no seven-seat option because the 19.2kWh battery sits (very noticeably) in the middle of the boot. The P400e also has a 500kg lower towing capacity than other Defenders at 3,000kg.
The hybrid Defender is great, but there's no seven seater and it has less towing capacity
5. Volvo XC90 Recharge
Our pick: T8 Plus
Price: From £61,528
Range: 32 miles
The XC90 isn’t far off celebrating its tenth birthday, which makes it rather old in car years. Its appeal is still very strong, though, and like with the XC60, Volvo has improved the XC90 over the past decade meaning the current car is arguably as good as it ever has been.
It’s powered by the familiar 2.0-litre turbocharged and supercharged petrol engine, here pushing out just under 400bhp, and an electric motor powering the rear wheels. Impressively for such a large vehicle, its pure-electric range is just over 40 miles, which will be more than good enough for most people, and helps push the XC90 into the 8% BiK bracket.
Not only do the on-paper stats impress but also the driving experience. It isn’t as thrilling to drive as a BMW X5, but the XC90 is a very chilled out feeling SUV. This is helped with a super-cool interior that’s well made and has a lovely minimalist design, and the battery doesn’t affect interior space – this is a full seven-seater SUV.
The XC90 will be replaced eventually by the fully electric EX90
4. Mercedes-Benz GLE 400e 4Matic
Our pick: AMG Line Premium
Price: From £87,505
Range: 66 miles
Mercedes used to offer its large GLE with a diesel plug-in hybrid power, which neatly combined all the efficiency of a diesel engine with a long pure-electric range. That was then, though, as for 2023 the diesel has been shelved and in its place is a 2.0-litre petrol engine.
A 134bhp electric motor and a large 31.2kWh battery give a very impressive pure electric range of 66 miles, and when driving on electricity the GLE is as refined as you’d expect a Mercedes-Benz to be. Once you’ve depleted that battery, however, the 2.0-litre can sound a bit strained, but you could say that for a good number of cars on this list.
It’s a strict five-seater, but the interior is nicely put together and feels very upmarket with its large screens and strong standard list. Mercedes’ 4Matic four-wheel drive system gives useful traction and stability, but for the best grip you’ll need upgraded tyres. An 8% BiK rating will make the GLE good for company car drivers, too.
The diesel hybrid has been shelved, but the petrol is still popular
3. Range Rover P460e
Our pick: SE P460e
Price: From £115,585
Range: 70 miles
No list would be complete without the Range Rover, would it? While in the past hybrids formed a tiny proportion of the Range Rover line-up, Land Rover’s halo SUV comes with a variety of mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid engines.
Before a fully electric Range Rover arrives in 2024, we’d recommend one of the plug-in hybrids – the P460e. There is a punchier P560e, which musters more power from its 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine, but the P460e’s 454bhp total output is more than enough. It’s clear electric power suits the Range Rover as it glides along, flicking from petrol and electric power almost silently. In fact, it won’t be switching between the two power sources a lot because Land Rover claims both PHEVs can manage up to 70 miles in EV mode – that’s super impressive.
Aside from that, the PHEVs lose none of the off-road prowess of other Range Rover models, and feature a suite of modes to traverse a hillside in the Brecon Beacons or the local Waitrose car park. It isn’t cheap but did you really expect it to be?
Choose a Range Rover PHEV and you'll pay less company car tax than a Fiesta driver
2. Land Rover Discovery Sport P300e
Our pick: Dynamic SE
Price: From £50,150
Range: 37 miles
From Land Rover’s most expensive plug-in hybrid to its cheapest, the Discovery Sport P300e is one of the most appealing family SUVs if you need both low running costs and 4x4 dependability.
It uses a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine that drives the front wheels, while a 107bhp electric motor powers the rears which gets its juice from a 15kWh battery. It means there’s over 300bhp on offer and a pure-electric driving range of up to 37 miles. A BMW X3 plug-in hybrid is more fun to drive, but the Discovery Sport is pleasant enough and pretty comfortable.
The ace up the Discovery Sport’s sleeve, though, is its off-roading credentials. It has similar gadgets to other more expensive Land Rover models, and is far more likely to cope with tricky driving conditions than similarly sized and priced rivals.
A Discovery with a 1.5-litre engine sounds like a nightmare, but there's electricity to help
1. BMW X5 xDrive50e
Our pick: M Sport
Price: From £79,265
Range: 67 miles
We’ve always been big fans of BMW’s X5 plug-in hybrid, and the German firm has just revealed an updated model for 2023.
It’s still powered by BMW’s beautifully smooth 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine, but a larger 25.7kWh battery means this big BMW can now travel up to 67 miles on pure electricity. Charging capacity has also been improved to 7.4kW and CO2 emissions of 18g/km means the X5 slips into the 8% BiK tax bracket.
Aside from this, the X5 is surprisingly nimble for such a large car, and the petrol-electric combo gives silky smooth performance and refinement. The xDrive four-wheel drive system gives added traction, but like a few cars on this list, for outright assurance when the weather turns nasty or for that occasional trip across a muddy field, all-season or mud and snow tyres are recommended.