Hybrid Horsepower And The Motoring Enthusiast

Love them or hate ’em, hybrids are here to stay. But what’s an enthusiast to do about it? While early generations of hybrids like the Prius were indeed geared toward operating economy, the newer generations of hybrids are making motor heads sit up and take notice. There is of course Porsche’s 918 that, despite having 800 horsepower on tap, promises to return 78 miles to the gallon. To a motor head, that’s automotive nirvana. But at $900,000 dollars, it’s not a car that every Tom, Dick and Harry can afford. Ferrari has also announced a 900 horsepower hybrid that will be launched very soon, but in terms of affordability, we’re not holding our breath on this one too.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s the Honda CR-Z. Designed as the replacement for the popular CR-X, it has gotten a lukewarm reception from most enthusiasts because of its anemic power output. For a generation that was brought up on giant-killing VTEC engines, the CR-Z’s power train package leaves much to be desired. As a technology demonstrator though, it proves that it’s possible to build frugal yet spirited cars. And spirited it is, because most people who have driven the car agree that a few choice aftermarket upgrades like a coil over suspension would make the car a blast to drive, given more power. Compounding the CR-Z’s low power is the fact that hybrid systems weigh more. Even though a hybrid’s electric motor delivers practically instant off-the-torque, the added mass cannot but affect a small hybrid’s acceleration and handling. With 800 horsepower hybrid exotics, this would not be as evident a drawback as in a car whose 120 horsepower engine has to move 2,700 pounds.

From the makers of the most successful hybrid though comes the Lexus LF-LC, a hybrid concept car first shown to the world in Sydney, but which was also shown at the recently concluded LA Motor Show. With 500 combined horsepower from its twin electric motors and gasoline V8, this car’s drive train is supposedly carrying the prototype for a high performance Lexus hybrid that will make its appearance in 2014. This segment of the market will perhaps be the most active in the near future because it’s a niche that Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes have taken a serious interest in, in terms of hybrid offerings.

So, to those motoring enthusiasts who thought that the popularity of the Toyota Prius was a harbinger of doom, take heart. There’s a lot of interesting tech, and cars, on the way.