FIRST IMPRESSIONS: It’s big, towering over most other mere-mortal SUVs. The size surely undermines much of the fuel efficiency. Try not to feel self-conscious as you pull into a hybrid-only spot at your local Whole Foods Market.
BOTTOM LINE: Its decked-out interior and DVD/satellite radio entertainment system led to thoughts of renting the place out as a small studio apartment. It made for a comfortable ride on a long trip. And the self-cooling seats were a revelation after I’d parked it in the hot Texas sun.
For all the fun we could have even as the car remained sitting still, its performance once we hit the road was a disappointment. It started with the soft, but clearly audible, whine broadcast across the vehicle anytime the electric battery was solely powering the engine (when traveling under 20 mph). It made this luxury vehicle sound like a creaky old jalopy.
The noise disappeared once we upped the speed and the gasoline power kicked into gear. But on a windy highway the engine was a bit sluggish in its response to my foot’s request for additional speed. I’d press down and then there’d be a half-second’s delay before acceleration would kick in.
Other downsides were a third-row seat not meant for sitting, and a lack of storage space—given the huge overall size—in the back. You’ll need to remove the third seat most of the time if you plan to frequently haul around any sizeable cargo.
TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY: For the money, we don’t see how this is worth it. It feels like a lot of wasted space, doesn’t drive as well as you’d hope, and, if you’re looking for gas mileage, you can do almost as well with a smaller (even non-hybrid) SUV.