Best hybrid cars 2024 – our picks
The biggest names in the high-performance car business have now adopted hybrid technology with open arms. This is what they’re up to with this cutting-edge technology
Ferrari SF90 Stradale
Its basic hybrid layout consists of a twin-turbocharged V8 engine that sits behind the driver, with a small electric motor sandwiched between it and an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. The transmission itself does without a reverse gear, as there’s an additional two electric motors on the front axle taking care of that.
Those electric motors on the front axle power each wheel independently, but decouple from the powertrain above 135mph. All three motors are powered from an 8kWh battery pack, which together with the combustion engine create a peak output of 986bhp. With all this hardware comes lots of weight, around 1700kg with fluids, so there’s a lot of physics at play.
Yet the SF90 is quite simply astonishing to drive, with immense pace and capability wrapped up in a driving experience that could only come from Modena. Whether the SF90 is the most involving or visceral Ferrari ever is a different question, but as hybrids go this one’s a good one.
Ferrari 296 GTB
Never one to rest on its laurels, Ferrari has wasted no time getting its second series-production hybrid on the road in the form of the 296 GTB. It is slightly less complicated than the V8-powered SF90, coming without the two front-mounted electric motors, and uses this purer connection between the powertrain and control to great effect.
The V6 itself is worth a mention, too, as not only is it the most powerful V6 in production right now (without the hybrid additions, that is), but there’s also a real sense of drama and theatricality that belies its meagre cylinder count. But even more impressive, and it might just be colloquial, is that this V6 feels like it was designed from its inception to work with its allotted hybrid module, rather than a simple drop-in power unit borrowed from elsewhere in the range.
Like the SF90, it comes with the bonus of being able to silently creep through towns and villages on its electric motor, but more importantly does an even better job at syncing its electric powertrain elements into the overall dynamic package. The excellent, feelsome brakes deserve a particular mention as it’s something few if any rivals match. In fact, so good is the 296 GTB that not only did it improve on the SF90’s eCoty result, but took an equal third place with the next car on this list.
That car is McLaren’s first series-production hybrid, the Artura. It mimics the Ferrari’s basic hybrid system, pairing a new wide-angle V6 engine to an electric motor that powers the rear wheels via a dual-clutch transmission. The McLaren’s 671bhp power figure is below that of the 296 GTB, which produces as much as 819bhp in its most potent driver mode, but that variation is drawn almost entirely from the engine, rather than the electric motor.
From here, though, the two start to diverge, starting with the McLaren’s brakes. The Ferrari, like most hybrids, uses regenerative braking to help refill the battery pack and recycle some of the otherwise wasted energy. McLaren on the other hand has kept the braking purely by means of pad and disc, making the brake pedal feel even more impressive than the Ferrari’s. In fact, this emphasis on ‘feel’ rather than outright performance is seen in various parts of the Artura, as not only are the brakes non-regenerative, they’re also still fully cable operated rather than by-wire as almost all new cars are. Same can be said of its hydraulic steering.
This has all helped McLaren focus on the aspects of the Artura that we prize so highly, which is why despite its rather uninspiring V6 engine note, it clawed back critical points against the Ferrari to create its tied-for-third eCoty position.
Peugeot 508 PSE
The 508 PSE’s powertrain is a tale of two halves, as while both axles are driven, they’re entirely independent. The front end is powered by Peugeot’s 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 197bhp mated to an eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission. Within the transmission casing is then a 109bhp electric motor, which together with the petrol engine powers the front wheels.
The rear wheels are driven from a second 111bhp electric motor mounted on the rear axle through a single-speed transmission, with both motors drawing power from an 11.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Due to the nature of plug-in powertrains, the total power isn’t a simple sum of all those elements, rather totals of 355bhp and 383lb ft of torque are the peak figures the PSE is able to produce at any one time.
To drive, the 508 is supple, fluid and clearly set up to make fast progress, but finds its problems in the calibration of its powertrain. Push too hard and the electric motors and boosty turbocharged engine produce their peaks too far apart, with a generous prod of the accelerator giving you an initial burst of acceleration, but leaving a momentary pause in the mid-range until the petrol engine comes on song further up the rev band. The transmission doesn’t help the situation, acting to the combustion engine’s best interests without taking into account the 200-odd extra bhp found elsewhere within the drivetrain.
Calm things down and the powertrain certainly finds a much more comfortable groove, but when in a high-performance application like the PSE it leaves lots to be desired, especially if the chassis is as willing as it is in the 508.
Porsche Panamera S E-hybrid
It’s fair to say that our initial impression of Porsche’s hybrid Panameras was average at best, but such is the rate of improvement that even within the same generation, the latest Panamera S E-Hybrid shows a huge improvement in calibration, handling and overall performance.
Porsche has tweaked elements such as the blending of the powertrain’s petrol and electric motors, and better integrated the PDK transmission. Porsche has also made big improvements to brake pedal feel and the switch between regenerative and friction braking.
But the biggest key to an E-Hybrid is ensuring it’s connected to a V6, rather than V8 engine, as the sheer mass of the Turbo S E-hybrid only makes it more cumbersome to drive regardless of its impressive performance. Instead, Porsche’s newer 2.9-litre V6 as used in the latest E-Hybrid and S E-Hybrid models is the one to go for, and makes for an excellent high-performance daily hybrid.