If any powertrain configuration can be considered a “magic bullet” for fuel economy, reduced emission and even enhanced performance, the hybrid powertrain is the one. First employed in mass production by Honda and followed closely to market by Toyota the gasoline/electric hybrid systems have both increased the average fuel economy and come to symbolize environmentally sensitive motoring.
For those of you who have paid absolutely no attention to things automotive in the last twelve years, a hybrid powertrain combines an internal combustion engine with an electric motor (or motors) to power an automobile. The electric motors are energized by a rechargeable battery pack. In the vast majority of configurations, the battery pack is recharged when the vehicle coasts or brakes.
Because they run partially on self-generated electricity, hybrids use less combustible fuel. All of the hybrid models on this list run on gasoline, so for the purposes of this discussion, we’ll refer solely to gasoline moving forward. The gasoline engine also generates electricity to recharge the battery pack.
In some configurations the electric motor is capable of propelling the vehicle without the gasoline motor; this is referred to as a “full hybrid”. In other configurations, the electric motor works only in conjunction with the gasoline engine. This is referred to as a “partial hybrid”. Further, the hybrid system can be used to enhance fuel economy as with the vast majority of its applications; or it can be used to enhance performance—as with the Lexus sedan, Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid and Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid on this list of the best AWD hybrid cars for 2012.
Initially all hybrid models were front-wheel drive. When hybrid powertrains started to appear in SUVs and crossovers they gained all-wheel drive counterparts as well. That said, only one passenger car on the market currently is an AWD Hybrid Car, the Lexus LS 600h L, the rest are all either car-based crossovers, or full SUVs.
What follows is our list of the best 2012 all-wheel drive hybrids.