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I Want a Plug-In Hybrid For Long Trips! What Should I Buy?

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Greg is a soon-to-be-retired physician with a half-dozen Miatas and a variety of other rides. He’s looking to enjoy his time off with a long-distance cruiser, ideally some kind of wagon/hybrid combo. He can spend upwards of $120,000. What car should he buy?

(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. Do you want us to help you find a car? Submit your story on our form.)

Here’s the scenario:

So I’m about to retire from a career as an ER doc, and I’m thinking about a car.

Some background: I have 6 Miatas (4 that run), a Lotus Elise, an RV, 3 pickup trucks, 4 beater Volvo wagons, a Chevy Volt that I commute in, and some others that I can’t think of right off the bat. I plan on building one of the Miatas into an Exocet with one of my sons. During covid lockdown, my daughter and I swapped motors on a junked Volvo C30 (her dream car).

So why in the world am I thinking about ANOTHER car?

Well, after I retire ( which will be within a year – woo hoo!) I would like to travel – some will be international and some around the US and A

This would be my ideal car: a plug in Hybrid station wagon that gets 50 miles of electric, is super comfortable for long drives, that can have a 2 inch receiver hitch for bicycles on the back (I’m also a bike junkie).

Don’t want –

All electric – infrastructure isn’t there yet

BMW – I’m not a dick

another RV

Do want

SCHMOOOVE!

Station wagon or minivan (or an SUV if I have to)

Would really like to be able to sleep in it occasionally.

Rock solid reliability –

I can push the budget up to $120,000

Quick Facts:

Budget: up to $120,000

Location: Wyoming

Daily Driver: Sort of

Wants: Wagon or van, ability to sleep in it, ideally some kind of hybrid

Doesn’t want: An SUV or BMW

Expert 1: Tom McParland – Hybrid + Wagon

Well Dr. Greg, after many years in a hectic emergency room it’s time to hit the open road. Of course, a wagon is an excellent choice but options are limited in the American market. Add in the hybrid component and you have narrowed your field to less than a handful of cars.

However, there is one car that will check all the boxes to some degree. The Porsche Panamera SportTurismo Hybrid. That’s a mouthful of a name but you get an excellent GT car with a little electric boost. Granted the range is only about 14 miles, but what it lacks in fuel-free driving it makes up for in performance. This Panamera 4 example has a combined gas/hybrid output of 457 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. Naturally, it will have all the high-end features you expect from a six-figure Porsche. While this ride isn’t going to have Toyota levels of reliability, modern P-cars tend to hold up pretty well. If a warranty is a concern you can stretch your budget and find some certified pre-owned examples.

Expert 2: Collin Woodard – Only One Way to Get That Range

Dr. Greg, I have some bad news for you. As you’ve probably figured out by now, your ideal car doesn’t exist. I would personally love for it to exist, but sadly, only a handful of plug-in hybrid sold in the U.S. come with more than 30 miles of electric-only range. But since my wonderful colleagues have already suggested options that cover most of what you’re looking for, allow me to suggest the one PHEV in the U.S. that actually does have the range you dream of: the Karma GS-6.

I know, I know. It’s not a wagon or a van. It’s only something you’d choose if the promise of a PHEV with more than 50 miles of range is too attractive to pass up. Depending on the version you choose, the GS-6 has an EPA rated range of up to 54 all-electric miles. With smaller wheels, that figure jumps to 61 miles. No other plug-in hybrid on the market even comes close. Oh, and did I mention it makes 536 hp and 550 lb-ft of torque? Not bad at all.

Head down to Denver, and you can pick up this Benito Blue Karma GS-6 for $108,000, which is safely within your budget. Heck, you might even be able to negotiate a deal since I’m sure demand is probably limited at best.

Expert 3: Bob Sorokanich – To Thine Own Self Be True

Doc, you’re not going to like what I’m about to tell you. Because what you need is a damn minivan.

Specifically, a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. Think about it: You want a plush ride for long days on the highway, the ability to carry your bikes and other gear, and an occasional spot to sleep. Minivan, minivan, minivan. Our own Steve DaSilva recently took a thousand-mile road trip that involved an unplanned night sleeping in the car, and you know what he concluded? The Pacifica Hybrid is basically the perfect vehicle.

The Pacifica has a great interior. There’s a new top-of-the-line Pinnacle model for 2023 (shown above), with Nappa leather and berber carpeting. That’s the kind of stuff you spec for your fancy living room! In a van!

The EPA says you’ll get, at most, 32 miles of all-electric driving in a Pacifica Hybrid. Honestly, there aren’t many models out there that will top that. With destination fees and whatnot, a Pinnacle model will slot in right around $60,000, and that’s before you start adding options. Sure, you can roll the dice on a secondhand hybrid Porsche, and hope you’ll be able to find a dealer when a malfunction light comes on halfway across Dakota. Or, you can buy yourself a brand-new Chrysler, and have the peace of mind of knowing you’ll be able to get it fixed just about anywhere on this continent.

I can tell from your current Miata-heavy fleet that you really appreciate a car built for one specific job. And when it comes to the job of your next ride, nothing on this earth will beat a minivan.

Expert 4: Owen Bellwood – The Only Real Option

Hi Doctor Greg, great to hear that retirement and more travel is on the horizon! I’m inclined to say that Tom may have provided you with the best answer thus far with the Porsche Panamera. Sure, you should probably go for the Taycan Cross Turismo, but if you’re set on a fast, hybrid wagon then the Panamera is a good way to go.

But, as Bob points out, gambling on a secondhand Porsche is a risk if you’re nowhere near a service center. So, you want something new, something shiny and, definitely, something from Europe – the home of the estate car station wagon.

Sure, you could sack your dreams of a hybrid and have an absolute blast in this Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG on the highways. But having at least a hybrid under the hood is the future, so you should just buy a Volvo. Specifically, you should buy a brand new V60 Recharge, one of the best looking wagons out there. It’ll manage 40 miles on a charge, encapsulates you in comfort whenever you sit behind the wheel and has ample space for a nap once you fold away the back row.

Sure, the choice of color might be lacking, but for around $70,000 you’ll struggle to find a more perfect ride.

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