Are there any fuel efficient vehicles (e.g. hybrids) that are good on rough terrain?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 2004

Dear Tom and Ray:

I live up in the mountains, where I drive through snow in the winter and sometimes on dirt roads during the rest of the year. I have an older Dodge Pickup, but my tree-hugger friends are getting on me about how much stuff I'm spewing into the environment. I'm quite sympathetic, and would like to have a vehicle that gets better gas mileage, but I also need good traction to get around. I read your positive review of the Toyota Prius gas-electric hybrid on your Web site, and it sounds great. But I'm not sure it'll do the trick up here. Are there other vehicles with hybrid power trains that could cut it in the woods? -- Darryl

RAY: My brother's friends got on him about all the stuff he was spewing into the environment, too. But he solved that problem by cutting down on the burritos.

TOM: You're going to see a lot more hybrid options during the next few years, Darryl. I agree with you that the Prius isn't the right car for dirt roads with tree stumps and mountain roads covered with snow. But if you can wait a bit, you'll have your choice of good options.

RAY: The first hybrid SUV will be the Ford Escape, which is due soon. That's supposed to get 30 miles per gallon overall, which is quite good. And needless to say, its emissions would be a fraction of what your old Dodge pickup is putting out.

TOM: By next year, there will be a fully hybridized Toyota Highlander, and perhaps even some GM pickups with some sort of mild hybrid assist.

RAY: So you just need to buy a little time, Darryl. You need to temporarily distract your tree-hugger friends with some other issue. Ask them if they've heard about the free-range-tofu movement.

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