When most people think about towing capability, hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles (EVs) aren’t likely the first cars that come to mind. We usually think about engines with massive displacements that gulp down fossil fuels. An electric car still evokes the sense of unreliability and that it’s somewhat disposable.
However, things are slowly shifting. Hybrid vehicles (full and plug-in) and EVs are gaining popularity, and their recent iterations are no slouches when it comes to power and performance either. Their capabilities are improving with each new model and generation.
A few years ago, people wouldn’t even consider towing with their hybrids. Today, we’ve reached a point where we can rank hybrids based on their towing capacities. Right now, the Land Rover Defender Hybrid is the king of hybrid SUVs when it comes to towing but let’s see all the other vehicles that have some serious pull.
2023 Land Rover Defender Hybrid (8,201 lbs)
The 2023 Land Rover Defender Hybrid is a downright bully. This monster breaks all the rules regarding the towing capacity that hybrid vehicles bring to the table. In an obscene display of power, the Land Rover Defender 90 maxes out at 7,716 lbs, while the Defender 110 crushes the competition with an 8,201 max towing capacity.
The car is powered by a 3.0L P400 i6 MHEV powertrain that produces 395 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. It’s also equipped with trailer stability assist and low traction control systems. While its towing capacity is far ahead of other vehicles, this could be a sign for the future of the best SUV hybrids. It’s hard to believe electric motors are part of the machinery behind the muscle.
2020 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring Hybrid (6,700 lbs)
Before the Land Rover Defender hit the scene, we had the 2020 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring Hybrid. This beefy Lincoln offering is a top hybrid SUV in towing capacity. The maximum capacity? Although dwarfed by the power of the Land Rover, the 6,700 lbs pulled by the Aviator is nothing to shake a stick at.
The SUV is powered by a 3L V6 twin-turbocharged engine and a 13.6 kW lithium-ion battery pack. With a combined horsepower of 494 hp and 630 lb-ft of torque, pulling a large cargo trailer comes easily for this Lincoln model.
2018 BMW X5 xDrive40e iPerformance (5,952 lbs)
The plug-in hybrid version of the 2018 BMW X5 was one of the initial PHEV SUVs to combine luxury, performance, interior volume, capability, and EV efficiency. The X5 is equipped with a base 2.0L I-4 engine paired with an electric motor. The hybrid system uses a 9.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The powertrain achieves 308 combined horsepower with 332 lb-ft of torque.
This BMW model comes with a generous 5,952 lbs of maximum towing capacity, around the top-tier average of our current SUV hybrid models. However, in 2017/2018, this was a pretty big deal.
2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid (5,000 lbs)
The 2022 Toyota Highlander hybrid is at the top of the plug-in food chain at Toyota. With a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 lbs, you’ll have no trouble pulling a small-to-medium sized camper trailer. It is powered by a 2.5L 4-cylinder, DOHC, VVT-i engine and an electric motor. Combined, the powertrain produces 243 horsepower and 264 lb ft of torque. These figures may seem quite low compared to the other vehicles on the list but its towing capacity is no joke.
The 2022 Highlander Hybrid also delivers a generous cargo and passenger volume, with three rows of seating accommodating up to eight. The Highlander hybrid version comes in four trims, depending on how far you’re willing to take your upgrades.
2022 Volvo XC90 Recharge Plug-In Hybrid PHEV (5,000 lbs)
Interestingly, Volvo makes our list with the XC90 Recharge Plug-In. Though it comes in five different trim packages, the towing capacity is uniform across all configurations, with a hearty 5,000-lb maximum capacity. That puts it right in the middle of the action.
The engine is capable of producing 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque. There’s no power shortage available with the Volvo XC90, nor is there a lack of upgrade options. Depending on the trim, you can choose among front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive configurations.
These honorable mentions come in as close runners-up because of the sub-5,000 lb. capacity – except the Ford Explorer, which delivers a 5,000 lbs max. rating. However, the unimpressive 21 mpg fuel economy from the all wheel drive model hurt its effort, especially considering it doesn’t get any better fuel economy than the standard Ford Explorer.
Here are our list of honorable mentions with respective towing capacity, hybrid SUVs:
- 2022 Ford Explorer Limited Hybrid (5,000 pounds)
- 2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid (3,500 lbs with the advanced trim)
- 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid (3,500 pounds)
- 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e (3,500 pounds)
- 2018 Lexus RX 450h (3,500 pounds)
Capable Plug-In Hybrid Models
The towing capacity most hybrid SUVs currently deliver averages out to around 5,000 pounds. While this was a rarity in the not-so-distant past, vehicles like the Land Rover Defender are paving the way for more extensive and bolder designs.
Now, it’s not uncommon for a strictly electric vehicle to tow upwards of 5,000 pounds. That’s no combustion motor. No fuel. All battery. Hybrids still serve as the middle ground for those not fully keen on committing to EVs.
Will the standard among hybrid vehicles ultimately swell to average capabilities of 7,500-plus when it comes to towing? Only time will tell. But one thing’s for sure – the capabilities of hybrid and EV models are bound to improve over time.