Yes, it’s just a concept, and I’d be genuinely surprised if they ever made it. But I have to admit I got pretty excited yesterday over the Peugeot 308 R Hybrid. Is this a sign to come that affordable performance hybrids are finally on their way?
I like my cars basic, simple, cheap and uncomplicated as the next grumpy Craigslist-scouring enthusiast. But I’m also progressive when it comes to new car technology, and I’m excited about the potential of adding electrification to gasoline engines. No one can argue that the McLaren P1, LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder are the top three performance cars in the world right now.
There’s only one problem: those three cars will each put you out about $1 million. That relegates them, and their technology, to the realm of dream cars for the rest of us. But history shows us that tech has a way of eventually trickling down and getting cheaper and more accessible. I think that will happen eventually with performance hybrids.
The question is, who will get to it first?
It’s incredible how far hybrids have come. A couple years ago, that word was the sole purview of the Toyota Prius and its ilk, of lifeless, coma-inducing little pods and their smug owners convinced they were saving the planet because they were using a little less gas than the rest of us. Now everyone is waking up to the possibilities of adding electricity to cars, and hybrids are staples on Le Mans and at Formula One race cars (though I’d argue they have more of a place in the former than the latter.)
And why not, right? You get increased efficiency and the benefit of delicious, instant torque. It seems like a win-win for performance if you do it right. It’s just that no one’s made a true hybrid sports car contender yet that’s priced for the masses. Probably the closest we’ve come so far is the BMW i8, and that ain’t exactly cheap.
Peugeot’s concept is pretty intriguing. Sure, unrealistic hybrid “concepts” come around all the time — Volkswagen and Audi have been in the habit of unveiling insane, unrealistically powerful hybrid concepts of late — but the Pug just seems so much closer to reality than the others. It’s not some insane-looking concept that could never make production.
It’s a hybrid hot hatchback. A hot hatch with a 1.6-liter 270 horsepower engine coupled with 115 horsepower electric motors that drive the rear wheels and send it from zero to 62 mph in just four seconds. In “Hot Lap” mode, meaning full power, it has a maximum of 500 horsepower and 538 pound-feet of torque.
Yeah. That’s something I can definitely get behind. It’s one of the most realistic, down-to-Earth applications of this technology I’ve seen yet.
Let’s talk about the barriers to such a car if they decided to actually build it. First, it’s a Peugeot, which means that we American enthusiasts will never see it on our roads unless it ventures up here with Mexican plates. That’s a bummer.
Second, while it’s a hot hatchback, I have to assume that this technology will still command quite a premium. How much do we think this could cost? $50,000? Maybe $60,000? That would make it more of an M3 fighter than a Golf R competitor. But it shows that maybe, just maybe, performance hybrids are getting there for the rest of us.
So who’s gonna do it first? Peugeot? Maybe, but like I said, that doesn’t do us Americans any good. Personally I think Honda has a pretty good shot at it. They seem to be getting their mojo back a little lately with the Civic Type-R, new NSX and Japan’s S660.
But the main reason I nominate Honda is a car of theirs I drove last year that wildly exceeded my expectations — the new Accord Hybrid. It wasn’t a very sporting car at all, but the hybrid system and innovative gearbox (or lack thereof) made it surprisingly brisk, affordable and fun to drive. And that’s a car calibrated for fuel economy, not track days. What would happen if they applied those technologies to a performance car? They tried that with the original V6 Accord Hybrid, but a decade later the market could be more open to that idea.
Granted, Honda already tried that with the CR-Z, but that was a nonstarter because it didn’t know whether it wanted to be about saving gas or outright speed. The rumor is that the next CR-Z will be a high-performance turbo car, which is great, but I hope Honda doesn’t drop the idea of making a good performance hybrid either. More so than when the CR-Z debuted in 2010, that’s an idea whose time has come.
Who’s gonna pull this off first, and is cheap LaFerrari power for the masses something you can get behind?