Five Toyota and Lexus Hybrids Not Sold Here...That Should Be

Hybrids don't have to be boring to drive. Toyota's overseas models show us this in excess.

By Jacob Brown | Photos By Jacob Brown | September 19, 2013

Toyota Alphard and Estima Hybrid

With the Sienna sold in the U.S., Toyota really doesn't need another minivan. But there are some things the Sienna could definitely pick up from its Japanese cousins, where executives still prefer sliding doors. Shag carpeting in the color of red wine? First class-style leather reclining and extending seats for all but the rearmost and driver seats? All of those sound good. But you know what would be better? The powertrain from the Alphard and Estima. By using the previous-generation Camry Hybrid's 200-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and hybrid powertrain, these minivans can achieve nearly 40 mpg. The Alphard also has what Toyota calls E-Four all-wheel drive that uses kinetic energy recapture in the rear wheels for longer electric range.
So why isn't the technology sold in the U.S.? Toyota says customers keep asking for a Sienna Hybrid, but the official word is that the system might not be optimal with a van as big and heavy as its U.S. people-hauler. Also not helping is the fact that Toyota sold the Sienna with a four-cylinder engine early on in its product cycle, with results so poor that it had to drop the engine after the first model year. Reintroducing a four-banger, even under hybrid guise, might be a risky move.
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