Let's talk about a different kind of hybrid: the 2019 Jeep Cherokee.
It hasn't got electric motors, and the only battery it has starts its gasoline-burning engine. So what's all this talk about a hybrid?
Well, the Jeep is a car-based crossover SUV. But it has the off-road and towing capabilities of a truck-based SUV — a combination that makes it unique among its peers.
What It Is
The Cherokee is a five-passenger crossover SUV in the same general class as models like the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. But the Jeep can go places they can't — and do things they aren't capable of doing.
Base price for the front-wheel-drive Latitude trim with 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is $24,690. You can opt for a big V-6, another thing most of its rivals don't offer, or — new for 2019 — a high-performance 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that has more power than the V-6 and gets better gas mileage than the base four-cylinder.
You can also go with one of two four-wheel-drive systems, Active Drive I and Active Drive II. The latter comes with low range gearing and a 51.2:1 crawl ratio for serious off-road work.
The Trailhawk version — which is the most rugged ("trail rated") — comes standard with the Active Drive II system plus a locking differential, an extra inch of ground clearance, tow hooks, skid plates, 17-inch M/S-rated tires, fender flares and more aggressive approach and departure angles. It starts at $33,320 and comes standard with the V-6. The turbo four-cylinder is optional.
A top-of-the-line luxury-themed Overland with Nappa leather trim, 19-inch wheels, the turbo four-cylinder and the Active Drive II system has a $40,675 sticker.
In addition to the new 2.0-liter engine, the 2019 Cherokee gets a subtle but comprehensive exterior and interior styling makeover, as well as some new features, including a hands-free power rear liftgate and a capless fuel-fill system.
It's more than just another crossover SUV.
It behaves like a car on road but can go seriously off-road, too.
What's Not So Good
It has 10 to 12 cubic feet less cargo capacity behind its back seats than others in this class.
LCD touch screen icons are small and sometimes hard to touch accurately while driving.
Under the Hood
Standard in the base Latitude, Latitude Plus and Limited trims is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that has 180 horsepower and 170 foot-pounds of torque. This is very much par for the class. What's not is that you can move up to a V-6, which most rivals no longer offer. It has 271 horsepower and 239 foot-pounds of torque. Buy this engine and you can pull a trailer weighing up to 4,500 pounds.
And there's a third option — the new-for-2019 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. It has 270 horsepower and 295 foot-pounds of torque. That's 56 more foot-pounds of torque than the V-6, and the turbocharged makes torque lower in the powerband, at 3,000 rpm versus the V-6's 4,400 rpm.
All three engines are paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission with a pretty aggressive 4.71 first gear to leverage the engine's power for a strong launch; multiple overdrive gears higher up drop the revs when you're cruising in order to reduce fuel consumption.
On the Road
The Cherokee is as adroit on road as it is capable off-road.
It isn't clumsy in the curves. It doesn't lumber and sway. Part of the reason for this is its height-to-width ratio. It is relatively low-slung (66.2 inches tall) but proportionately very wide-tracked (73.2 inches), which is a stability enhancer.
Visibility is good, too — in part because the A pillars at either side of the windshield angle forward more steeply than most and do not obstruct the driver's view. This is a big problem in many new vehicles, not just new SUVs. But it's not a problem here.
At the Curb
The basic shape is the same, but the 2019 is just under an inch longer overall (183.1 inches versus 182.3 for the 2018), and the wheelbase has been lengthened just slightly (106.4 inches versus 106.3 previously).
Inside the look is meaty and substantial — in keeping with the outside look. It's not just the steering wheel that's thick and meaty; the dash and door panels are, too. Even the shifter handle is meaty.
Though there is more room this year — 27 cubic feet behind the second row versus 24.6 previously — it's still less than most rivals. The Honda CR-V, for instance, has 39.2 cubic feet behind its second row.
The Active Drive I system features an automatic rear axle disconnect, which lets the rear wheels freewheel to reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency when traction is good and it's not necessary to power all four wheels.
The Jeep is the only vehicle in this class that can completely decouple its rear axle.
With the Active Drive II system, you can disconnect all four wheels from the engine by engaging neutral — which makes it possible to tow the Jeep behind an RV. This is another functional feature unique to the Cherokee.
The Bottom Line
If you're looking for a crossover with the capability to cross over (and haul), this "hybrid" has what you need.
Eric's new book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" Is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.