On the Road

Green Machines

When Honda introduced the Insight in 1999—the first gas-electric hybrid car to hit U.S. roads—the result was an ultraefficient but sad-looking little ladybug of a hatchback. For years the image of hybrid vehicles as noble but ugly has stuck. Automakers are now working to change that. Toyota announced that it will eventually produce hybrid versions of virtually all its models, and big American brands such as Ford and Chevy have also entered the game—with sexy, splashy cars at that. The hybrid-car market is growing and becoming more luxe by the minute. These three new models stand out—they're conscientious and cool.

Lexus RX 400h
There's more than just fuel economy to Lexus's new hybrid SUV—it has a world-class drivetrain, too. The V-6 engine is backed up by front-and rear-drive motors that run on battery power and operate the car at low speeds. The gas engine kicks in at cruising speed and whenever the engine needs to accelerate quickly. And accelerating is no trouble: It goes from zero to 60 in 6. 9 seconds while still getting 33 percent better mileage than a standard RX. $45,000

Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid
The automaker famous for its highway cruisers is now offering its biggest, highest-end pickup in a hybrid model. Though it has the same Vortec V-8 engine as the regular model, the hybrid Silverado also comes with a 20-amp, 2,400-watt generator to harness power and save fuel. The result? The most economical truck of its type (as long as you're not towing a boat or driving like you're in a Corvette). $33,000

Honda Accord Hybrid
Instead of putting its hybrid efforts into a low-level sedan, Honda has outfitted its most luxurious model with an alternate power source. This Accord carries a 253hp, i-VTEC V-6 engine plus a battery-powered system called Integrated Motor Assist, which produces fuel economy in the range of 29 mpg to 37 mpg. More to the point: The car comes loaded with automatic climate control, leather interior, heated seats, and sporty 16-inch alloy wheels. $30,000