The premier premium vehicles of today certainly serve up an incredible array of exotic materials and royal comforts, but they’ve also become well known for their leading-edge technologies, including those behind the best fuel-efficient luxury cars. Indeed, the latest top choices offer all-electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid powertrains, and while they just missed the cut-off here, a number of diesel-powered entries can enable surprisingly high EPA scores as well. Speaking of which, all of these vehicles but one provide combined fuel-economy ratings of at least 30 mpg, with the one that doesn’t nonetheless able to deliver a double-digit all-electric driving range. All of them do deliver on the luxury front, however, complete with advanced connectivity features and a comprehensive portfolio of passenger-protection measures.
Tesla Model S
The best of the best fuel-efficient luxury cars is undoubtedly the 2015 Tesla Model S, since it doesn’t use any traditional fuel at all. Instead, the sleek, sophisticated Sedan relies solely on electricity, offering a selection of different battery packs that can extend the car’s range to an EPA-certified 270 miles. At the same time, that particular model, the Model S 85D, to be exact, covers those miles with an efficiency rating of 95 MPGe city/106 MPGe highway/100 MPGe combined—while further featuring all-wheel drive, 417 hp, 259 lb.-ft. of torque and a 0-60 time of 4.2 seconds. Tesla also takes the high ground in terms of tech-focused luxury, backed by a massive 17-in. touchscreen that controls nearly all vehicle systems, including opening the car’s glass panoramic roof. Owners will delight in the Tesla’s impeccable approach to craftsmanship, too, from its premium Nappa leather seats to its hand-polished zinc door handles.
Bringing the brand’s dramatic styling to life in a plug-in hybrid package, the 2016 Cadillac ELR has been noticeably upgraded for the next model year, and that’s even though the vehicle debuted as an all-new model for 2015. Perhaps most importantly for its place as one of the country’s top fuel-efficient luxury cars, the ELR will benefit from a re-engineered electric-drive system that supplies 29 percent more horsepower than in 2015, as well as 26 percent more torque and even two more miles of all-electric driving. The new tale of the tape for the car: 174 hp, 373 lb.-ft. of torque and the ability to travel 39 miles on electricity alone. The ELR’s gas-powered engine will go into action after that, furnishing 300 additional miles of driving range with the ability to reach 33 mpg in combined travel. And all that’s complemented by 4G LTE connectivity, a mobile wi-fi hotspot and Apple CarPlay integration.
The 2015 Lexus CT200h isn’t like the other choices on this list: For one thing, it’s relatively affordable, thanks to an MSRP of $32,200 that makes it the entry point to the Lexus lineup, and for another, it’s the only one to come in a hatchback body style, leveraging folding rear seats for a versatile cargo hold. Yet it’s clearly one of the most fuel-efficient luxury cars in the country, ringing up EPA scores of 43 mpg city/40 mpg highway/42 mpg combined. In fact, no other gas-engined luxury car can see higher fuel-economy grades than those, not even the other hybrid entries. That doesn’t mean the CT 200h is lacking in either driving dynamics or lux design cues, though. The car actually has a lot of both to offer, from an F SPORT handling (and appearance) upgrade to technologies like the Lexus Enform App Suite, for enhanced connectivity.
Lexus ES 300h
For drivers who prefer high-efficiency Lexus luxury in a midsize sedan, the brand answers the call with the 2016 Lexus ES 300h, which has been significantly refreshed for the new model year. Now, along with a refined powertrain that provides EPA marks of 40 mpg city/39 mpg highway/40 mpg combined, the ES 300h welcomes a revised Lexus “spindle” grille and restyled front fascia, set off by standard LED headlights, and then debuts new, upgraded finishes for the cabin. Also upgraded are the brand’s audio choices and safety technologies. For the former, that includes offering a Mark Levinson sound systems throughout the lineup, while among the passenger-protection highlights are blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning with brake assistance, lane-departure alert (with steering assistance), a rearview camera and Lexus’ High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. So yes, the Lexus ES 300h is one of the nation’s best high-mpg luxury cars.
Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
With EPA scores of 41 mpg city/39 mpg highway/40 mpg combined, the 2016 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid offers an extra 1 mpg in highway travel as compared to the other premium hybrid sedans on our list of best fuel-efficient luxury cars, and it then matches them for city and combined mpg. But that, of course, is hardly the only advantage for the Lincoln. It also delivers exclusive standard and available features like SYNC with MyLincoln Touch, Lincoln Drive Control, a 10.1-inch LCD instrument cluster, inflatable rear seatbelts, and a massive panoramic glass roof that can retract to reveal one of the largest openings in its class. Finally, it’s worth pointing out that the distinctively sculpted appearance of the Lincoln is paired with a distinctive approach to pricing: As opposed to the competition, which charges extra for hybrid power, the MKZ Hybrid showcases exactly the same MSRP as its standard model.
Lexus GS 450h
For those keeping score at home, the 2015 Lexus GS 450h is the third Lexus vehicle to qualify as one of the most fuel-efficient luxury cars in the United States. And remember, the brand actually offers a total of six hybrids, also including two premium crossovers and a high-efficiency version of the range-topping Lexus LS. Like the latter car, however, the GS puts a fair amount of focus on sport-sedan performance, complete with a 338-hp, rear-wheel-drive powertrain that can push the midsize entry from 0-60 in a mere 5.6 seconds. Moreover, Lexus introduced an aggressive F SPORT upgrade package for 2015, leveraging a sport-tuned version of Lexus’ adaptive variable suspension, and the car continues to tout typically Lexus levels of luxury, with elegant design cues and customer-satisfying technologies. Still, its hybrid technology also turns up EPA results of 29 mpg city/34 mpg highway/31 mpg combined.
As you can tell by that athletic adjective in its name, the 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid was designed to dish out a bit more than the typical hybrid driving dynamics, and it more than delivers with its advanced three-motor hybrid system. That setup, which also packs a 3.5-liter gas-powered V6, is good for 377 hp and 341 lb.-ft. of torque, then gets combined with Super Handling All-Wheel Drive for some seriously high-tech high performance. On the other hand, because it does rely on a hybrid powertrain, the RLX still achieves EPA ratings of 28 mpg city/32 mpg highway/30 mpg combined. Offering the AcuraWatch suite of safety features, the AcuraLink connectivity system and all the luxuries you expect from the Acura flagship, including Jewel Eye LED headlights and Milano-leather seating, also helps the RLX stand out among the best fuel-efficient luxury sedans.
The Infiniti brand isn’t exactly known for high-efficiency motoring, yet it does feature two of the nation’s top luxury cars for fuel efficiency, including the 2015 Infiniti Q50h. In that version of the brand’s midsize sport sedan, engineers have deployed a 3.7-liter V6 gas engine and an Infiniti Direct Response Hybrid system to serve up 360 hp, a 0-60 sprint time of 4.9 seconds, and an EPA line of 29 mpg city/36 mpg highway/31 mpg combined. Meanwhile, beyond meeting customer demands for responsible performance, the Q50h provides premium technologies, such as the Infiniti InTouch connectivity system, along with upscale style touches, like a cabin theme informed by the design of Samurai weapons and 16th-century Japanese painting. A similar mix of the modern and the traditional inspires the exterior appearance of the Q50h, helping it recently win the Ritvo Design & Elegance Award of the New England Motor Press Association.
Representing the most fuel-efficient model of the brand’s full-size flagship sedan, the 2015 Infiniti Q70h again raises the content and styling bar this year with a revised appearance—highlighted by LED headlights, taillights, fog lights and side-mirror turn signals—and two more innovative safety technologies for its also upgraded cabin: Predictive Forward Collision Warning and Backup Collision Intervention. More exterior finishes have been added to the car’s exterior palette as well, and although the powertrain here is unchanged, it’s still impressive enough to ensure the Q70h remains one of the top luxury cars for fuel efficiency. More specifically, the EPA has rated the Q70h as capable of 29 mpg city/34 mpg highway/31 mpg combined; just keep in mind that those numbers are complemented by 360 hp and rear-wheel drive for a traditional sport-sedan-style performance—albeit enhanced by untraditional innovations like Infiniti’s Hybrid Electric Power Steering and the Electric Driven Intelligent Brake system.
Sure, the i3 may be more economical, but it’s the striking 2015 BMW i8 that really blends premium looks and performance with superior efficiency. After all, it wears super-car styling, complete with radical scissor doors and a highly aerodynamic “streamflow” exterior, while further enabling true super-car performance, courtesy of a plug-in hybrid powertrain that combines BMW eDrive technology with a gas-fed TwinPower turbo. Working together, those components are capable of producing 357 hp and 420 lb.-ft. of torque, then propelling the i8 from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds. But that’s not why this is one of the best fuel-efficient luxury cars currently available. To earn that accolade, the i8 also boasts a 14-mile all-electric driving range, along with the ability to cover 330 miles in total—at an EPA certified 28 mpg in combined travel—when relying on its “regular” hybrid capabilities.