Which hybrids can survive city potholes?

Can you recommend several hybrid cars or SUVs with good ground clearance for city potholes? We would also consider cars with good ground clearance and gas tanks large enough to enable good fuel range. We don't like to stop often for refills.

John D., New York

The last time we were in New York, we didn’t encounter any potholes deep enough to swallow hybrid cars, so we hope the situation hasn’t gotten drastically worse of late. Here in Chicago, where some of our roadways are, ahem, less than perfect, we see a lot of hybrid taxicabs roaming the streets, including the Toyota Prius and Camry and Nissan Altima, so it appears they can withstand life in the urban jungle.


The ground clearance on most cars is between 5 and 6 inches, and SUVs generally range from a little more than 7 inches to about 9 inches, so figure on getting an extra two to three inches with an SUV as a rule of thumb. The most common issues caused by potholes are likely to be damaged wheels and tires and alignment and higher ground clearance won’t prevent those problems.

If you’re convinced you need that extra clearance to survive the streets of New York, then the Toyota Highlander Hybrid would be a good choice. It has 8.0 inches of ground clearance, fuel economy ratings of 28/28 mpg city/highway/ and a 17.2-gallon fuel tank, which should be more than enough to get you across Manhattan during rush hour.

You don’t have to buy a hybrid SUV to get decent fuel economy. The Subaru Outback, for example, has EPA ratings of 24/30 mpg city/highway with a continuously variable automatic transmission, an 18.5-gallon fuel tank and 8.7 inches of ground clearance. The Toyota Venza (more wagon than SUV) has EPA ratings of 20/26 mpg, a 17.7-gallon tank and 8.1 inches of ground clearance.

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Answered by Rick Popely on January 3, 2013 in Green/Hybrid Cars | Permalink

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