10 Most Fuel-Efficient Luxury SUVs You Can Find

If you haven't considered an SUV since the days of Hummers and huge chrome rims, you may have a hard time recognizing them in their slimmed-down state.

For starters, they aren't just lined up at the pump anymore.

As vehicle fuel efficiency standards push toward the Environmental Protection agency's goal of a fleet-wide 54.5 miles per gallon average by 2025, the high-trucked SUV's move to a car's frame and dubbing it a "crossover" has helped immensely. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found that cars and light trucks purchased in 2015 got an average of 25.3 miles to the gallon, which is actually 0.1 miles per gallon less efficient than they were in 2014. That's also still less than halfway to the EPA and Department of Transportation's goal that it set back in 2012, but it beats the roughly 19 miles per gallon that the Department of Transportation measured for the same pool of vehicles in 1995. It's also closing in on double the average mileage of the light-duty vehicles on U.S. roads in 1980.

Crossovers are a big part of that improvement. Automakers sold nearly 1.9 million million of them in the U.S. through May -- helped largely by fuel prices that are down an average of 45 cents per gallon from this time a year ago. That puts crossover sales ahead of midsize cars (1.4 million sold through May), small cars (1.2 million) pickups (1 million) and all non-crossover SUVs combined (714,000).

Crossover sales are up 9% year-to-date over last year, but not all of them are chopping down those mileage totals . According to the EPA, the four-cylinder hybrid versions of the Audi Q5 and Infiniti QX60 -- vehicles that don't even rely on their gas-powered engines 100% of the time -- still only manage a scant 26 miles per gallon combined. That's the same mileage as a gas-powered Mazda CX-5 or Ford Escape -- but with a much steeper price tag.

Fortunately, there's still a way to get both luxury and efficiency in an SUV package. With help from the EPA's FuelEconomy.gov site, we compiled a list of the most fuel-efficient SUVs currently being sold. Electricity and hybrid engines help, but they aren't always indicative of the most efficient luxury available:

10. 2016 BMW X3 xDrive28d

Starting price: $42,100

EPA combined city and highway mileage: 30.5 mpg

When you can call your crossover a Sport Activity Vehicle because you know it'll never move an apartment's worth of belongings or carry a kid's equipment from practice, you know you've made it.

With the 4-cylinder, 180-horsepower diesel engine cutting down on consumption and 27.6 cubic feet of shopping-bag space folding out to 63.3 cubic feet of lacrosse-gear storage, the X3 gives the appearance a personal chef's grocery getter. However, the leather interior, a panoramic moonroof, automatic front climate control with separate left and right temperature settings, power tailgate, front and rear parking distance sensors, rearview camera, HD radio, Sirius-XM satellite radio, Bluetooth with Mobile Office functions and BMW TeleService, the X3 is as packed with perks as one would expect from BMW. However, given Volkswagen's trouble with diesels of late, we're aren't surprised this is the only diesel that made the list.

9. 2016 Volvo V60
9. 2016 Volvo V60

Starting price: $36,150

EPA combined city and highway mileage: 31 mpg

It looks like a wagon, but the EPA still gives it a nod as an SUV.

We'll note that the 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine for the front-wheel drive model is the only one that gets anything close to this kind of mileage. The five-cylinder all-wheel-drive upgrade cuts combined mileage to less than 25 miles per gallon, but the base still gets you 43.8 cubic feet of cargo space, 3,500 pounds of towing capacity, power driver's and front-passenger's seats, power moonroof and an audio and communications system with a 7-inch touchscreen.

8. 2016 Buick Encore
8. 2016 Buick Encore

Starting price: $24,065

EPA combined city and highway mileage: 30 mpg

Buick is really big on providing just enough luxury at a sub-premium price. The Encore is nearly a foot shorter than the Honda CR-V, but you can fold both the rear seats and front passenger seat flat for hauling cargo in its 48 cubic feet of space.

Did Buick leave room for some perks? Absolutely. The Encore's list of features includes available 4G LTE Wi-Fi, available dual climate control, power moon roof, rain sensing wipers, heated side mirrors, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a rearview camera, split-folding rear seats, OnStar telematics and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, a USB/iPod interface, an auxiliary audio jack and Buick's IntelliLink control interface with a 7-inch touchscreen and integrated smartphone apps. Granted, it's a lot of additional costs for a car that built its reputation on affordable luxury, but considering the cost of cars on the rest of this list, it might be worth it just for the efficiency.

7. 2016 Lexus RX 450h
7. 2016 Lexus RX 450h

Starting price: $52,235

EPA combined city and highway mileage: 30 mpg

This is an absolute behemoth of a vehicle for this mileage. Despite a 3.5-liter V6 engine that generates a whopping 295 horsepower, this still, somehow, manages to get 32 miles per gallon in the city.

It's 11 miles per gallon more efficient than a base, gas-only RX 350, it puts out 20 horsepower more and it has the same 80.3 cubic inches of cargo space with the seats folded. Yes, it's roughly $7,500 more, but the mileage and features including a power rear door, parking sensors, rear camera, heated seats, rear entertainment system and Lexus Enform app system more than make up for it.

6. 2016 Lexus NX 300h
6. 2016 Lexus NX 300h

Starting price: $39,720

EPA combined city and highway mileage: 33 mpg

A luxurious, hybrid version of the Toyota RAV4 seemed like a great idea at the time. Almost 18 cubic feet of cargo space, 36 inches of legroom in the back, a smartphone charger, LED lighting a remote touchpad to control your information and entertainment options also sounded fairly pleasant. However the NX 300h is fairly fortunate that its mileage leads the class right now, since naysayers have noticed that there isn't a lot of hybrid competition for it in the luxury sector.

5. 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e
5. 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e

Starting price: $66,475

EPA combined city and highway mileage: 43 mpg

The M-Class basically invented the luxury SUV back in 1998, and this redesigned version with 80 cubic feet of cargo space is that line's heir for a new generation.

From anti-collision features to a Bang & Olufsen premium sound system, the GLE 550e comes with all of the comforts you'd expect from an SUV of this price. However, with 436 horsepower and enough electric capacity for a decent commute, this SUV is quickly catching up to a luxury SUV segment that had passed it by in efficiency.

4. Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid
4. Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid

Starting price: $78,700

EPA combined city and highway mileage: 47 mpg

Its electric motor alone churns our 333 horsepower. It gets a total of 416 horsepower and is capable of 151 miles per hour. Its Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system runs audio, communication and navigation through a 7-inch touchscreen.

Its phone module, Wi-Fi access, Burmester or Bose surround sound systems, suite of apps and dual entertainment screens for the rear seats with wireless Bluetooth headsets all just round out the perks of this high-end hybrid. The Cayenne took the lead as Porsche's top seller years ago, but all of the above amenities -- and the fact that it gets better mileage than any gas-powered crossover on the road -- makes it very clear how it became the preferred Porsche. It's a sexy stunner that will draw envious glares from others on the road.

3. 2016 Volvo XC90 PHEV
3. 2016 Volvo XC90 PHEV

Starting price: $68,100

EPA combined city and highway mileage: 54 mpg

This is yet another plug-in hybrid that's putting all of its energy toward performance. With 400 horsepower, you'll be tempted to let the 360 camera, pilot assist, road sign information, lane departure warning and electronic stability control work their magic and get you there safely.

However, with the voice-activated, Bluetooth connected Sensus information and entertainment system pushing your music through a subwoofer built into the the car's frame and a speaker system modeled after the acoustics of the Gothenburg Concert Hall, you and up to six passengers might want to take your time getting from Point A to Point B.

2. 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e
2. 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e

Starting price: $62,100

EPA combined city and highway mileage: 56 mpg

BMW announced this plug-in hybrid last year, but this Sports Activity Vehicle -- the company knows its audience -- has a 2.0-liter twin-turbo four-cylinder engine that is just now making its presence felt.

With a range of just 13 miles on pure electricity, it isn't much of an electric car for any but the shortest trips. However, the gasoline engine and electric motor put out 308 horsepower and push the X5 from zero to 60 mpg in just 6.5 seconds. Combined with all-wheel drive, all those features make this a zippy luxury ride for a buyer who still has to worry about getting the whole family and their gear up to the slopes alive every winter.

1. 2016 Tesla Model X
1. 2016 Tesla Model X

Starting price: $83,000

EPA combined city and highway mileage: 93 mpge

Electric charge range: 237 miles

The Falcon-winged Tesla sport utility's base model doesn't have the 257-mile range of the 90D upgrade, but it still has camera, radar and sonar systems surrounding it to help avoid collisions. It also has an air filtration system that can provide cabin pressure and a hermetically sealed environment in case of a bioweapon attack, a panoramic windshield with solar tinting, seating for seven, navigation and free charges on the supercharger network. Oh, and it's miles ahead of the efficiency of any other luxury SUV on the road.


This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.