2012 Lexus RX 450h [$45,910]
This last one is a judgment call. The Lexus RX luxury crossover is by far the most popular model from Toyota's luxury make, comprising almost half of all Lexus sales in the U.S. last year.
The hybrid RX 450h model is often found in wealthy, progressive neighborhoods where its quiet, comfortable ride, the luxury appointments and features, and the subtle "Hybrid Synergy Drive" badge add up to discreet green-tinged luxury.
The problem is that quite a few RX hybrid owners report that they just don't get close to the combined EPA gas-mileage rating of 29 mpg.
We recently tested a brand-new 2013 Lexus RX 450h crossover--with a breathtaking, options-heavy sticker price of $58,060--and, indeed, got just 26.8 mpg over a 750-mile test drive.
The bulk of our mileage was at speeds of 45 mph or greater, where the hybrid RX crossover can't run solely on electric power.
Which brings home a crucial point: How you use a hybrid matters a lot to the gas mileage you get.
Spend most of your miles below 30 mph in stop-and-go urban and suburban traffic, and you really take advantage of the hybrid's engine-shutoff and all-electric running abilities.
But hammer out hundreds of miles on Interstate highways--as buyers often do on trips in the family crossover--and your efficiency will suffer.
We said the Lexus RX 450h is a judgment call because if you use it largely around town, you'll likely do OK on mileage. But be aware that if you're expecting to do a lot of high-speed trips, a diesel luxury crossover like the Mercedes-Benz ML 350 BlueTEC may give you better overall efficiency.