New hybrids are more powerful and sexy, if less efficient

The next crop of hybrid vehicles is eagerly anticipated not only by energy-conscious geeks and early-adopter hipsters, but by regular ol’ Americans who like to have their apple pie and eat it too. Auto-industry flacks are predicting buyer excitement over soon-to-debut vehicles like the hybrid Honda Accord and Lexus RX SUV — long on horsepower and sex appeal, short on gas consumption (though slightly less short than their predecessors). “It will be like enjoying a hot-fudge sundae, without the calories or the guilt,” says Toyota’s Don Esmond of his company’s forthcoming Highlander SUV. Psychologist Margaret Krikorian of auto consultant Iceology also sees the new hybrids appealing to Americans’ have-it-all sensibilities: “These cars speak to our emotions and rationalizations. It’s like being smart and beautiful.”