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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Green Car Journal's Top 5 for 2009

Consumer desires have shifted in recent years - driven by an increased interest in environmental impact and a desire for better fuel economy in the face of wildly spiking gas prices - and the industry is responding. This has brought better choices for environmentally-inclined buyers. It's about to get better ... a lot better.

As Green Car Journal editors sifted through the mass of information available on coming new car models to identify nominees for the 2009 Green Car of the Year program, it became apparent that a sea change is occurring. The auto industry is not simply responding to a changing consumer market and tighter emissions and fuel economy laws. It is, in important ways, reinventing itself. This doesn't mean the loss of the kind of vehicles we've come to appreciate over the years. Rather, it means that an evolution is occurring before our eyes. The cars and SUVS/crossovers that fill so many driveways today are still around, but new models are generally getting more fuel efficient and in many cases offering a lighter environmental impact. That's clearly a good sign for years to come.

After thorough research and evaluation, Green Car Journal's Top 5 for 2009, - the year's best-of-the-best 'green' vehicles - have been identified by the magazine's editors. These vehicles are (listed alphabetically) the BMW 335d, Ford Fusion Hybrid, Saturn Vue 2 Mode Hybrid, smart fortwo, and Volkswagen Jetta TDI. One of these exceptional models will be named the 2009 Green Car of the Year on November 20 at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Vehicles using all types of technologies, fuels, and powerplants are eligible for the Green Car of the Year program. To qualify for consideration as a nominee, a vehicle must exhibit characteristics that substantially raise the bar in environmental performance and be in production by January 1 of the award year. Plus, a potential nominee must be driven by Green Car Journal to allow experiencing driving dynamics first-hand. This driving requirement allows determining that those making the final cut live up to the promises made on paper. Production dates are important to ensure that nominee vehicles will actually be available for purchase during the award year.

Of course, these requirements might preclude some vehicles that are widely perceived as being fine examples of 'green' cars from making the cut. Ones that come to mind include the Tesla Roadster, the electric MINI E, and the coming Honda Insight. We're told the 2009 Tesla Roadster will not be in production until April 2009, while the electric MINI E and Honda Insight have not yet been available for behind-the-wheel evaluation. There are other 'green' cars offering positive environmental attributes that also didn't make the cut. But then, there's always next year.

(Alphabetical Order)

2009 BMW 335d
BMW'S 335d showcases how well advanced, efficient, and clean diesel power can be incorporated into a performance-based sport sedan. With 23 mpg city/33 mpg highway fuel economy and gobs of torque, there's no sacrifice for performance fans here.
Engine: 3.0-liter inline-six diesel
Emissions, EPA: Tier 2, Bin 5
Horsepower: 265
Fuel Economy, city/hwy mpg: 23/33 (EPA)
Base MSRP: Under $43,000

Ford's first hybrid sedan uses a more advanced adaptation of the automaker's full hybrid system to allow electric driving up to 47 mph, bringing the roomy five-passenger Fusion best-in-class fuel economy. An innovative SmartGauge with EcoGuide helps drivers achieve maximum mpg.
Engine: 2.5-liter inline-four, gasoline-electric hybrid
Emissions, EPA: Tier 2, Bin 5
Horsepower: 155
Fuel Economy, city/hwy mpg: 38/35 (est.)
Base MSRP: $27,000-$30,000 (est.)

The Vue 2 Mode breaks new ground as the first application of GM's two mode hybrid technology in a V-6 front-wheel-drive vehicle. The compact SUV combines welcome functionality and fuel economy with sprightly performance and a very smooth hybrid powertrain.
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6, gasoline-electric hybrid
Emissions, EPA: Tier 2, Bin 5
Horsepower: 255
Fuel Economy, city/hwy mpg: 28/31 (est.)
Base MSRP: Under $33,000

The smart fortwo represents an all new type of vehicle for American drivers. Now, the tiny two-seater that's been a popular choice in Europe for years has come here, bringing with it a small eco footprint, higher fuel efficiency, and a trendy 'green' ride for new car buyers.
Engine: 1.0-liter inline three
Emissions, EPA: Tier 2 Bin 5
Horsepower: 70
Fuel Economy, city/hwy mpg: 33/41 (EPA)
Base MSRP: $13,990

The 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI builds on VW's 30-plus years of diesel experience in the U.S. The latest diesel technology is used to enable this fuel efficient, affordable - and dare we say 'fun' - clean diesel sedan to meet tight emissions certification in all 50 states.
Engine: 2.0-liter inline-four, diesel
Emissions, EPA: Tier 2, Bin 5
Horsepower: 140
Fuel Economy, city/hwy mpg: 30/41 (EPA)
Base MSRP: $21,990

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