Driving a luxury car no longer has to mean leaving a large environmental footprint. There’s now an array of high-end vehicles that, by incorporating the latest green technologies, deliver improved fuel efficiency and lower emissions without stinting on power or pampering. And more such models are on the horizon.
“‘Luxury’ and ‘green’ are not mutually exclusive,” explained Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal and editor of GreenCar.com. “When you drive a vehicle like the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, which provides the kind of luxury experience expected of the brand plus truly exceptional fuel economy of 39 combined city/highway mpg, you know that green can cross all vehicle classes.”
When shopping for an environmentally friendly upscale car, fuel efficiency (plus the lower CO2 emissions that come with it) is at the top of most buyers’ wish lists.
“Those seeking a more environmentally positive luxury vehicle will likely be looking at hybrid or clean diesel models, since these by nature achieve higher fuel efficiency while retaining desired performance,” Cogan explained. “That said, there are other technologies like Ford/Lincoln EcoBoost that provide better efficiencies in traditional vehicles as well.”
Mercedes-Benz has emerged as a leader in high-end green motoring, with 200 of its hydrogen-powered B-Class F-Cell cars already leased in select global markets. Stateside, this high-tech hatchback is only available in Southern California, currently the sole U.S. region with sufficient hydrogen-fueling infrastructure.
The German marque unveiled its even more adventurous F-125 concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. The F-125, named in honor of Mercedes-Benz’s 125th anniversary, is a gullwing-doored luxury four-seater that uses lithium-sulfur batteries and weight-saving metals and compounds to achieve a range of over 600 miles — and an estimated top speed of 137 mph — with zero tailpipe emissions.
Fellow German automaker BMW has gone so far as to create a new sub-brand, BMW i, devoted to commercializing low-emission vehicles. The most visible fruits of this venture to date, the battery-electric i3 city car and plug-in hybrid i8 supercar, both attracted crowds when they made their North American bows at last month’s L.A. Auto Show.
“The BMW i3 and i8 are breakthrough vehicles that view the automobile in new ways, using advanced electric-drive powerplants and exotic, lightweight materials like carbon fiber body shells,” Cogan said. “That is forward thinking.”
Based on its popular premium sedans, BMW’s gasoline-electric ActiveHybrid models offer here-and-now fuel-efficient luxury. The ActiveHybrid 7 debuted in 2009; Active 3 and Active 5 models are due in U.S. dealerships next year. The ActiveHybrid 3 achieved 36.7 miles per gallon in the European test cycle (12.5% better than the standard gas-powered 2012 3 Series), according to BMW.
Here in the U.S., the Silicon Valley-based Tesla Motors has been making zero-emission supercars a reality since 2003. Though they stopped taking orders for their Roadster earlier this year, the premium Model S sedan should go on sale in 2012.
“Tesla has proven it can produce a $111,000 limited-edition electric sports car that gets rave reviews,” Cogan said. “The S is being billed as a more affordable model, though at $57,400 to $77,400 that affordability is clearly limited to upscale buyers.”
In England, Land Rover is claiming its new Range Rover Evoque compact SUV is the smallest, lightest and most fuel-efficient Range Rover to date. Available with either two or four passenger doors, the Evoque brings the Land Rover brand into today’s urban environment, delivering an EPA-estimated 18 mpg around town and 28 mpg highway.
Beginning with the 2011 model, super-luxe British brand Bentley equips its entire range of Continental supercars with Earth-friendly FlexFuel technology, which enables their internal combustion engines to run on gasoline, E85 bioethanol or a mix of the two. This doesn’t quite make the fuel-thirsty Continental a truly green choice. After all, it gets 14 mpg combined city/highway from premium gasoline or 10 mpg combined from E85. But this does represent yet another step in the right direction for luxury automakers.
– Paul Rogers
Custom Publishing Writer