12:10 PM PDT, October 9, 2012
What’s not to love about green SUVs?
They’re a delicious mash-up, the best of all worlds – fun and function without going broke at the pump. And there’s no compromise whatsoever when it comes to luxury or performance. You can save the planet without giving up goodies like heated seats or navigation.
The 2013 crop of green crossovers is larger than ever, comprising everything from sensible family models to high-end luxury SUVs — compact models like the all-new Ford C-Max and Audi Q5 Hybrid up to the Mercedes-Benz GL 350 BlueTEC and everything in between.
The trend has much to do with high gas prices, of course, but also distinctly American attitudes toward their beloved rides, said Mike Omotoso, senior manager of global powertrain forecasting for LMC Automotive.
“Americans, although aware and concerned [with environmental issues and fuel economy], don’t want to give up their three rows of seats, or versatility and cargo space,” he said. “Americans like the idea of going places, doing things and bringing along a lot of stuff like camping gear and bikes, while still getting good fuel economy. We like to have our cake and eat it too.”
Exactly. Now let’s sample some of the tastiest new 2013 creations.
Green to the max
Generating considerable buzz, the all-new Ford C-Max Hybrid compact utility vehicle — replacing the popular Escape Hybrid — is everything a crossover enthusiast could crave, packed with versatility and breakout technology to go with 47 mpg efficiency and an impressive range of 570 miles per tank (both on the highway and in the city).
The folks at Ford are quick to point out that’s roughly a round trip between L.A. and Las Vegas. Feel free to bring plenty of friends and luggage; the C-Max Hybrid seats five with nearly 100 cubic feet of interior space.
“The all-new C-Max Hybrid is a great symbol of how Ford has transformed into a fuel-economy and technology leader with 47 mpg across the board. City, highway and everywhere in between,” said Joe Bakaj, Ford vice president of powertrain engineering.
“We’ve done this with innovation — represented by nearly 500 hybrid patents.”
Staking out the growing plug-in segment, Ford’s C-Max Energi doubles as a straight-up EV with an overnight charge through a standard 120-volt household outlet. But unlike most plug-in hybrids, the Energi’s gas engine kicks in at higher speeds to offer considerable acceleration assistance to the EV motor — rather the reverse of a regular hybrid system.
Both C-Max models feature ample cargo space and advanced technology — hands-free liftgate, park assist and voice-command control included.
Toyota jumps into the budding EV market with its all-electric 2013 RAV4 compact crossover, the product of a collaboration with high-end electric-car pioneer Tesla Motors (which produced the vehicle’s advanced lithium battery pack as well as its electric powertrain). This EV version of the RAV4 goes 103 miles on a full charge and gets an EPA-estimated 76 combined mpg-equivalent (MPG-e).
One of the hottest new hybrids, Toyota’s Prius v brings crossover versatility to the iconic Prius family. The five-passenger Prius v — offering 42 mpg in-city fuel economy — expands the brand with a spacious interior and sliding second-row seats that fold down for more than 67 cubic feet cargo capacity.
This Prius showcases some of the latest tech: The Entune system accesses a galaxy of mobile apps, plus endless music and entertainment options including iHeartRadio, Pandora — even sports scores, stocks and weather. All that and hands-free voice text-messaging.
Stepping up to premium grade, the all-new Audi Q5 Hybrid is a sweet compact crossover that packs all the amenities and attention to detail of the standard Q5, with a turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder engine rated (along with its electric motor) at 245 horsepower.
Just now hitting U.S. dealerships, the Q5 Hybrid is outfitted with quattro all-wheel-drive to go with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Q5 is sort of a smaller sibling of the full-size Audi Q7, which offers a clean-diesel option, part of a burgeoning green segment that’s weighted heavily toward import luxury.
Mercedes-Benz jump-started clean diesel in the U.S. in 2006 when it launched its BlueTEC brand, a growing lineup that recently expanded with the redesigned GL 350, sporting a fresh new look, more interior space and a tweaked 3-liter V-6 diesel engine that delivers 240 horsepower — 30 more than the 2012 model.
The seven-seat GL 350 is a sleek beast to behold, refined and packed with features such as standard adjustable air suspension and multimedia Comandcontrol system.
As with hybrid and EV drivetrains, clean-diesel is ideally suited for the SUV market — and luxury brands such as Mercedes-Benz intend to capitalize by highlighting its many advantages.
“The BlueTEC campaign expresses our ambitious targets for the U.S. We want to make diesel driving popular here. Especially for SUVs,” said Dr. Thomas Weber, member of the Management Board Daimler AG, Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.
—Bob Young, Custom Publishing Writer
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