But, sadly, except in highly unusual cases where needs and vehicle match up precisely, these big diesels offer only a variety of complacency, coaching people to keep their oversized vehicles while assuaging whatever guilt they might feel. I know there are many people out there waiting patiently for the thriftier high-tech diesels. I'm sorry. It's just methadone for gasoline addiction.

The fact is, the bitter truth is, the green car of the year is anything but an SUV.

dan.neil@latimes.com

2008 Mercedes-Benz GL320 CDI

Base price: $53,000

Price, as tested: $69,375

Powertrain: 3.0-liter, 24-valve, common-rail diesel V6; seven-speed automatic transmission; full-time four-wheel drive

Horsepower: 215 at 3,800 rpm

Torque: 398 pound-feet at 1,600 rpm

Curb weight: 5,313 pounds

0-60 mph: 7 seconds

Wheelbase: 121.1 inches

Overall length: 200.6 inches

EPA fuel economy: 18 miles per gallon city, 24 highway

Range: 600-plus miles

Final thoughts: Green is relative