2008 Chevrolet Tahoe
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2009 Green Car of the Year finalists

Green Car Journal, a magazine and website whose publisher, Ron Cogan, made waves at last year’s Los Angeles Auto Show by awarding the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, left, its influential Green Car of the Year award, has announced this year’s finalists. The vehicles fall into at least one of three categories: compact, clean diesel or hybrid. Each has soaring MPG estimates.

To choose the contenders, Green Car Journal sought vehicles that “exhibit characteristics that substantially raise the bar in environmental performance and were in production by Jan. 1 of the award year.” Nine jurors -- including “The Tonight Show’s” Jay Leno, automobile icon Carroll Shelby and Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club -- will choose a winner and announce it at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Here we take a look at the finalists and see what Times automotive critic Dan Neil and others in the auto press have to say about each.

--Times Staff Reports

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: L.A. Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (General Motors)
BMW 335d

EPA fuel economy:
23 city/ 36 hwy

Available engine:
3.0-liter DOHC inline six-cylinder diesel engine

Available transmission:
6-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift mode

Dan Neil says:
“Where once the furious, bees-on-fire sound of a high-revving gas engine poured into the cabin, now the turbo-diesel sets the deck plates atwitter with a dark, seismic churn.”

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: L.A. Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (BMW)
Ford Fusion Hybrid

EPA fuel economy:
Not available

Available engines:
175-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine
240-hp 3.0-liter V-6
263-hp 3.5-liter V-6

Available transmission:
6-speed transmission

Brian Moody, Edmunds.com’s road test editor, says:
“What’s cool about a Ford hybrid sedan is that it gives people who need a sedan a domestic hybrid choice.”

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: L.A. Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (Ford Motor Co.)
Saturn Vue 2-Mode Hybrid

EPA fuel economy:
25 city/ 32 hwy

Available engine:
172-hp, 2.4-liter I-4 (gasoline hybrid)

Available transmission:
4-speed automatic w/OD

Alex Nunez of Autoblog says:
“If you’ve driven a conventionally-powered 3.6L Vue, you’re not really in for anything earth-shatteringly different.”

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: L.A. Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (General Motors)
Smart Fortwo

EPA fuel economy:
33 city/ 41 hwy

Available engine:
70-hp, 1.0-liter I-3

Available transmission:
5-speed auto-shift manual w/OD and auto-manual

Dan Neil says:
“Cute? Oh my God, yes. It couldn’t be any cuter if it were buried up to its neck in kittens. Attention-grabbing? Ice cream trucks playing ‘La Bamba’ at 100 decibels don’t get more notice. Likable? It’s irresistible. The Smart is a rolling sight gag, like a fat man wearing a tiny bowler hat, or a Speedo. Safe? Can we go back to ‘likable’? At roughly a third the weight of a large luxury sedan -- like Mercedes’ S-class -- the Fortwo would be at a profound Newtonian disadvantage in most any vehicle-to-vehicle collision.”

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: L.A. Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (Daimler)
Volkswagen Jetta TDI

EPA fuel economy:
29 city/ 40-41 hwy

Available engine:
2.0-liter, 16-valve inline four-cylinder diesel

Available transmissions:
6-speed manual
Dual-clutch automatic transmission

Dan Neil says:
“I find the 2009 VW Jetta TDI’s lack of exceptionalism exceptional. This car is ordinary, routine, a mean of averages, a flat line on life’s electroencephalogram .... And that’s amazing.”

More in Autos:
• Up to Speed: L.A. Auto Show news
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Production cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Concept cars
• 2008 L.A. Auto Show: Green cars
• 2009 Green Car of the Year finalists
• Preview: L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge
 (Volkswagen)
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