by Joe lamuraglia, www.gaywheels.com
With gas prices rising and oil supplies dwindling, automakers are hard at work on 'green' cars, most of which promise guilt-free driving in the form of emissions-free vehicles. But what about vehicles that you can buy now that leave less of a mess behind? Here are five cars on the market that will have a lower impact on the environment as well as on your wallet.
Pictured: The Lexus RX400h. Photo courtesy of Toyota
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—Smart fortwo: The name says it all—'for two'—and that's all the smart can hold. The smart is a space-efficient alternative ( at 106 inches in length ) to driving around with three to four empty seats and gets up to 41 miles per gallon on the highway. Add to that the ability to recycle many of its parts and you have a cute-as-hell way to reduce your impact on the environment.
Among its advantages are a quirky styling unlike any other vehicle; easy maneuverability and parking; low price; and fuel efficiency. The Smart fortwo, a model that has found a loyal following among European city-dwellers, is available in the United States for the first time for 2008 in two different body styles, a coupe and a convertible ( Cabriolet ) .
The two-seat Smart fortwo is available in three different models for 2008: Pure, Passion and Passion Cabriolet. The Cabriolet model differs from the other two models in that it offers an electric soft top that can be adjusted to any position while driving. It includes a glass heated rear window, and the roof bars for the top can be removed and stowed in a special compartment in the tailgate. The base price of the 2008 smart fortwo is $11,590.
—Ford Focus: The 2008 Ford Focus has an optional engine that qualifies it as PZEV ( Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle ) . That means it is cleaner driving down the road than a car from the '70s was sitting in the driveway with a full tank of gas! Available with the cool Sync audio system and with a 35-MPG rating, the Ford Focus makes going green fun and affordable.
All hatchback and wagon models of the Ford Focus have been dropped for 2008, but a two-door coupe joins the lineup; the remaining sedan has been fully redesigned cosmetically for 2008, with a distinctive new look inside and out. Side air bags are standard.
—VW Jetta TDI: The VW Jetta Sedan and SportWagen will be among the first vehicles in the United States featuring VW's fun-to-drive and uber-efficient TDI 'Clean Diesel' engine. Rumors indicate that the SportWagen will get up to 55 miles per gallon on the highway. Fun, low emissions, efficient and available later this year.
Re the SportWagen, the trendy lighting and interior design are growing a bit old, but are still leaps and bounds above the fit and finish of many modern interiors. On the flip side, the level of luxury amenities offered by VW nearly reaches Audi status.
—Lexus RX400h: Toyota started the hybrid craze with its Prius so it makes sense that their luxury division should benefit from that technology. The Lexus RX400h was the first luxury hybrid vehicle, and the first to equate the hybrid moniker with speed. Mated to a V-6 engine, the batteries in the RX400h can be as delicate as a lamb around town and fast as a leopard when merging onto the highway. Fuel economy isn't breathtaking, but it's doing its part—and how many $40,000 trucks can say that?
The 2008 Lexus RX400h offers the comfort and refinement of luxury cars, combined with the spacious, versatile interior of utility vehicles. Several high-tech features are available—like adaptive front lighting—that aren't widely available in its class.
—Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid: Some people really need a large SUV. Just ask any active family with three or more children and their gear. Chevrolet now gives these consumers a more fuel-efficient option with their 2008 Tahoe Hybrid. It's a full-size SUV that gets 21 miles per gallon in the city and doesn't compromise on towing or payload capacity. If you just have to be different, GMC's Yukon also comes in hybrid form, as does the swanky Cadillac Escalade.
Among its other strengths are its towing and hauling ability; spacious interior; and compliant ride and handling relative to other large SUVs.
A four-wheel-drive, four-door version has a standard retail price of $52,395.