2009 Spring Car Guide
auto
Hybrids not only gas solution

Here's a look at some of the more popular alternatives available in the U.S.

Volkswagen Jetta TDI – MSRP $22,970
From August 2008 through March 2009, the Jetta TDI was responsible for 25 percent of total U.S. Jetta sales. It is also available in station wagon form as the SportWagen TDI. The standard transmission for ushering power to the front wheels is a six-speed manual. It collaborates with the 140-horsepower, 2-liter, four-cylinder turbo-diesel to deliver an EPA-rated fuel economy of 30 miles per gallon in the city and 41 mpg on the highway. This is a 9-mpg and 10-mpg improvement, respectively, over the gas-fueled version of the same engine.

The Jetta TDI is fun to drive and represents the new clean diesel as well as any of the more expensive diesels. It's quiet, quick and can go as far as 590 miles between fill ups. Its standard features list is expansive, featuring full power accessories, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, air conditioning, cruise control, and a 10-speaker audio system with an in-dash six-CD changer and an auxiliary input jack.

BMW 335d – MSRP $44,725
BMW chose to wrap its first 50-state-compliant, passenger-car diesel technology in America's best-selling luxury car according to Edmunds.com, the 3 Series. Providing all the spot-on handling of the gasoline-fueled 3 Series, the 335d clocks 23 mpg city and 36 mpg highway -- beating the 335i's EPA fuel numbers by 6 mpg and 10 mpg, respectively. Its engine is a 265-horsepower, 3-liter, in-line, six-cylinder twin turbo. Using a two-stage turbo system at different rpms, the 335d provides explosive acceleration with virtually no turbo lag. It sprints to 60 mph from a standing stop in 6 seconds, according to BMW's stopwatch. A driver-shiftable, six-speed automatic transmission hustles engine production to the rear wheels.

Standard features include full power accessories, rain-sensing wipers, dynamic cruise control, trip computer, six air bags, and an audio system with a CD player and auxiliary input jack.

Volkswagen Touareg 2 TDI – MSRP $43,550
Costing about $3,500 more than the gasoline-fueled V-8 version, the TDI wrings 17 miles in the city and 25 miles on the highway out of a gallon of fuel. The V-8's EPA rating is 13 mpg city and 18 mpg highway. Capable of towing up to 7,716 pounds, the TDI dashes from zero to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds, according to Volkswagen. Generating the go is a 221-horsepower, 3-liter, turbocharged diesel V-6. A six-speed automatic transmission sends engine output to all four wheels. It has a low-range gear for off-road travel. The TDI and V-8 share standard equipment that includes speed-sensitive, rain-sensing wipers; power sunroof; six air bags; eight-way, power front seats; tilt and telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio controls; dual-zone, automatic climate controls; and a 10-speaker audio system with CD player and auxiliary input jack.

SmartWay vehicles
Saving some coin at the pump and leaving less of a carbon footprint doesn't need to involve cutting-edge technology. If you are willing to pilot a smaller car and do a little homework -- and we've done most of it for you -- you can get good mileage and minimize emissions without paying a higher purchase price for a hybrid or extra at the pump for diesel fuel.

The EPA has designated a group of automobiles as SmartWay. These are cars that not only achieve good fuel economy, but release less tailpipe emissions into the air.

To qualify as a SmartWay vehicle, cars must meet certain emission levels and fuel-economy values. Two different emission criteria are used:

  • Air pollution score.
  • Greenhouse gas score.

The air pollution score is based on the amount of certain pollutants discharged into the atmosphere. They include hydrocarbons, nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide and the like. These are what contribute to smog and haze. The greenhouse gas score is really a function of a vehicle's mpg. The amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that a vehicle releases are tied directly to how many miles a vehicle gets to the gallon -- the fewer mpg, the more greenhouse gases that vehicle discharges traveling from point A to point B.

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