Best efficient SUVs with higher gas mileage for 2011

Looking for the best SUV when it comes to good gas mileage and efficiency? Here’s our roundup of some top options for 2011.

Environmentalists have an uneasy relationship with the sports utility vehicle (SUV). Cars are one of the largest contributors to airborne pollution and climate change. SUVs, with their low fuel-efficiency and wild popularity in the last two decades, seem to epitomize a disregard for emissions that troubles environmentalists. No popular model raised more ire than the Hummer (which had an estimated 14 miles per gallon highway and 10 mpg city).

While it can’t be said that traditional SUVs are in any way “green,” they are still a popular choice. With economic conditions improving and new energy-efficient technologies coming to the marketplace, many car manufacturers are making their products more environmentally-friendly in hopes that SUV sales will rebound. Here’s a look at a few options. If you absolutely, positively need an SUV, but want to minimize pollution and the high cost of fuel, these are some of your best options.

Best environmental SUV
CC flickr photo courtesy of tom.arthur - The Ford Escape Hybrid

Review Roundup: 2011 Audi A3 Clean Diesel TDI

2011 Audi A3 TDI clean diesel car

The USA is a big country: there’s 9,826,000 square miles, and 307 million people. By comparison, Europe covers just 3,930,000 miles, yet there’s 852 million people there. Cram that many more people into an area that’s a third the size of the U.S., and you could see where size would become an issue – especially when it comes to parking a car.

That’s one reason why small hatchbacks are so popular over there. They’re easy to park, they have lots of room, and they get great gas mileage. Which is important too, because gas can cost up to $8 per gallon in some parts of Europe.

So, if you lived over there, the most logical car to buy would be a diesel hatchback. But that sounds even more boring to take on the road than a base-model Prius – or does it?

The 2011 Audi A3 TDI is a luxury version of the popular Euro diesel hatchback and, named the 2010 Green Car of the Year, has become a strong seller in the U.S. It has standard leather, the S Line exterior pack with spoilers, badges and 17-inch wheels, dual-zone climate control, satellite radio, and of course, an economical 2.0 TDI engine.

But the diesel found in this Audi is a far cry from the noisy, stinky clatter-box that most Americans used to assume they would be getting. This 2.0 liter, direct-injected (called Common Rail in diesel-speak) oil burner is both responsive, and earth-friendly. Also found in the Volkswagen Jetta/Golf TDI, this engine uses a vapor trap to capture NOx emissions, then it routes them back to the engine to be re-burned during combustion. As a result, the Audi A3 TDI emits just 0.07 grams of NOx per mile, which is quite impressive for a diesel.

Besides the cleanliness and the fuel economy (30/42 MPG), this TDI produces enough torque to provide satisfying acceleration. Rated at 140-hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, this engine can propel the A3 TDI from 0-60 in just 8.9 seconds – that’s not bad for what’s basically an economy car. You can have a green, economical car that’s not terrible to drive.

And what’s more, since Audi is a luxury brand, you can outfit your A3 TDI with all sorts of goodies. There’s a Sport Package with 18-inch wheels and a stiffer suspension, a Convenience Package with upgraded BOSE audio, automatic lights, wipers and (dimming) mirrors, and parking sensors (in case you can’t drive), a Cold Weather Pack with heated seats, mirrors and washer nozzles, a Bluetooth Pack, a twin-pane sunroof, Navigation, rear-side airbags, and a broad assortment of interior and exterior trim packages.

By the time you add on all of the options, the 2011 Audi A3 TDI can get pretty expensive, especially when you consider that it has the same chassis and engine as the VW Golf/Jetta TDI. Some consumers writing on Edmunds.com feel that, for the price, Audi scrimped on some basic features and risks missing their target market. (The fact that the A3 TDI does not come with standard transmission or the fabled Audi Quattro AWD turns off some potential buyers from the get-go.)

Others say that doesn’t detract from its overall smooth handling and responsiveness, and that the Audi A3 TDI is a real step up from their other economy cars. And, besides, studies show that diesel cars easily recoup their initially high price tag – they have a lower “total cost of ownership” thanks to better fuel economy and resale value.

Do you own an Audi A3 clean diesel?

If so, leave a comment and tell us what you think about it, and what kind of gas mileage you’re getting in the real world.

Teddy Field got his start in the auto industry at the age of 17. He is a recognized car dealer sales & management consultant, an automotive journalist, and a regular contributor to http://www.bestcardealsnewyork.com.

Best Gas Mileage 2011 Diesel Pickups and SUVs

Looking for a list of the most fuel efficient diesel pickup and SUV models in the US market that get the best gas mileage? You’ve come to the right place.

Americans love their SUVs.

They’re tall, so mom has a commanding view of the road, and they’re big enough to haul a team of soccer players, complete with their gear. (If you’re single, they’re big enough for your dogs/mountain bikes/entire Star Wars collection). Plus, some of them can even go off road (handy if the soccer field gets wet).

Pickup trucks are equally popular with Americans, but usually for more practical reasons. They can go from the jobsite to the football field and still look good. You can go through all sorts of terrain, while carrying massive amounts of…whatever. In fact, those Super-Duper Duty ones can even tow trains and jumbo jets.

But the one thing that neither of these kinds of vehicles are good at is getting good fuel mileage – just look at some scary MPG stats from dedicated truck owners. Until now, that is.

More and more consumers are demanding an alternative to expensive, gas burning engines, which is one reason that hybrids have become so popular. However, some schools of thought suggest that mining for the raw materials used in a hybrid battery can cause even more environmental damage than the emissions from a diesel.

With an eye on US environmental regulations, many European car makers are designing diesel engines that will comply with our strict emission rules.

American automakers are getting on the diesel bandwagon too, by offering more powerful and efficient diesel engines in their most popular trucks.

But sadly, there isn’t much of a selection yet.

For diesel powered SUVs, there’s the 2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI, the 2011 BMW X5 xDrive35d, the 2011 Audi Q7 TDI and the Mercedes ML350 BlueTEC.

Although these are expensive, they are luxury SUVs. Don’t forget, “what you see on today’s luxury car, will be standard on tomorrow’s base model”. So, think of these as a sign of things to come.

2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI Sport

Base price: $47,950

Engine: 3.0 liter V6 TDI – 225-hp – 406 lb-ft torque – AWD

Fuel Economy: 19/28

Fuel Tank Capacity: 26.4 gallons

Greenhouse Gasses Emitted per Year: 7.66 (tons)

Highlights: Standard navigation, leather, xeon headlights, rear-view camera, Bluetooth/iPod, 18-inch wheels.

2011 Mercedes Benz ML350 BlueTEC

Base price: $50,490

Engine: 3.0 liter V6 TDI – 210-hp – 400 lb-ft torque – AWD

Fuel Economy: 18/25

Fuel Tank Capacity: 25.1 gallons

Greenhouse Gasses Emitted per Year: 8.02 (tons)

Highlights: The Mercedes doesn’t offer much in the way of standard equipment. So, if you want one that has leather and navigation, you’re going to have to order the Leather Package for $1,780, & the Premium 1 package for $4,000. Otherwise, you’re going to get vinyl seats and a steering wheel…for Fifty-Grand.

2011 Audi Q7 TDI Premium

Base price: $51,450

Engine: 3.0 liter V6 TDI – 225-hp – 406 lb-ft torque – AWD

Fuel Economy: 17/25

Fuel Tank Capacity: 26.4 gallons

Greenhouse Gasses Emitted per Year: 8.42 (tons)

Highlights: Standard leather, LED tail lights, parking sensors, heated seats, power tailgate, Bluetooth/iPod, 19-inch wheels & 7-passenger seating.

2011 BMW X5 xDrive35d

Base price: $51,800

Engine: 3.0 liter inline-6 TDI – 265-hp – 425 lb-ft torque – AWD

Fuel Economy: 19/26

Fuel Tank Capacity: 22.5 gallons

Greenhouse Gasses Emitted per Year: 7.66 (tons)

Highlights: Standard navigation, leather, rear-seat TV system, satellite radio, head-up display, parking sensors.

 

Diesel trucks

Diesel powered pickups are limited to the Ford SuperDuty, the Chevrolet HD, and the Dodge 2500/3500. However, these are ¾ ton – 1 ton trucks.

None of the popular ½ ton models are available with a diesel engine. And, none of the ¾ ton (and up) trucks are required to have their fuel mileage certified by the EPA.

This is because they’re considered to be commercial vehicles. Plus, there’s a mind-boggling array of mechanical options (like axle ratios, transmissions, etc.) which can effect the fuel mileage.

Since there are no official MPG numbers for these trucks, the fuel mileages listed below are based on owner accounts, and can vary based on the model, and chosen equipment.

The base prices listed are for a ¾ ton, regular cab, 2WD with an automatic transmission, diesel engine, and standard equipment. Once you start adding on the options, these diesel pickups can eclipse $40,000 real quick.

2011 Ram 2500/3500

Base price: $27,450

Engine: 6.7 liter inline-6 TDI – 350-hp – 650 lb-ft torque – RWD

Fuel Economy: 13-15 mpg (est)

Fuel Tank Capacity: 34 gallons

NOx Gas Emitted per Mile: 0.2 grams

Highlights: The Cummins diesel in these Ram trucks uses special chambers to collect polluting gasses, then the system heats up, burning off the pollutants. Here, some tips for drivers tailored to the Dodge owner.

2011 Ford F250 / F350 / F450 / F550 SuperDuty

Base price: $36,340

Engine: 6.7 liter V8 TDI – 400-hp – 800 lb-ft torque – RWD

Fuel Economy: 15/22 (est)

Fuel Tank Capacity: 37.5 gallons

NOx Gas Emitted per Mile: 0.2 grams

Highlights: Ford’s Power Stroke diesel uses an injector to spray urea into the exhaust. The heat from the exhaust turns the urea to ammonia, which then turns the NOx gasses into nitrogen gas, and water inside of a specially designed catalytic convertor. Drivers are already reporting first-hand on higher MPG here and here.

 

2011 Chevrolet 2500HD / 3500HD

Base price: $37,355

Engine: 6.6 liter V8 TDI – 397-hp – 765 lb-ft torque – RWD

Fuel Economy: 13/19 (est)

Fuel Tank Capacity: 36 gallons

NOx Gas Emitted per Mile: 0.2 grams

Highlights: Chevrolet’s Duramax diesel uses a similar urea injection system as Ford’s Power Stroke diesel.

But regardless of how you look at the high initial cost, you still wind up with a vehicle that gets good fuel mileage for its class, and that’s a real boon with predicted gas hikes what they are. Plus, the long-term reliability of diesel engines is better established and proven than the more complicated hybrid.

Teddy Field got his start in the auto industry at the age of 17. He is a recognized car dealer sales & management consultant, an automotive journalist, and a regular contributor to http://www.bestcardealsnewyork.com.