It's the color of money. It's the color of freshness. It's the color of aphrodisiac M&M's. But in the car world, green represents anything but allure, the inverse of interesting, the exact opposite of envy. No, when it comes to cars, "green" has always represented pragmatism, conservation, environmentalism. The color of life deserves better, we think.
Then again, green is also symbolic of virility and growth, so it is fitting that we now witness the green-car market exploding like a tomato garden on a Miracle-Gro drip. Among this bumper crop are finally some green cars that promise to be-can you believe it?-fun. Indeed, some are using green-tech know-how to make good things even better. And so we bring you eight such examples of green cars that do the color justice.
Ferrari 599GTB HY-KERS Hybrid Concept
|Ferrari 599 GTB Hybrid|
On the color wheel, green is directly opposite red, the unofficial official color of Ferrari. That's fitting, since, on the rare occasions that they're fired up, the Italian supercar maker's big engines aren't the most fuel efficient. But among Ferrari's latest creations is the stunning 599GTB HY-KERS hybrid concept, introduced at this year's Geneva auto show. Yes, a Ferrari hybrid, displayed at the show in a brash satin-green hue that even a tree frog might have a tough time pulling off.
However patronizing the color choice, the 599GTB hybrid's greenness is more than skin-deep. A 100-hp electric motor mounted to the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission helps reduce CO2 emissions and increase fuel efficiency (although it's unclear by how much). Ferrari says the motor will drop the car's 0-to-124-mph time from 7.9 to 7.5 seconds, but considering we tested a 599GTB to 120 mph in 9.5 seconds, we're not sure where those figures come from. Whatever the true numbers, it should be quicker.
Furthermore, Ferrari is using the extra juice to smooth out the engine's torque curve and the brake-regeneration system to shorten stopping distances. This is the kind of hybrid we'd like to see more of, and thanks to emissions standards worldwide, we will.
Porsche 918 Spyder Concept
|Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid|
Promising to be as quick as the Ferrari but with even stronger green credentials is Porsche’s sultry and spectacularly fast 918 spyder concept, a plug-in hybrid that also debuted at the Geneva auto show. Wrapped within the scrumptious, exotic styling are a race-bred 500-hp, 3.4-liter V-8 and a pair of electric motors, which team up for an extra 218 hp. Weight—a problem for hybrids, especially those with heavy plug-in battery packs—has been kept to a miraculously low 3285 pounds, allowing the swoopy two-seater to hit 62 mph in a scant 3.2 seconds, according to Porsche, and lap the Nürburgring in 7 minutes and 30 seconds (two seconds faster than the Carrera GT). Any guilt felt after such a blast can be erased by driving away from the track (following a battery charge, of course) in pure electric mode for up to 16 miles.
Best of all, the 918 spyder might not remain simply a concept, as Porsche repeatedly reminds us it has never shown a concept it hasn’t produced. Whether a production version would include the hybrid tech remains to be seen, but there’s a good chance Porsche’s next flagship supercar will be literally electrifying.
Fiat 500 BEV
|Fiat 500 BEV Concept|
Existing small, lightweight conventional cars are an enticing shortcut for companies looking to develop an electric solution. Remove the internal-combustion powertrain, slide an electric motor and a bundle of batteries in its place, and—voilà—you have yourself an electric car. (Of course, that’s oversimplifying a touch.) It’s a strategy that worked great for the Lotus-based Tesla roadster and just okay for the Mini E.
Fiat has announced its plan to follow the same path with the 500—Cinquecento in Italian—and our hopes are high. With its wheels stretched way out to the corners, the gas-powered 500 is a Mini-sized riot, which is to say it’s small but packs big fun. Here’s hoping the 500 EV will be a little more engaging than the Mini E, which lost its spunk along with its gas engine. Even if it isn’t, the Fiat will add a much-needed injection of chicness to the green-car genre, especially when said car is rendered in the moody gray color it wore at the Detroit auto show.
2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI
|2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI Hybrid|
Good old-fashioned internal-combustion engines are all but forgotten among the hybrids and electrics that dominate the green-car garden like high-tech super-weeds. However simplistic it might seem to have only one petrochemical-swilling engine, the diesel-powered 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI gets the green thing right. Its rating of 42 mpg on the highway and compatibility with California’s tough emissions standards (sans the aid of a urea-injection system) put it right up there with many a hybrid in terms of fuel economy and sheer eco-friendliness.
Even better, the Golf TDI is a slick, oddity-free German hatchback that looks as good as its gas-powered counterpart and handles nearly as well as the vaunted GTI—while sucking down far less fuel than either. Between the fuel savings and its reasonable price, which starts just north of $23,000, the Golf TDI allows you to keep your pocketbook relatively green as well.
2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid
|2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid|
Only great cars make the Car and Driver 10Best Cars list, and the 10Best-winning 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid earned its place by being surprisingly good as a real car while maintaining strong green credentials. The Fusion hybrid achieves greatness on account of its masterful implementation of high-tech gasoline-electric wizardry to achieve impressive EPA ratings of 41 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway, all while accommodating up to five people in far greater comfort than can other equally accomplished hybrid pods.
Not only is it fun to drive, but Ford's clever in-dash efficiency monitors actually make it fun to drive frugally. The engine turns on and off so smoothly the driver won't notice, and it'll stay off up to 47 mph if you're gentle enough on the throttle. A normal family car that happens to be remarkably green, the Fusion hybrid is a great car.
Audi e-tron Detroit Concept
|Audi E Tron Detroit Hybrid|
Audi has shown us three possibilities for its upcoming e-tron line: the gorgeous R8-like e-tron, the punchy A1 e-tron, and our favorite, the Detroit e-tron. Far smaller but somewhat more robust-looking than the leggy first e-tron, the Detroit e-tron shows us how sexy a small car (its about 10 inches shorter than an Audi TT) can be. It also promises to be a blast to drive, its 204 hp and 300-to-400 lb-ft of torque fed to the rear wheels for a claimed 5.9-second run to 62 mph that seems respectable if a bit conservative. (Blame the 880-pound lithium-ion battery pack for bloating weight to a heady-for-the-size 2976 pounds.)
Still, the more we drive electric cars, the more we like their instant-on power and nearly silent speed. If Audi can pull this hot little shocker out of its hat in the next few years, we speculate that even the most stubborn, tree-slaughtering, hippie-hatin' internal-combustion die-hards will get on board, too.
2010 Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid
|2010 Mercedes Benz S400 Hybrid|
Hybrid luxury vehicles are by no means new, but hybrid luxury sedans that actually boast real fuel-economy gains-not just power, weight, and price increases-are. This Mercedes-Benz S400 is the first full-boat luxo-hybrid with markedly better fuel economy (by about 20 percent, to a Camry V-6-like 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway) and a lower price ($88,825 versus $92,475 for an S550) than its conventionally powered brethren, making it the S-class model that is cheapest to buy and to operate.
The S400 is a mild hybrid, meaning the additional electrical components are not configured in a way that allows them to drive the wheels by themselves. The 20-hp electric motor instead assists the 275-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 in accelerative duties and supports ancillary systems such as the climate control and power accessories. These hybrid components aren't so heavy as to excessively weigh down the S-class. Oh, yeah, and who is going to complain about an extra bit of torque-118 lb-ft at 0 rpm from the electric motor-ready to boost low-end response? Certainly not us.
Mini Coupe / Roadster
|Mini Roadster Concept|
Compared with many of the mighty sports cars that grace our pages, tiny four-cylinder coupes and roadsters definitely count as green, but we still like them to deliver as many smiles per mile as their more hedonistic counterparts. Soon, there will be two more such greenies on the market: the Mini coupe and the Mini roadster.
To create the coupe and roadster, Mini basically swapped fresh roofs onto its existing Cooper hatchback bodywork. Mechanically, everything will remain the same, meaning the coupe and the roadster should achieve similar fuel economy to that of the Cooper and Cooper S. With a highway rating as high as 37 mpg, they're about as green as gas-powered cars get. Gangsta-chopping the roof or lopping it off altogether won't make either of these two-seaters more fun to drive, per se, but the knockout styling just adds to the fuel efficiency inherent in the Mini package.