New Environmentally Un-Friendly Vehicles

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recently released their annual list of "greenest" and "meanest" vehicles for sale in the United States. The "greenest" vehicles can be found in this gallery. The "meanest" can be found by clicking ahead.

See also: Greenest Vehicles of 2008 Gallery

What is "green" anyway?

The ACEEE's list identifies vehicles that are "kind" to the environment. The good news is that even the meanest cars on the ACEEE's list are still very kind to Mother Nature. According to Kevin Cullen, General Motor's Technical Fellow on Environmental Initiatives, even the dirtiest vehicles on the mean list emit 98.8% fewer hydrocarbons and 95% fewer nitrogen oxides than the average car in 1967.

All vehicles sold in the U.S. are green ...

even the big, powerful and fast ones.

If you drive in a metropolitan area, once your new vehicle's engine is warmed up, the air coming out of its tail pipe is often cleaner than the air it sucks in through the air cleaner. Another interesting fact is that if you burnt a cord of wood this winter, you'd need to drive a new vehicle over 1.12 million miles to equal the harmful emissions from your fireplace.

The Reality

The vehicles on this list represent another fact: Bigger and/or more powerful vehicles burn more fuel than smaller and/or less powerful vehicles. While harmful emissions (hydrocarbons and NOx) can be virtually eliminated, there is a direct and unchanging link between how much fuel a vehicle uses to how much C02 it emits: greater fuel consumption means more C02 emissions. There's no way around it.
Next Slide: #1 Meanest Vehicle

1. 2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2

With a mighty 5.0-liter V-10 that burns diesel at the rate of 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway, the Touareg doesn't seem like an evil SUV. It is certainly capable on- and off-road, boasting 553 lb-ft of torque (more than the top 4 greenest cars combined). The ACEEE's scoring system marks down diesel vehicles for exhaust emissions, particularly nitrogen oxides. New technology coming in 2009 will take care of the NOx, which will help diesels get much greener.

2. Bugatti Veyron 16.4

Sensible people rightly question conspicuous consumption of all kinds ... yachts, mansions and private jets. (It can be a love-hate thing, admit it.) Regardless, the Bugatti Veyron is technically amazing with a quad-turbocharged 16-cylinder engine that displaces 8-liters to produce a staggering 1001 horsepower. Mileage is lousy, at 8 city/13 hwy; however, the car's top speed of almost 250 mph makes it all worth it.

3. 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL320 CDI

Today, diesel vehicles in the U.S. just don't run as cleanly as gasoline vehicles. It's those pesky NOx emissions. However, modern diesels running on ultra-low-sulfur fuels are much cleaner than older models. The GL320 diesel is an excellent SUV in spite of its nitrogen oxides, and does consume about 30% less fuel than its non-diesel counterpart. Mileage is a respectable 18 city/24 highway.

4. 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel

The familiar Jeep Grand Cherokee can now be optioned with the excellent Mercedes-Benz 3.0-liter V-6 diesel found in the Mercedes-Benz GL320 and R320 SUVs, but at a cost that's some $10,000 less than its German cousins. The Jeep is an excellent choice because of its fuel economy of 18 city/24 mpg and torque that rivals the powerful Chrysler Hemi engine. An exhaust treatment available in 2009 will improve the Jeep's emissions performance even more.

5. 2008 Mercedes-Benz R320 CDI

Mercedes-Benz R-Class is the company's "it's not a minivan" and "it's not a station wagon" 6-person people mover. The diesel 3.0-liter V-6 delivers V-8 type performance with mileage of 18/24. All-wheel drive is standard, and 7-passenger seating is optional. Prices start around $46,000.

6. 2008 Lamborghini Murcielago

Since the manufacturer first turned its attention toward high-performance automobiles (it used to produce farm tractors), the company has changed the face of exotic cars. Available in coupe and roadster models, the all-wheel-drive Lambo matches the Bugatti for thirsty fuel consumption but the Murcielago's 6.5-liter 632-horsepower V12 can only muster a top speed just over 200 mph. A consolation is its bargain price compared to the Veyron -- $313,600.

7. 2008 Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI

Seems unfair to nick Mercedes three times all due to one engine, the venerable 3.0-liter diesel V-6. Really, it's a great engine; smooth, quiet, powerful, efficient. Oh well, we didn't make the rules for the ACEEE contest, we're just reporting the findings. The ML320 CDI sips fuel for a powerful mid-size SUV, and delivers 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway.

8. 2008 Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG

The famed G-Wagen can trace it roots back to a military-only SUV Mercedes-Benz used to produce. Now, tarted up in full luxury garb and stuffed with a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 producing 493 horsepower, the G55 can sprint from 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds. Plus, the G55 is a formidable off-road tool, capable of mountain goat like feats. The main issue for the G55 is that only the brainless Hollywood starlet set seems interested in this boxy $112,000 truck.

9. 2008 HUMMER H2

The HUMMER H2 was never designed to be a "nice" vehicle. It's engineered so well that it seems capable of leaping tall mountains in a single bound. But with its 6.0-liter V-8, a curb weight of over three tons and a shape like shoe box, it's a lot of truck to move. Mileage suffers at 12 city/16 highway. Clean diesel and E85 (ethanol) powered engines are coming.

10. 2008 GMC Yukon 2500

Chances are that if you're shopping for a full-size truck the size of a Yukon, you have a job to do. Well, the 2500 Series Yukon is genuine heavy-duty, and can tackle just about any job this side of a Kenworth or Peterbilt semi. Again, its size and V-8 power equates to low mileage, 12 city/16 highway. While not quite as hard-core as the Yukon 2500, the new Yukon 2-Mode Hybrid is an excellent alternative to consider.

11. 2007 Bentley Azure

It seems odd to characterize the stately Bentley Azure as "mean." There's not anything mean about these classic, old-school luxury cars from Britain. While they are lousy on fuel (9 city/15 highway), only 400 per year are built, and each one meets Low Emission Vehicle II standards. The Azure's impact on the environment is nil. You can have one delivered to your estate for about $350,000.

12. 2007 Bentley Arnage

The Arnage sedan utilizes the same 500-horsepower 6.7-liter V-8 as its sister car, the Azure convertible. It is the perfect conveyance for well-heeled Grey Poupon eaters, and seems like a handmade bargain at $250,000. Again, very few are sold, and of those, their annual mileage tends to be low. A curious emissions fact is that painting a room with 1 gallon of water-based latex paint emits the same amount of hydrocarbons as driving an Arnage some 5500 miles.
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