So the scientists announced this last week that the world has hit another milestone with the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hitting a concentration not seen for millions of years. While many in the environmental community might see this as the point at which personal transportation should be curtailed, starting with SUVs or Crossovers, it is clear the automotive market is not going to make such a quick shift.
Sport utility vehicles and crossovers (crossovers being sport utility vehicles based on a car rather than truck chassis) are popular even as the general trend toward higher MPG vehicles moves forward. The reason is simple: they are functional. One trip to Costco is enough to convince many families that a Prius won’t cut it. Regular trips up to the mountains in the winter to ski could similarly motivate a car buyer to look for an all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicle rather than the front-wheel drive found on most high-mileage hybrids. Cars don’t always cut it.
All of which leaves the environmentally conscious consumer with some tough choices. If your lifestyle points you toward an SUV or crossover, you still want to do what you can to minimize your contribution to further CO2 in the atmosphere. There are no electric SUVs, no plug-in hybrids (yet) and only a few hybrid and clean diesel models, so the key is to check out the most fuel efficient models that fit your needs. Since one of those needs with this class of vehicles usually entails a good amount of distance travel, we’re using the highway fuel economy as the benchmark for our Top 10 list.
While cars, especially smaller ones, appear to be able to top the 40 mpg mark without much difficulty, AWD and 4WD models, with extra hardware and usually a larger size, find 30 mpg on the highway a tough mark. Several of these cars have 2WD models that top 30 mpg, but getting there while motivating all four wheels is a stretch–for now. We expect that will change over the next few years as technology progresses. The trend has already started as the newest models are the ones crowding the top of this list.
The numbers are based on the federal fuel economy tests, so of course your mileage will vary.
The Top 10 SUVs/Crossovers
1. 33 MPG – BMW X1 xDrive 28i – This is where this segment is moving as it chases higher fuel economy numbers. A small wagon-like vehicle that has a trunk-full of advanced technology and car-like attributes. Among those
found on the car are an 8-speed automatic transmission and a 16-valve four-cylinder engine that cranks out 240 hp. The X1 is small (it may fall short on a Costco run), but provides the power you’d expect from a BMW along with other luxury features and a starting price above $30,000.
1. 33 MPG – Subaru XV Crosstrek - Another new entry in this category comes from Subaru, which continues to test the market with vehicles that depart from its typical cars. The Crosstrek has a 2-liter version of the traditional (for Subaru) horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine producing 148 horsepower when paired with the CVT automatic.
2. 31 MPG – Mazda CX-5 – Mazda’s new entry is the embodiment of its Skyactiv philosophy that seeks to wring out maximum fuel economy while maintaining good road-handling and a driver-oriented package. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder provides the best fuel economy, but the larger 2.5-liter four is not far behind. Pricing starts around $24,000.
3. 30 MPG – Audi Q5 Hybrid – Another new entry with advanced technology is the Audi’s hybrid. The gas-electric powertrain offers 245 horsepower yet can still deliver 30 mpg on the highway in a midsize SUV. The main drawback is the $50,000 price tag for this heavily optioned model. Also, Audi is due to introduce a diesel Q5 model this year that may offer similar performance and fuel economy at a slightly reduced price.
3. 30 MPG – Buick Encore – Buick’s newest and smallest crossover carries the fuel economy banner for GM (shared with the GMC Terrain). Its 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces only 138 horsepower for the model, which is similar in size to the BMW X1. It is mated to a 6-speed transmission. Pricing is similar to Mazda’s CX-5.
3. 30 MPG – GMC Terrain – GMC’s smallest SUV manages to squeeze out good mileage from its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and presents itself as an entry-level luxury vehicle at the mid-$20,000s.
3. 30 MPG – Honda CR-V – Honda’s compact crossover has been the market leader for some time and it aims to continue the Honda tradition of top fuel economy with its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine delivering 185 horsepower mated to a 5-speed transmission. Pricing starts in the low $20,000s.
Just missing the 30 mpg mark are a half-dozen models
The newly redesigned Toyota RAV4, two models of the Mitsubishi Outlander (also a fresh design this year), the brand-new Jeep Cherokee, the Chevy Equinox, Volkswagen Touareg TDI and Subaru Forester. All clock in at 29 mpg highway with four-cylinder engines, except for the VW Touareg, which is a V-6 diesel.
Notable others just below that mark:
Only one mpg less is another tier of vehicles, including a larger ones featuring a variety of advanced gasoline technologies, clean diesels and hybrids. The Porsche Cayenne Diesel, Range Rover Evoque, Ford Escape (two models), Audi Q7 TDI diesel, Lexus TC 450h hybrid, Mercedes ML 350 BlueTEC and Toyota Highlander Hybrid. The Lexus and Toyota hybrids have the unique feature of higher city mpg (30) than highway.
And coming soon:
The onslaught of new models focused on fuel efficiency will continue through this year. Models announced, but not yet introduced include two diesels – the Audi Q5 TDI and Mercedes GLK 250 BlueTEC. The latter model is expected to easily top 30 mpg. One that may trump all the others is the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid, which is already on the market in Japan. It’s expected to have 20-25 miles of all-electric range and could turn in mpge (mileage factoring in the electric range) well above 50.
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