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Saving The Planet Can Be A Luxurious Journey


By now, everyone knows about hybrids and more than a few readers may have an iconic Toyota Prius in the garage to affirm their green credentials. In fact, so many affluent people bought Prius models, that the all-new 2010 version will be available with a wealth of luxury gear, from heated leather seats to radar cruise control and even self-parking. And for those who want a more sumptuous Prius, Lexus will soon add an HS250h sedan to its lineup.


Lexus is currently the luxury hybrid leader with its RX450h crossover SUV, along with the GS450h midsize and LS600h flagship sedans. The luxury arm of Toyota has also secured marketing partnerships with hotels and resorts, so Lexus hybrid owners enjoy special rates at Post Ranch in Big Sur or the Blackberry Farm resort in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains. Fairmont Hotels offer special promotions — a hybrid living suite in San Francisco and even free parking for guests who arrive in a hybrid.


For those who want or need a large SUV, one that can haul a family and tow an impressive load, several interesting products are available. In the hybrid category, Cadillac’s Escalade Hybrid delivers car-like fuel economy yet can tow 5,800-pound loads with its powerful 6.0-liter V8. 


There’s another clean, economical alternative to hybrid technology — diesel. Not the noisy, smelly diesel from the 1980s, but new high-tech engines using today’s low sulfur fuel. In the luxury sedan category, Mercedes-Benz’s E320 Bluetec is a runaway winner with lots of smooth power and remarkable fuel economy. For sports sedan luxury, BMW’s new 335d is an excellent choice.


For larger loads, SUVs like Audi’s Q7 TDI, BMW’s X5 35d, and Mercedes-Benz’s ML320 or larger GL320 with Bluetec power are perfect for towing that horse trailer to the equestrian event in style.


There is even a zero-emission solution for the sportscar enthusiast and a near-zero coming soon in stylish luxury offerings, and they’re both from California. If two-place motoring fits your needs and most driving covers short distances, the Tesla roadster may be just the ticket. The San Carlos company claims zero to 60 acceleration in under four seconds and a range of 244 miles, but if you engage in much of the car’s enthusiastic acceleration, you’ll need to recharge sooner since it’s pure electric.


If you don’t want to be tied to an electrical outlet yet want something smarter than conventional hybrid technology, the Fisker Karma is a provocative new luxury offering. The technology is extended range electric; an electric drive with a small gas engine along for recharging lithium ion batteries. It’s the same scheme that GM has developed for the Chevy Volt, promising up to 40 miles on battery power before recharging is needed. Then if you wish to travel further, the little engine starts up and you keep motoring.


Fisker promises delivery of its luxury sedan in the second half of 2010 and has followed up with a convertible with a folding hardtop. The specifications are quite impressive for this stunning vehicle, but like the Chevy Volt, none have been provided to reviewers for testing. When that happens, we’ll make it a point to be the first to know how well this technology works in the real world.   BRIAN DOUGLAS



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