2009 BMW X5 xDrive 35d
Take the fastest, cleanest and most fuel efficient twin-turbocharged six cylinder diesel engine on the world market and shoehorn it under the hood of the best handling SUV and you have true automotive magic. If you can afford the price of entry into the world of this brilliant BMW diesel (starting at $51,200) run and dont walk to your local BMW dealer. If the price seems steep (and it can be once you dive into BMWs irresistible option list) do take into account that BMW is always offering lease specials and pays for all maintenance for 4 years/50,000miles.
While BMW could no doubt help the Earth by shortening the name of the X5xdrive35d (imagine all the letters and numbers wasted making the logo), the engine in this vehicle is truly an environmental tour de force. When compared to any U.S. market diesel SUVs it not only gets the best government fuel efficiency rankings but in a number of recent independent tests routinely managed over 30 mpg in mixed city/highway driving. That number would be even higher if BMW would introduce its Efficient Dynamics stop/start system that is standard on European diesel models. But apparently the firm doesnt think Americans will accept their engines turning off at stop lights. Dont hybrids do that?
BMWs excellent fuel efficiency readings were also not attained in controlled settings with the air conditioning off while going 40 miles per hour. The studies actually found this diesel got better gas mileage with the air conditioning on and the faster the average speed. Just remember that on that next balmy 100 degree day as you blow past that aging hippie in his tie-die VW Microbus at 75 miles per hour with the automatic temperature control in your X5 set at a crisp 68 degrees.
As with every diesel passenger car sold in this country, the BMW X5 exceeds Euro6 (due in 2014) emissions regulations as well as those currently demanded by the state of California (currently the smog Nazis of the entire world). To achieve this, the BMW uses an AdBlue urea additive that is sprayed into emissions gasses when they are recycled back into the combustion chambers. It isnt as clean as a Prius in relation to the release of certain smog creating emissions but is cleaner than most regular gas powered sedans. Where the X5 and certain AdBlue using diesel engines find near equal parity with a hybrid is in the release of Carbon Dioxide gasses. Apparently many governments in Europe tax vehicles based solely on how much of this Greenhouse Effect causing gas is released into the air by your vehicle.
The real way to answer whether or not you should buy hybrid SUV (like the Lexus RX) or a diesel like the X5 is by deciding what kind of driving experience you want. The BMW is a visceral, fast, and fun to drive beast that tells you with its slightly gravelly voice that it is ready to deploy its booty slapping 455 pound feet of torque at a moments notice. This can mean life or death should your family need to take evasive action in the X5 after that Ikea truck ahead of you jackknifes thereby flinging poorly designed Swedish furniture across four lanes of traffic. It could happen.