Kermit was right: it’s not easy being green. After calculating the environmental footprint of every automobile, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy released its annual ratings for new vehicles recently. In addition to cataloging the most fuel-efficient models you can buy in 2015, the well-meaning ACEEE also identified the least enviro-friendly cars and trucks (mostly trucks) that are both fuel hogs and heavy emitters. Naturally, they all quaff gasoline – you won’t find a light-duty diesel or a gas-electric hybrid among them.
Some of the green meanies on this list are hard-working trucks and vans that haul people and materials to and from work sites; fuel economy is relegated to the back seat when there’s money to be made in the oil patch and new subdivisions. The others are largely sport-utilities with big, thirsty engines needed to motivate a whole lot of metal to deliver the “sport” experience. This year’s ratings coincide with the release of ACEEE’s greenercars.org website, which reveals every vehicle score from the model year 2000 and up. Here are their 10 “meanest” picks from the 2015 model year.
The Armada can carry eight occupants comfortably, but given its immense exterior dimensions, it’s not as space-efficient as its competitors. Its independent rear-suspension delivers a compliant ride and its 4082-kg towing capacity puts it at the top of the segment – a significant benefit for the burgeoning leisure class that demands that its big boats and luxury trailers be brought to the lake. The Armada is up to the task, but the environment suffers for it.
9. Lexus LX570 – As Toyota’s oldest nameplate, the Land Cruiser is often mentioned alongside Jeep and Land Rover as the world’s longest serving veterans. It was sold in Canada until 1997, when Toyota decided its $75,000 sport utility might sell better with a Lexus badge. The latest redesign saw the LX mounted on a beefy box-sectioned frame shared only with the storied Land Cruiser. New electro-hydraulic shocks raise and lower the body to clear obstacles and trim aerodynamic drag at highway speeds.
The Japanese-built Lexus uses the same 383-hp, 5.7-L DOHC V-8 that powers the Tundra and Sequoia, which makes for a very capable ute that can tow 3855 kg handily, as well as move its own 2800-kg carcass with authority. With all that mass to motivate, however, Toyota’s truck engine is one thirsty customer. For that reason, it’s no friend of the greenies.
8. Toyota Sequoia – Tearing a page from its domestic competition’s playbook, Toyota built its big Sequoia SUV atop the rigid bones of its Tundra pickup truck, donning a four-door wagon body and an independent, multi-link rear suspension complete with double wishbones and coil springs. Powering the eight-seater Sequoia is an all-aluminum 5.7-L DOHC V-8 engine, rippling with 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of stump-pulling torque.
The i-Force V-8 is no 98-pound weakling: zero to 97 km/h comes up in 6.6 seconds – pretty fleet performance from a SUV that tips the scales at a Goliath-like 2600 kg. Some owners weren’t happy with the truck’s thirst for fuel: 19 L/100 km around town, and even highway travel exacts a heavy toll. There are other large SUVs, notably General Motors’ Tahoe/Suburban twins, that exhibit considerably better fuel consumption thanks, in part, to cylinder-deactivation technology.
7. Lamborghini Aventador Roadster – When Lamborghini unveiled its Aventador supercar in 2011, most people gaped at its entertaining scissor-like doors. Those in the know were more interested in learning about the Italian sports-car maker’s newest engine tucked behind the seats. Peak output for the hair-trigger 6.5-L V-12 is 691 hp and 509 lb-ft of torque. Built of aluminum, it’s lighter and mounted lower in an aluminum cradle that’s tied into the Aventador’s carbon-fibre monocoque structure.
Interestingly, the car’s single-clutch, seven-speed automated gearbox is lighter and more compact than a dual-clutch unit, and its seventh gear is reserved for saving fuel (top speed is attained in sixth gear). Who could accuse Lamborghini of not mindful of the environment? The ACEEE, actually, which chided the supercar’s topless roadster model for its dreadful 25 L/100 km (11 mpg) consumption rate around town.
Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe and Drophead – Here’s another exclusive model that sells in Canada in microscopic quantities, yet it’s worth noting because old money sometimes embraces old, wasteful habits. Built on a shortened version of the Phantom sedan chassis, the Phantom coupe and “drophead” – British for convertible – are sportier Rolls that seat only four but, naturally, in supreme comfort. Consider that the coupe offers an LED-lit headliner option that provides a planetarium of stars inside its opulent cabin.
The drophead is inspired by yacht design, complete with optional teak decking – an increasingly rare wood today. Both models are powered by a 6.7-L V-12 engine that produces 453 hp. In an attempt to make this iconic automobile more efficient, Rolls Royce engineers specified a new eight-speed transmission that is said to boost fuel economy by 10%. Alas, the update was not enough to keep this pair off the ACEEE hit list.
5. Mercedes-Benz G 63 AMG and G 550 – In army fatigues it’s been dispatched to patrol such conflict zones as Bosnia and Afghanistan. Developed jointly by Daimler-Benz and Austrian four-wheel-drive specialist Steyr-Daimler-Puch, Mercedes’ Gelandewagen, or G-Class, was conceived in 1979 after product planners predicted that the 4X4 market would grow beyond military applications. In 1981 the Gelandewagen gained an automatic transmission and air conditioning, capturing the attention of U.S. grey-market importers. Mercedes began formal importation in 1998.
The G-wagen has barely changed in all those years – except for the engine bay. Today’s G 550 sports a naturally aspirated 382-hp, 5.5-L V8 and seven-speed automatic, while the G 63 AMG model makes considerably more noise with a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V-8 that produces 536 hp and a diesel-like 560 lb-ft of thrust. Be that as it may, both mills are cited by the ACEEE for their excessive fuel consumption.
4. Bentley Mulsanne – In much of the world outside of North America, chauffeurs are typically employed to drive the captains of industry to their corner offices, so a proper long-wheelbase saloon is the conveyance of choice. Despite this reality, Bentley equipped its leather-lined, wood-adorned Mulsanne with enough talents to make it a decadent driver’s car, too. A 505-hp 6.8-L twin-turbo V-8 churns the rear tires via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Those who drive themselves are rewarded with a granite-like chassis, responsive steering and what feels like the handling traits of a smaller sedan. The cabin is chock-full of hedonistic aides, including reclining rear seats, footrests, built-in Wi-fi and privacy screens. Of course, all the luxury accoutrements add weight to what is an astoundingly heavy sedan. The robust engine is taxed heavily, even if its business-oriented occupants are not.
3. Bugatti Veyron – At more than $2 million apiece, the Veyron is famous for being the world’s most expensive production automobile and frighteningly fast to boot. The resurrected Bugatti name, made possible with Volkswagen’s deep reserves of cash, is affixed to an unforgettable car and engine. With an 8.0-liter turbo-quad 16-cylinder engine using VW’s innovative W-architecture, the all-wheel drive Veyron makes 1001 hp and tops out at more than 400 km/h.
Yes, there are newfound competitors from the likes of Ferrari, McLaren, Pagani, and Porsche, but the Veyron conjures up a pedigree that’s second to none. There’s also the targa-topped Grand Sport and the 1200-hp Super Sport and Grand Sport Vitesse, which provide greater velocity for an even more exclusive clientele. However, the Veyron is now out of production and the very last examples have been spoken for – although there’s a new model in the works.
2. Chevrolet Express G2500 and GMC Savana G2500 – If you’ve ever wondered why a plumber charges $100 just for showing up at your door, the refrigerator-white van that brought him there is often a big reason why. Specifically, General Motors’ Chevrolet Express G2500 and GMC Savana G2500 vans are spec’ed for heavy-duty work assignments when, unfortunately, they may not carry much more than a few hundred pounds of tools and copper pipe. Or flower arrangements.
Their big 6.0-L V-8 engine is fond of fuel: 25 L/100 km (1 mpg) around town is reportedly typical. The small businesses that struggle to keep them on the road have to pass on the fuel costs to their clients. It’s heartening to see smaller, European vans breaking into the market here – though we doubt your home service call will ever be under $100 again.
Hard to imagine what the ACEEE would make of the Ram’s optional 410-hp 6.4-L Hemi V-8, which is robust enough to tow 10,810 pounds with considerable ease, as well as handle a snow plow. Either way, the Ram 2500 is a thirsty customer that you’ll often find stopped in front of a fuel pump.
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