We've never wanted a car so badly. The just-unveiled Tesla Model S ($50,000 after tax breaks) is literally the reinvention of the automobile. This electric sedan will offer a 300-mile range and 45-minute QuickCharge capability, all while sporting some of the most beautiful styling you'll find. With seating for five adults and two children, the Model S has it all. Its powertrain includes a liquid-cooled 9-inch motor combined with a single-speed gearbox (just gun it — no shifting required) that's good for a 0-60 time of 5.6 seconds and a top speed of 120 mph. It offers a 5-minute battery swap and charges from any outlet, with charges costing as little as $4 to "fill up." Features include (taking deep breath) a 17-inch infotainment touchscreen with all-time 3G connectivity, 21-inch wheels, Brembo brakes, panoramic roof with sliding moon roof, retracting door handles, a hatch for large items and a 2nd trunk under the hood, a fully digital instrument cluster, LED and neon headlight and taillights, and a pretty crazy RFID keyless entry and ignition system. Sadly, this beauty won't go into production until 2011. It's going to be a long two years.
Quieter, roomier, and greener — there's a lot to like in the all-new 2010 Toyota Prius ($TBA). The mid-size hybrid sedan promises fuel efficiency of 50 mpg, with a new 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine combining with the electric motor for 134hp. Options range from eco-friendly to just plain cool, and include LED lamps, a sliding glass moonroof with solar panels that hooks to a battery-powered air-conditioning system that uses sunlight to keep the car cool — complete with remote temperature adjustment — a dynamic radar cruise control system, and intelligent parking assist. The world's most popular hybrid just got better.
It's not like MINI's automobiles were gas guzzlers to begin with, but if you're looking for the greenest MINI you can get, check out the new MINI E ($TBA). Limited to just 500 vehicles to be leased in SoCal, New York, and New Jersey early next year, the E employ a single-speed, 204hp electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery, offering a 0-62mph time of 8.5 seconds and a driving range of 150 miles. Think of it as a civilized electric go-cart.
The future is almost here. Chevrolet today unveiled the production version of the Chevy Volt ($TBA; 2010). Powered by a 16-kWh, lithium-ion battery, the Detroit savior lets you go up to 40 miles without using a drop of gas. And when your battery's dead, a gasoline/E85-powered engine generator seamlessly picks up to keep you going. Back at home, the Volt can be plugged into a standard outlet for charging. The battery's more than 220 lithium-ion cells produce the equivalent of 150 horsepower, 273 lb-ft. of instant torque, and a top speed of 100 miles per hour. Inside, you'll find a 7-inch touch screen display with quick access to all major controls.
End your dependency on gasoline with the Honda FCX Clarity ($600/month; Summer 2008). This next-generation fuel cell vehicle runs on hydrogen, which allows it to emit only water instead of nasty fumes. It has a driving range of up to 280 miles, and offers the equivalent of 74 mpg thanks to the entirely-new Honda V Flow fuel cell platform on which its based. Unfortunately, hydrogen stations aren't exactly commonplace, which is why sales of the vehicle are limited to SoCal for now. Still, if you're looking to do your part for the environment, it's about as green as you can get.
It appears independent car makers are stepping up amid crazy gas prices to bring some stylish green into our lives. The just-announced Scorpion ($TBA) from Ronn Motor Company is a sexy speedster that will run on a 30-40 ratio blend of gas and hydrogen, promising around 40 mpg efficiency while still being able to hit 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. The fuel for the hydrogen-on-demand system is "derived from fracturing water molecules drawn from a small on board water tank, and will not require a high pressure, on board hydrogen storage tank or hydrogen fueling station," according to the company. The carbon fiber beauty is now in pre-production, with availability scheduled for this fall.
Even if electric hippie-heaven futuro cars aren't your style, you should still consider picking up a hybrid during your next new-car shopping trip. The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid (starting at $50,490) is the world's first two-mode hybrid SUV. (A GMC Yukon Hybrid is also available.) Offering up to 50% better city fuel economy over the non-hybrid Tahoe, the eco-friendly version has an estimated MPG of 21 city/22 highway for the 2WD model, and 20 city/20 highway for the 4WD model. Both pack in a Vortec 6.0L V8 engine with Active Fuel Management technology, which automatically shifts from 8 to 4 cylinders when less power is needed.
Wouldn't it be nice if you could buy a luxury sedan with muscle car horsepower that's still good to Mother Nature? That's precisely what you get with the 2008 Lexus LS 600h L (starting at $104,000). Powered by a 5.0-liter V8 engine and a high-output, electric-drive motor, this five-passenger hybrid sedan is capable of producing 438 total system horsepower. The all-wheel drive Super Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) goes 0 to 60 in 5.5 seconds, while getting 20 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway.
We've heard about eco-friendly hybrids, sub-compact gas savers, and many other forms of world-saving transportation — but nothing like this. The 120 MPH Electric Car ($108,000) is barely wider than a motorcycle, can fit perpendicular to the sidewalk on most streets where parking is allowed, goes 40-80 miles on one charge, and goes from 0-60 in a Porsche-esque 4.0 seconds. While it may not be the best-looking car on the road, it's certainly one of the most satisfying to drive.
Just because you can afford a luxury SUV, doesn't mean you should use up all the gas in the world fueling the thing. The 2006 RX 400h (starting at $49,000) is powered by a 3.3 liter V6 engine and a pair of electric-drive motors that offer a combined horsepower of 268 and, more importantly, an EPA city rating of 31 mpg and a highway rating of 27 mpg. Take that, Ford Excursion. The gas/electric hybrid is also still a Lexus, so you can expect extras like adaptive front lighting, rain-sensing wipers, Mark Levinson audio system, standard 18-inch alloy wheels, and an available Lexus voice-activated DVD Navigation System with Bluetooth. And by purchasing a hybrid vehicle, you're eligible for a tax deduction of up to $2,000 on Form 1040. Nice.
Another premium gift found in the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book is this limited edition Lexus GS 450h ($65,000). The hybrid luxury car is available in an exclusive exterior color, “Crystalline Ice,” and merges a 3.5-liter direct-injection V6 engine with high-output electric motor rear-wheel drive for more than 300 horsepower and great fuel economy. The interior has leather and wood details, Mark Levinson surround sound, voice-activated DVD Navigation System with Bluetooth, back-up camera, and a power meter that replaces the tachometer. Better hurry if you’re wanting one — only 75 will be made.