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Top 5 Eco-friendly Cars

Looking to drive—literally—energy efficiency? Check out these lean, green machines.

Almost by definition, CEOs have a huge impact on the future of the auto industry because their own purchases are scrutinized by employees, customers, shareholders and nearly everyone else. If you would like to take part in creating a greener auto industry—a sensible path for today’s leaders—here’s a selection of five, fuel-efficient cars fit for CEOs. Each commands prestige and interest yet achieves a mileage of 30 miles per gallon on the highway. Once again, we teamed up with Edmunds.com to make our picks.

The future of the automobile is decidedly uncertain, so we included a diesel car from Mercedes—because the Germans are convinced that diesel is an important part of a more energy-efficient future—as well as an all-battery car from Tesla, a plug-in hybrid from Chevrolet and a hybrid from Porsche. But we’ve also thrown in a much-improved internal combustion engine from Audi.

No one knows which of these technologies will dominate the future or whether all of them will carve out niches. It’s an exciting period of experimentation—and you can help determine the winners.

Teutonic Torque: 2013 Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTec

It’s not until you drive a contemporary, diesel-powered car that you understand the outright regal superiority of the diesel engine German engineers so famously revere. With diesel, it’s not about the horsepower; it’s about the torque. Torque is the prime component of acceleration, and even comparatively small diesel engines have torque in abundance.

Once you become accustomed to the brief moment of acceleration “lag” required for the engine’s turbocharger to get up to cruising speed (oh, just a couple hundred thousand rpm), the rest is pure bliss, as that giant wave of torque propels Mercedes’ large and dense S350 BlueTec as if it weighs no more than a pedal car.

Contrary to the popular myth that diesels are noisy, you don’t hear a thing because what little “clatter” does emerge from this high-tech engine is summarily negated by clever sound-abatement engineering and the kind of general isolation from the world’s annoyances you would expect from the flagship of the Mercedes-Benz fleet. Meanwhile, the inherent efficiency of the S350 BlueTec’s engine, combined with the 15-odd percent more energy in diesel fuel, results in galaxy-class driving range and real-world fuel economy that would shame many economy cars. We call that a win-win.

About William J. Holstein and Bill Visnic