Top 5 Eco-friendly Cars

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

March 18 2013 by William J. Holstein and Bill Visnic

The Absolute and Ultimate: 2013 Tesla Model S

The argument is singularly compelling: Ferrari performance with econocar efficiency. And throw in a good measure of exotic-car rarity and chic.

The 2013 Tesla Model S is today’s automotive full Monty. And the only fully-electric car—other than the celebrity-bait Fisker Karma—that’s really worth considering as full-time transportation.

Think of it: never visit the gas station again. With the outrageous 300-mile range (let’s say 275 miles just to be careful), forget the ache of all-electric-car “range anxiety.” You might only have to charge up twice in a normal week. It’s enough range to perhaps make it from one of Tesla’s über-fast “Supercharger” free-charging stations to the next if you live in California or in the Boston-Washington, D.C. corridor.

The Tesla Model S decidedly is not the prototypical wonky electric car. Along with its Herculean battery, the Signature Performance Model (why get any other?) boasts a 416-horsepower electric drive motor that scorches from 0-to-60 mph in just over four seconds, while the mostly accommodating interior is a convincing new-age interpretation of tech-meets-luxury.

Style and Function: 2013 Audi A6

Fully redesigned, the new Audi A6 is a little larger and a little more muscular middle-of-the-lineup luxury sedan than it ever was before—think of this A6 compared to its predecessors as Daniel Craig is to previous actors who did not quite nail the James Bond role. That’s what makes the new A6 so intriguing—it’s as loaded with new-age features as anyone has a right to expect, yet with its turbocharged and direct-injected two-liter engine and Audi’s revered quattro all-wheel drive, you still can manage a rather remarkable 30 miles per gallon on the highway.

If you feel compelled to maximize the A6’s fuel-pump frugality, the front-drive version is fully five mpg better in the city and rates 33 mpg on the highway. What makes all this possible is that this is the first time Audi has combined quattro with the high-efficiency four-cylinder engine. As long as you didn’t grow up with Detroit muscle cars, the engine’s punch and sharp throttle response should be a delight.

Inside, the A6 is both an aesthetic and tech-lover’s dream. The palpably upsized interior is visually stunning yet not overwrought, its textures and materials minimalist but still comforting. But the real lesson of the new A6 is that the old-fashioned Internal Combustion Engine is alive and well, and may improve to the point that it competes vigorously against new-fangled propulsion technologies its rivals are promoting.