BMW and Mini scoop green gong
By stealth, BMW has taken the green territory away from Toyota and Lexus who, over the past two to three years, have enjoyed plenty of column inches thanks to the hybrid technology used in the Toyota Prius and Lexus RX, GS and LS.
The environment has been a hot topic recently, particularly in relation to motoring. As such, it's not only Hollywood stars who want to be seen to be green.
Take a visit to the Houses of Parliament on any given day and you'll see the majority of politicians stepping out of hybrid cars. An MP arriving in a gas-guzzling 4x4 is just one step away from an awkward Jeremy Paxman interview.
It's not just a moral issue, though - it has become an economic one for car buyers. If you choose a car with high emissions, you'll pay much more in running costs. Rising fuel prices, higher road tax and congestion charges also mean that it makes far more financial sense to own a green car.
BMW and its offshoot Mini have taken a simple, but effective, approach by using existing technology.
Now all BMWs and Minis are fitted with 'Efficient Dynamics'. Although that sounds very fancy, it's not rocket science.
This system uses a combination of high-precision direct injection, brake-energy regeneration, better aerodynamics, electric power steering, an optimum gearshift indicator and low-rolling-resistance tyres to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
There's also Auto Start-Stop - a system that automatically stops and starts the engine in heavy traffic to save fuel - on all four-cylinder manual BMW and Mini models.
It's been a wholesale revolution from top to bottom. The Mini Cooper D now does 72.4mpg on average and the BMW X5, which was previously in band G for vehicle excise duty, is now in band F - saving you £195 in road tax a year from April.
Volkswagen and Seat have done something similar with their Bluemotion and Ecomotion products, but they still haven't included stop-start or regenerative braking. BMW, however, has thrown all the green technologies into the same pot and, as a result, is producing cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars.
BMW is not for the 'green badge' wearers, but more for the people who want to drive cleaner cars without shouting from the rooftops about it. It sounds like heresy: if you buy a BMW you are doing your bit for the environment - albeit in an understated way.
It does make you wonder how long it will be before we see David Cameron in a 1 Series.
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