What Car? Green Awards 2009 - Executive cars

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Best buy BMW 318d ES
You'll see a lot of BMWs featured on these pages. Thanks to the company's Efficient Dynamics technology, most BMWs are among the cleanest and most frugal cars in their class. The 318d is particularly impressive because, pound for pound, it's the best green BMW of them all.

Why? Well, despite being big enough to transport five people and their luggage (three in the back's a shade tight), the 318d pumps out CO2 at a rate of just 123g/km. Some city cars that can't manage that, and when you compare it with figures achieved by rivals from Audi and Mercedes-Benz, the gap is colossal.

The BMW is pretty gentle on your wallet, too – you'll get 60.1 miles on average for every gallon of diesel.

Every little helps
The 318d achieves these incredible figures by using a range of efficiency-enhancing technologies. Aerodynamic refinements help it cut through the air easily, and low-friction tyres and fluids help reduce resistance elsewhere. The brakes recycle waste energy so it can be used elsewhere, and there's also a stop-start system that cuts the engine when you're sitting stationary in traffic and restarts it automatically when you need to move again. Lots of little measures, but they all add up to a big difference.

However, stunning environmental credentials are just one part of what makes the 318d our Green Executive Car of the Year. As well as being the cleanest car of its type, the 3 Series is also by far and away the best. It's awesomely talented in every area, and class-leading in most.

For instance, it's the best car in the class to drive. Despite the engine's efficiency, it has more than enough grunt to pull you around quickly and easily, and on those rare occasions that you need to rev it hard it stays smooth and reasonably quiet.

The straight and narrow
The 318d is comfortable and refined when you're pootling along the motorway, but it really comes alive when you turn off onto a back road. The tight, tidy handling and pin-sharp steering will never fail to put a smile on your face. True, the ride is a little firm in town, but it's not uncomfortable and it's a small price to pay for such talent.

There's enough space inside to house a quintet of adults, and they'll feel like royalty because the cabin oozes class with its high-grade materials and immaculate fit and finish. The posh image also ensures amazing resale values; add these to the great fuel efficiency and the 318d is a top financial package.

Buying used
Be careful when buying your used 3 Series. It went on sale in 2005, but Efficient Dynamics wasn't introduced until September 2007, so early cars aren't as green. There have been a few minor improvements to the system since then, too, so to get the greenest car you can, look for a car from September 2008 onwards. A good example should cost you around £17,800 from a dealer.

Green car fact file

Best buy up to £25,000
BMW 318d ES
Price: £24,235
Target Price: £22,015
CO2: 123g/km
NOx: 0.149g/km
Particulate emissions: Too low to register
Average fuel economy: 60.1mpg
Green verdict: Pound for pound, we reckon this is the best green car that BMW makes – and the competition is stiff

Best buy £20,000-£30,000
BMW 520d SE
Price: £27,430
Target Price: £24,918
CO2: 136g/km
NOx: 0.201g/km
Particulate emissions: Too low to register
Average fuel economy: 55.4mpg
Green verdict: As appealing to the planet as it is to keen drivers

Best buy over £35,000
Jaguar XF 3.0D S Luxury
Price: £36,900
Target Price: £34,869
CO2: 179g/km
NOx: 0.176g/km
Particulate emissions: Too low to register
Average fuel economy: 40.6mpg
Green verdict: The best big executive car with a better new engine

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