Eco-Conscious, With a Clutch
Audi's A4 TDI Concept e looks like a plain ol' A4, yet it gets an impressive 58.95 mpg. But it's not a hybrid: It's a high-efficiency diesel that takes advantage of every gas-saving innovation known to man–without a giant hybrid-style battery taking up all the trunk space.
And since there's no battery drive, there's no mandatory automatic transmission, either. Which is why this green sports sedan has an honest-to-goodness clutch pedal. Yes, Virginia–you can save the earth, and have real driving fun.
Even the vaunted Tesla Roadster sports an automatic clutch–and while the press releases accentuate the ease and convenience of push-button shifting, it'll never be the same as heel-toeing your way around a curvy mountain road (or whatever your driving fantasy may be).
The off-the-shelf A4 is a respectable sports sedan with consistently great looks, and the TDI Concept e doesn't mess with performance or aesthetics. The car's gas-saving features include recuperative braking, a super-efficient four-cylinder diesel, and a six-speed manual transmission housed in ultra-light magnesium, with a foam-packed skin that heats the transmission oil faster than usual. (Whatever that means.)
Yes, it's still a concept. Yes, all those efficiency systems have to be functioning perfectly to get the advertised gas savings. And yes, you'll probably have to drive like a little old gent from Pasadena to get that almost-60 mpg. But we've all been passed on the freeway by a Prius doing 80mph, temporarily in gas-guzzling mode. So: If you're gonna splurge, why not remind yourself why you learned to drive in the first place?