Feeling guilty over your guzzler?

Posted Nov. 13, 2009, at 4:55 p.m.

I used to be a lot smarter. (I know, it wouldn’t take much.) When I was a younger man and gas was like 50 cents a gallon, I drove a succession of economy cars. All right, I drove eight (count ‘em) Hondas from the tiny Civic to the relatively luxurious Accord, even a lemon-yellow wagon and a 100-mph CRX-SI that tried to kill me at least several times.

What they all had in common was at least a 30 mpg performance. I think that fiery CRX flirted with 40 mpg, loafing in fourth gear.

Then my very last Accord spit out a transmission at “only” 30,000 miles. The dealer was so amazed and embarrassed that the tranny was replaced, no questions asked, no cost.

The problem was not with the transmission, but the loaner they gave me, while the free repair work was being done. It was a V-8, four-wheel drive monster. It was a certified gas hog and was against every energy-saving bone in my body.

I knew it was bad. I fell in love anyway after a few miles. After driving sardine cans for a few decades, I loved the power. I loved the room. I loved the ability to cart around my “fleet” of canoes and kayaks.

I bought a mighty Tundra and got 18 mpg on the way home from the dealer. I never did that again. Not once. It is stuck at 17 mpg winter or summer, loaded or empty. (Unless I go somewhere in four-wheel drive. I never dare to check after that trip). I needed the tow package to drive David Grima around.

Now that gas is flirting with $3 a gallon again, I shudder after every $50 trip to Portland. I am awash with energy guilt. Al Gore sends me sympathy cards.

Like any good fallen Catholic, I seek redemption. I seek absolution.

I have found it.

Instead of going to confession, I scan MSN.com for its “Top Ten Gas Guzzlers of 2010.” Thank you, MSN.com.

Let’s start with my fave, The $47,600 Hummer H3 Alpha. (I paid $38,000 for Cobb Manor). This monster is not as bad as you think. Try 13 mpg in the city and 16 mpg on the highway. Hey! It could be worse.

Like the mighty GMC Sierra 1500 at a mere $19,375. With a “massive” 6.2 liter, V-8 engine and four-wheel drive (Natch) this monster will deliver 12 mpg in the city and a disappointing 19 mpg on the highway, good for 14 mpg.

Nissan used to manufacture economical vehicles. Remember? Not the new $37,210 Armada 4WD. This monster can seat eight, haul and tow 9,000 pounds. But the power plant will deliver only 12 mpg city and 18 mpg highway for an average of only 14 mpg.

You think Lexus and you think luxury as well as good performance. Not the Lexus LX 570, which will set you back an amazing $76,405. The only person I know who can afford this is Jimmy Brannan. Even Brannan would blink at the 12 mpg city and 18 mpg highway performance.

Not to be outdone, are our friends at Mercedes-Benz. They have created the “$100,000 plus” (If you have to ask, you can’t afford it) GL550. The motor turns out 382 horsepower, to get you to the IGA really, really fast. The seven-speed automatic transmission will deliver 12 mpg city and 17 mpg highway, for another 14 mpg combination.

That Lexus LX 570 is looking good now, right?

The second-worst of the bunch is the Land Rover LR4 at a mere $48,100. Its quite luxurious, but the 375 horsepower engine will attack your wallet with 12 mpg city and 17 mpg highway.

The winner in the MSN survey came as a surprise, especially since I was unaware that Porsche made any SUVs. Well they do, for a mere $71,600. The Porsche Cayenne GTS will give you 405 horsepower at the inheritance-draining 11 mpg city and 17 mpg highway.

Even I am too smart for that purchase. Unless I take it for a test drive, of course.

All of a sudden, that tow-package Tundra is starting to look good.

Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at emmetmeara@msn.com.

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