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Ethanol Power: 10 Cars You Can Buy

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author photo by Autotrader April 2007

Ethanol-powered vehicles aren't just coming to a showroom near you. Vehicles that run on an ethanol-gas (E85) blend are already here, and automakers are ramping up production of them to cut our use of imported oil.

Why ethanol? It's usually created from vegetable matter - like corn or sugar - and it burns like gasoline, although with less energy. It can be grown and refined within the United States. And it requires relatively little change from existing engine designs, meaning engines like GM's 5.3-liter V-8 and Ford's 5.4-liter V-8 can be readily and less expensively adapted to the technology.

Another benefit: when ethanol fuel isn't available, an E85-capable vehicle can simply be run on regular gas. All the fuel goes into the same tank; there are no switches or special steps to take. Just pump it in and drive. (For information on E85 fuel in your area of the country, see (www.e85refueling.com.)

And while it has some significant disadvantages - E85 contains less energy per gallon than pure gasoline, so fuel economy drops by 10-25 percent - ethanol is evolving as one of the choices in a future of multiple car fuels. General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler have committed to ethanol in a big way and now offer several passenger car, truck, and SUV models that are "E85/flex-fuel capable." And they're not alone. The list of ethanol-powered vehicles you can buy today includes these: 


Pickups and SUVs

2007 Chevy Avalanche

Chevy's full-size, crew cab pickup/SUV combo comes in both short and long bed forms, with either standard 2WD or optional 4WD. Its signature feature is a unique "midgate" that when opened up creates a large pass-through from the bed to the vehicle's interior. For 2007, the standard 5.3 liter Vortec V-8 has been uprated to produce 320 horsepower. E85/flex-fuel capability is a no-cost option on this vehicle. (The Chevy Tahoe SUV and Silverado 1500 series pick-up are also available with E85/flex-fuel capability.)

2007 Ford F-150
America 's best-selling truck now offers no-extra-cost E85/flex-fuel capability with the optional 5.4-liter Triton V-8. This engine produces 300 horsepower and can pull up to 10,500 lb and carry a 3050-lb payload. One of the F-Series' big selling points continues to be the wide variety of bed lengths, cab styles and body/trim styles buyers may choose from - ranging from the basic "contractor special" regular cab work truck all the way up to a King Ranch Super Cab Lariat long bed with baseball stitched leather accents and rear-seat DVD entertainment system.

2007 Chrysler Aspen
Built on the same platform as the Dodge Durango, the Aspen is an eight-passenger luxury SUV designed to compete against models like the Lexus GX470 and GMV Yukon Denali. Its standard 4.7-liter V-8 can also be ordered (at no extra charge) with E85/flex-fuel capability. While not as ostentatious as some of its rivals, the Aspen offers similar interior roominess, capability, and power for a lot less coin. Chrysler also offers E85/flex-fuel versions of the Dodge Durango, Dakota, and Ram 1500-series pickups, as well as E85 versions of the Jeep Commander and Grand Cherokee SUVs.


Passenger cars

2007 Chevy Impala
This large, traditionally-styled family sedan can seat six, has a huge trunk (almost 19 cubic feet), boasts top scores in government and insurance industry crash testing - and now offers a no-cost E85/flex-fuel version of the standard 3.5-liter V-6 engine. It produces 211 horsepower and can knock down as much as 31 mpg on the highway, which is excellent economy for a full-size family car. All models include full-length curtain airbags, 16-inch wheels, air conditioning, and keyless entry. GM also offers E85 versions of the Chevy Monte Carlo coupe and other models.

2007 Ford Crown Victoria
The big Vic is built the way American cars used to be: body-on-frame, rear-wheel-drive, and a standard V-8 under the hood. For '07, the Crown Vic's 4.6-liter, 239-hp V-8 offers E85/flex-fuel capability as a no-cost extra. The Vic is very popular with law enforcement because it is endlessly tough, simple, and easy to be in for hours at a time. It is also one of the few remaining large cars with a standard V-8 and rear-wheel-drive that's available for less than $30,000. Ford also offers E85 versions of the Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car.

2007 Chrysler Sebring/2008 Chrysler Sebring Convertible|
Just redesigned, the mid-size Sebring sedan and Convertible are larger than their predecessors and feature dramatic styling with hints of the Crossfire coupe. Both also offer E85/flex-fuel capability with the optional 2.7-liter, 190-hp V-6 engine. A multi-function MyGIG entertainment system may be ordered optionally.


Minivans and Vans

2007 Saturn Relay
This minivan offers a number of unusual features, including a 40-gigabyte "PhatNoise" digital media system that can store and play thousands of MP3 audio files, as well as DVD movies. (Just make sure you pay attention to the road.) E85 capability has been added to the standard 3.9-liter, 240-horsepower V-6 engine. However, last-year's all-wheel-drive option has been dropped. Still, the Relay manages to make driving a minivan a not-so-bad experience for the adults - as well as safe and practical for the kids. The SUV-looking Chevy Uplander minivan is also available with E85/flex-fuel capability, as is the upscale the Buick Terraza.

2007 GMC Savana
If you need a large (eight passengers - or more) van that can also pull a heavy trailer or carry weighty cargo, the rear-drive Savana fills the bill. It's also popular as the basis for conversion vans and RVs. 2007 models equipped with the 5.3-liter V-8 may be ordered with E85/flex-fuel capability for an additional $995. This engine produces 295 horsepower and (properly equipped) allows the Savana to pull up to 6300 lb, or roughly twice the max capacity of the typical front-wheel-drive minivan. (The Savana's Chevy cousin, the Express, also offers E85 capability.)

2007 Dodge Caravan
A great family van with an affordable price tag, the Caravan now offers no-cost E85 capability if you order the optional 3.3-liter V-6 engine in place of the standard four-cylinder. Standard equipment includes dual sliding doors, A/C and bench seats for the second and third rows. Standalone options include Bluetooth wireless connectivity, power adjustable pedals, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.

©2007 by The Car Connection™ All Rights Reserved - The Car Connection is a Trademark of DA Acquisition

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Ethanol Power: 10 Cars You Can Buy - Autotrader