The Audi Q7 luxury sport-utility vehicle earned the highest rating in its category under a new consumer sentiment index aimed at identifying the smartest "green" choices available to U.S. consumers.

This is the first year for the SmartGreen Index?, or SGI?, tabulated by the San Diego-based marketing research firm Strategic Vision. The index is based on actual customer experiences with perceived quality, overall value (the "Smart" components) and performance on environmental measures, such as fuel economy (the "Green" component). Strategic Vision weighs customer responses to find trends that would best predict customer advocacy, owner satisfaction, brand loyalty and, in the end, model and nameplate sales.

The Audi Q7 stood out in those measures among all 2008-model and 2009-model luxury SUVs.

"This recognition provides further proof that Audi vehicles overall, and the Audi Q7 in particular, offer exceptional satisfaction and long-term value," said Audi of America Executive Vice President Johan de Nysschen. "It also clearly reinforces Audi's commitment to provide environmentally sensitive vehicle choices throughout our model lineup."

Strategic Vision said the 2008 index digs into consumer data to find the few models that provide "a meaningful emotional connection" with U.S. consumers. Simply claiming the best fuel-efficiency numbers, a hybrid power plant or strong customer-satisfaction scores isn't enough, Strategic Vision officials explained.

"When customers do not have to compromise their desired vehicle styling, roominess, power and price to obtain the best fuel economy and environmental friendliness in class they have made the SmartGreen? choice," said Alexander Edwards, president of Strategic Vision's automotive division.