Top eight auto brand for the 2009 model year
It has been a wild and crazy year in the automotive industry and not all of it for the good. Spiking gas prices in particular, driven by the fear that there is no end in sight, have some buyers panicking to get out of gas-thirsty vehicles before they go broke driving them and end up with no resale value.
The upside is that there s plenty of growth in the auto biz outside of the traditional sport utility and truck markets. That means more wagons and more cars that hint at a leaner, greener and much brighter future.
There are more than 30 brand-new vehicles for the 2009 model year. The following eight are among those seen as being key, either for the market or the company that sells them.
The Korean automaker is known for its value-packed small cars, so what s this? The Genesis, as the name implies, represents the beginning of something radically different for Hyundai.
The interior of the Hyundai is every bit as nice as anything Lexus has ever dreamed up. The Genesis cabin has a subdued design and it's quiet, too, which is a good thing, as Hyundai offers a superb audio system. The front seats could be more comfortable, but that's my only real complaint. True, the Genesis follows BMW's dumb precedent of deploying what looks like a Pong videogame controller to operate a complicated computer interface, for the stereo and navigation system. But Hyundai's knob is better simply because it does less.
It s a serious luxury sedan built around a rear-wheel-drive platform with an available 4.6-liter V8 engine with up to 375 horsepower. The resulting premium-grade sedan, which is just hitting the streets now, is intended to divert dollars away from some of the best brands Europe, Japan and North America have to offer.
The new 2009 Hyundai Genesis has aced NHTSA's crash testing, scoring five stars in both frontal- and side-impact testing. The Korean automaker attributes its high scores to designing for the test the use of high-strength steel at critical points throughout the Genesis' body structure, coupled with electronic active head restraints and eight airbags. Keeping you from smashing the structure in the first place are four-wheel discs with ABS, along with stability control. Kudos, Hyundai: Good news, even if it isn't too surprising: Engineering has progressed so far in recent years that NHTSA is planning to revamp its crash test methodology in the near future.
Although officially a 2010 model, the new Camaro will arrive early next year with retro good looks and a base V6 with about 300 horsepower. There will be room for four people, total, who will be able to see at night thanks to advanced new LED pipe lighting that lines the perimeter of the door panels and dash. A Corvette-based 422-horsepower V8 will be the top engine while Chevrolet is even contemplating a turbocharged four-cylinder as a base base engine.
Chevy promises the V-6 will make no fewer than 300 horsepower and that blasting from 0 to 60 mph should take 6.1 seconds, with the quarter-mile breezing by in 14.5 seconds at 97 mph.
Even if those numbers are conservative, the 3800-pound V-6 Camaro should easily out-drag the V-6 versions of the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger, but it will eat the dust of a lighter Ford Mustang Bullitt, a V-8, and the more powerful Dodge Challenger SRT8, both of which cover the quarter-mile about a second quicker.
"The new Camaros will out-accelerate any of the muscle cars of the late '60s, but they'll get better gas mileage," says John Wolkonowicz, senior analyst at market research firm Global Insight. "You don't have to have a mousy image in order to get good fuel economy."
In keeping with tradition, the new Camaro has rear-wheel drive. Most Chevrolet cars have front-wheel drive, a setup that requires less space in a vehicle and tends to produce better gas mileage. Rear-wheel-drive, on the other hand, usually creates better weight distribution, which improves driving dynamics.
Supermini-MPVs were added to the Auto Express New Car Honours category list in 2006, and to date there has only ever been one winner. That’s because Nissan’s Note has just been voted Best Supermini MPV for an astonishing third year in a row. And joining it on the podium is the Nissan GT-R which picked up the Best Sports Car accolade.
Initially thought to be pumped up with overzealous claims of performance, not by Nissan but by fans of the GT-R, this machine has turned out to be the real deal. Visually, it appears to be a collection of odd angles and mix-and-match body parts, but, hey, if it rivals a double-the-price Porsche 911 Turbo in terms of performance (or even beats it), who cares? GT-R-mament includes a twin turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 that makes 480 horsepower. For $70,000 or so, there are all-wheel-drive and the knowledge that it s the quickest four-seated available for sale.
The note was not Nissan’s only success story at the Auto Express Awards – the GT-R was named Best Sports Car. A carbon fiber front lip, mirrors and rear spoiler extension help to contrast the sleek paint job and finish off the look of the vehicle. “We are truly delighted with these awards, since they perfectly illustrate the strength in depth and diversity of the products we offer,” said Paul Willcox, managing director of Nissan Motor (GB) Ltd.
Volkswagen Passat CC
For the first time, Volkswagen's Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) will be offered on the Golf. This is available on the Passat CC and standard on the new Scirocco, and allows the driver to select from normal, comfort or sport modes to define the desired suspension, steering and accelerator response settings for any particular journey.
If you dont mind spending money on a vehicle, but absolutely despise pouring money into the gas tank, the Volkswagen Passat CC is one car in a new class we call Smart Luxury.
VOLKSWAGEN is upping the ante in no uncertain terms. Not content with launching a pair of stunning coupes in the shape of the all new Scirocco and the Passat CC it's also developed a real firebrand. Yet with some clever use of the latest six speed DSG gearbox which is fitted to this high performance Passat, closer to 30mpg is not impossible.
The Passat CC. Incredible as it might seem that Passat actually stands out from the crowd. Unlike the rest of the coupes that carry this two-letter moniker, this iteration does not offer a folding metal roof. Instead of coupe convertible, here CC stands for comfort coupe. That might seem a contradiction in terms, but the more time you spend with this car, the more you start to understand what it means.
You get all the creature comforts without the big thirsty engine. Vehicles in this class shed the notion that the real goodies are somehow only available when you order the top (most powerful) engine option. The four-door-coupe-look CC uses a base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that still makes 260 pound-feet of torque. A V6 is available, which is required if you prefer all-wheel-drive to front-wheel-drive.
Ford will launch the new engines first in the Lincoln MKS, followed by the Ford Flex. The F-150 will receive the new engines in a little more than a year, but customers still will have the option of a standard engine. The Ford Flex is like no other vehicle on the road, with its signature side grooves, all-black greenhouse and distinctive multi-panel vista roof.
It offers spacious seating for up to seven passengers and a host of class-leading technologies, such as an integrated refrigerator between the second-row seats; SYNC, an advanced in-car system developed by Ford and Microsoft that voice-activates Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones and MP3 players; EasyFuel™ capless fuel filler; ambient lighting and a reverse camera system.
Ford's new 2009 Ford Flex three-row crossover has been favorably reviewed for its pleasant blend of power, driving dynamics, and an impressive interior, but the Blue Oval sees the Flex as more than just a competent family hauler. With its unique boxy shape and low slung stance, to Ford the Flex is a design icon along the lines of the 1986 Taurus or original Mustang. And with this in mind, the automaker will promote the Flex accordingly, unveiling a unusual new ad campaign aimed squarely at the gadget-happy, Xbox playing high-tech crowd.
No matter what flat side you look at, the slick Ford Flex is a big rig. In fact, it s sport-utility-vehicle big, but since SUV seems to be a four-letter word these days as it s equated with high cost of operation (gas), we ll call the Flex a tall wagon that offers all-wheel-drive. And with sales of most sport utes which Ford has in abundance and has relied upon for business have taken a fall largely due to high gas prices, the Flex s arrival gives the company something new to sell, provided you like the looks. Style? This seven-passenger rig is out there, but that s part of the charm. Power comes from a 3.5-liter V6.
A lot of vehicles can carry seven people; few can carry them as comfortably as the Ford Flex. Stadium-style seating gives even third-row passengers a look at the road ahead. The second row has limousinelike legroom with 7 inches of knee room. The glass-paneled roof makes the space feel airy and open.
The second-generation 6, Mazda has done just about everything right. The redesigned 2009 model stands up to the big dogs in comfort, roominess and finish, yet retains its sporty character and looks great to boot.
What’s more, the company has sweated the details — for example; it trimmed the annoyingly large turning radius down to size. The unanswered question is whether a car company that in recent years has largely marketed to the young at heart will be able to lure more affluent customers away from the tried and true competition.
The good news is that the new version of the Mazda6 solves both sides of the equation equally well. It has the interior volume and rear seat accommodation demanded, yet it still ranks as one of the sportiest family sedans around. But where the Mazda6 truly stands out is the completely redesigned body. From the RX-8 styled fender to the LED tail lamps, the smooth curves and sharp edges will definitely make this mid-sized beauty stand out from its competitors.
Inside, the car is full of user-friendly tech goodies. Proximity keys are a nice touch. With the key in your pocket or purse, the car unlocks when you approach. Inside, a push button ignition means you never dig for your car keys again. The keys are also customizable, so if you share the car with your spouse, settings like seat adjustments, radio presets, dash brightness and headlights can automatically reset when you use your key.
Stretching the wheelbase by 115 millimeters and bumping the width by 60 mm brings the needed rear seat space, while a 46-mm bump in the legroom department makes it limo-like. The expanded dimensions also create a much more civilized ride. In practical terms, the larger footprint means there is noticeably less pitch and roll, which hikes the overall refinement to class leading.
With the current shift away from pickups and sport utility vehicles, the mid-size segment stands to gain ground this year, making this the absolute perfect time for Mazda to launch its latest best effort at sedan stardom. It s larger and more stylish yet it still offers a base four-cylinder engine that makes 156 horsepower. Optional is 273-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 that s pulled from the CX-9 wagon. Although the base models arrive with air conditioning and plenty of power features, the 6 s strong suit is option diversity: you can load this baby to the hilt, making it a good place to park your seat if you re used to driving a maxed-out sport utility vehicle.
Venza is based on the FT-SX concept vehicle that debuted at the 2005 Detroit Auto Show. With an overwhelmingly positive response to the show vehicle, Toyota decided to develop Venza with a distinctly American plan. Toyota's U.S. design and engineering teams worked together to bring this bold design to production. It was one of the first times an American styling group created an overall design concept that engineers would follow for development.
Similarly, Toyota will give buyers a choice of a 4-cylinder or V6 engine in the new Venza, a sportier wagon-like crossover in the mid-size category. A new 2.7-liter, 4-cylinder engine will be used to power front-drive Venzas, while the 268-horsepower V6 is expected to be standard on the all-wheel-drive versions. Both engines will operate under the direction of a six-speed, sequential-shift, electronically controlled automatic transmission with dual zone air conditioning, AM/FM six-disc CD, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, remote keyless entry, electrochromic rearview mirror with compass, a multi-information display, cruise control, optitron gauges, rear wiper, privacy glass..
Although Toyota s lineup is littered with sport utility vehicles and wagons, the Venza is the first to match competitors such as the Nissan Murano and Mazda CX-7 and CX-9. The five-passenger vehicle has a 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 although a base four-cylinder should follow shortly. The entire project was conceived at Toyota s California and Michigan studios specifically for the North American market and will be assembled at a plant in Kentucky. Front-wheel-drive will be the Venza s standard method of propulsion with all-wheel drive offered as an extra-cost accessory.
Vehicles such as the Sienna minivan and new Venza crossover are next on the list to get hybrid installations, although Toyota has clearly stated it is emphasizing Prius as its go-to hybrid vehicle. Like the Camry, the Venza seats five occupants. No third-row seat will be offered. Toyota required that the vehicle be able to fit a 42-inch flat-screen TV or a mountain bike. A hybrid will come in the 2012 model year.
Like General Motors and Ford, Chrysler has plenty of trucks and sport utility vehicles in its inventory, but since that aren’t selling all that well at the moment it s up to new vehicles such as the Dodge Journey wagon to carry the load. As part of the Chrysler group, the Dodge Journey slots in below the newly-released Grand Voyager as a cheaper alternative. And first impression of Dodge’s newest model is more favourable than of its Voyager cousin. Dodge is positioning the Journey as a “fun” multi-purpose vehicle for families with an active lifestyle.
It has a bold look with SUV-like design cues, while overall interior quality with some soft-touch plastics, is actually not too shabby. Dodge designed a crossover with a practical, flexible interior that features some of the interior tricks typically associated with a minivan while putting it in a true sporty crossover package. Features include triple-zone air-con, so the temperature of each of the three rows of seats can be adjusted independently.
There is under-floor stowage, as well as cubbies beneath the seats, while top-spec Journeys get a roof-mounted, drop-down monitor for playing DVDs. Both the middle and rear row of chairs can be folded flat to create a large luggage area. Dodge engineers then used high-tech structural adhesives and sealants to deliver a super-quiet cabin. The platform is underpinned with a four-wheel independent suspension, MacPherson struts and coil springs in the front and a multilink and coil system in the rear.
Journey comes with driving/safety aids such as Electronic Stability Program (ESP), which applies selective braking or throttle reduction to control oversteer or understeer. Journey’s Brake Assist ensures maximum braking action during emergency stops and worked flawlessly. Traction Control reduces the throttle and/or applies selective braking to optimize traction during acceleration -- you don’t even know the system is in operation.
The new, 2009 Dodge Journey arrives as the replacement for two vehicles: the Chrysler Pacifica and the Dodge Caravan. Both vehicles were discontinued last year, making way for a new -- and much-improved -- vehicle to join the Dodge line-up. In fact, aside from the small Caliber, it s the only such tall wagon in Chrysler s entire inventory in a market that s downsizing into precisely this type of vehicle. It s a wagon world out there. The Journey is a five- or seven-passenger machine with a base 173-horsepower four-cylinder engine or an optional 235-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. All-wheel-drive is an option.