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2009 Cars Update:

2009 Audi Q7
Audi showed a Q7 hybrid concept which married a 4.2-liter V-8 with an electric motor that adds another 148 lb-ft (to make a whopping 473 lb ft). In typically German fashion, this makes the hybrid even faster, trimming the 0-to-62-mph time from 7.4 to 6.8 seconds. Fuel consumption is said to be fifteen-percent better. Top Audi officials insist that this vehicle will make it to production in 2008, but the company engineers we've spoken with think that the powertrain will be too costly; diesels are cheaper and just as efficient. Regardless, if high-end Toyota and Lexus vehicles continue to sell well in the U.S., a vehicle like this could see our shores even if it doesn't make sense in terms of pure dollars and cents.

BMW X3-Series 2009

2009 BMW X3-Series
Treat your friends and family to a classy, sporty, and powerful SUV like the X3 Series from BMW. Surely this 5-Passenger SUV has more attributes than any other competing SUV.

Driven by a 6-cylinder, 3.0L DOHC 24-valve engine the X3 Series generates up to 260 horsepower and 225 pounds per foot of torque. You're sure to find great mechanical attributes like xDrive all-wheel drive system with traction control; a six-speed manual transmission; Dual resonance intake systen; and Electronic throttle control.

Your impressive performance is owed to great functional and fantastic features like Dynamic Stability Control, rack-and-pinion power steering, twin-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers, double-pivot strut-type front suspension and vacuum-assisted four-wheel ventilated disc brakes.

And in order to conquer any type of terrain you're sure to find a fully accessorized exterior complete with features like 17" x 8.0" Star Spoke alloy wheels, halogen free-form headlights with automatic control and Daytime Running Lamps, front foglights, rain-sensing windshield wipers and heated washer jets, power heated mirrors, dual chrome tail pipes, and roof spoiler.

The X3 Series BMW is the best combination of functionality, class, power, and convenience.

Surely your friends and family will never hesitate to ride with you on account of a classy interior complete with the latest technology in entertainment and comfort. Interior features include an anti-theft AM/FM/CD audio system with 10 speakers and pre-wiring for CD changer, automatic climate control, Leatherette upholstery, 8-way power front seat with driver's seat memory, BMW Ambience Lighting, and Dual-panel Panoramic Moonroof.

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Chevrolet Cruze 2011

2011 Chevrolet Cruze
It's no secret that the U.S. vehicle market is undergoing a swift, seismic shift. With gas possibly heading toward $5 a gallon and gloomy economic conditions that seem set to last a while, consumers are rapidly deserting big pickups and SUVs for thrifty cars and more-economical crossover SUVs, a change in buying patterns that some analysts think will be permanent. It's the biggest market upheaval since the Great Depression.

Automakers everywhere are scrambling to keep up, none more than General Motors. With GM suffering steep sales and revenue declines, the planned replacement for Chevrolet's Cobalt compact car could prove critical to the company's bottom line, and even its overall health. Cruze is set to debut this fall at the Paris Motor Show in early October, and should go on sale in Europe by March 2009, likely as a 2010 model.

General Motors has announced that North American production of the Chevy Cruze will begin by April of 2010 at GM's plant in Lordstown, Ohio. This time line means Cruze will debut in the U.S. as a 2011 model. The company says Cobalts will continue to be built at Lordstown for a short time after Cruze production starts, and at least one media report suggests Cobalt production could then shift to Mexico. GM says Cruze will also be built at plants in the Asia-Pacific region and Europe.

The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze employs GM's new front-wheel-drive Global Compact Vehicle Architecture, also known as "Delta 2." That makes it a platform-mate of the next-generation Saturn Astra, expected as an early-2010 model, and the Chevrolet Volt that is expected at the end of 2010. Cobalt and the current Astra use the older "Delta 1" architecture. The next-gen Astra for American consumption may be sourced from GM's Lordstown, Ohio, plant as well. At this point, the Astra's production location and the fate of the Cobalt-based Pontiac G5 are unknown.

Sources expect the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze to maintain the Cobalt's general size, but possibly with an inch or two added to wheelbase and maybe overall width. Engineering should be more weight-conscious in light of tough new U.S. fuel-economy mandates and pending new clean-air regulations in California and elsewhere. Look for greater use of lighter materials despite their higher cost, as weight is the enemy of fuel economy and a car's carbon footprint, not to mention performance. Despite the pound-paring, structural rigidity is likely to improve, which should benefit durability, quietness, and perhaps ride and handling, too.

So far, GM has only confirmed a Cruze sedan, but local media reports covering the Cruze press conference at the Lordstown plant say Ed Peper, GM North America vice president of Chevrolet, described the Cruze sedan as the first of a new family of compact, fuel-efficient Chevrolets. What this means is unknown, but it could point to other vehicles wearing the Cruze badge. Recently the company announced a Chevrolet Orlando concept that is a version of Opel's Zafira. Code named "MPV-7," the small people mover, like the Cruze sedan, is based on the company's "Delta 2" platform and debuts at the Paris show in October 2008. The Cobalt's coupe body style could also be reprised, but with a somewhat edgier, wedgier look than Cobalt.

The one confirmed engine for the American version of the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is a new 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. The company predicts 140 horsepower and fuel economy as high as 45 mpg, presumably on the highway. By contrast, the 2009 Cobalt's base 2.2-liter non-turbo four produces 155 horses and is EPA-rated at 25/37 mpg city/highway in new gas-miser XFE trim. In Europe at least, transmissions will comprise a 5-speed manual and an optional 6-speed automatic versus Cobalt's 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic. Gearing will be chosen with an eye to maximizing fuel economy without compromising low-rpm performance. At some point, Chevrolet might add a sporty Cruze akin to the current Cobalt SS, perhaps with the same 260-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. The decision will hinge on buyer sentiment and how much higher gas prices go in the next couple of years.

Because it will sell for a short time alongside Cobalt, the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is likely to be positioned as a more-upscale small Chevy with nicer appointments, more features, and higher prices. The alternative would be to slide Cobalt down-market by eliminating some now-standard equipment. Either way, the new Cruze will likely mimic Cobalt by including standard features like ABS, antiskid system, traction control, curtain side airbags, and GM OnStar assistance, plus 16-inch tires instead of 15s. Options should also broadly duplicate Cobalt offerings, with 17- and maybe 18-inch tires, various cosmetic add-ons, upgraded audio, power sunroof, and leather upholstery. A navigation system could well join the list.

In all, the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze stands to be better than today's Cobalt in many ways. It should thus be a more appealing bow-tie alternative to hot-selling, import-brand compacts like the Honda Civic--and now even the elderly Ford Focus. That and the early arrival time show just how serious GM has become about the small-car market. Considering the company's worsening financial condition with the steep drop in big-truck sales, the Chevy Cruze won't get here a moment too soon.


A Notable Feature of the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze

Though the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze should be a mostly conventional front-drive small car, we think it may have one or more features designed to maximize mpg. Aside from its smaller new engine and other weight-reducing measures versus Cobalt, the Cruze could conceivably adopt the new low-power lighting, wipers, and audio system being devised for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid compact sedan. This would help GM defray development costs that much sooner, and would also be in line with the Cruze's likely upscale market positioning versus Cobalt. Understand that we can't guarantee any of this right now--but hey, it could happen.

Buying Advice for the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze

The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze enters an already crowded field that's bound to become even more competitive. A fast-growing crop of attractive choices is certainly good news for consumers. The bad news is that certain compacts--the Honda Civic for one--are now in such demand that retailers are again padding prices and forgetting discounts. So, as always, it will pay for you to shop the dealer and the deal, not just the vehicle. But all else being equal, you probably won't go wrong with the Civic. It is, after all, a Consumer Guide Best Buy among compact cars. Then again, so is the Nissan Versa. If neither of those strikes your fancy, consider CG's Recommended compacts, the Hyundai Elantra, Mazda 3, and the winsome but relatively pricey Mini Cooper. The newly redesigned Toyota Corolla is unrated but deserves a look because of who makes it. And don't forget that a redesigned Ford Focus is set to debut in early 2010, though we hear it, too, may be introduced ahead of time. As for the Chevrolet Cruze (and sister Saturn Astra), it could well emerge as a new class star. We'll get back to you on that once we see it a few months from now.

Chevrolet Cruze
The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze will get a new 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine.

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Release Date: Cruze hits the European market in March 2009, and should be on sale in the United States during the summer of 2010.

2011 Chevrolet Cruze First Test Drive: Media drives could take place in Europe soon after the Paris debut, but formal introduction to American reporters will likely happen just before the car goes on sale here.

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Prices: As noted, the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze is likely to be priced and equipped above comparable Cobalt models, but it's unclear what the differences will be, given today's fast-changing sales picture and the equally swift rise in steel prices and other commodity costs. Our educated guess is that the Cruze will start near $15,500, perhaps a little less, and top out at around $21,000. As usual with new-model intros, Chevrolet probably won't announce final pricing until just before sales begin.

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BMW X6-Series 2009

2009 BMW X6-Series
The 2009 X6 Series has more potential and power than you could ever imagine. Benefit from a fabulous SUV and likewise provide your family with the unlimited conveniences that come integrated in the BMW X6 Series.

Seat up to six passengers in the X6 Series in the most comfortable fashion on account of great interior features. You're sure to find great interior conveniences such as Nevada Leather upholstery, automatic front climate control, Dynamic Cruise Control, iDrive System with on-board computer, anti-theft AM/FM/CD radio with high-fidelity 12-speaker sound system, and 2-way power glass moonroof.

The X6 Series SUV carries smarty technology that is simply irresistible and outstanding.

Additionally, your safety is highly valued at BMW, therefore you're sure to find a great safety equipment complete with dual front airbags and front side-impact airbags, front and rear Head Protection System, Rollover Sensor, active headrests, and anti-theft alarm system.

And as luxurious and protective as it is inside, the X6 Series also features an incredible exterior that will enable you to take on any terrain without complications.

The X6 Series' exterior is fully harmonized by Metallic Paint, Xenon Adaptive Headlights with auto-leveling and Corona headlight-rings, dual power outside mirrors, chrome exhaust tips, and front and rear Park Distance Control.

BMW caters to more than just your needs for luxury and technology. The X6 Series comes available with with two incredible engines; a turbocharged 6-Cylinder, 3.0-Liter DOHC 24-Valve Inline engine and an 8-cylinder, 4.4-Liter 32-Valve Turbocharged. So you can expect anywhere from 300-400 horsepower every time you drive your brand new X6 SUV.

Drive the X6 Series you deserve first-rate quality and unmatched performance.

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BMW 1-Series 2009

2009 BMW 1-Series
The 2009 BMW 1-Series line is largely unchanged following its introduction for the 2008 model year. The lineup includes 128i and 135i models. The 1-Series slots below BMW's 3-Series in size and price. The 1-Series is available as either a 2-door coupe or convertible with a power folding soft top. Engines are 3.0-liter 6-cylinders shared with the 3-Series. The 128i has 230 hp, while the 135i is turbocharged and has 300 hp. All models have a standard 6-speed manual transmission and offer an optional 6-speed automatic. Available safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain side airbags (coupes), and front side airbags. A sunroof and split folding rear seat are standard on coupes. An available Premium Package includes leather upholstery, power front seat, and BMW's Assist system. A Sport Package includes specific trim, sport suspension (on 128i), and sport bucket seats. Other options include a voice-activated navigation system, aluminum or burled walnut interior trim, and heated front seats.

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Cadillac Escalade Hybrid 2009

2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid
No secrets here. General Motors promised a Cadillac Escalade Hybrid some time ago, and prototypes with thinly covered "hybrid" badges were spotted in desert testing this past summer. Which means the new gasoline/electric version of every "bad boy's" favorite SUV should launch in early 2008.

The 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid relates closely to the gas/electric versions of the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon that start sale in late 2007 for the '08 model year. That means the Slade will come only as a standard-length wagon with the same new Two-Mode hybrid powertrain that delivers surprising big-SUV fuel-economy ratings. The EPA pegs the hybrid Tahoe/Yukon at 21 mpg city and 22 highway with two-wheel drive and 20/20 with 4WD. The Cadillac should earn similar numbers. Those city ratings are impressive, being on par with those for conventional V6 midsize sedans like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. On the other hand, such cars rate at least 10-mpg more in highway driving, where any hybrid is relatively less efficient. Nevertheless, despite GM's claimed 25-percent fuel-economy gain, these SUVs can tow up to 6000 pounds, so they're still "real" trucks.

The gas/electric Slade should share most of its cousins' other enhancements that aim to improve aerodynamics and reduce weight, again to maximize fuel economy and minimize greenhouse-gas emissions. These include a hood and tailgate made of aluminum instead of steel; lighter wheels and seats; and wind-cheating body enhancements such as a smoother front fascia, "aero" side skirts, and a rear air deflector on the roof. In addition, electric motors replace engine-driven pulleys to run the (non-hydraulic) power steering and air-conditioning compressor. Otherwise, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid will have all the bling and in-your-face attitude of any Slade.

Speaking of which, GM's hybrid SUVs arrive as standard-length wagons because those are the lighest models and thus easiest to engineer for max fuel economy. In time, however, look for the Two-Mode system to be available in big brothers like Cadillac's Escalade ESV wagon and "transformer" EXT pickup.

A Notable Feature of the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

The Two-Mode hybrid powertrain is the main attraction, of course. It's the fruit of a $1 billion joint development program among General Motors, BMW and DaimlerChrysler. GM's partners will soon offer similar systems in their own trucks and SUVs.

The GM setup pairs a special 6.0-liter V8 and four-speed torque-converter automatic transmission--no "gearless" CVT here--with two electric motors and a high-capacity battery pack. As on hybrid cars like the compact Toyota Prius, the engine employs the Atkinson combustion cycle that delays closing the intake valves to boost efficiency and reduce emissions. For those same reasons, the V8 employs variable valve timing and GM's Active Fuel Management, which deactivates four cylinders at light throttle openings such as steady-speed cruising. Controlling it all is a powertrain computer that also calculates when to crank up the gasoline engine. Again like the Prius and other hybrid cars, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid will run on electric power alone at low speeds--in this case, up to 32 mph. Go faster and the V8 cuts in, with the twin motors assisting where needed. An extra "green" gauge helps the driver extract maximum mpg, as does a Toyota-style "power flow" schematic that can be displayed on a dashboard screen. As usual with hybrids, the GM SUVs include an engine start/stop function, for saving gas at stoplights, and regenerative braking, which uses the electric motors to recharge the battery pack when stopping or coasting.

Buying Advice for the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

GM is first to market with big hybrid-power SUVs, but it won't be alone for long. As we said, the same system will soon be available from development partners BMW and DaimlerChrysler, both Daimler--as in Mercedes-Benz-and Chrysler. Still, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid and its Chevy/GMC cousins would seem to merit a long, hard look, especially if you're one of those who want or need such a vehicle, but also want to do your bit to reduce global warming and fossil-fuel dependence. A guilt-free big SUV? This could be it.

2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Release Date: Look for a debut at the November 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show (what better place to trout out a "green" SUV?) or early in 2008, perhaps in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Whenever the formal unveiling occurs, sales should start a few weeks afterward.

First Test Drive: Journalists have already had their first seat time in the hybrid Tahoe and Yukon. Media previews for the Escalade should happen either very late in 2007 or early in '08.

2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Prices: The Tahoe/Yukon Hybrid hasn't yet started sale at this writing, but GM expects to price those models at around $50,000, about $11,000 above conventional counterparts in top-line trim. Assuming Cadillac maintains a similar spread, the gas/electric Escalade should start at about $57,000 with two-wheel drive and around $60,000 as a 4x4.

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Acura TL 2009

2009 Acura TL
The 2009 Acura TL is redesigned and slightly enlarged in most key dimensions. This premium midsize sedan is available in base and SH-AWD (for Super Handling All-Wheel Drive) models. The latter replaces the Type-S as the high-performance member of the TL family. Base versions receive a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 280 hp while SH-AWDs get a 3.7-liter V6 that, at 305 hp, is the most powerful engine yet offered in an Acura. A 5-speed automatic with "Sequential SportShift" steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters is the sole transmission for both models. The SH-AWD includes larger-diameter front and rear stabilizer bars, plus a standard 18-inch-wheel package in place of the 17-inch ones used on the base car. Available safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, front side airbags, and curtain side airbags. Also standard are leather upholstery with heated front seats, sunroof, wireless cell phone link, and 8-speaker audio. A Technology Package, priced as a separate model, includes 10-speaker audio and a navigation system with real-time traffic and weather alerts. This evaluation is based on preview test drives.

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