Editors' Picks: Production Cars
Sporting the first retractable hardtop ever offered by BMW, the latest version of the 3-Series made its world debut here in Detroit. BMW officials boast that when the hardtop is up, the new car has better torsional rigidity than any previous 3-Series droptop. The hard roof consists of three pieces that fold neatly behind the rear seat. The top also reduces wind noise, and can be raised or lowered in about 22 seconds. The new 3-Series Convertible will be sold as a 328i or 335i, the latter equipped with BMW's new 300-horsepower twin-turbo engine.
Cadillac's CTS sport sedan has been completely redesigned for the 2008 model year. The model's original edgy lines have been smoothed and the interior features a higher level of elegance. Design cues include vertically shaped headlights, vertical taillights, signature LED exterior lighting and a lower, more sculpted hoodline. Seven-spoke 17-inch wheels or available 9-spoke 18-inch wheels surround larger high-performance brake calipers and rotors. CTS will also be available with all-wheel drive when it goes on sale.
One of General Motors' most important cars, the all-new Chevrolet Malibu was shown for the first time here in Detroit. Arriving in showrooms this fall, Malibu now “looks expensive” with bolder styling and a dual-port grille. The 5-passenger sedan is larger than its predecessor, and comes much better equipped with features such as side-curtain airbags. A number of engine choices will be available, including a 252-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine. A gasoline-electric hybrid version of Malibu—utilizing a system similar to the one found in the Saturn Vue—will go on sale in the fourth quarter of 2007.
The 2008 Focus showcases Ford's commitment to move away from producing large vehicles and focus (no pun intended) on small cars and crossover SUVs. This restyled compact Focus is improved inside and out. It's noticeably more upscale than its predecessor, with smarter detailing, improved interior materials, a stiffer chassis offers improved driving performance, and a reduction in weight for potentially better fuel economy. Innovative features include an ambient lighting system that gently illuminates storage spaces, footwells and other facets of the car’s interior in a color of the users’ choice.
The all-new 2007 Veracruz was shown for the first time at this year's auto show in Detroit. The largest crossover SUV every sold by Hyundai, the Veracruz is a luxuriously appointed 5-door, V6-powered, seven-passenger vehicle. Veracruz will be available with many upscale features, such as dual front-seat climate control, rear-seat entertainment, brushed aluminum interior accents and a premium 605-watt Infinity audio system. Pricing for Veracruz has not been announced; however, John Krafcik, vice president of development and strategic planning at Hyundai Motor America, said that prices will start below $30,000 when it goes on sale in March of this year. This will make Veracruz the most expensive SUV in the Hyundai lineup.
Not to be outdone by luxury automakers BMW’s "M" and Audi’s "S" performance models, Lexus has now entered the power play with its own "F" designation model. First car to wear this badge of honor is the Lexus IS-F, a 400-horsepower sports sedan powered by a 5.0-liter V8 engine via the world's first eight-speed direct sport-shift transmission. Lexus claims the IS-F will hit 60 mph in less than 4.9 seconds and stopping shouldn’t prove a problem either, thanks to a brake system specially developed by Brembo from specifications supplied by Lexus engineers. Styling cues that differentiate the IS-F from other IS versions include dual exhaust with quad tailpipes, wider front fenders, a larger grille, a special hood, an enlarged lower air intake and a rear spoiler.
Nissan is following competitors into the small SUV market with its Rogue, a $20,000 compact 4-wheel-drive model. Powered by a four-cylinder 2.5-liter engine developing 170 horsepower, the Rogue bears a close resemblance to its larger sibling, the Murano. The Rogue echoes Murano's distinctive back-sloping grille, vertical indicator strips, and trapezoidal side window shapes. Equipment includes traction and stability control systems, and ABS and brake force distribution. The extensive options list features an upscale Bose audio system, leather interior, and xenon headlights. Available with either front-wheel drive and go-anywhere 4-wheel drive, the car will be appearing in Nissan showrooms this September.
Rolls-Royce is clearly targeting the California jet set with its Phantom Drophead Coupe, an 18.4 foot long, 5,776 pound luxury behemoth brimming over with wood, leather and chrome. Despite its enormous bulk, this car is no slouch on the road thanks to a 6.7-liter V12 engine generating 453 horses and maximum torque is 531 lb-ft. Every body panel on the convertible is new, yet the car has an unmistakable family resemblance to the Phantom sedan. Probably the most striking difference are LED side lights above the headlights. The Drophead Coupe’s two doors are rear-hinged, providing wide openings for access to both front and rear seats. The brushed steel hood is an optional extra, but not one that is likely to worry customers prepared to fork out in the region of $400,000 to have this car in their driveways. The new convertible will go into production this summer.
The complete antithesis of the Rolls-Royce but just as likely to appeal to the same Californian jet set is the smart fortwo. Undoubtedly this “park anywhere” two-seat city car will be dwarfed by everything else on the road, but it does have a certain cheeky charm. Due to arrive in America in 2008, these cars will be sold via a partnership between Roger Penske-owned United Auto Group and Mercedes-Benz. In Europe the smart is available in two body styles—Coupe and Cabrio, with a choice of three engines and four trim levels. The 698cc three-cylinder turbocharged engine is available with an output of 50, 61 or 74 horsepower.
Not only is Toyota on track to overtake GM as the world’s largest vehicle producer, the Japan-based automaker has gone on the offensive in America's vehicle manufacturing heartland with a new range of full-size pickup trucks. In pure engineering terms, the Big Three automakers have a lot to worry about. The Tundra is innovative, well built and looks the business. The 2007 Toyota Tundra CrewMax―the largest model of the re-engineered Tundra line―is a full-size, light-duty pickup truck that has a roomier back seat than half-ton pickups from Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge. The Tundra’s new 5.7-liter V8 also has more power―381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque―than the gasoline-fueled V8s from the long-revered domestic trucks. The power is enough to give the new Tundra more towing capacity―10,800 pounds―than the domestic competitors.