As reviewed by The Car Family
This is not going to be a great year for new cars so if you can get a great deal on a 2007 model you may want to move now. There are essentially only a handful of vehicles that can stir the credit juices and most of them ignore the current cost of fuel.
Aston Martin DBS
We have snuck some rides in the Aston Martin and found them underwhelming for the price. Good looking to be sure, but resale value could cost you plenty.
This company is rapidly becoming the most aggressive European firm delivering well-priced products that impress both in driving dynamics and interior comforts. The A4, one of our favorites, gets larger, thankfully, and comes with a variety of engines from the base 200 horsepower 2.0-liter turbo four to the 3.2-liter V-6 with 264 horsepower. Transmission choices consist of a six-speed manual, six-speed automatic, and CVT. We found the CVT excellent giving us over 35 mpg on the highway. As usual, you can order Quattro all-wheel drive. Starting around $30,000.
Audi also brought to market a new TT Coupe and Roadster that are better in every way. However the biggest sound out of Audi is that of the overpriced Porsche 911 hitting the obsolete pile. The R8 is Audi’s mid-engine sports car complete with a 420 hp engine that gets to 60 mph in just over four seconds. Terrific handling, and much more civilized than the Porsche. Better looking too. And you can even get a rear view camera to help with parking this peach.
Accompanying these outstanding new products is a RS 4 Cabriolet. With the same 420 hp at 7,800 rpm engine that comes in the R8 plus a S5 two-door coupe featuring a 354 hp 4.2 FSI V8 engine or a 265 hp 3.2 FSI V6 engine.
The Bentley Brooklands coupe has 530 horsepower derived from a twin-turbocharged 6.75 liter V8, but don’t bother looking for the 550 because, despite a $340,000 plus price tag, they have all been spoken for. The sexy Continental GT gets more power, is less expensive, and gets more looks, but it doesn’t have the space or the collector interest.
The 1-Series is in the house. Smaller, bubbly, and fast, this new BMW comes with some dynamic engines, including the possibility of the twin-turbo 300 horsepower powerplant. Look for several versions from convertible to coupe to sedan in the coming years.
The M3 finally gets a V8 and everything else BMW has more power. Forget the horsepower numbers, they can’t begin to explain the spine-tingling, addicting, and expensive pleasure these driving machines provide. Pay the man.
The Enclave is a loaded crossover Buick that shares its platform for the well regarded GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook. It comes loaded with features such as xenon headlights and can carry eight adults. You get your choice of all wheel or front wheel drive and it is quite elegant for the price. Meanwhile, Buick is also bringing its LaCrosse and Lucerne vehicles into battle with a Super title going to those with a little jazzier exterior and a handling package. Some engine tweaks might create a minor buzz, but the big news here is 300 horsepower engines under the hood.
Cadillac continues to impress with fresh designs and potent powerplants. The CTS has been redesigned and has two engine choices of note. There is the 3.6-liter V6 with direct fuel injection that provides about 300 horsepower and one without this feature that has 263 horsepower. Cadillac is also tempting the younger buyer with a hard-drive enabled stereo and a V8 that could well bust through the 400 horsepower ceiling. The STS can be had as a supercharged 469 horsepower STS-V or a milder V6. The revamped styling makes a compelling case to rethink Cadillac as an oldster’s car.
Chevrolet Malibu gets a facelift and loses the handy Maxx version. The Malibu is a much more complete car than the one it replaces and you can add a panoramic sunroof and a 252-horsepower all-aluminum V6. This car easily competes with similar sedans from Ford, Nissan, and Toyota for value and features.
Chevrolet’s Tahoe GMC Yukon hybrids now can operate at low speeds on electric power alone. If you need a really big SUV this might be of note, but the Saturn Outlook, Buick Enclave and are easier to live with, smoother, and better values.
We tested the Sebring and its cost in the $30,000 range makes it a bit dear. You can get it with a soft top or a retractable hardtop and still have room in the trunk.
The Town and Country van is new and better. There is a delightful Swivel ‘n Go seating system that features second-row seats that swivel 180 degrees to face the third row. You also get a removable table that installs between the two rows, an integrated booster seat and power-folding rear seats as options. Better performing engine choices and better handling make this easily as good as the Honda Odyssey for families. However, the Kia Sedona is less expensive, albeit without some of Chrysler’s unique and useful features.
Dodge’s Avenger is a smaller version of the Charger and comes with available all wheel drive. You can also get it with a sports tuned suspension, a hard drive for the stereo, and an easy to live with price. This is well worth a test drive if you are looking for a mid-sized sedan with a little attitude.
Viper’s V10 now makes 600 horsepower and is a little easier to live with on the street.
The only news is the 430 Scuderia. For about $225,000 you can own a 503 horsepower coupe that weights just 2800 pounds. Since we can’t even get waited on in a Ferrari showroom let alone get a test drive, we don’t know anything about this Italian. Just pay the premium, pay the gas-guzzler tax, and drive around town all day in second to hear that glorious exhaust note.
Ford’s Focus looks different this year and has a suspension upgrade. The Shelby GT convertible, which loaded goes for over $35,000, can be ordered as a coupe or convertible. Nice looking, but the handling is the best part. The Shelby GT500 KR has a higher output engine that produces over 500 horsepower.
The Ford previously known as the Five Hundred is now the Taurus. Finally getting some needed horsepower, this well regarded family vehicle has a new 3.5 liter 260 horsepower V6 and optional all-wheel-drive system. Still sedate, it is a comfortable ride with no pretensions of being something other than a safe sedan. Ford is also brings a Taurus X, a SUV that has a 3.5-liter V-6 and is the closest thing that Ford offers to the old LTD station wagon in terms of being useful. It is similar to the awfully good Ford Edge and both are the best SUVish vehicles Ford has ever produced.
Honda’s all-new Accord coupe and sedan are bigger. The ride and quietness are also upgraded in the new model. The new Honda fits into the middle of the Nissan Altima and the Toyota Camry, but isn’t much ahead of either. And don’t forget competition from the Ford Fusion and the new Chevrolet Malibu.
The Honda has three engines. The new 3.5-liter V-6 has 268 horsepower and delivers exceptional gas mileage with its running on three, four, or six cylinder technology. But our favorite is the midlevel 190-horsepower four-cylinder engine. Plenty of poke and gas mileage near the top of the 20 mph grouping. Brakes are okay, but someone has been a bit too smart with the interior and it takes getting used to some of the knobs and gauges. The rear seat does not split when folded down and the trunk is the same size as the last model. This will truly be a test for Honda loyalists, but the handling and fuel mileage should enable the Accord to appease the choir.
Every year we are surprised at the quality of the Hyundai products. This year the large SUV, the Veracruz, surfaced and it is a good one. A powerful engine, refined ride, lots of standard features, and a price well under the competition make this a value leader. Also keep your eyes out for a Genesis sedan with a large output engine.
The G37 Coupe with its V6 engine producing 330 horsepower is a looker. It can make the BMW look sheepish for a lot less money. In the wings is a new small crossover.
Jaguar XF and XJ have been redesigned. A XKR Portfolio with a 420 horsepower engine is coming and so is a smaller Jaguar. Our advice is to wait for the new S model if you are looking for a sedan. Regardless, with Jaguar’s quality numbers improving and its elegant looks, this is the car to own if you want to make a statement about class.
The Liberty is slightly larger and has a “Sky Slider” canvas roof option. It can be purchased with an entertainment system that includes a 20-gigabyte hard drive for storing music and files. The freshened Jeep has a 210-horsepower 3.7-liter V6. You can order a new Selec-Trac II full-time system or Command-Trac part-time system. The Grand Cherokee gets a face lift and the rest of the line is stable.
Nothing new here, but this manufacture has some stimulating bargains in the Sedona van and its small and large sedans. We absolutely adore the Kia Rondo. It is a must drive for families who want a tidy minivan that handles well and gets excellent fuel mileage.
Lexus is clearly going after BMW, and also stepping all over the expensive manicured nails of the Porsche Boxter with its new high-performance IS-F featuring a 5-liter V8 engine with an estimated 400 horsepower and an eight-speed automatic transmission. If this isn’t too nose heavy there is simply no reason to buy the Porsche, and the free maintenance plan from BMW may be all that separates this Lexus from their M squad.
Also new is the Lexus flagship, the long-wheelbase LS 600h L with a new 5-liter V8, dual-stage continuously variable transmission, and two electric motors, giving a peak output of 430 horsepower. And, this heavily equipped sedan also has all wheel drive. Priced at just under $110,000, this is the Lexus showpiece. Fairly fast, capable of consistent fuel mileage of about 24 mpg, and with enough options to make it the equal of much more expensive German sedans, this is one Lexus you need to drive to appreciate. Be warned, there isn’t much trunk space, but the backseat room is huge. Also online is a thirsty SUV dubbed the LX 570. With a to 381 horsepower V8, this is a big SUV with pretty much everything as standard equipment.
Mazda’s real sleeper is the M5 minivan. This handy sized van does everything well and, although not a speed merchant, can keep up on the highway. Well priced and it has an interior that is very well laid out. An underrated vehicle. Mazda’s Speed6 has all wheel drive and a turbocharged engine, but it is listed at nearly $30,000. Stick with the base model and save a bundle if you can live without the speed part. As always the car formerly known as the Miata is just plain fun. It comes with an available retractable hardtop and has just enough power to make driving a delight. A perfect sports car for those who like to drive, but don’t have a lot of money.
Maserati Gran Turismo
The GranTurismo coupe is eye catching and has 405 horsepower, but it isn’t quick and isn’t that great at handling a twisty course. On the other hand, it is a magnificent grand touring machine and is elegant as well as athletic. This is one car that photos don’t do justice.
What an improved portfolio. The new C-Class is bigger, better, and comes in a diverse array of products including the C300 Luxury, C300 Sport and C350 Sport with engines yielding from 228 horsepower to 268 horsepower. You can also order all-wheel-drive and all models have a 7-speed automatic transmission. The smilemobile from Mercedes is the CL63 AMG, with 457 horsepower in a convertible no less. Call us smitten. Still, our very favorite family vehicle is the E Class Bluetec sedan with the diesel engine that provides 35 mpg on the road and plenty of spunk in traffic. Starting prices are around $52,000, but worth every penny. The diesel also comes in other model Mercedes products, but is not available in all states.
The Altima coupe is adorable. Smallish, lightish, and with an optional 270 horsepower V6, this is one mean dog. Nicely priced and it clearly shows that you don’t have to pay Porsche or BMW prices to have a canyon runner with legs.
Rogue. This crossover style SUV is interesting looking, but hardly elegant. It almost looks old right out of the box. With a tight, but well planned interior the Rouge is certainly a much superior vehicle than the awful Hummer models. A lot of interior storage and a 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder that is ample for most driving endeavors. The CVT works very well. Nissan seems to have the best version of this economic transmission marvel and we highly recommend it if you travel in traffic a great deal. You can even get paddle shifters to help you feel in control. The handling is super and you can easily get in the low 20-mpg range. Pricing is very competitive making the crossover SUV market the most interesting for buyers.
Porsche is offering a more powerful 911 that is also more expensive. No wonder they are one of the biggest money making car manufacturers on the planet. We have found the 911s are good, but the others not. Our reward for publishing that information was that Porsche has refused to let us test any more products after doing it for over a decade. Our best advice is not to be swayed by the speed, but check the service department and talk to technicians before paying those insurance premiums and maintenance fees. Nevertheless, the Porsche cabriolet is a most solid open top car. You might want to check out the “Is Your Porsche a Lemon” article.
The Porsche Cayenne has a more powerful engine, still gets questionable gas mileage, and has very little interior room. But, hey, it’s a Porsche, and who ever said buying a car had to be a rational decision.
The expensive 911 Turbo Cabriolet is really a bargain considering it is one of the fastest convertibles available with a 480-horsepower engine. It can probably outrun the sun’s rays. But, check those insurance rates and maintenance fees first. If you can handle it, this is the ragtop to own.
Mitsubishi’s Lancer is nice looking, as are all Mitsubishi products, but doesn’t have the solid feel we like for the money. Like Mazda, it is trying to capture the sporty but frugal buyer and that is difficult to do. The Evolution should be the big draw at the dealership, but this rocket is a bit too edgy for us. A good warranty and good looks keeps this company ticking.
Pontiac’s GXP version of the G6 comes in coupe of sedan form and is quite interesting in both appearance and interior appointments. However, the whole world is waiting for the rear-wheel-drive G8 with a 3.6-liter V6 or 362 horsepower 6.0-liter V8 engine choice.
Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe.
It costs over $400,000, uses gas like a broken pipeline, and has front opening doors. All this makes it special to those who are into conspicuous consumption.
A much better 9-3 breaks cover this year with less torque steer, very good fuel mileage, and excellent safety features. The convertible is stunning. Look for all wheel drive in future models and a 280-horsepower turbocharged V6 for the 9-3 sedan and SportCombi wagon.
They are putting a lot of work into the new Saturn line and it is bound to pay off. The Astra is an excellent replacement for the Ion and the Vue is so much better than it s predecessor that it deserves a new name. The Vue comes in a hotted up Red Line version and a Green Line model with some hybrid features such as an engine that shuts off at stoplights. These two vehicles added to the already worthwhile Aura make the Saturn lineup the strongest in the General Motors family for utility and gas mileage.
The xB is completely redesigned and the xD replaces the xA. The xB has been made more spacious. The xD is the smaller and has the lesser price tag. All this is very confusing. The best bet is to see them side-by-side and you are going to notice a huge difference. For a couple of extra thousand the xB offers more of everything, including a 158 horsepower engine and room for five adults. You can get pretty much everything as an option, but the most appreciate feature is the higher output engines. We like the tossability of the xB, but it is hard to resist the extras you get with it big brother, the xB. If you need room, want to make a statement, and can’t resist cute these are good deals.
Well, the Smart is here, finally. The two models are the fortwo coupe and fortwo cabrio both of which are less than nine feet long making them easy to park, maneuver, and garage. Look for prices to start in the low $10,000 range with the cabriolets getting much more dear. Fuel economy isn’t all that great, but this is a handy vehicle and so the 40 mpg or so figure might not be its main selling point. A great delivery vehicle, the Smart does not feel small on the inside and can keep up with traffic but side winds get your attention.
A new look, a few more horsepower are what Subaru is offering this year. As always a fun car to drive and very fuel efficient for all wheel drive models.
Suzuki may have the best vehicle you never heard of for sale this year. The SX4 sedan is chassis has responsive handling, and a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 143 horsepower priced under $14,000 this Suzuki is available with front wheel drive. Given the terrific warranty this Suzuki is deserving of a test drive.
For just under $100,000 you can own a battery powered two seat roadster that can go up to 200 miles before recharging and is quite fast. Not for everyone, but the promised sedan might be. The Tesla uses lithium-ion batteries so do your homework about these before you buy.
Where is the Corolla?
While waiting for that much-anticipated model consumers will have the opportunity to buy a all new Highland with a better chassis and more room and power from an available 270 horsepower V6. A hybrid version is also planned with an electric only option until the car reaches 25 mph. Interestingly, the Lexus 400 RX hybrid we drove two years ago did this until over 30 mph.
The GTI gets a anniversary edition, the Jetta gets a long awaited wagon version, the Golf gets a R32 all wheel drive version with 250 or so horsepower, and a terrific new small SUV called the Tiguan comes to life for Volkswagen. Look for more diesels, and a Touareg 2 large SUV. This could be the year that Volkswagen starts an upswing in sales, especially if they get those diesel models certified in all states.
The Volvo V30 is a retro styled two-door hatchback that harkens back to the Volvo P1800. If you can’t remember that don’t worry, this nice looking sporty coupe is pricey, fairly fast, and has a subdued interior. The V30 is sure to be noticed, but it’s priced way too high to bring in many youthful buyers and not powerful enough to entice those who like to drive hard despite a turbocharged five cylinder engine. Lots of safety features.