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Friday, January 9, 2009

2010 Buick LaCrosse

  • Competes with: Acura TSX, Lincoln MKZ, Lexus ES
  • Looks like: Buick might have hope yet
  • Drivetrain: 255-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 or 280-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 with six-speed transmission; front or all-wheel drive
  • Hits dealerships: Late summer 2009

Buick is hoping its complete redesign of the LaCrosse sedan will be as successful at bringing in new buyers as its Enclave crossover was last year. After perusing the specs and these eye-catching pics, we'd have to say it's got a shot, especially compared to the model's sedate predecessor.

The new LaCrosse may look more compact than the 2009, but it's only 1.1 inches shorter. It's nearly 500 pounds heavier, however, and that's without the optional all-wheel drive. Not to worry: The 2010 offers a pair of more powerful direct-injected V-6s that should return mileage similar to the outgoing model's 17/28 mpg. Both are based on Cadillac's new V-6.

In the base LaCrosse CX and midlevel CXL, drivers get the 255-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 that was introduced in the 2010 Cadillac SRX. The old LaCrosse had 200 hp. The CXL will also have optional all-wheel drive. The top-of-the-line CXS will have the same 3.6-liter V-6 as Cadillac's CTS, but with less horsepower, at 280. Both engines are teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission. Mileage numbers have not been released, but we'd expect the CXS to do slightly better than the CTS' 17/26 mpg.

The LaCrosse is based on GM's new global midsize sedans but is slightly larger. GM has not revealed interior specifications, so we don't know how headroom, legroom and the size of the trunk measure up. Because it's based on the global sedans, we expect/hope that the new LaCrosse will handle better than the old one; perhaps the characteristic floaty driving feel of big Buicks is at an end. The company promises "quiet tuning" to keep the cabin isolated from road and wind noise.

Oh, and did we mention the gadgets? Standard features weren't broken down, but offered in the car will be navigation, Bluetooth, a USB port, a backseat DVD system with dual screens, and more. Buyers will be lucky if the USB input comes standard.

Pricing for the 2009 LaCrosse starts at $25,640, and we'd hope the 2010 stays near that mark. Because of the advanced engines, though, it's more likely to start around the $28,000 range to be competitive with the Acura TSX, which starts at $29,000.

Volvo S60

  • Looks like: Volvo finally figured out its cars need to look good
  • Defining characteristics: Glass roof, sloping roofline, four-door coupe bodystyle
  • Ridiculous features: Glass center console
  • Chance of being mass-produced: This is the prototype for the next S60; expect some but not many changes to the final production model.

Hey, if it worked for Jaguar, maybe a radical new design will work for Volvo, too. The Swedish automaker has been churning out its best cars as of late but few people are taking note. Many automotive design gurus point to the lack of bold designs as the problem. Well, here's the first glimpse of what the new S60 will look like, and it sure isn't your mom's old boxy Volvo.

The front end is a bit off-putting with the grille and bumper treatments creating a wide look and an odd criss-cross effect. Maybe it's just a tad too much, but every other angle pleases. The sloping roofline definitely follows the recent trend of other four-door coupes on the market from VW and Mercedes. The back is thoroughly modern and would not be out of place on a BMW or Audi.

Under the concept's hood is a new turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine producing 180 horsepower. That meager number won't make American luxury shoppers happy, but it will meet strict emission standards in Europe. The company doesn't state if this new engine is on track for its other cars, but it would make a lot of sense in the smaller C30 and S40 here in the U.S. The turbocharged four-cylinder also features other gas-saving measures like a start/stop function that turns off the engine at stops. Another new feature is a selectable gas-saving mode where a driver can decide to cut power to "frills" like entertainment and navigation systems.

So, does Volvo need a four-door coupe? No, but it didn't need another straight-forward S60 sedan either, especially on top of the recently redesigned S80.

2010 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

  • Competes with: Dodge Challenger SRT8
  • Looks like: Ford isn't about to give up on its Shelby models
  • Drivetrain: 540-hp, supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 with six-speed manual transmission
  • Hits dealerships: Sometime in 2009

The redesigned 2010 Ford Mustang debuted to the public in November at the Los Angeles auto show, and now the high-powered Shelby GT500 version is ready for Detroit's big show.

The 2010 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 gets the new sheet metal and interior treatment, like the regular Mustang, but its engine is similar to the last Shelby variant Ford put out, the GT500 KR; it has the same supercharged V-8 engine putting out 540 horsepower and 510 pounds-feet of torque, with a similar suspension and brakes.

The biggest difference is the look. Riding on standard 19-inch wheels with rubber-band-thin low-profile tires, the 2010 model is indeed menacing in appearance. A large hood vent works as a heat extractor for the monstrous engine, and it creates a different look from the outgoing version's twin scoops. Like the regular Mustang, the headlights, grille and taillights are all redesigned for 2010.

Convertible fans will be happy to know they can also get racing stripes this time around. Seriously — that's one of the changes.

We could talk a lot more about the need for such a high-powered beast, but instead we'll just ogle the pictures.

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