A luxury sedan is something that should be a rolling oasis amidst the desert of daily commuting. Sure, some people will look upon your ride as irrational exuberance, but you earned the right to roll in style. Luxury sedans in this universe are also at the leading edge of development. Advances in safety, performance and convenience start at this level and trickle down to the hoi polloi. Here’s a snapshot of what’s coming and what automakers’ imaginations have produced, starting with the most recently unveiled.
Photo Credit: Staff, Automakers
2009 Acura TSX
The 2009 Acura TSX is a tale of two Hondas. Good Honda: Giving the TSX more style, room and luxury to go with proven handling fun. Bad Honda: No turbo or diesel for now, and no significant upgrade one model year after the European Accord was completely reworked. With the same 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, performance upgrades are modest and confined to eight more lb.-ft. of torque. The engine is mated to either a six-speed manual or a sporty five-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
BMW CS Concept
The most significant thing about the BMW CS Concept is that it’s here and looking very production-feasible, even with a slightly crazy-yet-elegant approach to the sheet metal. While it's mostly a design direction at this point, the specs come in as slightly larger and longer than the 7 Series, which lights up the speculation machine regarding a possible new 8 Series. For BMW fans, the CS signals that the Bavarian automaker is now seriously in the game against the likes of the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the Porsche Panamera.
2009 Mercedes-Benz CLS
When we drove the CLS two years ago, among it’s most notable characteristic was its good looks. That hasn’t changed; it’s still a sleek car with what amounts to mostly cosmetic changes for 2009. In addition to a mild nose job, the grille has two bars instead of four and the upper and lower openings have gray mesh. In back, a new rear bumper is joined by new taillamps and exhaust tips. The next generation of the E-Class is due next year, and with the CLS on the same platform, it seems likely that a thorough redesign of the CLS will follow.
2009 Acura RL
Acura has officially unveiled the 2009 RL, representing a thorough revisiting of its flagship sedan. The RL hasn’t exactly set the world on fire since its introduction in 2005, namely for its overly subdued styling. Acura kicked it up a notch with an MDX-inspired grille, new headlights and taillights. The new look is certainly aggressive, and with a bigger engine it has the chops to back it up. Acura bumped engine displacement from 3.5 liters to 3.7 liters, with a commensurate increase in horsepower from 290 hp to an even 300 hp. Torque bumps up from 256 lb.-ft to 271 lb.-ft.
2009 BMW 335d
BMW, not content to let rival Mercedes-Benz bask in the diesel spotlight, is bringing a twin-turbo, diesel-powered 3 Series sedan to all 50 of these United States late in 2008. Like its Teutonic rival, BMW uses urea injection to turn nitric oxides into nitrogen and water vapor, thereby meeting emissions regulations. BMW’s diesel is a 3.0-liter, inline-six cylinder, twin-turbo engine that is already sold in other parts of the world. The 335d goes on sale in the fall.
2008 BMW 5 Series
You wouldn’t know it at first glance – or even a second or third glance – but the BMW 5 Series receives styling updates for the 2008 model year. What isn’t so subtle is what’s under the hood. Both six cylinder engines in the 5 Series are updated with more power and refinement. The 528i replaces the 525i and benefits from an improved 3.0-liter inline-six with 230 horsepower, 15 more than last year. The 530i is replaced with the 535i, powered by the twin-turbo direct injection engine from the 335i for a stout 300 hp.
2009 Cadillac CTS-V
The numbers here are simple: 550 horsepower, 550 lb.-ft. of torque, and a six-speed manual transmission. Were these numbers for a special edition Corvette, we’d be happy enough. But when they’re specs for the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V – a freakin’ 550-horsepower Cadillac! – well, we start to wonder if it’s time to dust off that old “Standard of the World” moniker. A limited-slip rear differential gets power to the ground, and Performance Traction Management uses the stability control sensors to maximize tire grip for acceleration.
2010 Fisker Karma
This car is going to be an oddly exclusive ride. Despite a projected annual production run of approximately 15,000 units, the Karma comes much closer to the true definition of exclusive thanks to the plug-in’s first-to-market status, relatively affordable $80,000 base price, lithium ion battery technology, full-electric range of 50 miles and a gas/electric fuel economy rating of 100 mpg. That kind of exclusivity will be available from Fisker in late 2009.
2009 Hyundai Genesis Sedan
The Genesis is aimed squarely at Lexus, Infiniti and BMW and includes some truly luxo features – radar smart cruise control, self-leveling and cornering HID head lamps, eight airbags, heated and cooled seats and the usual bevy of Bluetooth, satellite and HD radio. A Lexicon audio system with 17 speakers is available, and Hyundai is quick to point out that the only other car with that system is the Rolls Royce.
Maybach Landaulet Concept
The ultra-luxury brand from Daimler-Benz says the Landaulet is designed to be a chauffeur-driven vehicle. The car’s primary feature is a top that retracts to open up the passenger section to the sky while the chauffer area remains closed. The two sections have different color schemes and appointments; the chauffeur’s is all black and more businesslike, while the passenger section is white and opulent, built with luxury and exclusivity in mind. Maybach took the study as an opportunity to further tweak the AMG-built, twin-turbo V-12 engine.
2009 Jaguar XF
A new four-door sedan from Coventry, it comes with a normally aspirated or supercharged V-8, all the modern electronic driver aids and a 21st century interior. The new Jag has lots of styling changes that individually will appeal to the mass market, but together are uninspiring and will leave many Leaper fans wondering what happened to the great cat’s heritage. The XF uses the 4.2 liter V-8 engine, either normally aspirated with 300 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque, or supercharged, which pumps out 420 horsepower and 408 lb.-ft. of torque. Power is sent to the wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode.
2009 Lincoln MKS
Lincoln’s all new flagship sedan is designed to win new buyers over to the Lincoln brand who previously bought Lexus, Acura and Cadillac vehicles. When it appears on dealer lots it will be with a 3.7-liter V-6, the V-8 will not be available until nearly a year after launch. But it will be the first vehicle to receive Ford’s new gasoline turbocharged, direct injection technology. Preliminary numbers for the V-6 are 270 hp at 6,250 rpm and 265 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,250 rpm.
2008 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG
Mercedes fires a shot over the BMW M3’s bow with the new C63 AMG Of course the it has all the AMG goodness, from the hand-built V-8 engine to the upgraded brakes to the sport suspension. This new C-Class makes the leap to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, thanks to V-8’s 451 horsepower and 443 lb.-ft. of torque. All the power flows through the new AMG Sportshift seven-speed transmission, which doesn’t up or downshift automatically, leaving the driver in complete control.