The auto industry is now ten years into the new millennium, and cars look a whole lot different than they did at the end of the 1990's. There are quite a few reasons for the sweeping changes that have moved over the last decade of automotive design: the emergence of new technologies, the blossoming of the crossover class of vehicles, changes to safety standards and the retro craze have all contributed to the new standards of vehicle appearance. Strong styling statements from luxury manufacturers such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi have also changed the design game significantly.
2010 will see the launch of several new models from a number of different manufacturers. The mix is eclectic, with crossovers, muscle blasts from the past and an Italian exotic all hitting showrooms at the same time and offering car buyers an interesting range of choices, especially for those who want to stand out from the rest of the pack. This article takes a look at five of the most interesting brand new models to debut in North America in the coming model year.
The 2010 Lincoln MKT brings a big-toothed grinning grille back to the Lincoln lineup, one that has not been seen since the second generation of the Navigator SUV. The eye-catching front end is just one of the many changes that Lincoln made to the Ford Flex full-size crossover platform when creating its newest luxury vehicle. Whereas the Flex was rectangular and conservative, the MKT is instead curvy and ostentatious - exactly the type of styling the Lincoln needs in order to keep up with competitor Cadillac.
Inside, the Lincoln MKT is also far more richly appointed than the Flex. In keeping with Lincoln's tradition of using fine materials to build extremely comfortable vehicle cabins, the MKT combines technology and luxury to create a very contemporary interior that breaks new ground for the company. Beautiful round gauges are found deep inside three angled bezels directly in front of the driver, which offers a classier feel than previous Lincoln efforts. The Microsoft SYNC entertainment and communications control system is integrated into the crossover's center dash, and rich wood accents highlight the vehicle's soft touch surfaces. A lot of high tech gadgetry is loaded into the MKT, including adaptive cruise control, a collision warning system, a self-parking system and a THX II sound system.
The parade of advanced equipment continues under the vehicle's hood. The 2010 Lincoln MKT is one of the first vehicles to receive Ford's new EcoBoost engine. This design uses both direct-injection and twin-turbochargers in order to achieve excellent power and great fuel efficiency. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 in the MKT produces 355 horsepower, 350 lb-ft of torque, truly impressive numbers for a vehicle in its class. A 3.7-liter V6 rated at 268 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque is also available. When combined with a 6-speed, paddle-shifted automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, the MKT acquits itself well in acceleration and handling tests.
The 2010 Lincoln MKT is a step in a new direction for Lincoln, one which should help it access a new market of younger customers.
General Motors has been revamping its product offerings to emphasize efficiency and quality. Leading the way for their SUV lineup is the new 2010 GMC Terrain. Leaning towards the truck end of the crossover spectrum, the Terrain features styling that will be familiar to any fan of GMC's current vehicle stable. While the SUV is quite familiar in terms of appearance, its upright front grille, unique headlight treatment and aerodynamic treatment differentiate it from the bulkier look of most other GMC trucks.
All of the advance hype surrounding the Terrain has been centered around its fuel economy. GMC is touting the vehicle as one of the least thirsty SUVs available, thanks to the use of a direct-injection, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder Ecotec engine. This unit produces 182 horsepower and sees fuel mileage of 30 miles per gallon on the highways and 21 miles per gallon in city driving. This is quite impressive for a crossover, particularly one which walks the line between small and mid-size like the Terrain. The vehicle is also available with a 264 horsepower, 3.0-liter V6 that consumes fuel at the rate of 25 miles per gallon on the highway and 18 miles per gallon in the city.
The 2010 GMC Terrain is not a luxury vehicle, but it does offer a fairly good list of standard and optional equipment. USB connectivity, touch-screen navigation with hard drive, a DVD entertainment system and a rear-vision camera and power liftgate are some of the crossover's highlights, along with the usual OnStar features. The interior uses ambient lighting to create a softer atmosphere, and new 'Multiflex' seating offers greater configurability and passenger comfort for second row occupants.
In terms of turning over a greener lead, the 2010 GMC Terrain helps the truck and SUV brand remain relevant in a world increasingly focused on fuel and environmental issues.
Camaro is certainly not a new marque to those with even a passing familiarity with the automobile industry, but the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro is a fresh model completely unrelated to any of the other vehicles that carried its name in the past. After an 8-year hiatus, the Camaro brand has been revived and given a platform which visually evokes the original Camaro of the late 1960's. Of course, a healthy dollop of modern, edgy styling has helped to update the Camaro for the 21st century, and this includes aggressive bodywork that makes the vehicle look like it is traveling at 100 miles per hour even when parked.
The 2010 Chevrolet Camaro is meant to compete against the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger, and this means that performance is as important a consideration as heritage-inspire design. In this area, the Camaro really delivers. The base version of the Camaro is powered by a V6 engine that very nearly eclipses the output of the Mustang's 8-cylinder unit. The 3.6-liter engine produces 304 ponies and 273 lb-ft of torque, and can be had with a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. Most impressive is the SS model's 6.2-liter V8, which offers 426 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque along with the same transmission choices - although 8-cylinder vehicles equipped with the auto tranny see a slight dip in power. Four-wheel independent suspension and available Brembo brakes round out the trick equipment included with this fire-breathing beast.
The 2010 Chevrolet Camaro's interior is somewhat tight in the rear quarters - typical of coupes in its class. However, front passengers are treated to amenities that are a step up from the Camaros of old, with far more thought having gone into materials quality and ergonomics. Features such as cruise control, power windows and seats are standard, along with OnStar, an MP3-capable stereo system and tire pressure monitoring. Options include a sunroof, heated seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The 2010 Chevrolet Camaro is guaranteed to heat the pony car wars up way past the boiling point and force the competition to keep improving their respective vehicles.
The Ford F-150 is the best selling vehicle in North America, and it has achieved this status thanks to its ability to meet the needs of a broad spectrum of truck buyers. However, every once in a while Ford's Special Vehicles Team (SVT) likes to take a few chances with the venerable workhorse and create a special version that takes the platform to the outer limits of performance and style.
The 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor certainly pushes as many boundaries as it can. This rugged and raw truck is modeled after the pickups used in desert racing, and as such it bears a radically modified suspension designed to handle the most brutal of off-road conditions at the fastest of speeds. Skid plates, racing shock absorbers and other re-worked high performance suspension goodies combine with hill descent control and roll stability control to make the SVT Raptor ready for anything the trail might dish out. The vehicle's standard engine is a 5.4-liter V8 good for 310 horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque, while a more powerful, 6.2-liter motor is in the cards as a future option. Four-wheel drive is standard and gear ratios are set to be more friendly in the dirt than on the highway. A 6-speed automatic transmission handles the gear shifting duties in this Baja racer.
In terms of appearance, the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor is available in only four colors: molten orange, tuxedo black, oxford white, and blue flame. The vehicle's extended cab design features an interior not all that different than most other F-150's, with the exception of better seat bolstering and a more basic options list when compared to fully decked out pickups. The Microsoft SYNC system is included free of charge, and a luxury package can add a few bells and whistles to the overall package.
The 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor is the ultimate niche vehicle, but one which Ford hopes will help them to attract attention to the toughness of their F-150 platform.
When Ferrari introduces a new model, it is a major event for car lovers around the world. The reigning king of ultra-fast Italian hardware, Ferrari decided to bolster the lower end of their lineup by producing a vehicle which was a combination of sports and touring car, one which could complement the F430 without subtracting from its sales figures. The result was the 2010 Ferrari California, an elegantly styled drop top that the company hopes will see their sales increase by 40% - a tall order in the current economy.
The California does seem up to the task, however. One of the most striking features about the vehicle is its retractable hard top, a first for Ferrari and something that will help endear it to the Mercedes-Benz crowd. The roof can be fully lowered in 14 seconds at the touch of a button. The vehicle's front-end styling is reminiscent of recent Maserati coupes, but towards the rear the flow of the body work is much more distinctive. Inside, the California provides 2 + 2 seating that actually offers decent room for rear passengers.
Most Ferrari buyers are far less concerned with seating room than they are with performance, and here the 2010 Ferrari California makes an interesting proposition. Certainly, the power is there - the vehicle's 4.3-liter V8 cranks out 453 horsepower and can launch the convertible to 60 miles per hour in under 4 seconds on its way to a top speed of 193 miles per hour. However, it is heavier than most other vehicles to bear the Ferrari logo, and it is also less powerful than any of their current products. That being said, the chassis does reward spirited driving and a number of electronic aides are there to step in if things get too out of hand.
The 2010 Ferrari California straddles the line between driver's car and luxury GT cruiser, and does so in impressive fashion. There are no real compromises here between razor sharp speed and handling and a civilized daily ride, proving that the prancing horse still has a few tricks up its sleeve.