Top of the heap, cream of the crop
A luxury vehicle 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 vehicles – sedans and utilities – 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.
By Staff Photo credit: Staff, Automakers
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 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.
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.
When we drove the CLS two years ago, the 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. Beyond the cosmetic changes, there are few changes. The next generation of the E-Class is due next year.
The M3 has evolved over time from a racing car into a full-fledged lineup unto itself. The newest M3 has already debuted in coupe and sedan form, and both are bona fide winners. In Geneva, BMW completed its lineup with the introduction of the drop-top version, and it now unveils the car for the U.S. market in New York. Like the coupe and sedans, the M3 convertible comes with a 4.0-liter V-8 pushing 414 horses at a lofty 8,300 rpm, and 295 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,900 rpm.
Infiniti redesigns the FX, its rear- or all-wheel drive crossover based on the same platform as the G sedan. Although styling isn’t radically different on the second generation, there are a few new features including a seven-speed automatic transmission and larger V-8 engine for the FX50. The new 5.0-liter, overhead-cam V-8 produces 390 horsepower, a whopping 70 horsepower gain over the 4.5-liter version. The FX35 continues with a V-6, although details haven’t been released.
Sharing its underpinnings with the new A4 sedan and the A5 coupe, the A4 Avant promises good things to those who love to drive but need to carry a lot of stuff, too. Audi isn’t giving out any specifics, but anticipate a good step up from the current 2.0-liter turbo. The optional upgrade engine will be the 3.2-liter V-6 with Audi’s FSI direct injection technology, good for 265 horsepower.
When you see the word “Portfolio” in a Jaguar’s name, expect two things. First, there won’t be very many of them. Second, there will be luxurious surroundings, such as leather-covered dash, sumptuous seating, high-end audio systems and maybe even a few extra performance goodies. The XKR Portfolio sports the same engine and transmission as other XKRs: A 4.2-liter supercharged V-8 coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. The combination is good for 420 horsepower, and makes the XKR seriously quick.
The Gallardo is the “baby” Lamborghini, the budget model, if you will. However, even with the ground-thumping Murcielago pounding away in the background, and the ultra-expensive (and fast) Reventon now in the stable, the Gallardo still gets a lot of love from its manufacturer. Case in point: The Gallardo LP560-4. Official information from Lamborghini is sparse, but what we do know is that the V-10 engine displaces 5.2-liters, has direct-injection, and puts out 552 horsepower.
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.
Long-time fans of the Roundel logo will recognize the tii suffix as being one that graced the later model 2002 sedan of the 1970s. BMW has made no secret that it wants the 1 Series to be viewed as a car in the same vein as the 2002 – a light, agile, quick two-door sedan. The emphasis here is on weight reduction and aerodynamics. There's no word on what powers the BMW 1 Series tii Concept, but we suspect it’s the same twin-turbocharged, 300-horsepower inline six-cylinder engine that's found in the production 135i.