Like a comfortable pair of shoes, sedans are a good fit
No matter how many types of vehicles are for sale, one fact will always stand: sedans sell. Consider the Ford Taurus - the old, best-selling one - or the Toyota Camry. It's simple. Buy a good sedan and you've got a friend for many, many, miles. Buy a bad one and get to know your dentist, thanks to the amount of porcelain you're sure to grind off your choppers. This year - and in the near future - there are a number of interesting sedans to test drive, from the Hyundai Genesis to the BMW 335d clean diesel. We start off with the most-recently revealed models.
– 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 with paddle shifters.
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. With plenty of powertrains to choose from, the CS Concept could be making it's way stateside in very quick order.
It seems like only yesterday when we welcomed your cute and cheery presence to these shores, praising your ability to do so much while asking for so little in return. We're talking about the little Honda Fit, which thanks to rising fuel prices and its general popularity saw an 87-percent increase in sales last year. Clearly, there are plenty of you out there interested in diminutive transportation. For 2009, Honda has updated the Fit with a simplified rear Magic Seat, the choice of five-speed manual or automatic transmissions, additional storage provisions, safety technology including the brand's ACE body structure and a bevy of airbags, and gently revised styling.
Kia updates but doesn't drastically change the Optima sedan for 2009. Among the tweaks are revised front and rear exterior styling, a more powerful four-cylinder engine, variable-valve technology, an available navigation system, a USB port, and a new SX trim with sport-tuned suspension. Like the model it replaces, the new Optima will be available with four- and six-cylinder engines; the smaller powerplant is mated to a five-speed manual or a Sportmatic five-speed automatic transmission, whereas the V-6 works only with the automatic. Output for the 2.4-liter four is rated at 175 horsepower and 169 lb.-ft. of torque; the V-6 carries over with 185 horses and 182 lb.-ft. of torque.
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, and with the CLS on the same platform, it seems likely that a thorough redesign of the CLS will follow in short order.
When the Nissan Maxima debuted in 1990, Nissan called it a Four-Door sports car, beckoning driving enthusiasts to climb behind the wheel. It worked, and the Maxima's sporty demeanor won over buyers. Since then, the Maxima got steadily bigger and heavier, losing its sporty edge even to its underling, the Altima sedan. But not anymore. The 2009 Nissan Maxima once again wears the Four Door Sports Car moniker, and with a 290 horsepower V-6, sport-tuned suspension and aggressive but elegant looks, Nissan looks ready to reestablish the Maxima as its premier sedan offering.
Pontiac dresses up the G8 sedan's lineup with a new more powerful GXP model, sporting a 402-horsepower V-8, an optional six-speed manual transmission, slightly revised and sportier styling and a 0-60 mph run in about 4.7 seconds. What serves as the greatest difference between the Pontiac G8 GT and the newly-announced GXP variant is the latter's V-8 engine boasting horsepower in excess of 400. That, and the optional manual transmission enthusiasts have been begging for since the G8's initial debut.
Whether or not Suzuki can deliver on the promise of the Kizashi 3 Conceptremains to be seen, but - wow - what a stunner. Due to be sold as a 2010 model, the concept that debuted at the New York Auto Show was the third and final installment of Suzuki's Kizashi series, and almost looks drivable now: save for a few of the obvious concept traits seen above. Powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 engine and a six-speed automatic transmission, the Kizashi 3's for-sale version is tabbed to do about 300 horsepower. All that power goes to all four wheels courtesy of Suzuki's all-wheel-drive system.
Ford is bringing one of its biggest selling models back to the U.S. market after a nearly three decade absence. Only the Mk. I made it to these shores. Now the Mk. VIII is poised to debut in North America between 2008 and 2010. Debuting in Geneva in three and five-door versions, it is still unclear if the U.S. will get either hatchback model or only a sedan. Ford has given no indication what engine the U.S. version would have. However, based on the Fiesta's history and the competitors it faces in the U.S. market, the most likely engine is the 1.6 liter inline-four cylinder.
The Prototype S is outfitted with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which produces 240 horsepower and 252 lb.-ft. of torque. A twin-clutch gearbox transfers power to the Active Center Differential, which drives all four wheels. It's the same system from the previous generation Evolution, and the drivetrain that will grace the Ralliart. While the Evolution is the top dog, some of the prestige and performance goodies have rubbed off onto the new Ralliart. The Prototype S is a sharp looking hatchback and in Ralliart trim could be a worthy competitor to the WRX Sportwagon and a good choice for buyers seeking utility and performance in one car.