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2009 Cars Update:

2009 BMW X3-Series
Treat your friends and family to a classy, sporty, and powerful SUV like the X3 Series from BMW. Surely this 5-Passenger SUV has more attributes than any other competing SUV.

Driven by a 6-cylinder, 3.0L DOHC 24-valve engine the X3 Series generates up to 260 horsepower and 225 pounds per foot of torque. You're sure to find great mechanical attributes like xDrive all-wheel drive system with traction control; a six-speed manual transmission; Dual resonance intake systen; and Electronic throttle control.

Your impressive performance is owed to great functional and fantastic features like Dynamic Stability Control, rack-and-pinion power steering, twin-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers, double-pivot strut-type front suspension and vacuum-assisted four-wheel ventilated disc brakes.

And in order to conquer any type of terrain you're sure to find a fully accessorized exterior complete with features like 17" x 8.0" Star Spoke alloy wheels, halogen free-form headlights with automatic control and Daytime Running Lamps, front foglights, rain-sensing windshield wipers and heated washer jets, power heated mirrors, dual chrome tail pipes, and roof spoiler.

The X3 Series BMW is the best combination of functionality, class, power, and convenience.

Surely your friends and family will never hesitate to ride with you on account of a classy interior complete with the latest technology in entertainment and comfort. Interior features include an anti-theft AM/FM/CD audio system with 10 speakers and pre-wiring for CD changer, automatic climate control, Leatherette upholstery, 8-way power front seat with driver's seat memory, BMW Ambience Lighting, and Dual-panel Panoramic Moonroof.

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2009 Cars Update:

2009 Bentley Azure
Stylish and powerful, the new Bentley Azure T is the world’s most elegant convertible and destined to become a future classic. With unique Bentley ‘T’ styling cues reinforcing its sporting stance, the 500bhp Azure T delivers driver-focused performance with the ability to transport four adults in first-class, open-top luxury.

The new Azure T, specified with the high performance version of Crewe’s iconic 6¾ litre V8 engine, is the latest in a line of Bentley models to bear the ‘T’ legend. The 1996 Continental coupe was the first modern Bentley ‘T’, followed in 2002 by the Arnage T, both flagship models with a distinctive sporting character and thunderous performance.

The Azure’s already striking form is now enhanced by 20-inch 5-spoke wheels and tyres, ‘Le Mans’ front wing vents, dark tint matrix grille and a sculpted, retractable Flying ‘B’ mascot.
For the performance-oriented Azure T, the twin-turbocharged V8 engine produces 500bhp and 1000 Nm of torque – an 11 per cent increase in power and a 14 per cent increase in torque over its 450bhp/875 Nm Azure stable mate.

The famous Bentley wave of torque is even more prodigious than before and performance is significantly raised with a top speed of 179 mph (288 km/h) and a 0-60 mph time of just 5.2 seconds (0-100 km/h in 5.5 sec). Member of the Board, Sales and Marketing, Stuart McCullough comments:

“The new Azure T reflects our passion for creating the world’s most exhilarating and prestigious convertibles that, true to the Bentley T tradition, blend sophistication with a powerful presence.”
2009 Bentley Azure T 2009 Bentley Azure T 2009 Bentley Azure T

A UNIQUE OPEN-TOP MOTORING EXPERIENCE

Based on the Azure, the Azure T offers a range of discreet exterior cues that further enhance its powerful stance and hint at its increased performance potential. Key ingredients of its distinctive appearance include design features 20-inch five-spoke, two-piece alloy wheels and ‘Le Mans’ lower front wing air vents.
Further distinguishing points from the Azure are standard features such as dark-tinted upper and lower grilles, ‘jewel’ fuel filler cap (made from billet aluminium) and door mirror mountings finished in body colour.

Like the Bentley Brooklands, the Azure T sports the iconic Flying ‘B’ mascot, which can retract neatly into the grille surround. Originally designed by motoring artist F. Gordon Crosby, the ‘B’ was first used on the 1930 Bentley 8-Litre.

With exterior lines that echo visual elements of the Bentley Mk.6 from 1946, the Azure was enthusiastically received on its original debut as a concept car at the Los Angeles Show in January 2005. Now, as the Azure T makes its own ‘debut’ at LA, Raul Pires, Manager of Exterior design for Bentley Motors, notes:

“The Azure’s proportions provided us with the ideal platform to work with when creating the new Azure T. The prominent haunches and ‘supermodel’ body inspired our designers to create a new interpretation of a Bentley convertible with the accent placed on a more muscular, sporting stance.”

Bentley’s designers highlight the 1955 Park Ward S1 Drophead CoupĂ© and 1995 Azure as the main influences for the current Azure and Azure T. Like the ’50s convertible, the car has a deep body with a single feature line that runs along both flanks and rises at the powerful rear haunches before spearing off at the rear of the car. Similarly, the Azure T’s fast and flowing roofline is echoed in its seven-bow canvas roof that gives the car a visible sporting profile when raised.

Prominent wheel arches grace a slender, narrowing boot that results in a ‘horse shoe’ trailing edge. This elegant shape is reminiscent of the first Crewe-built Bentley, the Mk.6, and the overall effect is a subtle hint at the power and performance that lies beneath the Azure T’s bodywork.

Delicate brightware detailing accentuates the flowing lines of the Azure T and this includes rear tail-lamp bezels, exhaust finishes and slender strips that run the length of the car.

Significant time and effort has gone into making the Azure T’s folding roof attractive as well as highly functional. Operated hydraulically at the touch of a switch, the impressive, three-layer canvas roof is elegantly stowed beneath the rear parcel shelf in a matter of 25 seconds. Because the roof is held in a separate well area, there is no impact on the generous boot space which was designed to hold two sets of golf clubs and hand luggage.

The engine and transmission of the Azure T are identical to those already employed in the high-performance Arnage T and Arnage Final Series saloons. In this specification, Bentley’s remarkable all-aluminium 6¾ litre V8 engine produces 500 bhp (507PS/373kW) and 1000 Nm (738lb ft) of torque – with over 90 per cent of that torque available between 1,800 and 3,800 rev/min – figures that ensure the signature Bentley ‘wave of torque’ delivers effortless performance for a unique open-top convertible driving experience.

Each of these hand-made V8 engines comes with a black-finish air intake manifold bearing the signature of the team leader who oversaw its construction by Bentley technicians in the Crewe factory. The six-speed ZF automatic transmission ensures optimum flexibility, response and refinement. Three transmission modes (Drive, Sport and Manual) allow the driver to take full advantage of the powerful 500 bhp V8 engine.

A sophisticated electronic management system provides fast yet smooth gearshifts regardless of how the car is being driven. Another important feature of the latest Azure T is the separation of the sports suspension and sports gearbox settings, allowing the driver to select their preference for each system independently – via a ‘Sport’ switch on the dashboard for the suspension and by positioning the gearlever for the transmission’s Sport mode.

Bentley’s V8 guarantees outstanding performance levels. From standstill, acceleration to 60 mph is achieved in just 5.2 seconds (0-100 km/h 5.5 seconds), 100 mph reached in 12.1 seconds (160 km/h in 12.0 seconds) and a top speed of 179 mph (288 km/h) is possible.
2009 Bentley Azure T 2009 Bentley Azure T 2009 Bentley

The Azure’s double wishbone front and rear suspension is carried over to the Azure T unaltered. Set-up and fine-tuned to give a refined ride that best suits the character of this convertible Bentley, the system features coil springs with computer-controlled, adaptive electro-hydraulic dampers and automatic ride-height control with auto-load compensation.

The Azure T’s suspension delivers impressive body control in all driving conditions, while the new five-spoke, two-piece 8.5J x 20-inch Sports alloy wheels with 255/40 ZR20 Pirelli P Zero tyres further improve handling and road holding.

As an option, Azure T owners may specify an upgraded braking system with carbon/silicon carbide, cross-drilled brake ventilated discs. Measuring 420 x 40 mm (front) and 356 x 28 mm (rear), these discs are the largest fitted to any production car on sale today. With eight-piston callipers, the brakes provide impressive deceleration and also give an 8 kg reduction in unsprung weight, benefiting steering response, ride suppleness and acceleration.
This lightweight braking system ensures virtually fade-free use, time after time, and superb resistance to disc distortion under high thermal conditions. Under normal use, the brake discs will last the lifetime of the car and pad life is doubled compare to the standard system.

For Azure T and its Bentley stable mates, the Traction Control system is calibrated with the aim of avoiding all unnecessary reductions in engine torque. The ESP logic system, which is set up to allow spirited handling without any reduction in stability or safety, monitors the car’s overall stability rather than simply loss of grip to the wheels. This reduces the amount of intervention required and restores power earlier and more progressively, allowing the power of the Azure T’s V8 engine to be fully exploited.

The Bentley Azure T enjoys an 11 per cent power and 14 per cent torque increase compared with Azure and the strength and stiffness of the original chassis are such that no changes were deemed necessary, as Brian Gush, Director of Powertrain and Chassis, explains:

“The Azure chassis has always had an immense potential and this enables us to offer the extra power of our 500 bhp V8 engine and the driver-focused qualities of a true Bentley T without compromising ride comfort.”

Compared with the Arnage, the Azure T benefits from significant stiffening members. These strengthened steel parts lie in the sill section of the car and extend into the A-pillars that form the windscreen frame. Beneath the front and rear of the Azure, carbon fibre cross-bracing members reinforce the whole bodyshell, while adding far less weight than steel.

Strengthening has also been applied to the body structure behind the rear seats where an advanced rollover protection system is fitted. This immediately detects if the car is in danger of inverting and deploys two hoops that are integrated within the rear headrests. In conjunction with the strengthened front windscreen frame, these are capable of supporting 2.5 times the entire weight of an over-turned car.

EXQUISITE CRAFTSMANSHIP

Befitting its role as a new Bentley flagship convertible, the Azure T embodies a range of standard features that were previously unavailable or only available as cost options on the Azure. The seats and door panels have Diamond Quilting, the fascia features an ‘engine-turned’ aluminium finish (reminiscent of 1920s racing Bentleys), and the instrument faces are finished in Black rather than Parchment.

Bentley emblems are embroidered on the front seat backs and the rear seat centre, an iPod/USB interface is provided, while the full range of Bentley’s premium veneers is available, a knurled finish is applied to several handles and switches and a knurled, chrome gear knob is fitted.

The new Azure T will have a strong appeal to Bentley customers, as Trevor Gay, Personal Commissioning Manager at Mulliner (Bentley’s specialist commissioning department), explains:
“The Azure has always stood apart from the rest of the Bentley range and the higher-performance Azure T will allow customers the opportunity to use the Mulliner service to create a bespoke convertible to their exact specification.”

Although many of the most desirable Mulliner options are included in Azure T as standard, Bentley anticipates that the majority of buyers will request additional enhancements. Inside, the Azure T is everything customers would expect of a bespoke Bentley, offering the highest levels of hand-craftsmanship to a small, discerning audience. The interior offers a spacious, luxurious cabin to provide the ultimate in first-class, open-top travel for four adults.

As in every Bentley, craftsmanship and bespoke finishing are to the fore. Every item of trim, be it veneer, hide or chromed bezel, uses authentic materials.

Azure T is available in the full Bentley range of 42 exterior colours, 25 interior hides, and the full range of premium veneers, plus the comprehensive line-up of Mulliner options and its bespoke colour-matching service that enable Bentley owners to create a uniquely personal car.

Of course, the nature of a convertible means that its interior is often on display as much as its exterior and Bentley’s design team knew that the Azure T’s spacious cabin should make a strong a statement. Consequently, warm and inviting leather hide extend past the seats and onto the parcel shelf and this emphasises the dimensions of the rear compartment.

A new audio head unit with larger display screen and an SD (secure digital) memory card slot instead of the single CD slot is fitted. At the rear, a new hide-covered boot rail with coordinated leather trim and a chrome strip along the top edge gives the load area a tidier, premium appearance.

All Azure T models come with an iPod Interface linked to the Infotainment system, enabling customers to play their favourite music through the car’s audio system. The system is supplied with connectors for iPod, USB, Mini USB and a 3.5 mm AUX jack and includes a 12 volt power outlet for charging purposes.

As an option, Azure T buyers can specify the Naim for Bentley premium audio system. Created in partnership with Bentley by Naim Audio, a UK-based high end hi-fi manufacturer, this system features 10 speakers, a dual-channel sub-woofer and an 1100 Watt amplifier, plus eight individual DSP modes to reproduce true emotions and a ‘live’ concert-like experience.

In Azure T the sub-woofers are located in the rear passenger footwells and contained within a special enclosure to ensure the sound of this pure music remains within the open cabin.

Bentley Continental GT 2009

2009 Bentley Continental GT
The Bentley Continental GT is a luxury all-wheel drive coupe built in England. The more powerful and exclusive Continental GT Speed joined the Continental GT for 2008. The Continental GT?s 6.0-liter W12 engine produces 552 horsepower and 479 pounds-feet of torque. The Continental GT Speed features the same 6.0-liter W12, but generates 600 horsepower and 533 pounds-feet of torque. Both trims send power through a ZF 6-speed automatic transmission with steering column mounted gearshift paddles. Continuous all-wheel drive, traction control and stability control are standard equipment. A navigation system, Bluetooth, Sirius satellite radio, multi-zone climate control, heated memory power seats are standard on all trims. Premium grade leather and genuine wood trim are used throughout the interior. The Continental GT Speed features a dark chrome grille, lowered sports suspension, 20-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels, and diamond-quilted leather seat facing and trim.

This 4-seat coupe features a luxurious handcrafted interior with a large variety of custom trim options, including aluminum and numerous types of wood veneers. Several wheel styles in chrome and painted finishes are available. Optional light-weight carbon ceramic brakes offer superior durability and reduce brake fade, where the brakes become less effective due to overheating in extremely demanding conditions. A rear reversing camera is also available.


Purchasing an older vehicle, such as the 2009 Bentley Continental GT, makes good financial sense. You're able to avoid the steep depreciation rates that occur with brand new vehicles. This essentially gives you the advantage of getting a 2009 Bentley Continental GT for less money than when it was new. If the 2009 Bentley Continental GT was properly maintained, you also have a good chance of steering clear of problems that would have developed when the car was new.

The amount you pay for an older car depends on various factors. One important element is where you buy the vehicle. You're likely to get a better deal if you buy it from a private party, as opposed to a dealer. On the other hand, a reputable dealer will normally have some kind of limited warranty, so you can drive away knowing that if the car breaks down right away, you'll be covered. Another factor that may affect price on a 2009 Bentley Continental GT is whether it's "certified" by the manufacturer. A certified vehicle will cost more because warranty service is provided that normally doesn't come with a used car.

When you're ready to purchase a 2009 Bentley Continental GT, be sure to check out our section on used cars. We have listings for thousands of models so it should be easy for you to find a 2009 Bentley Continental GT that meets your needs. We post valuable information specific to the vehicle, such as options, number of miles, as well as contact information so you can directly reach the seller. Or, if you are selling a vehicle, CarsDirect is an ideal place to post a listing. Every month, more than six million serious car shoppers visit the website.

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BMW M3 2009

2009 BMW M3
After a 10-year hiatus, the BMW M3 Sedan is coming back. For the 2009 model year, BMW is once again releasing a four-door version of its sought-after M3, which is the highest-performance version of the 3 Series.

The BMW M3 Sedan doesn't look dramatically different from a standard-issue 3 Series Sedan, though the two cars share few body panels. Obvious styling cues include different bumpers, added air intakes, flared wheel arches, a “power bulge” in its aluminum hood, unique side-mirrors and a spoiler designed to keep the rear end stable at high speeds.

As with its larger and more flamboyant counterpart, the M5, the BMW M3 Sedan includes a carbon-fiber-reinforced roof for added structural integrity and weight reduction. It also helps lower the car's center of gravity, which improves handling.

BMW M3 Sedan Vehicle Summary

The upgrades that truly differentiate a BMW M3 Sedan from the rest of the line, however, are more visceral in nature. Prime among them is a lightweight 4.0-liter V8 engine that develops well over 400 horsepower, output roughly on a par with the Chevrolet Corvette (though the latter’s small-block V8 generates about a third more low-end torque). The compact sedan can reach 60 mph from a standstill in just under five seconds. The top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph.

The BMW M3 Sedan’s engine includes a variation on the regenerative braking systems found on most hybrid-powered vehicles. Here, it takes electrical power recovered while braking to recharge the battery and power various systems while the car is moving; this means the alternator can be disengaged from the engine under most circumstances so that it doesn't sap power.

A beefed-up six-speed, short-throw manual transmission is the only available gearbox. Though some may lament the lack of an automatic, the enthusiasts for whom the BMW M3 is designed won't complain.

Riding on a specially modified all-aluminum suspension, with 18-inch wheels and tires (19-inchers are optional) and a variable locking rear differential that optimizes traction on a wide range of road surfaces, the BMW M3 handles like few models this side of an exotic sports car.

As in the M5 and M6, the BMW M3 includes an MDrive control system that lets the driver tailor the car’s performance and handling characteristics. It can get complex, but those who are so inclined can fiddle with the engine management controls (for more lively throttle response), suspension damping (dial in a stiffer ride for better handling or a softer setting for comfort) and, optionally, the Servotronic power steering system (allowing more or less assistance at varying speeds).

In addition, the BMW M3’s standard Dynamic Stability Control system, which uses throttle- and brake-control to help minimize wheel spin and prevent a loss of control during extreme handling maneuvers, can be turned off altogether, which allows the car to be more easily coaxed into controlled skids around curves, called drifting.

The BMW M3’s interior is similar in appearance to the rest of the 3 Series line, albeit with richer materials and various M-specific embellishments. For example, the dashboard has a gauge that indicates how much of the engine’s power remains available, based not on rpm, but on the temperature of the engine oil. The cabin can be dressed up with various leather and trim treatments and front seats can be fitted with optional adjustable-width side bolsters to allow maximum lateral support through sharp turns.

The BMW M3 includes the automaker’s counterintuitive iDrive system to govern the entertainment, navigation, communication and climate control functions; as in the 5, 6 and 7 Series cars, it clumsily replaces individual buttons with a single knob and menus displayed on an LCD screen.

Is the BMW M3 Sedan for You?
Buy the M3 Sedan if
You want top performance in a compact four-door package with bragging rights to match, at least among BMW aficionados.

Keep Looking if
You need a larger or more practical vehicle, or prefer a sleeker-looking sports car.

Who Fits?
Two adults will find ample room and comfort up front; the rear can feel cramped for larger adults.

Closest Competitors
Audi S4; Lexus IS-F; Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

Did You Know?
BMW began selling high-performance M-branded vehicles in the U.S. in 1988, with the original M3, which was essentially a racing version of the 3 Series coupe that had been modestly modified for street use. It was quick, but intensely harsh, even by performance-car standards, and was sold only to a select few enthusiasts and weekend racers. The second generation M3, released in 1995, was considerably more civilized and sophisticated, and set the tone for higher-performance M treatments that would be subsequently applied to the 3 Series and 5 Series Sedans, the Z Roadster, and the 6 Series Coupe.

While the automaker began refreshing its 3 Series line for the 2006 model year with a major redesign, the M3 coupe and convertible continued in their third generation with only minor modifications; the current fourth-generation BMW M3 Coupe and sedan debuted for 2008, with a Convertible version likely to follow.

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Cadillac CTS-V 2009

2009 Cadillac CTS-V
The 2009 Cadillac CTS-V is a limited-production, very high-performance sedan based on the mid-size CTS sport sedan. The model is the latest in a series of Cadillac V-Series cars, all oriented toward top performance, motorsports, and exclusivity. The new CTS-V returns completely redesigned for 2009, with an appearance that borrows heavily from the standard CTS but adding, most notably, a supercharged, 6.2-liter V-8 engine making 556 horsepower—enough to take on the best sport sedans from Germany.

Last year, the CTS line received an extensively refreshed exterior, along with a much-acclaimed, completely redesigned interior. From either the front or rear, the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V has a boxy, angular appearance, though the cues soften in the middle with smoother doorlines and handles. Design details abound, including recessed, jewel-like headlamps, meshlike upper and lower grilles, a well-sculpted front fascia, and integrated fog lamps in front. From the side, the CTS-V has a relatively high beltline that rises to a high decklid in back, where stylish vertical tail lamps flank the corners and lid crease is lined with a spoilerlike strip of LEDs. Flashy 19-inch wheels, polished or painted, have V-shaped spoke segments and showcase the heavy-duty Brembo brake hardware. The V-Series is also designated on the outside by several small badges, as well as a chromed side air vent at the back of the front fender.

Inside, the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V follows a uniquely American design that stands out from any of its rivals. Trim alongside the doors extends across the instrument panel from both sides and slopes downward into a V-shaped center console that contains audio and climate controls and additional vents, with the available navigation display retracting into the dash when not in use. Piped-in LED lighting adds a sophisticated ambiance, and top-notch materials and trims are used throughout.

Well-bolstered leather sport seats with supportive headrests are offered in front; they provide good support for most drivers, but the recommended available Recaro seats—finished in a breathable and grippy microfiber—add lateral support for high-performance driving and supportive thigh extensions for taller drivers. In back, there's space for two normal-sized adults, though the middle position is not as comfortable.

The interior of the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V has some impressive features and design details. The available navigation system, which incorporates an XM NavTraffic function, has one of the best displays we've tested, and the top portion of the screen doubles as a radio display when nav functions aren't being used. And the optional EZ key entry system, which can be set to automatically unlock the doors while the keyfob is in your pocket, slots into its own cubby in the center console if desired. However, we remain disappointed with the position of the climate control displays, which require a distracting glance far down to the area beside the driver's knee.

The CTS-V's lusty 6.2-liter, supercharged V-8 engine—closely related to the one installed in the Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1—produces an impressive 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet of torque. That's more power than the top performance sedans from Germany, as affirmed by its performance times of 3.9 seconds to 60 mph either with the standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic. With the manual, the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V can reach at least 191 mph.

In real-world driving, there's enough available torque to pin you back to your seat in just about any situation. Both transmissions in the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V shift smoothly, and the clutch is surprisingly light and precise for the manual. The automatic tends to shift to top gear somewhat early, but manual shifts can be controlled via a manual shift gate or tap-shifters on the back of the steering wheel. Unfortunately, it requires that you shift to the manual gate first.

The latest version of GM's Magnetic Ride Control, which uses a magnetically sensitive fluid in the dampers to almost instantaneously firm up or soften the suspension, allows the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V a quite supple, absorbent ride on rough roads and crisp body control in demanding performance situations. The system has Sport and Touring modes for firmer or softer overall responses, respectively, and for track driving, the StabiliTrack stability control system uses a Competitive Driving Mode to make the most of the balanced chassis, powerful engine, and huge brakes—all enhanced with sticky Z-rated Michelin PS2 summer performance tires. Our only complaint concerns the steering, which doesn't convey much of road feel through to the steering wheel.

For 2009, the Cadillac CTS-V will be sold in a single model, including standard xenon HID headlamps, Adaptive Forward Lighting, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, heated power front seats, ultrasonic rear parking assist, a surround-sound audio system with a 40GB hard drive, USB connectivity, DVD compatibility, and a Bluetooth interface.

The 2009 Cadillac CTS-V is structurally similar to the Cadillac CTS, which earned four-star ratings in frontal crash protection and five-star results in side crash protection from the federal government. While those results are respectable, the CTS got nothing but the best ratings in crash testing from the IIHS: top "good" ratings for frontal, side, and rear protection. Standard safety equipment includes front side airbags, head curtain airbags for front and rear outboard passengers, anti-lock braking, and the StabiliTrak electronic stability control system.

The Bottom Line:

The uniquely styled 2009 Cadillac CTS-V pairs track times of an exotic sportscar with luxury-sedan comforts; in nearly all respects, Cadillac beats the top performance sedans from Germany at their own game.

Chevrolet Volt 2011

2011 Chevrolet VoltAt a recent General Motors media event, GM "product czar" Bob Lutz wanted to be sure there wasn't any confusion. According to Lutz, the 2011 Chevy Volt is not a plug-in hybrid, but rather it is an extended-range electric vehicle (E-REV).

General Motors is determined to sell a E-REV before anyone else. That’s why it’s working flat-out to meet a self-imposed November 2010 deadline with the 2011 Chevrolet Volt. Among the most radical of GM’s near-term “green car” promises, the Volt is not just a symbolic “moon shot” for this beleaguered American company. It’s a grudge-match challenge to Toyota, which is poised to end GM’s 75-year reign as the world’s largest automaker, an achievement fueled in part by the Japanese brand’s big lead in hybrid technology and sales. As Larry Burns, GM vice president for research and development, told Car and Driver magazine, “Toyota creamed us on the Prius. It won’t happen again.” Yes, folks, this is personal.

The 2011 Chevrolet Volt will differ markedly from the Prius and other gasoline/electric hybrids. It will also differ in many ways from the racy-looking Volt concept unveiled at the January 2007 Detroit Auto Show. Since that big-buzz reveal, GM has gone out of its way to keep the media fully briefed on the production car’s progress. As a result, we now have a good many specifics about the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, though important questions remain.

For starters, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt will be a compact five-door sedan with front-wheel drive, four-passenger seating, and an external footprint like that of Chevrolet’s conventional Cobalt compact car. It will use GM’s new “Delta 2” global small-car platform, but will have unique styling and GM’s much-touted “E-Flex” powertrain architecture. E-Flex differs from existing hybrid systems that use a battery-powered electric motor as an adjunct to an internal combustion engine. Instead, the gas-fueled engine serves as a electricity generator and battery charger and is not connected to the drive wheels. Technically speaking, the Volt is thus an electric vehicle (EV) as well as a “serial hybrid.” The Toyota Prius and similar vehicles are termed “parallel hybrids.”

The 2011 Chevrolet Volt will be one of the first retail-market vehicles to use state-of-the-art lithium-ion (LI) batteries instead of the older and more common nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) type. LI batteries store more energy in less space, which is why they’re used in cell phones, laptop computers, and other small devices that need ample juice. They’re also faster to recharge. These advantages are naturally attractive for an electric car, but LI batteries have never been used on this scale, and devising suitable cells has been the major challenge in bringing the Volt to market.

GM is currently evaluating batteries from two joint ventures, A123 Systems/Continental AG and Compact Power/LG Chem. Chemistry is the main difference: so-called nanophosphate for the former, magnesium for the latter. Accelerated lab tests are now underway to determine which type better satisfies eight GM criteria, including energy density, extreme-temperature performance, materials, and cost. The choice should be announced by mid to late 2009.

Incidentally, these competing chemistries differ completely from that of the Sony LI batteries that made scare headlines by causing some laptop computers to overheat and even catch fire. The batteries in the 2011 Chevrolet Volt are thus expected to be quite safe, though they, too, must be kept within a specific temperature range. The Volt has a separate liquid-cooling system for that purpose.

The battery pack itself, rated at 16 kilowatts/hour, comprises more than 220 separate cells wired in series. That means the failure of any one cell disables the entire array, though some existing hybrid vehicles also have this flaw. The Volt pack is about six feet long and weighs a hefty 375 pounds. As in GM’s early-1990s EV1 pure-electric vehicle, it mounts in T-formation with the “leg” running beneath the center tunnel and the top situated crosswise under the rear seats. The latter precludes a middle back-seat position, but does allow spreading the outboard seats further apart than usual. For convenience, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt will include an “intelligent” control module that allows plugging in to either 120- or 240-volt household circuits. GM estimates the Volt's battery can be charged in less than three hours via a 240-volt outlet, or in about eight hours with a 120-volt outlet.

As for the battery-charger engine, it’s said to be an existing four-cylinder GM unit of 1.4 liters displacement. Two versions may appear: one running on gasoline and tuned to PZEV (partial-zero emissions vehicle) standards, the other capable of using E85 ethanol and tuned to looser ULEV (ul tra-low-emissions vehicle) levels. A small diesel engine could also be used, and was in the recent Opel Flextreme concept, but GM says it has no immediate plans to offer this.

Various reports indicate that electronic controls in the 2011 Chevrolet Volt will fire up the gas engine once the battery pack runs down to 30-percent power, then keep cycling the engine to maintain power within a specified band. GM estimates the Volt’s total driving range at 640 miles, which is about double that of most conventional hybrids.

GM also claims the 2011 Chevrolet Volt can run solely on electric power for 40 miles with a full battery charge. That’s in line with studies showing that most Americans drive only about 40 miles a day, so in theory at least, a Volt could go for weeks without using a drop of gas or spewing any CO2. But some analysts think the real-world electric range will be closer to 30 miles and probably less, depending on vehicle speed, ambient temperature (which affects battery performance), and whether trips include steep grades. Like conventional hybrids, however, the Volt incorporates a regenerative-braking feature that helps recharge the batteries when coasting or decelerating.

Powertrain aside, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt is fairly ordinary. Indeed, GM is reportedly trying to use as many off-the-shelf components as possible to offset the costly batteries and related systems in an effort to keep delivered price reasonable. That’s why the Volt shares a platform with conventional GM compacts and will likely be built alongside some of them in the company’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant. Cost concerns also explain an orthodox coil-spring suspension with front struts and a simple twist-beam rear axle located by trailing arms. Appropriate for a “volts-wagon,” the steering is electrically operated, albeit designed for minimal power consumption. The brakes are electro-hydraulic, with “by-wire” activation and a normal fluid reservoir for antilock control and antiskid/traction control.

GM unveiled the production Volt during the company's 100th Anniversary celebration in September 2008. Against the low-slung 2007 concept, which insiders nicknamed the “Electric Camaro,” the production model has a longer, smoother nose and greater windshield slant, but is otherwise similar, especially in back. Some observers feel the Volt bears a family resemblance to the midsize 2008 Chevrolet Malibu and it does have a similar “twin-cowl” dashboard. GM says many of the exterior changes were made to reduce air drag and thus maximize driving range. The concept Volt was apparently drawn without much regard to aerodynamics, and proved very disappointing when tested in the GM wind tunnel. Company design chief Ed Wellburn claims the final design reduces the concept’s drag coefficient by 30 percent, and a statement by Bob Lutz implies a value of around 0.25, impressively low for a four-seat sedan.

It’s clear that GM views the 2011 Chevrolet Volt as a potential game-changer for the entire auto industry. After all, the E-Flex architecture is designed so that the gas engine can be replaced by a hydrogen fuel cell, once those are ready. But it’s equally clear that GM is throwing all the money and resources it can at the Volt program just so it can one-up Toyota with an extended-range electric car. Yet the Volt is unlikely to make money right away, and GM could even be forced to subsidize the price to pump-prime the market. Later on, of course, the Volt could pay off big in both prestige and profits, much as the Prius has for Toyota.

In any case, GM knows it will eat a lot of crow if it misses its deadline, which could happen if there’s an unexpected delay with the batteries. But all involved express confidence that the Volt will be on time, if not on budget. As Bob Lutz recently told Wired magazine: “November 2010 is our internal target. We are holding the team’s feet to the fire...[T]here is no doubt you’d like to be able to leapfrog Toyota and come out with a car they aren’t ready to do. There’s nothing magic about the technology. Two or three years after the Volt is introduced, everybody will have something like it. We’d just like to be first for once... If we pull it off successfully, it can really put us back at the top of the heap of automotive technology instead of being called laggards that are being left behind by the Germans and the Japanese... If it doesn’t work, it’s not fatal. But if it does work, it will be sensational...”

Maybe so, Bob. We shall see.

2011 Chevrolet Volt
Against the low-slung 2007 concept, the production model has a longer, smoother nose and greater windshield slant, but is otherwise similar, especially in back.

A Notable Feature of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt

The Volt may have a very different powertrain, but GM wanted to make it drive like any other Chevrolet. For example, although there’s no transmission per se, the Volt will have an ordinary mechanical shift lever on the center console, which GM says was chosen to help conserve power versus an electrically operated selector, as on the Prius. For the same reason, windshield wipers, air conditioning, stereo, and other accessories have been redesigned so they will also drain less juice than those in conventional cars. Though such “redundant systems” add to development costs and thus sticker price, they reflect GM’s desire that consumers see the Volt as no less practical than any other car.

Buying Advice for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt

Despite its alleged game-changing technology, the Volt will face a growing number of “clean-tech” vehicles selling for the same or less money, including not just hybrids but also diesel-engine models. In particular, it will compete with a redesigned version of the Toyota Prius that’s expected in January 2009 as an early 2010 entry. Sources say the third-generation Prius will be somewhat larger yet lighter than today’s version, will offer better performance with higher fuel economy, and will boast a longer electric-only driving range despite retaining NiMH batteries and Toyota’s basic Hybrid Synergy Drive system. Moreover, word is the Prius will switch to LI batteries around 2010, then add plug-in capability as early as 2011. With all this, buyers will want to weigh all the “green car” options with regard to initial cost versus “time to payback” and perhaps net environmental impact. On those counts, one analyst has concluded the Volt would fare much worse than conventional hybrids even in best-case driving scenarios, taking decades instead of several years to recoup its purchase price in fuel costs and reduced emissions. It’s something to think about.

2011 Chevrolet Volt Release Date: As noted, GM insists the Volt will be ready by November 2010, but it’s unclear whether sales will begin then or later. According to two websites (TheGMSource.com and chevyvoltforum.com), the Detroit-Hamtramck plant will close in May 2009 to retool for Volt production, reopening in late September or early October. Those sources also say that first-year assemblies will be capped at around 10,000 units, a fairly slow pace presumably chosen to allow for any needed debugging of the car and/or its production processes. That means only select Chevy dealers will have Volts to sell in the 2011 model year, likely larger stores in major metro markets. After that, however, production reportedly ramps up to around 100,000 a year--or whatever the market will bear.

2011 Chevrolet Volt First Test Drive: GM has treated the media to several Volt technical briefings since the early-2007 concept reveal, and more are likely before announcement day. Assuming no surprise program delays, the first “ride-and-drive” events could be held in summer or early fall of 2010.

2011 Chevrolet Volt Prices: GM first projected the Volt’s base price at around $30,000, but has since upped the estimate to $35,000. And some sources believe the final tab will be more like $40,000, rather steep for a compact Chevrolet. Why so much? Apparently because GM underestimated the cost of the high-tech batteries and other Volt-specific components. The wild card is whether the company might be willing to take a loss by subsidizing the price down to the original $30K target--and if so, for how long.

2009 Volvo C70

The 2009 Volvo C70 gets no major changes. This four-seat convertible is based on Volvo's S40/V50 compact car. C70 has a power-retracting metal top with heated glass rear window. It comes in a single T5 trim level with a 227-hp turbocharged 5-cylinder engine. Manual or automatic transmission is available. Available safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain side airbags, and front side airbags. Also standard are rollover bars designed to deploy from the rear headrests if sensors detect an impending tip. A wireless cell phone link is newly standard. Among options are leather upholstery, heated front seats, navigation system, rear obstacle detection, and bi-xenon headlamps.

Competition
Consumer Guide Automotive places each vehicle into one of 18 classes based on size, price, and market position. Offering more power and style than typical Sporty/Performance vehicles, Premium Sporty/Performance Cars usually cost much more and have more comfort and convenience equipment. Two-passenger convertibles and four-seat coupes rule the roost in this class.

Our Best Buys are the Audi A5 and Chevrolet Corvette. Our Recommended picks are the BMW 1-Series, Jaguar XK Series, Porsche Boxster, and Porsche Cayman.

New or significantly redesigned models include the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, Mercedes-Benz SL-Class, Nissan GT-R, and Porsche 911.

2009 Porsche 911 Carrera

BY JENS MEINERS
Justify Full
Look closely and memorize the subtle changes to the exterior. Otherwise, you may overlook the new 2009 Porsche 911 when it appears on American roads this September.

Porsche refers to it as a new generation, even though the internal chassis code 997 remains unchanged. We see it as more of a mid-term facelift with some significant technological changes. Notably, the water-cooled flat-six engines get direct-injection technology, and a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission replaces the previous five-speed Tiptronic automatic while the shift-it-yourself option remains a six-speed.

Let's describe the changes to the exterior as inoffensive. The front end looks slightly more Boxster-like, with a thin glass strip above the air inlet. It houses LED daytime running lights—which can be switched off—and traditional turn signals. Engineers wanted LED turn signals as well, like those on the 911 Turbo, but there was not enough room for the complete unit above the daytime-running lights. The rear lights have a slightly more complex shape than before and are fully LED, including the turn signals.

Mirrors are bigger to comply with upcoming European regulations. The standard Carrera gets larger disc brakes, which share the 13-inch diameter of the Carrera S, but are thinner. Basically the only visible differentiator between the two versions are the tail pipes. The Carrera has two large exhaust pipes; the more powerful Carrera S gets four smaller, circular units. (Step up to the Turbo, and you’re back to two exhaust pipes. Go figure.)

Porsche is initially launching the facelifted 911 with the rear-wheel-drive, narrow-body Carrera and Carrera S models. The four-wheel-drive Carrera 4 will go on sale a few weeks later. Wide-body versions will follow, as will the Targa—the Targa moniker still denoting a big sunroof and not the partly removable roof that was last available on the 964-generation 911.

Interior Little Changed

Inside, you will be hard pressed to distinguish the 2009 model from the one it replaces. In response to customer complaints about the cluttered center console, Porsche has now grouped the buttons in a line without spaces in between. It may look like fewer buttons, but there aren't. We think the pre-facelift 997's console looked more technical and therefore better.

The infotainment unit, supplied by Harman Becker, receives a major upgrade with a touch-screen display. Unlike many other cars with a touch-screen display, the 911 won’t blank out any functions while the car is moving. We will never get used to bringing a car to a full stop to operate the navigation system, and we wish other companies would share Porsche's philosophy of not patronizing the driver.

2009 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class gets slightly freshened exterior styling. This premium midsize car is essentially a reskinned version of the company's E-Class sedan. CLS seats four vs. the E-Class' five and does not offer all-wheel drive or a wagon body style. Two CLS-Class models are available. The CLS550 has a 382-hp 5.5-liter V8 engine. The high-performance CLS63 AMG has a 507-hp 6.2-liter V8. Both have a 7-speed automatic transmission and an air-spring suspension that adjusts firmness within three driver-selectable modes. The CLS63 adds firmer chassis tuning and cosmetic touches by Mercedes' AMG performance division. An AMG Sport Package for CLS550 includes specific trim and steering-wheel shift paddles for the automatic transmission. Available safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain side airbags, and front and rear side airbags. Standard is a full-length center console and twin bucket-type rear seats. Newly standard on the 2009 CLS is a navigation system and wireless cell phone link. Options include front and rear obstacle detection, adaptive cruise control, and heated and cooled front seats. CLS550s have 18-inch wheels, while CLS63 AMG models have 19-inch wheels.

Justify FullCompetition
Consumer Guide Automotive places each vehicle into one of 18 classes based on size, price, and market position. Premium Midsize Cars sport interior dimensions similar to Midsize Cars. Premium Midsize Cars offer more luxury, performance, and prestige when compared to Midsize Cars.

Our Best Buys include the Cadillac CTS, Infiniti G37, and Lexus ES 350. Our Recommended picks are the Infiniti M, Jaguar XF, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Volvo V70.

New or significantly redesigned models include the Acura RL, Acura TL, Cadillac CTS-V, Jaguar XF, and Volkswagen CC. The BMW X6 is scheduled to receive a gas/electric model for 2009, and the Infiniti G37 is scheduled to receive a convertible model.

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