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300 SRT8: Chrysler’s hottest sedan scorches hearts and pavement

Chrysler’s SRT sub-brand is at it again. Taking what should be run-of-the-mill, comfortable, family focused, full-size vehicles and turning them into raging speed-demons. The 2012 300 SRT8 is so ostentatious, one might be tempted to call it bipolar. That’s because there’s few other vehicles that can coddle you in comfort and technology one moment, only to throw you back in your seat with the the howl of a large displacement V8 only a split-second later.

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Hyundai Genesis Sedan V8: Power, Luxury & Style

In August, reviewing the Genesis Coupe, I mentioned that Hyundai’s new deluxe Genesis sedan had been named the North American Car of the Year for 2009; and fortunately the Coupe wasn’t available then or it might have deadlocked the jury. Which one to pick? A better question might be, how can these two cars even be related? The two-door is a hooligan’s delight; the four-door not only looks completely different, inside and out, it has a different powertrain and mission specialty. (But it too can satisfy the inner bad boy. Person.)

At less than $40,000, this Genesis could almost pass as the body double for a certain German sedan that costs twice as much. Within limits—see paragraph #4, below—that’s how it behaves, too. This is a super-cruiser that ate up a two-day, 800-mile blast across northern New England (coastal Maine through the White Mountains, the Green Mountains and into upstate New York and back) and begged for more. This 4.6 model, named for its V-8 engine, packs a 375hp wallop, but it delivered 24 mpg at an average speed of 53 mph. With a creamy-smooth six-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive, merely the pressure of one’s big toe is enough to catapult the 4,000-pound Genesis around the motor homes and packs of Harleys that clog the foliage routes at this season. Winding secondary roads, even pitted with potholes, don’t upset the car. And on divided-lane highways, Genesis doesn’t just run with the big dogs, it’s one of them—quiet and stable at speed and in crosswinds, and with tremendous brakes for those oops moments.

Genesis

The cabin is a lovely place in which to spend a few hours—full of fine materials, shown off in tasteful hues and elegantly highlighted here and there with touches of chrome or glossy wood. As befits a sedan, there is ample room for four adults, five if necessary, and a trunk deep enough to create an echo. The “stripper” 4.6—$37,250—has about every mod con one could expect, from rain-sensing wipers and dual-zone automatic heating/cooling to a power rear sunshade and tire-pressure monitors. It lacks only features such as swiveling headlamps, backup sensors and a rear-view camera, GPS and so on, which are of course available for not much more. The entry-level 3.8 model, with a 290hp V-6, is kitted out the same way but is a couple of ticks slower to 60 mph and starts at just $32,250.

There must be a flaw in this brilliant car, and it finally surfaced: At high speed in high cornering angles, the steering begins to fight back and the wheel wants to move in the hands. Not enough to throw the car off-line, but there it is. At normal velocities, the Genesis steering is predictable and precise, if numb. OK, I feel better now.

Hyundai says its Genesis received the highest score among midsize premium cars in the J.D. Power 2009 Automotive Performance Execution and Layout Study. As the maker avers on the car’s Monroney, its window sticker: “Genesis offers an unprecedented combination of performance, luxury, and fuel efficiency.” To which we would add only, “at an unbeatable price.”

First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse

Buick hit a home-run when they introduced the Enclave in 2008 begging the question, “What’s next?”  The 2010 LaCrosse is the answer. Can GM revive the Buick brand with the same success as they did with Cadillac?  We drive the totally new LaCrosse and find out.

Don’t Miss: Our full First Drive Photo Gallery of the 2010 Buick LaCrosse

First Drive Verdict

European imports beware, Buick is back and the LaCrosse is a worthy competitor  A slew of technology packed in a youthful and stylish package will give Lexus and other luxury rivals a run for their money- if buyers take the time to notice.

AutoInsane.com First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse

Not the Buick you’d expect

Lets be blunt for a moment.  The outgoing LaCrosse was, for a lack of kinder words, boring.  So ambiguous, dull, and utterly devoid of passion it’s surprising Buick didn’t include a pacemaker so owners could maintain a pulse whist behind the wheel of it.  It’s remarkable then to ponder how for 2010 LaCrosse nameplate made its way onto a vehicle that can make your heart skip a beat, no external medical devices needed.

To compare and contrast the “old” LaCrosse with the 2010 LaCrosse in any other words would be futile. While many previous-gen LaCrosse owners already have pacemakers, the 2010 model is one all by itself.  A quick walk around the outside and it’s apparent Buick’s updated style is completely at home on a sedan. Crisp lines and smooth curves; all accentuated just a tad more than you’d expect and with a flair that doesn’t show itself in still photos.  You’ve got to move around the LaCrosse to get the whole story because like many of the other recent cars to come out of GM design the more you look, the more you see.

Things get even better inside.

AutoInsane.com First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse

For as stylish as the exterior on the LaCrosse is,  the interior goes ten steps further. Open and spacious, you’d never get the feeling you’re behind the wheel of a mid-size sedan.  From the hours we spent behind the wheel we’d even say it feels more open than the new full-size Ford Taurus.  The dash has been pushed down and away from the driver leaving the center stack and controls within easy reach.

Riding on GM’s updated mid-size platform (the same that will underpin the future redesigned Saab 9-5), rear passenger room is even more impressive and for good reason. GM will sell nearly twice as many of the new LaCrosse in China, where the Buick brand has serious clout. Out east Buick expects 40% of LaCrosse buyers will choose not to drive, but to be driven around in.  For that reason the 2010 LaCrosse’s platform has been stretched for more rear leg-room.  Here in the states we won’t get fancy chauffeur oriented options like rear audio and ventilation controls, but we do get to keep the extra space.  A dual rear mounted DVD entertainment system will also be avaliable.

AutoInsane.com First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse

Technology for Gen-Y

To further place weight behind the idea that this car represents a whole new Buick, GM is including it’s most up-to-date technology in the 2010 LaCrosse.  This means a larger updated navigation/multimedia screen and system, full USB connectivity, Harman-Kardon audio, heads-up display, magnetic ride control, and heated/cooled seats. On up-level CXS models Buick has included an extremely slick fully animated color driver-information-center in the gauge cluster. The new interface is one of the best in the entire industry, perhaps besting even BMW and Audi.

The cool stuff doesn’t stop there. Should you choose the navigation and multimedia system you’ll also get an option we’ve never seen on any other car in the industry. The ability to record and rewind live radio. It’s not exactly like Tivo but from the second you tune in an AM/FM/XM station the audio system will begin to buffer the program. You can then rewind or fast forward as you like. You can’t save radio programs to the included hard-drive, but it’s a small feature that owners will undoubtedly rave about.

AutoInsane.com First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse

We’ve never been a huge fan of GM’s current multimedia system. It’s slow, buggy, and clunky- especially compared to Lincoln’s newest interface. However, this improved system fixes all of our concerns and more.  Redundant control paths, from touch-screen to head-unit and even the steering wheel mean drivers can move through the interface easily and with very few steps.  It’s easier to use than Lincoln’s SYNC, which heavily relies on voice commands, yet offers the same depth of control you’d find on a BMW without the tomfoolery of iDrive.

AutoInsane.com First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse

Behind the wheel

When the LaCrosse launches later this summer you’ll be able to choose from one of two direct injection V6 engines; a 3.0L delivering 255-horsepower or a 3.6L producing 280-horsepower. By the end of this year a fuel-sipping 180-horsepower 2.4L inline-4 will be introduced as the standard engine in the CX. All-wheel-drive (for the first time ever on a Buick sedan) can be optioned on CXL trim levels and can only be paired with the 3.0L V6.

Both V6 engines provide ample acceleration but neither are neck-snapping, especially the 3.0L laden with all-wheel-drive.  If you’re looking for a sporty drive, Cadillac may be a better choice. We were not able to drive the 2.4L four-cylinder I4 “fuel economy” option, but from the sounds of it we do have serious concerns 182-horsepower will be excruciatingly under-powered in a car this big.

With all that said, the work GM placed in making the LaCrosse smooth, isolated, and quiet paid off big time.  Twenty-percent stiffer than the outgoing model, the 2010 LaCrosse feels lively yet composed on the street.  Variable effort steering is surprisingly crisp and accurate.

Our favorite combination was the 3.6L powered CXS optioned with Buick’s real-time active suspension system and equipped with 19-inch wheels.  Sliding the shifter gate over on the LaCrosse to sport strangely does nothing at all to the transmission, instead stiffening the steering and suspension of the car.  It’s surprisingly noticeable and changes the feel of the car for the better.

AutoInsane.com First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse

Conclusion

Sampling the 2010 LaCrosse on the winding back roads and city streets of Michigan gave us the impression that Buick is taking its reinvention extremely seriously.  The styling and tech features will draw in the younger demographic GM is looking to attract but only if potential buyers take the time to see the value right in front of them. If Buick can get them in the door and behind the wheel for a test drive we think the car has the potential to be the brand’s next hit. That’s an enormously big “if”, because while the LaCrosse drives the pants off the Lexus ES350, how many import luxury buyers will really cross-shop a Buick?  We’ll find out.

2010 Buick LaCrosse photo gallery

AutoInsane.com First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse

2010 Buick LaCrosse Specifications

Competes against

Acura TL, Toyota Avalon, Lincoln MKZ, Hyundai Azera, Toyota Camry, Lexus ES350

Trim levels / equipment options

  • CX – equipped at the start of production with a new 3.0L direct injection V-6, premium cloth seats and 17-inch wheels. The 3.0L engine generates 255 horsepower (190 kW) and 217 lb.-ft. of torque (294 Nm) and has a six-speed automatic transmission. Later this year, a new, 2.4L Ecotec four-cylinder replaces the 3.0L as the standard engine.
  • CXL – also equipped with the new 3.0L direct injection V-6, adds leather-appointed heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, fog lamps, outside rearview mirror with LED turn indicators and puddle lamps, and 18-inch alloy wheels. An advanced, intelligent AWD system is available.
  • CXS – equipped with a 3.6L direct injection V-6; real-time active-dampening suspension (optional); perforated, leather-appointed, heated and ventilated seats, and chrome-plated 18-inch alloy wheels (19-inch optional). The 3.6L engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, generates 280 horsepower (209 kW) and 259 lb.-ft. of torque (351 Nm).

Transmission
Six-speed Hydra-Matic 6T40 & 6T70

EPA Fuel Economy Estimates

2.4L I4: 20mpg city / 30mpg highway
3.0L V6: 17mpg city / 27mpg highway [FWD] , 16mpg city / 26mpg highway [AWD]
3.6L V6: 17mpg city / 27mpg highway

Suspension

Front: MacPherson strut coil-over-spring; twin-tube dampers with gas-charged valving; hollow direct-acting stabilizer bar
Rear: four-link (std. CX); “H”-arm (std.CXL and CXS); real-time damping available
Steering wheel turns, lock-to-lock: 2.75
Turning circle: 38.8-ft

Wheels/Tires

17-inch steel with cover, std on CX , P245/50R17 all-season blackwall
18-inch aluminum, opt on CX , P245/45R18 all-season blackwall
18-inch alloy, std on CXL and CXS , P245/45R18 all-season blackwall
19-inch alloy opt on CXS, P245/40R19 all-season blackwall

Dimensions & Capacities

Wheelbase: 111.7 inches
Length: 197 inches
Width: 73.1 inches
Height: 59.2 inches
Track: 61.7 inches front, 62 inches rear

Headroom: 38 inches front, 37.3 inches rear
Legroom: 41.7 inches front, 40.5 inches rear
Shoulder room: 57.4 inches front, 56 inches rear
Hip room: 55.2 inches front, 53.9 inches rear

Interior volume: 99 cubic feet
Pass anger volume: 101.7 cubic feet
Cargo volume: 13.3 cubic feet (CX, CXL), 12.8 cubic feet (CXS)

Curb weight
CX:
3948lbs (est with 3.0L)
CXL FWD: 4018lbs (est)
CXL AWD: 4199 lbs (est)
CXS: 4065lbs (est)

2010 Ford Taurus: Meet the new benchmark

As an idea, reinventing the Taurus and pushing it as the new flagship of Ford Motor Company is on par with an 90’s one hit wonder reuniting for another try at Billboard top 25. It’s risky, a classic disaster in the making unless you can actually pull it off.   Ford took that gamble and competitors beware, they’ve got a brand new hit.

First Drive Verdict

A amazingly executed and revolutionary re-invention of the mainstream four-door sedan jammed with technology and refinement in a package you cannot find anywhere else.  The automotive industry as a whole just got schooled.

Strong suits

  • The best complement of driver oriented technology we’ve seen to date on any car
  • A smooth and extremely isolated ride
  • Although staying true to four-door sedan in size the Taurus  drives like a mid-size

We could have liked more

  • The console felt rock hard in some places, nerf-ball soft in others
  • 263-horsepower does the job but isn’t quick
  • Cockpit style interior sacrifices space for style and may cramp larger drivers

Check back Tuesday morning for our First Drive Review of the turbocharged 2010 Ford Taurus SHO

First Drive: 2010 Ford Taurus

Forget everything you know about the Taurus

Forget everything you know about the Taurus. Family car, people mover, bland, boring;  these adjectives do not apply to the new 2010 model.  Out of the gate you get a sense this new Taurus is something different just by looking at it. A bold new face draws lines from the best selling Taurus of the mid-90’s while concurrently looking to the future much like the 2010 Fusion.   The same goes for the interior. A classic two cockpit layout by design, the console is seriously modern.

It’s a staunch departure from the typical four-door sedan we’ve come to know. From the beginning Ford insists this was exactly the plan.  They openly admit the previous Taurus and pretty much the entire full-size family sedan segment has been built and designed from the “we” standpoint. “We” will go for a ride.  “We” will go for a road trip.  It’s all been about catering to the family and not to the driver.

This viewpoint has changed with the new Taurus. Ford has taken a “me” approach- orienting the best features of the 2010 model around the driver. From the sleek exterior to the edgy interior, driving a 2010 Taurus won’t cast the “I’m driving a boring family car” blues on whoever steps behind the wheel.

First Drive: 2010 Ford Taurus

Useful technology and features

Looking good is important but so is being attentive to the occupants. Ford again doesn’t let us down. There’s some serious technology lurking inside the 2010 Taurus- so much in fact, it’s impressive.  Sure, you’ve got the expected options; navigation system, all-wheel-drive, and heated seats. Then you have Ford exclusive technology such as SYNC, MyKey, and Sirius Travel Link.  The true surprises, options you would not find in any car of this class only serve as icing on the cake; adaptive cruise control, push button start,  heated/cooled seats, adaptive front seating, collision warning, and blind-spot monitoring.

Ford went so far to elevate the Taurus they’ve only left one exclusive option for the Lincoln MKS, which shares platforms with the Taurus, automatic parking. Everything else you can get in the MKS is an option in the Taurus.

The Taurus is an extremely potent blend of really useful technologies. For example- during our drive in North Carolina last week we drove straight into a strong thunderstorm. Using Sirius Travel Link and its live radar map we were able to see exactly where the weather was headed and how long it would be until we saw clear skies again.

During our nearly six-hours behind the wheel of the 2010 we also very much appreciated Ford’s Adaptive Seating. The system uses a series of air bladders in the driver and passenger seat cushions to randomly shift your body ever so slightly as you cruise down the road. This keeps circulation flowing and puts a huge dent in the stiffness and discomfort one usually expects from a long drive.

First Drive: 2010 Ford Taurus SHO

Behind the wheel

So we’ve determined the Taurus looks hot and has all the right features.  Stepping in for the trifecta – the Taurus handles great as well.  We particularly noticed how composed and quiet it was.  A quick jaunt down the road and you’ll most likely forget your driving a full-size, four-door sedan with a huge trunk.  Body roll has been kept under control like a European sedan.  Maybe our only gripe about the Taurus on the road would be it’s slow steering.  Hustling around corners kept us busy cranking the wheel from side to side.

As mentioned above, heavy rain gave us a excellent test of the optional all-wheel-drive system. Even through deep puddles, sheets of rain, and flowing water the Taurus never lost composure- even under full-throttle. It dug in and went- no fuss, no mess.

Road noise is surprisingly limited thanks to extensive sound-deadening materials.  Laminated glass, baffles in each pillar, and triple door seals are to thank.  This just may be the first application of acoustic laminated glass in a “family” sedan.

Final thoughts

This is without a doubt the Ford Taurus you’d never expect. Perhaps that’s because the bar has been lowered so much on what a “Taurus” should be it’s just surprising to find a car that has been executed so well.  It’s sleek, sexy, and utterly destroys the Chrysler 300 and Chevrolet Impala in every way. Great features, a composed drive, and tons of style- the Taurus has them all.  This may very well be the new benchmark for “family” full-size sedans.  If it is, this segment has a very bright future despite a disappointing past, just like the Taurus. Rock on Ford- thanks for giving us another hit.

Get a good look

Check out our 50+ image gallery of the new 2010 Ford Taurus and Taurus SHO.

2010 Ford Taurus First Drive Photo Gallery

Models/Features/Pricing/Specifications

Specifications

Engine: 3.5L Duratec V-6 (all-aluminum)
Power: 263-horsepower / 249 ft-lbs torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic w/optional SelectShift steering-wheel paddle shifters
Drivetrain: FWD or AWD

Models

SE
Base MSRP: $25,995
Standard: FWD, MyKey, SecuriCode, Stability Control, 17″ wheels, EasyFuel

SEL
Base MSRP: $27,995
Standard: All SE features plus- SelectShift 6-speed automatic, 18″ wheels
Optional: AWD, SYNC, Reverse sensing system, ambient interior lighting, push button start, leather seats, moonroof, 19″ wheels

Limited
Base MSRP: $31,995
Standard: All SEL features plus-  SYNC, heated memory seats, chrome accents, puddle lights, 10-way power drivers seat, leather wrapped steering-wheel, ambient interior lighting
Optional: AWD, navigation system w/10-gig hard drive, auto hi-beam headlights, rain-sensing wipers, Sirius TravelLink, Blind Spot warning with cross-traffic alert, heated/cooled front seats, power-adjustable pedals, rear power sunshade, rear-view camera

Standout Technology
SYNC Music System
Adaptive Cruise Control with Collision Warning
Heated/Cooled Seats
Sirius Travel Link
Adaptive Front Seats
Blind Spot Monitor w/Cross Traffic alert
911 Assist (part of SYNC)
Easy Fuel Capless Filling
SecuriCode keyless entry
Push-Button Start

On Sale
Later this summer (2009)

Road Test Gallery: 2009 Lincoln MKS

Lincoln has been steadily improving the quality of their models for years. The new 2009 MKS is proof the brand is making considerable ground. Here are the photos we grabbed while driving Lincoln’s new and refined four-door sedan.

Look for our full Road Test Review of the Lincoln MKS soon

Exclusive autoinsane.com Road Test Photo Gallery

Photographer: Zane Merva