The 2009 San Diego International Auto Show
Published Thursday, 01-Jan-2009 in issue 1097
Whether for work or play – or merely a way to pick up your next squeeze – we all rely on the auto industry. With a questionable financial outlook for 2009, many of us are rethinking our transportation choices. The New Year brings more than just hangovers and the Rose Bowl – it also brings a bevy of brand-new cars to choose from.
Mouths will water Dec. 31 through Jan. 4 at The 2009 San Diego International Auto Show, bringing to town the freshest models of your favorite vehicles and plenty of mouth-watering concept cars. This year’s show will highlight more than 400 new-model vehicles, sports cars, alternative fuel vehicles, and specialty cars, trucks, and vans throughout more than 600,000 square feet of displays on two floors.
There’s a car to fit every lifestyle and personality – whether you’re a sun-loving business executive or an eco-friendly weekend athlete. Sit back, put on your cruise control, and read on for the latest and hottest four-wheel beasts on the market.
Best for commuters
The workday stiffs, while lower on the corporate ladder, still deserve a vehicle with a reasonable dose of style and comfort. From coupe to hatchback, and even to pickup and SUV, these commuter-friendly vehicles balance the ultimate in safety, comfort, reliability and gas mileage.
2009 Audi A4
The redesigned A4 strikes a consummate balance for commuters: it’s more fuel-efficient than the four-cylinder Acura TSX (not an easy feat), easier to drive than comparables from the Infiniti and BMW lines, and is generally roomier than all of the above. The daily grind is made more pleasurable with supportive seats and quality materials in the cabin. With a base price of only $30,700, new owners walk away with a capable turbo engine and a list of luxury features, including Quattro all-wheel drive, which its competitors lack. Sport sedan meets economy commuter car with the new A4.
2009 Nissan Versa
Don’t judge this little hatchback (also in a sedan style!) by its sub-$10,000 price. Available in a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine – and a more powerful 1.8-liter engine – it offers passing power that competitors lack. The hatchback’s extra 50-plus cubic feet of cargo volume is enough to hold all your presentation materials, a sturdy briefcase and a gym bag for post-work stress relief. Those who go for the SL trim enjoy options like steering wheel audio controls and hands-free keyless access, giving a feel of a much classier vehicle.
2009 Ford Escape Hybrid
It would be ridiculous to not include a hybrid in our lineup of top cars for commuters. This sporty little SUV is fuel-efficient, stylish and makes the stop-and-go commuting we dread much more enjoyable. The Ford Escape Hybrid can travel along the slow march to the office on electric power alone for long stretches, saving gas; a perfect vehicle for carpools, and large enough to pack up for that road-trip to Big Bear.
2009 Acura TL
One of the most comfortable entry-level sedans on the market, the 2009 Acura TL is smooth and quiet on the road, turns on a dime, and offers a bevy of high-tech gadgets to add luxury to the daily commute.
2009 Honda Civic
When has a Civic not made the list for top commuter vehicles?! For efficiency and reliability, look no further. This is no cheap compact car. It still has the same reliability and construction you’ve come to expect with the Civic’s engine. Drive it to the ground with its phenomenal mileage, or step up to a newer model in a couple of years with this car’s excellent resale value.
Top picks for hard workers
Contractors, construction workers, plumbers, and other on-the-go sorts need transportation that is not only reliable, but also able to double as a staging area for the job. Whether you’re looking for a heavy-duty pickup, a cargo van, or a preppy SUV, these beasts pack a punch in cargo capacity, reliability, and overall durability.
2009 Toyota Tacoma
The Toyota Tacoma clinches the hard-worker best-value ticket this year, with a starting MSRP of only $15,170. It has everything one needs to get the job done: choice of a four-cylinder or stout 4.0-liter V-6, a range of cab and bed configurations, and a competitive maximum payload of 1,570 pounds. The standard package comes with a removable tailgate, bed rails, and a heavy-duty composite bed. Also standard for the 2009 model are a host of previously optional safety features, including an electronic stability system – especially important for a pickup – and side curtain airbags. The Tacoma’s reliability ratings are excellent, giving you bang for your buck for years to come.
2009 Dodge Ram 1500
The redesigned Ram offers plenty of utility for contractors and construction workers alike. The two standard bed rails with cargo tie-downs are typical pickup truck fare, but Dodge’s optional RamBox compartments aren’t. They offer plenty of room to stow tools, and sit atop the rear fenders. The cabin pulls a few moves from Chrysler minivans’ Stow n’ Go playbook, with available storage under the passenger footwells and rear seats. The Ram’s 1,850-pound payload and 9,100-pound towing capacities are average, but the cabin quality, storage space and overall ride make up for it.
2009 Ford E-150
This full-size cargo van is perfect for hard-working tradesmen who don’t have the option to use an open pickup truck bed. The 2009 Ford E-150 got some much-needed upgrades which aided in surpassing the Chevrolet Express’ popularity and ranking, including rear doors that open more than 170-degrees and an optional backup camera. For extra features, opt for the stability system.
2009 GMC Sierra 1500
The Sierra does more than haul equipment, tow a trailer to a job site, and carry hundreds of pounds in a cargo bed. This pickup makes life generally easier for the working stiff. Go farther on a tank of gas with excellent fuel economy, and enjoy a comfortable cabin for the commute home after a long day on the site.
2009 Honda Element
A classy addition to the list is the 2009 Honda Element. This car is an easy co-worker if your job doesn’t involve towing or hauling massive loads to a job site. The cargo area is voluminous and easy to maintain and clean, thanks to a durable, rubbery surface. It handles the narrow, urban streets of downtown with ease due to its smaller, lighter construction. Parallel parking is a charm with its short length and easy handling.
Best bet for the business exec
Whether you take the corner office or plan to in the near future, you want to look the part – even in the parking lot. These luxury cars pack a punch in style, luxury features, driving refinement, and power, most taken from top luxury nameplates.
2009 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
The crème de la crème of luxury sedans, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, is the top choice for the boss. Its elegant design has not (and will not) go out of style – none of its competitors come close to touching its bold fenders and Bentley-esque rear. The S-Class remains at the top of styling and luxury features inside the cab as well. The wood trim is stunning, the leather exquisite. The motor packs a punch with V-8 and V-12 motors, kissing fellow commuters goodbye on the road in a flash.
2009 Hyundai Genesis
The best deal on the market in this series, the Hyundai Genesis sports luxury and style for only $32,250. With the economy threatening everyone’s way of life – including the bosses – this ride still offers luxury for a reasonable price. The gas mileage and power offer nothing short of amazing for the price.
2009 BMW 6 Series
The 6 Series makes amends with BMW’s usual feel – uncompromising seats and characteristic unwelcoming dashboards. This model is all luxury and inviting on all fronts. The cabin is warm, the exterior stylish, and the V-8 sounds as good as it moves. Impress your peers (or your boss) with the iDrive, too.
2009 Infiniti M45
This car rivals the BMW 5 Series in sportiness and luxury, delivering more power for the price ($50,250). Throw in optional all-wheel drive M45x for an even more powerful experience. With above-average reliability, this one is comparable (or better) to what you get with the BMW.
2009 Jaguar XF
There’s no better way to impress your coworkers (or the hot guy in the next building) than to drop them off in Jaguar’s latest leather liner. The interior is to die for – AC vents and automatic transmission dial put on a motorized show every time you start the car; the map lights and glove compartment work with a single touch. You can buy the base model, and still walk away with Jaguar’s stellar V-8 technology.
Weekend athletes and the rugged crowd
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy … so spice up your social life with one of these hot little sporty numbers. Getting to the game or campsite with all your gear requires more than function, but also a vehicle that’s comfortable and flexible.
2009 Scion xB
Probably the best value (a MSRP of only $15,750) for athletes of all walks of life, the xB offers enormous room on the inside for toys, plus an easily-reachable roof rack for extra storage. Mileage is admirable – an estimated 22/28 mpg city/highway. It looks more modern than a lot of others in this category, and is a handy size that’s perfect for hauling gear for your kayaking group, camping supplies or your titanium Litespeed.
2009 Ford Edge
With a large cargo area and plenty of comfort in the cabin, the Edge packs durability and maneuverability. The optional Vista Roof sunroof gives the feeling you are still outside. The Edge is dressy enough to take friends to a football game, but resilient enough to handle overnight trips to Anza-Borrego.
2009 Honda Ridgeline
Honda’s attempt at a pickup truck has been largely dismissed by typical truck buyers; however, the redesigned Ridgeline is a fun and functional alternative for those who own bulkier types of outdoor equipment like kayaks. This truck can tow up to 5,000 pounds, more than enough for ATVs or jet skis. Increase your interior cargo area by putting the seats down, or leave them up and take your friends to the game.
2009 Pontiac Vibe
If you are still avoiding jumping on the SUV wagon, the Vibe is a great option. A handy vehicle that’s the combination of a wagon, sedan, and mini-SUV, the Vibe is a small, easy-to-park package. The cargo area is easy to clean with a plastic cargo area, and lots of room inside. Opt for all-wheel-drive as an added plus, or for better gas mileage and security stick with front-wheel drive.
For the sun-worshipping crowd
Whether taking a road trip, hitting the beach, or golfing, these cars are the best bet to grab a tan while hitting the road. These pics include convertibles and removable-top SUVs, offering plenty of open-air appeal.
2009 Jaguar XK
What could be better than this kitty purring down the freeway with its 300-horsepower V-8, propelling its all-aluminum body to 60 mph in under six seconds? This classy convertible is surprisingly athletic (like its namesake), featuring one of the finest automatic transmissions on the market today – given its relationship to the ground and stealthy shifting capacity. Guaranteed, your boyfriend can’t shift faster than this kitty. Looks great, sounds great, and drives great.
2009 Jeep Wrangler
Go topless with the new Jeep Wrangler – nothing rivals the open-air experience you get with this car on the road and off. The price is right for those on a budget – only $20,460 for this beach-loving, road-tripping car. Take off the doors for a heightened feeling of connection to Mother Earth. It’s no sports car, but it’s attractive enough to grab the attention of that special someone you’ve been eyeing.
2009 BMW 128i
The 128i has a simple elegance, epitomized in its traditional soft-top. The convertible’s 230-hp inline-six-cylinder engine offers plenty of power for top-down cruising. Plus, its svelte dimensions yield a rewarding driving experience. If you’re looking for a classic convertible with a hint of luxury, look no further.
2009 Mini Cooper S
Who didn’t fall in love with Mini Coopers after watching The Italian Job? The convertible version includes a turbocharged S trim that’s fun to drive and cute as a button. Put the top down, and you’ll have no problem getting a date for lunch.
Just plain fun to drive – period.
This is the category for people like us – those who love to drive cars for the pure ecstasy of it! Exotic and expensive, to classy yet affordable, this section has something for everyone.
2009 Volkswagen GTI
With its subtly Teutonic styling, the Volkswagen GTI may not look like a performance car despite its increasing tuner influence. But those inside will have no doubt about its dynamic capabilities and versatile interior. The GTI is available as a two-door or four-door, with a 200-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a choice of six-speed manual transmission or the six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox, or DSG, which allows the driver to shift without doing the clutch work. It comes with an extensive list of standard equipment including well-bolstered seats with blue-tinted glass, xenon high-intensity gas-discharge headlamps, halogen fog lamps, alloy pedals, Sirius satellite radio, and a carpeted and covered cargo area. Drop it down to sport gear and feel this little machine jump off the line. Grip, leap, and go. One word: HOT.
2009 Dodge Challenger
Driving enthusiasts love the power and manual transmission in this quintessentially fun-to-drive car. The addition of the more affordable Hemi V-8 and a nicely executed six-speed manual puts this sexy beast at just over $20,000.
2009 Honda Fit
A smaller price tag can be fun to drive, too. The Fit offers an eager four-cylinder engine, sporty handling, and a standard five-speed manual transmission that’s a joy to shift. The body style is sporty enough to haul your gym gear, yet a cinch to parallel park.
2009 Pontiac G8
This 361-horsepower engine is as sexy as they come – the V-8 GT model is as fuel-efficient as its direct competition. However, with the current economic state, it appears Pontiac released this sporty one at one of the worst times. Still, the G8 is spacious and well-balanced sedan is a pleasure to drive and ride in.
More and more people are turning to fuel-efficient or alternative fuel vehicles with global warming and concerns about dependence on foreign oil becoming more mainstream. “It is becoming the vital interest to consumers, automakers, and the future of our planet to produce vehicles that are compatible with our environment,” said Courtney Caldwell, founder, publisher, and editor-in-chief of Road & Travel Magazine, a 20-year-old online publication. Caldwell says the need to recognize automakers’ efforts in the area of eco-friendly vehicle development has never been greater.
2009 Toyota Prius
Year after year, the Prius tops the charts for reliability, comfort, a modest price, and a generous EPA estimated at 48/45 city/highway. The Prius gets the best mileage of any car on the road today. Above and beyond its frugal fuel use, the Prius is also very affordable for a hybrid – a starting price of $22,000 is plenty sweet for an eco-friendly ride. After the summer spike in gas prices, these little cars are in high demand. Get yours now!
2009 Chevrolet Cobalt
Cheaper than its high-tech hybrid cousin, the XFE Cobalt Coupe is just $15,660. Expect 37 mpg on the highway, though only with the manual transmission. Step up to the 1LT trim and get the basic comforts like power windows and keyless entry. Penny pinchers may not be as interested, however, in these features.
2009 Mercedes-Benz S 400 BlueHYBRID
The combination of a modified V6 petrol engine and a compact hybrid module makes the S 400 BlueHYBRID the world’s most economical luxury saloon with a spark-ignition engine. The NEDC combined fuel consumption is a mere 7.9 liters per 100 kilometers. This makes for the world’s lowest CO2 emissions in this vehicle and performance class.
2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid
The Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is the world’s first fuel-saving hybrid applied to a large luxury SUV Powered by an innovative, fuel-saving 2-Mode Hybrid system, the Escalade Hybrid should deliver more than a 50 percent improvement in fuel economy in city driving – all while delivering the same distinctive style, segment-leading features and full-size capability that have made the Escalade an icon. The 2-Mode Hybrid system provides seamless, dependable power on demand in an efficient package. In fact, its electric motor is less than half the size of those in single-mode hybrid systems.
2009 VW Jetta TDI
The Jetta uses a 2.0-litre four cylinder common rail TDI engine producing 140 PS and 320 Nm (236 lbs ft) of torque at 1,750 rpm. Two key modifications have been made to the Clean Diesel engine to substantially reduce the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. The common rail engine in the Jetta TDI clean diesel adopts optimized combustion chamber geometries and precise injection processes at extremely high pressures reduce the production of NOx. An exhaust gas recirculation process in the combustion chamber then reduces the concentration of oxygen with which the nitrogen can react and controls the combustion temperatures. This process can reduce temperature-dependent NOx emissions by up to 60 percent.