Audi TTS
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Detroit 2008: Production car debuts

2008 North American International Auto Show: Production Cars

By John Clor
Special to the Los Angeles Times

When a model debut is deemed a “production” car, this means the vehicle will be manufactured and sold in the U.S. within the next year or two. You can look for most of these cars and trucks on the street between March and September of this year, though many will be badged as 2009 models.

2009 Audi TTS

A decade after Audi’s chunky little sportster first caught the eye of U.S. buyers, the redesigned-for-'08 Audi TT model line gets a premium sport derivative called the TTS. In case the 2+2 coupe or roadster’s available 250-horsepower six-cylinder isn’t quite sporty enough, the TTS delivers an estimated 265-plus horses from its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.

The TTS sports a six-speed semiautomatic transmission, Audi’s own Quattro AWD system, special magnetic ride suspension, beefy brakes and uprated 18-inch wheels and tires. Along with a new LED headlight design and premium leather interior comes a premium price likely in the vicinity of $50,000. Look for the 2009 TTS to reach U.S. showrooms in late November. (Fabrizio Costantini / Bloomberg News)
2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK

In an attempt to satisfy the all-too-fickle sporty two-seater market, Mercedes-Benz has restyled the SLK to pump up its muscular side. But the freshened SLK’s sportier beauty is more than skin deep, as both V-6 versions have been revamped for better performance.

The 228-horsepower V-6 in the SLK 300 boasts improved fuel economy and emissions, while the SLK 350 gets 32 more horses -- now an even 300. Of course, there’s always the 355-hp SLK 55 AMG model for enthusiasts. Among other refinements are quicker steering and Bluetooth capability, but the new SLK due in April still sets itself apart with its vario-roof, which turns it from roadster to coupe -- and vice versa -- in mere seconds. (Fabrizio Costantini / Bloomberg News)
2009 Subaru Forester

An all-new Forester trades in its squarish wagon look to become an unmistakable SUV -- albeit larger, longer and with a roomier interior and more ground clearance to boot. Subaru hopes that the redesign serves to give its U.S. sales a boost.

To handle the rise in size, more horsepower is on tap from the Forester’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and buyers can even opt for a sporty turbocharged XT model. It’s due in dealers this spring, still priced in the mid- to upper $20,000s. (Geoff Robins / AFP / Getty Images)
2009 Hyundai Genesis

A premium, rear-drive luxury sedan from Hyundai? Yes, Hyundai. With three powertrains (including a 368-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8), a six-speed automatic transmission and no fewer than eight air bags, a long features list and stylish sheet metal help the Genesis look the part.

Hyundai reps say the Genesis is crafted to rival a $60,000 sports sedan yet with a starting price of less than $30,000. Available with snob-appeal-type amenities -- including satellite radio, premium sound, navigation and rear-view camera -- this Hyundai arrives in summer priced like a domestic but aimed squarely at the high-end imports. (Stan Honda / AFP / Getty Images)
2009 Kia Borrego

If you recall the Kia Mesa concept from 2005, then the world debut of the 2009 Borrego seven-passenger SUV would be deja vu for you. But launching a big sport utility in a sagging market is something new for Kia, which hopes to sell anywhere from 12,000 to 25,000 in its first year.

To that end, Kia is offering its first-ever V-8 in the Borrego, which will give this ute a 7,500-pound towing capacity. The South Korean automaker has teamed with the NBA to help market the new truck -- but even that won’t guarantee that the Borrego will be a slam dunk. (Jonathan Lurie / Bloomberg News)
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart

Designed to fill the midrange Lancer model slot between Mitsubishi’s standard GTS and Evo performance flagship, the latest Ralliart version now provides a needed step up in power, handling and looks from the base car.

A mix of show and go, the all-wheel-drive Ralliart borrows the Evolution’s hood and adds some hot rims, a rear spoiler and twin exhausts. Its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is also lifted from the Evo, but it is detuned by 56 horsepower to make 235, or 65 more than the GTS. Mitsubishi is hoping that this middle child is well adjusted to succeed. (WPD / Wieck)
2009 Cadillac CTS-V

General Motors’ show theme went from green to mean with the introduction of Cadillac’s super-high-performance rear-drive sedan, the CTS-V. Its supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 churns out a supercar-like 550 horsepower through either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.

The V-Series treatment adds the best goodies from the GM parts bin, including suspension upgrades, huge brakes, 19-inch wheels plus traction and magnetic ride control. With added styling and interior features, the CTS-V will give the world’s greatest premium sedans a run for their money. Speaking of money, prices will be announced closer to the car’s arrival in late 2008. (Associated Press)
2008 Maserati Quattroporte Collezione Cento

Claiming to be the only high-end manufacturer to be up in the segment, Maserati revealed its secret weapon to keep interest high in its successful 400-horsepower Quattroporte Automatic sports sedan: a limited run of 100 Collezione models to help jump-start 2008 sales.

The one-off build will feature unique ivory-colored exterior paint with a quilted dark-tan leather interior, and add a variety of special features. Factory verification of this limited edition will come in the form of a numbered plate on the dashboard. (Bryan Mitchell / Getty Images)
2008 Mini Cooper Clubman

The streched version of the Mini Cooper first seen at the Frankfurt show in Germany is now coming to the States. As in Europe, the roomier five-door known as the Clubman will be available in both the base Cooper and in the sporty Cooper S model.

Both the Mini Cooper Clubman and Mini Cooper S Clubman versions go on sale Feb. 16. Base prices start at $20,600, and the S Clubman model starts at $24,100. (Jerry Mendoza / Associated Press)
2009 Toyota Venza

With the growing popularity of stylish five-passenger crossover vehicles like Ford’s Edge, you knew it wouldn’t be long before Toyota joined the fray, which it did in a big way with its all-new 2009 Venza. Powered either by a thrifty four-cylinder or a 268-horsepower V-6 engine, every Venza comes equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission. And, yes, all-wheel drive is available.

The Venza -- not as big or boxy as the Highlander, and intended for those who like the driving feel and fuel economy of a sedan but need the functional ability of an SUV -- arrives in late 2008. Pricing has not been announced. Look for a hybrid version to follow in 2009. (AFP / Getty Images)
2009 Fisker Karma

Fisker Automotive, the Lake Forest-based concern established by former Aston Martin design chief Henrik Fisker, unveiled a production version of its sporty plug-in hybrid called Karma. In pure electric mode it can run off its lithium-ion battery pack for 50 miles, or it can use its four-cylinder gasoline engine to power a generator and propel from zero to 60 mph in less than six seconds.

The premium hybrid sports sedan will begin North American production in late 2008 and carry a price tag of about $80,000. (AFP / Getty Images)
2009 Saturn Vue Green Line 2-Mode

Saturn’s Vue compact SUV becomes the first front-drive sport utility to be equipped with General Motors’ new 2-Mode hybrid technology, which can offer a range of more than 500 miles, plus a 50% fuel economy improvement over gasoline-only versions, and yet tow up to 3,500 pounds.

Equipped with a direct-injection 3.6-liter V-6, the 2-Mode uses just the battery for low speeds and light loads, and switches to engine power at highway speeds for maximum economy. Saturn plans to begin producing the Vue Green Line 2-Mode late in 2008. (Fabrizio Costantini / Bloomberg News)
2009 Mazda RX-8

After five years on the market, Mazda’s rotary-powered RX-8 sports car gets a makeover, including freshened looks as well as improved rigidity, handling, acceleration and features, plus a new sport option.

Although there are no tweaks for the 1.3-liter Renesis rotary engine, enthusiasts can now choose a racy R3 package, which includes uprated shocks, a rear spoiler, fog lamps, 19-inch rims and Recaro front seats. (Carlos Osorio / Associated Press)
2009 Ford F-150

After 31 straight years of being the bestselling truck in America, it’s no stretch to say that as the F-150 goes, so goes Ford. That’s why what was supposed to be just an F-150 freshening for the ’09 model year turned into a major revamping, especially in the wake of new full-size pickups from General Motors, Toyota and now Dodge.

So the F-150 gets a new Super Duty look and six-speed transmission, plus improvements from the chassis to the interior. There’s lots of distinctive features such as integrated box-side and tailgate steps, and even a new Platinum model. These F-150s will be in showrooms by fall, but buyers will have to wait until 2010 for Ford’s new fuel-saving EcoBoost engine technology to arrive. (Geoff Robins / AFP/ Getty Images)
2009 Dodge Ram

Dodge took a bullish truck market by the horns and redesigned its Ram pickup for ’09 with beefier styling, an upgraded interior, smooth-riding coil-spring rear suspensions and other improvements -- including nifty lockable storage integrated into the upper bed walls above the rear wheels.

Dodge says it did its homework in giving the Ram the kind of features, comfort and quality that buyers demand. So to drive the point home, 103 live, snorting Oklahoma longhorns were rounded up on the street in front of Detroit’s Cobo Hall for the debut. Sales numbers will tell whether buyers roped in a good deal or got a bum steer. (Chrysler)
2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

For performance fans, it doesn’t get any better than the 2009 Corvette ZR1, which added plenty of Chevy power to the “GM Style” event that opened the Detroit show. With 620 horses from a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 visible through a glass-covered opening in the hood, the ZR1 has little to hide.

As with any true supercar it’s got all the right stuff: six-speed manual transmission; lightweight, Z06-based aluminum chassis; huge ceramic disc brakes at the corners; carbon-fiber front splitter -- and a zero-to-60 time of 3.7 seconds en route to a 200-mph top speed. Look for only a hundred or two to be built -- and pray for a sticker price somewhere around $100,000. (Rob Widdis/ EPA)
2009 Honda Pilot

Honda introduced its roomier and safer second-generation Pilot mid-size SUV that’s also more powerful, thanks to a new V-6 with variable cylinder management control. The redesign allows for a larger interior than the 2008 model, making more room for second- and third-row passengers. Both rows of seats fold flat to maximize cargo-carrying capability.

The ’09 version, due to reach dealerships in the spring, is the first to feature Honda’s advanced compatibility engineering safety system, or ACE, which works to minimize damage during a collision. (Bill Pugliano / Getty Images)
2009 BMW X6

What do you get when you take a premium SUV and reshape it with sporty coupe-like sheet metal and a steeply sloping roof? If you’re BMW, you get the X6 -- a four-seat so-called sports activity coupe based on the X5 that goes on sale in the U.S. at the end of May. Power comes from BMW’s new 4.4-liter, twin-turbo V-8, good for 400 horses, or a 3.0-liter diesel that makes 300.

No matter what you call it, the X6 will be built in BMW’s SUV plant in South Carolina. The company also unveiled an X6 concept powered by the 2-Mode hybrid that it co-developed with General Motors and Chrysler. Although the X6 hybrid is scheduled to go on sale in 2009, company reps were uncertain whether it would appeal to customers in Europe, where diesels remain the most cost-effective option. (Jerry Mendoza / Associated Press)
2009 Volkswagen Passat CC

In a bid to add some upmarket appeal to its lineup, Volkswagen unveiled the Passat CC, a premium sedan with coupe-inspired styling and a luxury interior. An array of amenities and high-tech electronics will be offered, including adjustable suspension and VW’s version of electronic parking assist.

Power will be in the 300-horsepower neighborhood, coming from a 3.6-liter V-6 with a choice of manual or automatic transmission. When the CC goes on sale in the United States in September, pricing is expected to begin in the altogether reasonable mid-$20,000s. (Rob Widdis / EPA)