NEWS: New Cars for 2010: The United States of America

By Eric Tingwall - September 22, 2009
0910 06 Z+new Cars+uSA
Never mind loans, partners, reorganizations, dealer purges, or any of the other maneuverings that have consumed the U.S. auto industry for the past twelve months. Only great new cars and trucks can power Detroit out of the ditch. New for 2010 (or thereabouts), the ten cars gathered here are, in our estimation, the best hope to do just that.
The "new" GM has fresh products for each of its four surviving divisions (Hummer, Pontiac, Saab, and Saturn are now more or less out of the picture). Chevrolet, still basking in the attention of the long-awaited Camaro launch, gets a new Equinox this fall, and GMC offers its own version of that SUV, the Terrain. Buick, tasked with tackling Lexus, has the new Lacrosse sedan, and Cadillac receives the redesigned SRX and the CTS Sport Wagon. The challenge for the company will be convincing consumers to believe in these new products despite the poisoned reputation that comes with one of the largest bankruptcies in U.S. history.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
At a time when so many Chrysler products are criticized for their design and their cheap interiors, it's hugely encouraging that the new Grand Cherokee is a stunner, both inside and out. This model's 350,000-units-per-year heyday may be behind it, but being handsome is always a good thing. Now the team just needs to execute.
Lincoln MKT
As the relevance of Lincoln's Navigator fades, the MKT arrives just in time to step in as the brand's high-luxe people mover. But while big-bling SUVs were all about making a style statement, the MKT is more about performing a function - which strikes us as a much more solid basis for success.
Ford Taurus SHO
The new 2010 Taurus makes tremendous strides in bringing what was once Ford's best-selling passenger-car nameplate back from rental-car oblivion. But it's the reappearance of the SHO that really drives home the message of the Taurus's rehabilitation.
Ford Fusion Hybrid
This early 2010 model was one of the first indicators that an American car company could compete, and win, against the Japanese in the critically important arena of fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles - neither of which had previously been a Detroit strongpoint.
0910 06 Z+new Cars+uSA
Ford Mustang
The Mustang continues to represent retro done right. Even in the face of fresh competition from the Dodge Challenger and the Chevrolet Camaro, the Mustang proves that the virtue of lighter weight can (sometimes) overshadow the specter of lower horsepower.
Chevrolet Camaro
The most talked about and hotly anticipated 2010-model new car couldn't have rumbled onto the scene at a worse time, with the economy collapsing and its maker skidding into bankruptcy. But the faithful didn't care, proving that there's a wellspring of goodwill to be tapped by a really cool American car.
Buick LaCrosse
It's not an enthusiast's machine, but neither is the typical Lexus, a marque - and a mark - that Buick is closer than ever to hitting with the LaCrosse, the first truly new mid-size Buick in more than twenty years.
Chevrolet Equinox
Just as last year's new Malibu showed that Chevrolet could finally field a no-excuses sedan, the 2010 Equinox makes an equally strong case in the all-important crossover segment. Fuel economy and interior refinement, in particular, aren't just improved, they're as good as anything in the class.
Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon
Although the Cadillac CTS may finally be able to credibly compete with the segment-leading BMW 3-series, it'll never match the Bimmer's sales numbers by fielding just one body style. Thus the wisdom of the sharp-looking CTS wagon and, next year, the striking CTS coupe.
Cadillac SRX
In the luxury-crossover arena, the big player is the transverse-mounted-V-6, front-wheel-drive Lexus RX. So the new Cadillac SRX hews precisely to that formula, while also cutting its price dramatically. Because sometimes you have to go where the volume is.
First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse
An obligation and an opportunity to redefine the brand.
By Eric Tingwall
0910 01 Z+2010 Buick LaCrosse+rear Three Quarters View
With Saturn and Pontiac off the team, the pressure is on Buick to prove that it belongs in the company of GM's big-volume brands. Buick is GM's best-selling brand in China, but here in the United States, Buick has been the purveyor of your grandmother's car for far too long. The 2010 LaCrosse heralds a new era of fresh cars and, Buick hopes, big sales.
The LaCrosse's sheetmetal certainly telegraphs the fact that this Buick isn't just a new take on the same tired idea. The old LaCrosse's dumpy bulges and quad headlamps have been traded for flowing lines and a more prominent grille. The narrow greenhouse that tapers at the rear suggests an un-Buick-like sporting character.
The top-trim CXS is powered by the sweet 3.6-liter direct-injection V-6 found in the Chevrolet Camaro and the Cadillac CTS. In the Buick, it's been detuned to 280 hp, but power delivery and refinement are still excellent, supporting the LaCrosse's mission to provide subtle luxury. However, stomping on the gas evokes a strong tug at the steering wheel as torque tries to take the reins.
Buick offers all-wheel drive on the LaCrosse, but only with the 3.0-liter V-6. That engine makes up to 255 hp, but in front-wheel-drive form it achieves the same fuel economy as the larger V-6, rated at 17 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. To help meet rising fuel economy standards, later this year Buick will add a 2.4-liter four-cylinder expected to return 30 mpg on the highway.
0910 02 Z+2010 Buick LaCrosse+front Interior
The interior, designed by the General's China unit, is styled with sweeping, intersecting curves in the dash, doors, and center console. GM's new navigation and infotainment unit works well and looks great, but there are an almost overwhelming number of buttons just below the screen. CXS models start at $33,765 and include an extensive amount of equipment, including keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, an eleven-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, a USB port, and a 120-volt power outlet. Our $39,325 test car also had optional rear-seat side air bags, a $350 head-up display, and an oversize sunroof.
European engineers were tapped to tune the suspension and break Buick's reputation for soft, floaty ride quality. The result is exactly what the LaCrosse deserves: a balanced ride that is conservative yet capable of being pushed. Comfort is still a large part of the formula for Buick, and the LaCrosse soaks up bumps and holes without drama. The steering, however, still needs improvement, as it suffers from too-light effort and vague on-center feel.
Buick's LaCrosse is impressive in its styling, equipment, and driving experience. This most recent effort at redefining the brand has proven that GM has the focus and ability to create unique, relevant cars. Now about that Lucerne...
On sale: Now
Base price: $27,835/$33,765 (CX/CXS)
Specs:
3.0L V-6, 252/255 hp, 215/217 lb-ft;
3.6L V-6, 280 hp, 259 lb-ft;
front- or 4-wheel drive
0910 03 Z+2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon+front Three Quarters View
2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon
New: Cadillac's stalwart gets wagonized.
Noteworthy: A mechanical twin of the CTS sedan, the Cadillac wagon adds practicality with a European flair. In both the sedan and the wagon, a 3.0-liter direct-injection V-6 now stands as the base engine, in place of the previous 3.6-liter port-injection unit. Cadillac won't offer a manual transmission with the wagon, providing only a six-speed automatic. A power liftgate is available and opens to a 25.0-cubic-foot cargo area (compared with 13.6 cubic feet in the sedan). Drop the rear seats, and that volume more than doubles to 53.4 cubic feet.
On sale: Now
Base price: $40,000 (est.)
Specs:
3.0L V-6, 270 hp, 223 lb-ft;
3.6L V-6, 304 hp, 273 lb-ft;
Rear- or 4-wheel drive
0910 04 Z+2010 Cadillac SRX+side View
2010 Cadillac SRX
New: Everything but the name.
Noteworthy: For 2010, Cadillac has removed the SRX's third-row seats, dumped the V-8 engine, and shifted drive duty from the rear to the front wheels. The old SRX had a tall-wagon feel, but this version is true to the crossover ethos in shape and packaging. It's also a more natural competitor to offerings from Audi, BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz. A turbocharged V-6 commonly found in Saabs will arrive mid model year to cover the loss of V-8 power in the SRX. Variable-effort power steering, continuously adjusting dampers, and all-wheel drive with an electronic limited-slip rear differential are available. The cabin styling draws heavily from the CTS and offers ambient lighting, a huge sunroof, and a display in the gauge cluster capable of showing turn-by-turn directions or even the speed limit of the road on which you're traveling.
On sale: Now
Base price: $34,155
Specs:
3.0L V-6, 265 hp, 223 lb-ft;
2.8L turbo V-6, 300 hp, 295 lb-ft;
Front- or 4-wheel drive
0910 05 Z+2010 Chevrolet Equinox+front Three Quarters View
2010 Chevrolet Equinox
New: A brand-new look and a four-cylinder at last.
Noteworthy: Chevrolet's compact crossover finally has a fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine, a necessity that was noticeably absent from the last generation. Thanks to direct injection and a six-speed automatic transmission, the engine returns a solid 22 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. Buyers seeking better acceleration can opt for the direct-injection V-6. The high-quality interior offers style far beyond its Asian competitors. There's an expansive list of options to fill the Equinox with requisite technology, including navigation, Bluetooth, a power liftgate, and a dual-screen rear entertainment system. The rear seats slide almost eight inches for juggling cargo and passenger space.
On sale: Now
Base price: $23,185
Specs:
2.4L I-4, 182 hp, 172 lb-ft;
3.0L V-6, 264 hp, 222 lb-ft;
Front- or 4-wheel drive
0904 01 Z+2010 GMC Terrain+front Three Quarters View
2010 GMC Terrain
New: With Pontiac and its Torrent gone for good, GMC receives the rebadged Equinox.
On sale: Now
Base price: $24,995
Specs:
2.4L I-4, 182 hp, 172 lb-ft;
3.0L V-6, 264 hp, 222 lb-ft;
front- or 4-wheel drive
0910 01 Z+2010 Lincoln MKT+front Three Quarters View
Although Deft Financial footwork allowed Ford to weather the economic crisis, it still comes down to products. Fortunately, the recently launched Fusion is performing well in the marketplace. This year, Ford's fate rides heavily on the revitalized Taurus - but notice there's no Mercury Sable. Lincoln hopes to pick up defecting Navigator customers with the new MKT crossover. Add to that the EcoBoost-powered MKS flagship sedan and face-lifted MKZ, and Lincoln has its most coherent lineup.
First Drive: 2010 Lincoln MKT
All the brains, if not the beauty, needed to revive Lincoln.
By David Zenlea
Ford's premium brand strategy has long been best described as Anything But Lincoln. For years, Ford poured money into Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, Aston Martin, and even Merkur (remember Merkur?), while treating Lincoln to hasty rebadges and the occasional Town Car update. But now, all those brands are dead, sold, or on the chopping block. If Ford wants to continue competing for luxury buyers, it will need to do so with its long-neglected domestic marque. Which brings us to the MKT crossover, the most credible Lincoln in recent memory.
Built on the same platform as the Ford Flex, the MKT is far better differentiated from its progenitor than Lincoln's other offerings, including the Edge-based MKX. The all-original sheetmetal trades the Flex's hipster clothes for the boldest interpretation yet of the design themes that Lincoln introduced on the 2007 MKR concept. It's not exactly pretty, and some people might be put off by the enormous, split-wing front grille. But much like Cadillac's polarizing "Art and Science" vehicles, the MKT convincingly reinterprets classic Lincoln cues into a modern look that might actually garner attention.
The MKT interior is a bit more conventional, but a stitched dash, real walnut trim, and a panoramic sunroof create a suitably expensive feel. Small gaffes that keep it out of Audi territory include somewhat flimsy door pulls and cheap-feeling radio and HVAC controls, the latter of which seem sourced from the same parts bin that serves the Focus.
0910 02 Z+2010 Lincoln MKT+interior
Technology has been a Ford specialty of late, and the MKT is no exception. Its neatest party trick is its ability to parallel park itself. Just work the throttle, and the system does the rest, whirling the steering wheel around and telling you when to brake and change directions. Unlike the Lexus system, this one actually does its job.
The MKT's technological centerpiece, though, is its EcoBoost engine, which also appears in the MKS for 2010. The direct-injected, twin-turbo V-6 lives up to its considerable hype, moving the 4924-pound all-wheel-drive vehicle with a level of authority you won't find in a Buick Enclave and even outmuscling the V-8-powered Audi Q7. At the same time, it returns an EPA-estimated 18 mpg combined, matching the Enclave and beating the Acura MDX. Otherwise, the Lincoln is hardly sporty, as it's tuned for a slightly softer ride than the already compliant Flex. Nevertheless, it's composed, quiet, and comfortable, benefiting from light, accurate steering that makes it easy to maneuver despite its bulk.
With a base price of $44,995 for a front-wheel-drive, 3.7-liter V-6 model and nearly $50,000 for EcoBoost and four-wheel drive, the MKT hardly undercuts import rivals and commands a near $10,000 premium over a similarly equipped Flex. Whether Lincoln will be able to compete at this level remains to be seen, but we're glad that it's finally trying.
ON SALE: Now
BASE PRICE: $44,995/$49,995 (3.7/EcoBoost)
SPECS:
3.7L V-6, 268 hp, 267 lb-ft;
3.5L twin-turbo V-6, 355 hp, 350 lb-ft;
front- or 4-wheel
0910 03 Z+2010 Ford Taurus+side View
2010 Ford Taurus
Cruising back to relevance.
It's hard to believe, but it wasn't long ago that the Ford Taurus was the best-selling car in America. After a series of bold-but misguided-moves, it morphed into the Five Hundred, an anodyne machine that failed to resonate with the public.
For 2010, a major update was in order. The new Taurus is built on the same basic architecture that underpinned the Five Hundred, but its lower roof and higher beltline reduce the car's visual height, and its front end is eye-catching and modern. The platform itself is getting on in years-it originally stems from the Volvo S80-but numerous updates, including a new rear suspension, hide the age spots.
The Taurus comes in three trim levels, all of which are powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 that spins the front wheels through a six-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is optional on the two top models, which come standard with shift paddles on the steer-ing wheel-certainly not something you would have seen in the Five Hundred.
Also rolling into showrooms is the Taurus SHO. With a 365-hp, direct-injected, twin-turbo V-6, the all-wheel-drive SHO hits 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and does the quarter mile in 14.2 seconds at 101 mph. Despite those numbers, neither the SHO nor the standard Taurus will worry the performance-sedan establishment-the supersize Ford is more of a cruiser than an athlete. But it's a big improvement over its predecessor and a bold move in the right direction.
ON SALE: Now
PRICE: $25,995/$37,995 (SE/SHO)
SPECS:
3.5L V-6, 263 hp,
249 lb-ft; 3.5L twin-turbo V-6, 365 hp,
350 lb-ft; front or 4-wheel drive
0910 04 Z+2010 Ford Transit Connect+front Three Quarters View
2010 Ford Transit Connect
NEW: A compact van that promises to wake the sleepy van market.
NOTEWORTHY: The front-wheel-drive European (actually, Turkish) import is some three feet shorter than traditional vans but still offers 135 cubic feet of cargo space and a 1600-pound payload. The Transit Connect is offered in two fairly basic trim levels-a two-seat cargo van and a four- or five-seat wagon; the latter's rear bench tumbles forward but isn't readily removable. Windows in the sliding side doors and swing-out rear doors are optional. The 136-hp four with a four-speed automatic prizes economy (22/25 mpg), not performance. Options include Crew Chief (it tracks the van's location, speed, fuel consumption, and maintenance needs) and Tool Link (antennae inside the van scan for RFID tags you put on your tools, so you know what's in the van). There's even an in-dash computer ($1395), which can surf the Web and has GPS and hands-free phone integration. Ford is targeting small-business owners, but the Transit Connect seems so useful, it could find a wider audience.
ON SALE: Now
PRICE: $21,475/$21,830 (cargo van/wagon)
SPECS:
2.0L I-4, 136 hp, 128 lb-ft;
front-wheel drive
0903 14 Z+2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid+front Three Quarter View
2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid
NEW: Ford adds some green to its mid-size-sedan lineup with a hybrid Fusion.
NOTEWORTHY: The Fusion Hybrid comes with a reconfigurable dual LCD SmartGauge cluster with Ecoguide. Keep an eye on it and you might beat the Fusion Hybrid's 41 mpg city, 36 mpg highway EPA ratings. Cloth upholstery made from 85 percent post-industrial materials helps round out the green theme.
ON SALE: Now
BASE PRICE: $27,995
SPECS:
2.5L I-4/electric hybrid, 191 hp (combined), 136 lb-ft;
front-wheel drive
0910 06 Z+2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee+side View
The arranged Italian/American marriage of Chrysler and Fiat is just getting underway, so don't look for a Fiat 500 at your Dodge dealership in the immediate future. In fact, don't look for anything new this fall aside from heavy-duty variants of the Dodge Ram. A much-neede replacement for the Jeep Grand Cherokee is on its way, but it won't arrive until well into 2010.
2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee
NEW: Pretty much everything, except the name and the Hemi.
NOTEWORTHY: It goes without saying that Chrysler's first (and only) major product launch following its bankruptcy needs to be a successful one. At least the early-2011-model Jeep Grand Cherokee has a fighting chance, thanks to its large helping of Mercedes-Benz ML-class componentry.
0910 05 Z+2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee+interior View
Designers massaged the Grand Cherokee's angular styling into a curvaceous yet instantly recognizable Jeep that is slightly wider and longer than the current SUV, but it's under the skin where this model differs most from its predecessor. The 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 is still optional across the model line, but base models receive the new corporate Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 that delivers more horsepower (280 versus 210) and minor improvements in fuel economy. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and selectable four-wheel drive, of course, remains an option.
Impressive features include the optional five-mode Quadra-Lift air suspension, adaptive cruise control, and extensive crash-avoidance equipment. We'll have a better idea of how they all work, combined with the highly anticipated multilink independent rear suspension, once we get behind the wheel prior to its May rollout.
ON SALE: May

BASE PRICE: $33,000 (est.)
SPECS:
3.6L V-6, 280 hp, 260 lb-ft;
5.7L V-8, 360 hp, 390 lb-ft;
rear- or 4-wheel drive

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