Just like you, we always want to know what’s coming next from Detroit, Tokyo, Stuttgart, Munich, Los Angeles, and all the other places where automotive engineers and designers dream and scheme on our behalf. Car companies, of course, are loath to share information on new products lest their competitors try to copy them–or you decide not to buy the cars they already have on dealer lots. Car companies, though, are simply groups of people, and some of them have a hard time keeping secrets. So, we poke, we prod, we cajole, and we uncover information that becomes the basis for our annual Sneak Preview issue. As always, some of our information is educated guesswork based on hints, insinuations, hunches. Make no mistake, though, these cars are on their way, even though details may change. Ladies and gentlemen: our list of 136 cars coming over the next few years…
2011 Chevrolet Cruze
Cavalier, Cobalt, Cruze. “C” a pattern here?
The Chevrolet Cobalt was a major leap forward from the Cavalier, but it still hasn’t quite caught up with segment leaders like the Mazda 3 and the Honda Civic. GM’s next salvo, and another new name, is coming in about a year with the Cruze.
Like most GM future products, the Cruze has undergone a global development process. Suspension work was done in Europe, and much of the interior and exterior design took place in Asia. The result, GM says, is a world car that will be sold all over the globe with minimal variations. Buick will also get a version.
Compared with the Cobalt, the Cruze promises more refinement, more interior space, and-most important for this segment-better fuel economy. The last benefit is due mainly to a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Further powertrain enhancements include six-speed automatic and manual transmissions. Handling and ride are also much improved, GM says, thanks in part to rear suspension technology borrowed from the Opel Astra.
CHEAP CHIC: A Corvette-inspired twin-cockpit motif and higher-quality materials liven up the cabin. A swooping roofline allows Chevrolet to call the Cruze a four-door coupe (but we won’t). There’s no word yet on replacements for the two-door or the SS models, but we’re not holding our breath.
2012 Chevrolet Camaro convertible
The dark clouds currently over the auto industry, and GM in particular, have delayed the arrival of the sun-seeking Camaro, but we’re assured the convertible is still in the pipeline. Just don’t expect it before 2011.
THERE MAY BE MORE: A planned turbocharged four-cylinder model and a Ford Mustang GT500-slaying Z28 are now in jeopardy. Low gas prices (and the V-6 engine’s better-than-expected EPA ratings) may kill the former, while cost-cutting mania and the wretched economy could do in the latter. Both models are currently on hold.
2011 Chevrolet Spark
The Spark, introduced at Geneva in March, closely adheres to the styling of the 2007 Beat concept. As with the Chevy Aveo, which will also be updated for 2011, most of the Spark’s development was done in Korea, where it also will be built. GM’s European engineers are in charge of suspension tuning, though, which portends well for the car’s handling. Power will likely come from a 1.2-liter four-cylinder, which should deliver at least 40 mpg on the highway.
The Equinox has been languishing on the market due to its second-rate interior and ancient engines. But the Equinox’s wallflower phase will end this summer, when a vastly improved-and less expensive-cute-ute hits the dance floor.
Open the door, and it’s like going from American Bandstand to Dancing with the Stars-gone are the old model’s cheap, hard plastics, replaced with an upscale, Acura-like center stack and elegant blue interior lighting. The Chevy’s corporate sister, the Pontiac Torrent, gets the ax, but a new twin emerges in the form of the GMC Terrain.
PUSHROD PUSHED OUT: The old pushrod 3.4-liter V-6 is scrapped. In its place is a direct-injection 182-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes similar power but uses 25 percent less fuel on the highway. How does 30 mpg sound? An optional 255-hp, 3.0-liter V-6, also direct injected, achieves an estimated 18/25 mpg.