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Saturday, November 22, 2008

2009 Jetta TDI named Green Car of the Year

2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Named 2009 Green Car Of The Year

Though it faced some stiff competition, the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI was named as Green Car' Journal's 2009 Green Car of the Year.

Hybrids have dominated this honor for the last several years, making this award a sort of vindication for the car's designers and proponents of clean diesel technology. "With its affordable price point, refined ride and handling, and high fuel economy, the Jetta TDI shows that hybrids now have a strong competitor in the marketplace," said Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal.

"It is a tremendous honor to have our Jetta TDI awarded Green Car of the Year," said Stefan Jacoby, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America. "We believe our Jetta TDI's truly offer a no compromise alternative fuel driving experience that provides our customer the best of both worlds-excellent fuel efficiency combined with a dynamic driving experience."

That combination seems to have found an audience, as Volkswagen's sold more than 8000 units since its mid-August introduction. While it produces 140 hp and a substantial 236 lb-ft of torque, it's also rated by the EPA at 30/41 mpg city/highway.

Top 5 for Mulholland Dr

In the hills above the L.A. basin, the art of canyon carving is regularly practiced with the finest cars the world has to offer. At the Los Angeles Auto Show, the wraps have come off a slew of new models that are perfect candidates for an afternoon spin on the roads leading down from Mulholland Drive.

2009 Nissan 370Z
Combining styling cues from both the mighty GT- and the iconic 240Z, the all-new 2009 Nissan 370Z has the right stuff to take on any challenges a mountainous stretch of tarmac has to offer. In addition to having a larger 3.7-liter V-6 that pumps out 337 horsepower, the newest Z is also tidier, shedding nearly 4 in. from its wheelbase. This tauter yet wider package promises thrills galore.

2010 Ford Mustang
One of the preeminent American icons is the Ford Mustang, which benefits from its first major facelift since introducing its retro styling theme in 2005. Although the 2010 Ford Mustang car looks smaller thanks to its recontoured front and rear corners, it shares the same overall dimensions as the previous model. In addition to the new fenders and more muscular rear haunches, the Mustang also sports a new interior that gives the cabin a more spacious feel. In GT trim, the Mustang attacks the twisties with a 315-bhp 4.6-liter V-8.

2009 Porsche Boxster S
A favorite of ours for any winding road is the 2009 Porsche Boxster S. This German roadster combines good looks and fantastic power from its mid-mounted flat-6, which now has direct injection. The S also benefits from Porsche's new dual-clutch transmission known as PDK. This system dispenses with the traditional clutch pedal and allows you to seamlessly shift through 7 gears via sequential paddle shifters. With revised front and rear bumpers, the Boxster S is a great release whether commuting home from a tough day on the job or taking a weekend jaunt.

2009 Mercedes-Benz SL 65 AMG Black Series
While the SL is a wonderful open-top 2-seater, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SL 65 AMG Black Series is primed fro some more serious road work. It dispenses with the retractable hardtop in favor of a fixed roof to reduce weight. Power from the 6.0-liter twin-turbo V-12 has been jacked up to an astounding 661 bhp, which is put down to the rear wheels via a strengthened 5-speed automatic gearbox with sequential shifting. This limited-production road eater can hit 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 3.8 seconds, and has an electronically limited top speed of 200 mph.

2009 Ferrari California
We can't think of a better way to experience California canyon roads than from the seat of a 2009 Ferrari California, the first front-engine V-8 production car in the Italian automaker's history. Add to the mix a power retractable hardtop, direct gasoline injection and a 7-speed dual clutch transmission and every day will seem like a Roman holiday behind the wheel of this 453-bhp beauty.

Porsche Panamera Revealed Finally!

2010 Porsche Panamera Turbo Side View

For Porsche, the 911 has been both a blessing, and a curse. A blessing in that it has seems to have transcended the usual automotive evolutionary process; a curse in that the car still, in many ways, defines the entire company. Porsche has attempted to break the mold numerous times over the past three decades -- remember the 928, and the 924/944/968? But until the Boxster -- a clever product development by former R&D chief Horst Marchart that delivered two cars (the 996 edition 911 and the Boxster) -- Porsche remained in the thrall of the 911.

Today, Porsche still fields a line-up of cars that is 75% rear-engined. Which makes the new Panamera -- a front engined, four door sports Porsche -- a bold move, despite the success of the Cayenne SUV. When it hits the market next year, the Panamera will be fighting a two-front battle against the Aston Martin Rapide from the north and more than likely Lamborghini Estoque from the south in a few years' time (though Lambo boss Stefan Winkelmann insists the car has yet to be given the green light). The four door sports car category is brand new, but already the field is getting crowded.

You need to understand two important things about the Panamera's development. First, Porsche boss Wendelin Wiedeking, who's 6ft 2 in., insisted he had to be able to sit comfortably in the back seat. Second, it had to look like a Porsche. Those two facts drove the entire program -- and are the reason why the Panamera looks slightly awkward in profile.

The top-end Panamera-variants will do battle with upper crust four-door coupes like the Aston Martin Rapide

At 195.7 in., the Panamera is longer than a Cayenne by 6.9 inches and almost the exact same width at 76 inches to the Cayenne's 75.9. It's no SUV though, standing only 55.8 inches tall. Porsche hasn't released the Panamera's weight, but despite its dimensions, insiders insist extensive use of materials such as aluminum and magnesium mean the car will be among the lightest large four doors in the business.

Performance will be impressive, thanks to a line up of direct injection engines derived from those used in the Cayenne SUV. Base engine will be a 300hp, 3.6-liter V-6. The volume selling version in the U.S. is expected to be the 400hp, 4.8-liter naturally aspirated V-8. Power junkies will be lining up for the V-8 Turbo, which will boast 500hp. Despite their outputs and performance, all the Panameras will be significantly more fuel efficient than similarly powered S-Class Mercedes or BMW 7 series sedans, insiders claim.

2010 Porsche Panamera Turbo Side View

First Look: 2010 Porsche Panamera

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A Hybrid V-6 Panamera will also be available, offering at least a 25 percent improvement in fuel economy over the base car, say Porsche sources. The system uses a donut-shaped 34-kilowatt electric motor sandwiched between the engine and the six-speed Tiptronic transmission. A clutch, operated automatically, allows the engine to stop while the electric motor operates.

Most Panameras will be rear-drive, utilizing either a six-speed manual transmission or Porsche's seven-speed PDK dual-autoclutch gearbox. However, the naturally aspirated V-8 will be available with all-wheel drive, which will be standard on the big horsepower Turbo.

Likely to be much more controversial than the relocation of the engine will be the Panamera's exterior styling. From any angle, the Panamera is unmistakably a Porsche, despite the two extra doors. The side profile is unquestionably the least flattering. Walk around the car, however, and Michael Mauer's design team has cleverly hidden the length and height of the roof. Broad shoulders at the rear of the car help tighten the overall stance. The 911-esque tail hides a hatchback for access to the rear load space.

It all makes sense when you slide into the rear seat. Though strictly a four seater -- Porsche designers deliberately dropped the H-point of the occupants as low as possible to help handling, making it impossible to seat anyone over the high transmission hump that runs down the center of the cabin -- the Panamera is astonishingly roomy in the rear. Dr Wiedeking will be able to ride in comfort.

The Panamera will be assembled in a brand-new 237,000 sq-ft wing of Porsche's Leipzig plant, which is currently under construction. Engines will come from Porsche's Zuffenhausen plant, while painted body shells will be shipped in from Volkswagen's Hanover plant. In all, some 70% of the Panamera's components will be sourced from German suppliers.

Porsche will most likely reveal the Panamera to the world at the 2009 Geneva Motor show in early March, and it should go on sale in Europe shortly afterward. The cars are expected to hit U.S. dealerships sometime in the fall of 2009. Porsche hopes to sell about 20,000 of the cars per year.

-Scott Evans contributed

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