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2009 Cadillac STS

The 2009 Cadillac STS lineup gets no major changes following its 2008 freshening. STS is available in V6, V8, and high-performance STS-V models. All come with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is available on all but the STS-V. V6 models have a 302-hp 3.6-liter engine. V8 models use a 320-hp 4.6-liter V8. The STS-V uses a supercharged 4.4-liter V8 with 469 hp. STS-V also includes a sport suspension and unique trim. Available safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, front side airbags, and curtain side airbags. A lane departure and blind-spot alert system are offered, as is an active steering system designed to turn the front wheels into a skid when the rears lose traction. Also available are heated and cooled front seats and a touch screen navigation system with voice recognition and a wireless cell phone link. The STS Platinum has specific interior and exterior trim.

BMW M6 2009

2009 BMW M6
Though reviewers praise the M6 for its refined appointments and everyday performance, most find its custom performance and interior feature settings too difficult to operate.

Reviewers find that the BMW M6 coupe is a sporty and luxurious ride that just might be too technologically advanced for its own good. While test drivers are impressed with its ride and handling dynamics, many criticize the M6 for its complicated performance and convenience feature settings — which are highly customizable. Still, auto writers agree that the M6 is an exceptional driver’s car. “If you aren’t scared by the over-$100,000 sticker, and if you’re interested in a high-performance car that won’t set you back by 50 percent more than that, then the M6 might be the vehicle for you,” writes The Auto Channel. “It has a limited audience, but that audience can also consider itself very lucky. Very lucky.

Cadillac Escalade Hybrid 2009

2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid
No secrets here. General Motors promised a Cadillac Escalade Hybrid some time ago, and prototypes with thinly covered “hybrid” badges were spotted in desert testing this past summer. Which means the new gasoline/electric version of every “bad boy’s” favorite SUV should launch in early 2008.

The 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid relates closely to the gas/electric versions of the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon that start sale in late 2007 for the ’08 model year. That means the Slade will come only as a standard-length wagon with the same new Two-Mode hybrid powertrain that delivers surprising big-SUV fuel-economy ratings. The EPA pegs the hybrid Tahoe/Yukon at 21 mpg city and 22 highway with two-wheel drive and 20/20 with 4WD. The Cadillac should earn similar numbers. Those city ratings are impressive, being on par with those for conventional V6 midsize sedans like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. On the other hand, such cars rate at least 10-mpg more in highway driving, where any hybrid is relatively less efficient. Nevertheless, despite GM’s claimed 25-percent fuel-economy gain, these SUVs can tow up to 6000 pounds, so they’re still “real” trucks.

The gas/electric Slade should share most of its cousins’ other enhancements that aim to improve aerodynamics and reduce weight, again to maximize fuel economy and minimize greenhouse-gas emissions. These include a hood and tailgate made of aluminum instead of steel; lighter wheels and seats; and wind-cheating body enhancements such as a smoother front fascia, “aero” side skirts, and a rear air deflector on the roof. In addition, electric motors replace engine-driven pulleys to run the (non-hydraulic) power steering and air-conditioning compressor. Otherwise, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid will have all the bling and in-your-face attitude of any Slade.

Speaking of which, GM’s hybrid SUVs arrive as standard-length wagons because those are the lighest models and thus easiest to engineer for max fuel economy. In time, however, look for the Two-Mode system to be available in big brothers like Cadillac’s Escalade ESV wagon and “transformer” EXT pickup.

A Notable Feature of the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

The Two-Mode hybrid powertrain is the main attraction, of course. It’s the fruit of a $1 billion joint development program among General Motors, BMW and DaimlerChrysler. GM’s partners will soon offer similar systems in their own trucks and SUVs.

The GM setup pairs a special 6.0-liter V8 and four-speed torque-converter automatic transmission–no “gearless” CVT here–with two electric motors and a high-capacity battery pack. As on hybrid cars like the compact Toyota Prius, the engine employs the Atkinson combustion cycle that delays closing the intake valves to boost efficiency and reduce emissions. For those same reasons, the V8 employs variable valve timing and GM’s Active Fuel Management, which deactivates four cylinders at light throttle openings such as steady-speed cruising. Controlling it all is a powertrain computer that also calculates when to crank up the gasoline engine. Again like the Prius and other hybrid cars, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid will run on electric power alone at low speeds–in this case, up to 32 mph. Go faster and the V8 cuts in, with the twin motors assisting where needed. An extra “green” gauge helps the driver extract maximum mpg, as does a Toyota-style “power flow” schematic that can be displayed on a dashboard screen. As usual with hybrids, the GM SUVs include an engine start/stop function, for saving gas at stoplights, and regenerative braking, which uses the electric motors to recharge the battery pack when stopping or coasting.

Buying Advice for the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

GM is first to market with big hybrid-power SUVs, but it won’t be alone for long. As we said, the same system will soon be available from development partners BMW and DaimlerChrysler, both Daimler–as in Mercedes-Benz-and Chrysler. Still, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid and its Chevy/GMC cousins would seem to merit a long, hard look, especially if you’re one of those who want or need such a vehicle, but also want to do your bit to reduce global warming and fossil-fuel dependence. A guilt-free big SUV? This could be it.

2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Release Date: Look for a debut at the November 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show (what better place to trout out a “green” SUV?) or early in 2008, perhaps in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Whenever the formal unveiling occurs, sales should start a few weeks afterward.

First Test Drive: Journalists have already had their first seat time in the hybrid Tahoe and Yukon. Media previews for the Escalade should happen either very late in 2007 or early in ’08.

2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Prices: The Tahoe/Yukon Hybrid hasn’t yet started sale at this writing, but GM expects to price those models at around $50,000, about $11,000 above conventional counterparts in top-line trim. Assuming Cadillac maintains a similar spread, the gas/electric Escalade should start at about $57,000 with two-wheel drive and around $60,000 as a 4×4.

BMW M5 2009

2009 BMW M5
Although the M5 is a luxurious and solid performer, reviewers complain that complex interior controls can make driving it a hassle. Altogether, it ranks near the middle of its class.

The M5 is a sporty five-passenger sedan that is powered by an obscenely powerful V10 engine. “There are a lot of great super sedans on America’s dealer lots these days — and none of them holds a candle to BMW’s,” writes AutoWeek. “Sure, some might post very similar numbers when put through a track test, but no company — not Cadillac, Mercedes or Audi — delivers the fundamental feeling of oneness between driver and automobile that BMW does. If you can ever say ‘full-size, four-door sports car’ with a straight face, now’s the time.” Still, the M5 is not perfect. Auto writers consistently complain that its iDrive feature management system and customizable performance settings are too complex. What’s more, many of its super luxury sports car competitors trump it in style.

For 2008, the BMW M5 adds a new front air dam, as well as two new exterior colors.

* “For those aspiring to a 5 series BMW the 3 liter engine is perfectly adequate for 99% of the people. For the remaining — wealthy — 1% the M5 is something very special, especially on or near the limit. Oh, and preferably before lunch.” — The Auto Channel

* “The high price tag on the 2008 BMW M5 is, in part, accounted for by its legion of standard features including, 7-speed sequential transmission, aluminum alloy 19-inch wheels with high-traction tires, fully adjustable seats, hydraulically enhanced energy-absorbing collision protection, and a tire deflation sensor system.” — Carseek

M5 Performance – 8.8 (Very Good)
Test drivers are impressed with the M5’s performance, but find its technologically advanced custom settings too complex to master. “The BMW M5’s performance and handling characteristics can be tailored to suit a wide range of driving styles and preferences,” writes Forbes. “While in theory such customization is a boon to enthusiasts looking to squeeze as much performance out of the car as possible, the sheer complexity of systems required to achieve this can be daunting.” But, with a top speed of 155 mph and a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of just 4.5 seconds, the M5 still ranks near the top of its class within the category of performance.

M5 Exterior – NA
Despite a freshened design, many auto writers aren’t too enthusiastic about the M5’s exterior. “Ugly, as always, is in the eye of the beholder,” writes BusinessWeek. “A lot of folks, ourselves included, have been non-fans of BMW’s current 5- and 7-Series styling. That said, it’s either growing on us or these updated ’08 5s are improved enough to look much better to our eyes, or both.” Continue with our full M5 Exterior Review or check out the M5 Photo Gallery to see it for yourself.

M5 Interior – NA
Critics find the M5’s five-passenger cabin refined and comfortable, but complain that its complicated iDrive interface detracts from its appeal. According to BusinessWeek, “The overly complex, user-unfriendly and often frustrating iDrive multifunction controller alone requires an evening of manual study to comprehend, after which owners will keep their manuals handy for on-the-fly reference.” Continue with our full M5 Interior Review, or check out the photo gallery.

M5 Safety – NA
The M5 has not yet been crash tested by the federal government or insurance industry, but features a wide array of standard safety features, including front-door-mounted side-impact air bags. “Just as important as the performance features in the new 2008 BMW M5 are its safety features, which are as innovative as they are effective,” notes Carseek. Continue with our full M5 Safety Review.

M5 Reliability – 8.0 (Very Good)
The 2008 BMW M5 reliability score shown is the Predicted Reliability rating provided by J.D. Power and Associates. This score is based on trending the past three years of historical initial quality and dependability data from J.D. Power’s automotive studies, specifically the Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) and the Initial Quality Study (IQS). BMW covers every 2008 M5 with a four-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Aston Martin Vantage 2007

2007 Aston Martin Vantage

With a sticker price above $100,000, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage is nevertheless the storied automaker’s smallest and least-expensive vehicle.

The V8 Vantage is a stylish low-slung two-seat coupe designed to take on the Porsche 911 and other similar near-exotic sports cars, but with a decidedly upper-crust British accent. It debuted at the 2005 Geneva International Motor Show as an all-new 2006 model.

Recent updates to the Aston Martin V8 Vantage include new front seats with lumbar adjustments and electric seat-back releases. Also incorporated in the seats are side-impact airbags and occupant-sensing technology to determine how fast and with how much force the front airbags will deploy, in case of a collision. Heated cushions and memory settings for the power seat adjustments are optional. A remote trunk release, LED illumination in the door handles and full leather trim are now standard; non-standard leather colors may now be ordered, along with the ability to special-order the upholstery to match any color sample.

2007 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Slideshow

Items added to the options list also include a garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror, front stone guards, 19-inch anthracite-painted alloy wheels and Pirelli PZero Corsa performance tires.

The V8 Vantage has a long hood and wide front grille. Its sleek bodywork bears more than a passing resemblance to its larger stablemate, the Aston Martin DB9 Coupe. Constructed from a combination of steel, aluminum and composite panels, the V8 Vantage body shell is draped over a lightweight yet structurally rigid bonded aluminum structure that produces exceptional agility and ride comfort. Its rear hatchback design has a fairly generous luggage shelf located behind the seats, which adds an element of cargo-carrying practicality not typically found among small sporty cars.

The V8 Vantage is powered by a hand-assembled, all-aluminum 4.3-liter V8 engine that generates a strong 380 hp. It includes a dry-sump lubrication system that can keep the engine oil fully circulating throughout even the most extreme high-speed cornering maneuvers. Transmission choices are a close-ratio, slick-shifting, six-speed manual transmission or a new automatic with manual-shift capability.

The V8 Vantage has a nearly ideal 49/51 front-to-rear weight distribution, combined with a double-wishbone suspension and 18-inch wheels and tires. This affords superlative handling with an only moderately harsh ride. Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, dynamic stability and traction control are all standard and assure secure cornering and stopping abilities no matter what the weather or road conditions.

The car’s handsome-but-snug interior features aluminum-finished gauges and trim work. The car comes well-equipped, but a few items you’d expect on a car that costs six figures are optional, such as cruise control and high-intensity headlamps. And while a navigation system is offered, you won’t find most gadgets like an iPod adapter, adaptive headlamps or laser-guided cruise control on the options list.
Is the Aston Martin V8 Vantange for You?

Buy the V8 Vantage if
You value vehicular beauty and pure driving pleasure; you seek a status-minded alternative to Italian and German exotic coupes.

Keep Looking if
Two seats don’t cut it; fuel economy is a concern; you prefer a convertible, in which case you should consider the soft-top version of the V8 Vantage when it goes on sale; you’re not into conspicuous consumption.

Who Fits?
As with most low-slung sports cars, access can be challenging; once inside, it’s cozy and opulent; a reasonably generous storage area behind the seats and a hatchback at the rear make it more practical as a cargo carrier than most small coupes.

Closest Competitors
BMW M6, Ferrari F430, Jaguar XK8, Maserati GranSport, Porsche 911 Carrera