The Southeastern Automotive Media Organization held its annual ride and drive event for automotive journalists in the region this week.
The event, at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga., drew a nice collection of '09 vehicles from several automakers.
We got to drive a lot of them, and others we took a nice peek at.
Here are some of our impressions:
-- The new Nissan Maxima, which bills itself as the "four-door sports car," is an attractive sedan that drives nicely, is roomy and should sell well.
Redesigned for the 09 model year, the Maxima has 18-inch wheels standard, 19-inchers optional, it makes 290 horsepower and comes with paddle shifters for your more spirited driving moments.
--The latest Dodge Ram comes in three configurations: regular cab, quad cab or crew cab. It has a bodacious Hemi V-8 engine, new interior styling and a rear floor storage compartment. But the coolest thing, literally, is the optional Ram box -- a lockable, drainable storage container on the side rear panel above the cargo bed that can be used as a cooler. Must be nice to be able to throw several cans of your favorite beverage in there and head off to the tailgate party.
--The Cadillac Escalade hybrid allows you to drive a humongous SUV without all the guilt. Priced at around $71,000, this vehicle gets EPA ratings of 20 city and 21 highway, which is better than a regular Escalade. And, at that price, it's pretty fully loaded - the only options available are four-wheel drive and power running boards.
--Our absolute favorite vehicle in the entire collection in Pine Mountain, though, was by far the new Volkswagen CC sedan. This thing is the truth -- a 3.6-liter V-6 engine that makes 280 horsepower and 265 pounds-feet of torque, and one of the most beautifully designed sedans on the market. Inside and out, this thing has a ton of style, and we absolutely cannot wait to get our hands on it for an extended period and write a full review on it. It starts at under $27,000, but the model we drove was the fully loaded version that goes for about $43,000.