Friday, December 26, 2008

Hyundai announces pricing for Elantra Touring

Hyundai has announced prices for its Elantra Touring five-door compact, starting at $18,495 for a very well-equipped entry-level model and $19,995 for one featuring a Premium-Sport package.

The all-new 2009 Elantra Touring is a sportier, more functional variant of Hyundai’s popular Elantra sedan, and will be available at dealerships in the first quarter of 2009.

“The all-new Elantra Touring is a fun-to-drive, functional five-door,” said Mark Dipko, manager, small car product development, Hyundai Motor America. “Elantra Touring provides buyers a unique offering in the compact segment, raising the bar as Hyundai likes to do in value, safety and quality. It is remarkable how many features a customer can get for under $20,000 in such a versatile five-door.”
The Elantra Touring is the first five-door compact to offer standard Electronic Stability Control (ESC) in addition to a host of other class-leading safety technologies. As with all Hyundai vehicles, the Elantra Touring was designed and manufactured to meet the most stringent quality standards in the industry, exemplifying Hyundai’s quality leadership position worldwide.

The Elantra Touring, with its modern, sleek styling and fun-to-drive qualities, was developed by Hyundai in response to the growing demand for stylish and functional five-door vehicles, sales of which doubled from 2001 to 2006. Five-door vehicle sales are projected to be strong into the next decade as well.

Elantra Touring builds on Hyundai’s reputation for offering loads of standard equipment, including air conditioning, power windows, heated mirrors, door locks, remote keyless entry with alarm, steering wheel-mounted cruise control and audio controls, eight-way adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support, a cooled glove box and plenty of storage compartments. For audiophiles, an integrated 172-Watt AM/FM/XM Satellite Radio/CD/MP3 audio system with six speakers, USB input and auxiliary input jack are standard. The Premium-Sport package adds a power sunroof with tilt and slide functions, heated front seats and 17-inch alloy wheels with P215/45VR17 tires.

Like every Hyundai, top-tier safety was a key development goal for the Elantra Touring, which is fully equipped to protect driver and passengers. Passive safety features include dual front, side and curtain airbags -- a total of six protective airbags in the vehicle. Other safety features include active front headrests, seatbelt pretensioners and seatbelt reminders. The combination of side and curtain airbags, which help protect the head and body during side impacts, can reduce fatalities by more than 50 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS also notes that active front head restraints improve rear crash protection.
The Elantra Touring comes standard with Electronic Stability Control (ESC), one of the industry’s most effective life-saving technologies. NHTSA studies show that passenger cars equipped with ESC experience 30 percent fewer fatalities in single-vehicle crashes than cars without ESC. Santa Fe, Veracruz, Tucson, Sonata, Azera, Elantra SE, Entourage and Genesis are all equipped with standard ESC. Elantra Touring has earned five-star frontal and four-star side crash ratings in the compact passenger car segment from NHTSA.

The long wheelbase and generous width of the Elantra Touring, combined with Hyundai’s expertise in interior packaging, have produced an interior that delivers class-leading comfort, functionality and practicality. Elantra Touring has the most interior volume (passenger volume plus cargo space) of any five-door in its class at 125.5 cubic feet. In fact, Elantra Touring’s cargo capacity is 65.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down, which is more cargo space than many larger wagons and crossovers.
The Elantra Touring is the first compact five-door to offer XM Satellite Radio® and USB/iPod® auxiliary inputs as standard equipment. When an iPod or flash drive is connected through the USB port, located in the center storage compartment, not only does it play music through the vehicle’s six-speaker audio system, but it also charges the iPod and allows the driver to access tracks with the steering wheel audio controls. This system also allows both driver and passengers to easily view song/artist/title information and control the music from the audio head unit rather than only the iPod itself. The center storage compartment location of the USB assures that iPods can be safely stowed out of sight.
The roomy and functional interior is also a quiet place to be. Based on internal tests, Elantra Touring has four decibels lower road noise levels than the Mazda3 five-door.

The Elantra Touring’s exterior dimensions (176.2 inches long, 69.5 inches wide and 59.8 inches high) make it a great fit in the compact five-door segment, while its long wheelbase (106.3 inches) offers class-leading interior volume. Elantra Touring features outstanding front legroom and both front and rear shoulder room. In addition, every Elantra Touring has 60/40 split folding rear seats that fold when needed for added storage, functionality and practicality.
The Elantra Touring matches best-in-class passenger volume with best-in-class cargo capacity. There is a useful 24.3 cubic feet of luggage space with rear seats upright and a cavernous 65.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat. As in any Hyundai, the utility and convenience in the Elantra Touring has not been overlooked, with a stow-and-go removable luggage cover that stores conveniently out-of-site under the trunk area compartment. An optional restraining net is also offered.
The Elantra Touring includes a number of convenient, standard stowage and storage features, including a sunglass holder, two front and two rear cupholders, door bottle holders, dash storage, central console storage, front storage tray, front seatback pockets and a cargo area under-floor storage. For tailgaters, the cargo area also has a power-retained, 12-volt outlet that does not require the vehicle to be turned on in order to work.

Elantra Touring is powered by the same fuel-efficient, 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder found in the Elantra sedan. This sophisticated, 16-valve powerplant employs Dual Overhead Camshafts (DOHC) and Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) for a power band, coupled with high fuel efficiency and low emissions. Elantra Touring is certified as an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV). With a manual transmission, the Elantra Touring’s mileage is 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway according to the EPA. With the optional four-speed, automatic transmission, the Elantra Touring’s EPA rating is 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.

Saab's smart wagon with the funny name

Saab loves to tout its heritage as a jet company.
It's kind of hard to say whether that appeals to people who are buying cars, but at least it's something not every automaker can say.
When you get behind the wheel of the Saab Aero SportCombi, you actually do get a little bit of the jet-set experience, thanks to the wagon's turbocharged engine.
And along with that driving pleasure, you get quite a bit of cargo space, making this an attractive package when it comes to small family vehicles.
When we got out on the highway in the Aero, it was easy for us to forget that we were in a wagon.
The stiffness of the suspension and the eagerness of the engine rival that of many other performance sedans and coupes in this category.

The 2.0-liter power plant provides a more-than-adequate 210 horsepower and 221 pounds-feet of torque.

The handling is superb, especially when compared with other front-wheel-drive cars.

Steering is exceptionally responsive. We made a special effort to take this wagon out on some twisty roads and were rewarded with stellar performance.

The SportCombi (we're still not crazy about that name) grabbed corners and tight turns like crazed shoppers snapping up post-holiday markdowns at the mall.

We did, however, detect just a little bit of torque steer upon rapid acceleration, but not enough to dampen the driving pleasure too much.

Also, you'll probably notice a bit of turbo lag, but it's not all that bothersome.

Braking is adequate.

Quietly, it seems that wagons are making a bit of a comeback.

Sure, they might be called different things, such as crossovers or whatever, as automakers are still somewhat reluctant to use the term station wagon.

But for their functionality and better-than-SUV gas mileage and driveability, wagons are again becoming a viable alternative in the auto market.

The SportCombi is an example of why.

It offers great performance and cargo space, and it's pretty good looking.

The interior boasts a modern yet understated style, while the exterior doesn't depart much from the smart looks of its sibling 9-3 sedan.

As for conveniences, our test drive model wasn't loaded with features that make you oohh and aahh, but it had enough to make you comfortable.

Power-adjustable seats, a fine sound system and a thicker, perforated leather steering wheel were among the amenities in the tester.

You can also have keyless entry, chrome trim on the doors, center stack and steering wheel and automatic climate control.

But the main thing buyers in this category would probably be after is utility, and the SportCombi offers plenty of that.

It has one of the largest trunks in its class, 14.8 cubic feet, that's able to hold plenty of stuff from the home- improvement or grocery store.

And the passenger space is quite impressive, too.

The driver and front passenger get great head-and legroom, while the backseat passengers get more space than you might expect, even if you put three people on the bench.

For safety, the SportCombi offers adaptive force front airbags, active head restraints and seat-mounted side torso airbags.

Side curtain airbags give protection to people riding in the front and rear seats in the event of side-impact collisions.

Electronic brakeforce distribution, antilock brakes, traction control and stability control systems are standard on all models.

The driver gets an assist with large instrumentation gauges with easy-to-read script.

Also, the climate and radio controls are not too hard to figure out and a new center-mounted display screen on top of the dash lets drivers check the settings while easily keeping an eye on the road.

As General Motors continues to figure out what direction it's headed in, it appears at least somewhat likely that it will put the Saab brand, which it has owned for a few years, up for sale.

For GM, that would be somewhat of a downer, because Saab's products are pretty good and it is a well-respected brand.

But that would make it attractive to potential buyers.

Whatever its future is, let's hope Saab continues to stay on its game with good stuff like the SportCombi wagon.

Monday, December 22, 2008

New reviews coming

It's been a while, AAB fans, but we promise more reviews are on the way. So stay tuned.
And happy holidays!!

Loan to automakers was the right move, poll says

Before U.S. automakers got their assistance money from the federal government, polls showed most Americans opposed a government bailout of the domestic auto industry.
But now that President George W. Bush has tapped the TARP (the $700 billion rescue package for the financial industry) to aid General Motors and Chrysler, most Americans in a new poll say they approve of the move.
Bush gave the two companies $13.4 billion in loans on Friday, amid dire forecasts of the companies possibly facing bankruptcy or other threats to their existence.
A poll of 1,013 adults commissioned by CNN and conducted by Opinion Research Corp. indicated that 63 percent backed the move.
However, 70 percent of respondents said that's it; no more aid should be given.
The poll also found that:
• 28 percent of respondents think that GM and Chrysler will pay back most or all of the loans.
• 65 percent believe a bankruptcy filing by a U.S. automaker would create further serious problems for the nation's economy.
• 34 percent said that they would be somewhat or very likely to buy a vehicle from a company in bankruptcy protection.
• 82 percent hold unfavorable views of U.S. automaker executives.
• 61 percent hold unfavorable views of leaders of the auto workers’ union.
• 73 percent hold favorable views U.S. automakers' workers.
The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bailout faces tough road in Senate

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $14 billion aid package for General Motors and Chrysler on Wednesday evening, but the bill's prospects in the Senate are murky.
Several Senate Republicans have voiced opposition to helping the companies, and if they remain firm on that stance, they could derail the plan.
The bill needs 60 votes to pass in the Senate, which would include at least 20 Republicans.
But Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said he believed the bill has "less than a handful of votes" among Republicans, according to news sources.
"This bill is an incredibly weak bill, it's the product of an administration that wants to kick the can down the road, and I think it has minimal, very little support in our caucus," he said.
George Voinovich, a Republican senator from Ohio, supports the bill but concedes that changes must be made to it in order for it to pass the Senate, news reports said.
The package provides GM and Chrysler with $14 billion, which the companies say will last them through March. Ford Motor Co. says it only needs a $9-billion credit line. GM and Chrysler would have to grant the government stock or warrants that could give it a majority stake in either company, and also restrict executive pay and end corporate jet travel.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Poll finds public opposition to automaker bailout

U.S. automakers are facing a tough time trying to persuade lawmakers on Capitol Hill to give them funding to boost their struggling businesses.
The American public is also skeptical.
A poll taken this week found a majority of Americans opposing the use of government money to help Detroit’s automakers.
The poll, taken by CNN/Opinion Research on Monday and Tuesday, found that 61% oppose federal loan assistance and 36% favor it.
“Seven in 10 say that a bailout would be unfair to American taxpayers,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.
The poll, which has a margin of error of 3 percentage points, found the greatest opposition in the West, at 67%, and among Republicans, at 70%.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Detroit 3 seek bigger aid package

The Detroit 3 automakers increased their request for federal assistance Tuesday to $34 billion, with General Motors and Chrysler saying they could buckle by year's end because of the increasing pressure on their business.
Lawmakers in Washington will hold hearings Thursday and Friday to consider the requests, with the top executives of the companies arriving in Washington in hybrid vehicles rather than the corporate jets that generated such a firestorm last time.
The beleaguered industry is facing sales declines, which continued in November, and is cutting production next year.
Chrysler says it needs $7 billion by the end of the year and GM says it needs $4 billion.
“Absent such assistance, the company will default in the near term,” GM told lawmakers, “very likely precipitating a total collapse of the domestic industry and its extensive supply chain, with a ripple effect that will have severe, long-term consequences to the U.S. economy.”
GM is seeking a total of $18 billion, with $12 billion in loans and $6 billion as an emergency line of credit.
The company has said it would cut four of its U.S. brands, nine factories, up to 30,000 workers and billions of dollars in costs, in order to reach profitability by 2011.
Ford asked for a $9 billion government credit line.

Chrysler Town & Country still among the best

Chrysler, which originated the minivan in 1984, still does it better than just about anyone else.

True, there aren't a whole lot of competitors still in the minivan game, as slumping sales in the category have made it less of a priority among automakers, which prefer to make SUVs.

But when it comes to value, practicality, comfort and even a bit of, dare we say, style, Chrysler's family haulers get it right.

In this category, practicality is the key feature.

Minivan drivers have to take the kids to school and to sports practice, have to pick up groceries and other large items from big box stores and have to head out on the road for the occasional vacation.

With the Chrysler Town & Country and its sibling Dodge Grand Caravan, you can do all that and more.

Last year, when Chrysler introduced its swivel-n-go option, it continued its tradition of being on the leading edge of the minivan market.

Swivel-n-go allowed passengers to use a table in the middle of the van and turn seats toward it, to make it almost like you're at home at your dining room table.

This feature previously could be found only in RVs, but now you had it in a vehicle that was much more mainstream.

Well, despite that and some other neat additional features, Chrysler couldn't generate a huge uptick in minivan sales.

But among those in the market for the vehicles, the Chrysler products were very well received.

Whether you choose the Grand Caravan, or the slightly more upscale Town & Country, you can be sure that Chrysler's minivans will get you there in comfort and with plenty of room for all of your stuff.