Despite a turbulent economy, the new crop of 2009 cars offers intriguing choices. “Today’s vehicles offer a broad range of choices suitable for any lifestyle or budget,” says national automotive writer Mathieu Yuill. “From tech-forward features, like integrated touch screens and rear-view cameras, to comfortable interiors and timeless designs, this selection of cars should hit the mark.”
Porsche 911 (above)
Every once in a while, a car comes along that speaks to your inner racecar driver. Porsche’s iconic 911, with its much anticipated changes, is sure to make your trip to the cottage or day-to-day trek to work a joyous journey. The overall character of the original 1963 Porsche 911 remains intact, but with some added panache to the car’s styling, interior and engine. The most notable change comes under the hood. The PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplung for those who like to keep things official) initiates the smoothest shifts between all seven gears in the automatic dual gearbox (one clutch controls gears 1-3-5-7, while the other takes care of gears 2-4-6). A brief moment on an open stretch is all that’s needed to feel the seamless gearshifts, combined with the power of the 3.8-l 385-HP (Carrera S model) engine with direct fuel injection — all at an incredible 7.2 l/100 km (highway). On the inside, the award-winning Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system eliminates 50 per cent of the buttons. And LED tail lamps, along with larger exterior mirrors and air intakes, round out the exterior adjustments. “The 911 [starting at $94,800] offers the heritage of the Porsche badge, and it can handle both spirited and Sunday driving styles,” Yuill asserts. “But you’ll probably opt for spirited more often than not.” Zoomer Bonus: Large 6.5-inch PCM touch screen controls everything from your cellphone to MP3 player.
This isn’t the same Lincoln you saw in the ’60s. While Ford has kept the spirit of a traditional Lincoln highway cruiser, the MKS introduces a whole new wow factor in its design. Of all the 2009 luxury sedans, the MKS’s exterior definitely puts Audi’s A4 (Automotive Journalists Association of Canada’s 2009 Best New Luxury Car Over $50k) to the test. The stylish grille and 19-inch wheels will make everyone crane their necks to catch a glimpse. “MKS’s progressive design changes any preconceived notions you may have had about Lincolns,” Yuill says. “The Lincoln of old inspired comparisons to land yachts more than sleek cabin cruisers. But the MKS has all the class of cars $20,000 pricier but has shed the stodgy image.” There’s an endless list of features that do all the thinking for you, leaving you to enjoy its smooth handling and limitless comfort. Zoomer Bonus: SYNC voiceactivated hands-free communication, reverse sensing system and rear-view camera.
Hyundai has gone right to the beginning to offer affordable opulence. The Korean automaker presents the Genesis (starting at $37,995): a rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan that they’ve compared to high-end staples such as BMW and Lexus — and its design isn’t too far off from those competitors. “Hyundai has been on the rise for the better part of a decade, expanding its appeal to people who aren’t looking for an expensive automobile,” Yuill says. “The company’s Veracruz and Azera all point towards the launch of a Hyundai premium brand nameplate. But for now, the badge still says Hyundai, which means there isn’t a premium brand markup.” And winning the 2009 North American Car of the Year award doesn’t hurt its resumï¿½ either. Zoomer Bonus: V-8 engine and standard side-impact bags in rear seats (an extra charge in most other vehicles).
Mercedes-benz E320 BlueTEC
If the Genesis is cost-efficient luxury, the Mercedes E320 is responsible luxury. Mercedes introduced its sophisticated BlueTEC diesel engine in 2006, and it finds its way into this year’s E320. Its emissions-control filtering technology minimizes smog-causing emissions from the sedan’s 210-HP V-6 engine, converting the harmful nitrogen oxide normally associated with diesels into non-toxic nitrogen and water. It’s just that simple. Not only that, but the same comfort and class exist in this year’s E-class models as in previous versions. With a starting price of $68,100, it may be difficult to pass up the combination of Mercedes’ lavishness and social responsibility. Zoomer Bonus: A more Earth-friendly car without sacrificing the luxe of a Mercedes.
VW Passat Wagon
Flower children remember it well: peace, love and harmony. And driving to Woodstock in Volkswagen’s iconic late-’60s camper-van couldn’t have been sweeter. But times have changed and so have you. Now, you’re probably looking for something more suitable for, say, hauling grandchildren rather than boxes of vinyl and tie-dyed shirts. Luckily for you, Volkswagen continues to improve its station wagons, and this year’s Passat wagon, starting at $28,975, is no exception. “The Passat wagon actually allows you to get more stuff in the back than many SUVs, but it looks and feels smaller,” Yuill says. VW remains your best bet for a comfortable, safe ride with excellent handling. Exactly what you were looking for in 1969, right? Zoomer Bonus: Comfortable ride, with tons of space and good sightlines.