upon a time in America's automotive market, carmakers would tease us each autumn
with advertisements promising shiny new models cast with stylish lines and powerful
new engines. Showrooms of dealers would hide these new cars behind blacked-out
windows, as we the public waited outside hoping to peek at the new crop. Unveiling
the new models was a big event, even though there were only a handful of automakers
and, essentially, only a few types of vehicles -- four-door sedans, two-door coupes
and perhaps a convertible or pickup truck.
contrast, there are no blacked-out windows concealing new models at car dealers
today because contemporary cars no longer reach the market on a predetermined
date in the fall. Instead, cars bearing next year's model designation trickle
into the market throughout the preceding calendar year.
the Class of 2007, for instance, new versions of Chevrolet's best-selling Tahoe
sport-utility wagon rolled out in February of 2007, as did a new treatment for
Toyota's best seller, the Camry sedan. Others quickly followed so by the first
day of fall in 2007, more than 25 manufacturers had introduced as many as 40 new
2007 vehicles. And that's only the beginning of the parade of new cars for 2007.
This points to an important distinction for the Class of 2007: There are so many
automakers for the American market today producing so many different types of
vehicles with so many models to see and sort.
addition to the three traditional domestic manufacturers of General Motors, Ford
and DaimlerChrysler, foreign companies from Asia and Europe have in recent years
become significant players on America's turf, with some -- like Toyota, Honda,
Nissan and Hyundai -- building new cars at factories scattered across America's
heartland. Even pinnacle brands from Germany -- Mercedes-Benz and BMW -- now have
factories in the United States where innovative models are assembled. With so
many automakers at work, vehicles no longer fit neatly into a few simple categories
as sedans, coupes or pickup trucks.
these configurations continue in many sizes, today's class also encompasses diverse
new categories due to the emergence of the so-called crossover vehicles of multiple
purposes which blend one type of vehicle with another or more to create something
entirely different. Crossovers are the hottest commodity in the 2007 Car Class.
among 2007 vehicles, such as the Audi Q7, BMW X Series, Cadillac SRX, Chrysler
Aspen, Dodge Caliber and Nitro, Ford Edge, GMC Acadia, Honda Ridgeline, Jeep Compass,
Kia Sportage, Lexus RX Series, Mazda CX-7 and CX-9, Mitsubishi Endeavor, Nissan
Murano, Pontiac Torrent, Saturn Outlook, Scion xB, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Toyota
FJ Cruiser, and Volvo XC90.
another trend? It must be the HEV -- hybrid electric vehicle. That's one which
scores significantly high fuel economy marks because it packs not one but two
motors. The typical HEV for 2007 carries both a thrifty but conventional engine
operating on gasoline plus a battery-powered electric motor. It can run on the
gasoline engine or on the electric motor, or in a mode with both plants contributing
examples in the Class of 2007 include SUVs like the Mercury
Mariner Hybrid, Lexus RX 400h, Saturn Vue Green Line and Toyota Highlander Hybrid
to sedans such as Honda's Accord V6 Hybrid and Civic Hybrid, the powerful Lexus
GS 450h Hybrid, Nissan's new Altima Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid. There's even
a hybrid truck or two with a gas-electric hybrid version of Chevrolet's Silverado
full-size pickup or the GMC Sierra.
continue to seek new ways to boost fuel economy. The latest trick is for a large
engine to automatically cut back on the number of cylinders firing for combustion
-- when you need a big power play all the cylinders are there, but when you're
just cruising the boulevard a lesser number of cylinders work to save fuel.
And flex-fuel versions of engines emerge burning gasoline or E85 ethanol or some
combination of the two.
products appear, either as original concepts or fresh generational expressions.
With all of these developments,
we've assembled a capsule guide to illustrate what's new about the Car Class of
2007. Click on the logos below to click and cruise your way through the hottest