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Notes from the 2009 New York International Auto Show


NEW YORK April 8, 2009; The AP reported that amid the fanfare of a three-piece band and performance by jazz singer Dianne Reeves, Mercedes-Benz unveiled four new vehicles Wednesday at the New York International Auto Show, including a high-performance version of its E-Class sedan and two hybrid models.

The new generation E63 AMG features a 6.3-liter V-8 engine that produces 518 horsepower, along with a seven-speed transmission with multi-clutch technology.

"It's nothing less than the best AMG E-Class ever," said AMG Chairman Volker Mornhinweg.

The German automaker's pair of hybrids included its E300 BlueTEC concept, which combines hybrid technology with a fuel-efficient diesel engine, and the ML450 Hybrid, a full-size sport utility vehicle with a V-6 engine and an 87-horsepower electric motor.

In addition, the company debuted its restyled GL350 BlueTEC diesel SUV, which features a new grille and lights, along with 20 percent to 30 percent better fuel economy.

BMW unveils X6, says more new models coming

BMW unveiled its new X6 at the New York International Auto Show on Wednesday, while also touting the automaker's relatively healthy finances amid tough times for the industry overall.

The X6 is the first sport utility vehicle for BMW's M-Class line. Its 4.4-liter V-8 turbo engine produces 555 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque.

Jim O'Donnell, president of BMW North America, said the automaker plans to introduce a total of seven new models this year and an additional 15 in 2010. The new vehicles should position BMW to take advantage of the U.S. market once it starts to rebound, something that O'Donnell said he expects to happen in September once the federal stimulus package takes effect and the futures of the U.S.-based automakers are resolved.

At the same time, BMW also benefits from its strong dealer base and financing arm. O'Donnell said BMW dealers have been protected from the slump in demand for new cars by increased demand for used BMW models, as well the four years of free maintenance car buyers receive that keeps BMW owners returning to dealerships.

"We needed to give them a business proposition that worked," O'Donnell said in an interview following the X6 unveiling. "As a result, our dealers are still profitable."

O'Donnell said BMW's financing arm hasn't felt the effects of the credit crunch the way that other captive financing units have. The company has been able to continue leasing and picking up sales as a result, he said.

Acura unveils prototype of ZDK coupe expected to go on sale this fall

Honda's Acura division unveiled a prototype Wednesday of its ZDX luxury four-door sports coupe scheduled to hit U.S. showrooms this fall.

The model has four doors but features coupe-like styling with smaller rear doors and a stylish back end. It also has a panoramic glass roof and nine-spoke custom alloy wheels.

The ZDX is powered by a V-6 engine with a six-speed automatic transmission and an all-glass tailgate.

Jeff Conrad, vice president of Acura sales, told journalists at the New York International Auto Show that the model blurs the lines between coupe, sedan and sport models, creating a new category of luxury vehicles.

"We believe the ZDX is a one of a kind design that will revolutionize the luxury market," he said.

Ford trying to lure families with Euro concept van

Ford Motor Co.'s small, European cargo van, may find a home in the driveways of U.S. families.

Ford showcased Transit Connect, a boxy, commercial vehicle from Europe, in February. But the automaker has now popped some windows into the van and retrofitted it for families. The Transit Connect Family One on display at the New York International Auto Show is a concept vehicle designed to attract families with active, busy lifestyles.

The move is Ford's first effort in showcasing the Transit Connect for personal use.

The Family One has built-in hand sanitizer and sunscreen dispensers, a first-aid kit, removable, washable seat covers and an awning that extends from the rear doors. A stroller can fit in the rear floor space, and walkie-talkie radios can be charged in docking stations loaded in the van.

A commercial version of the Transit Connect is slated to hit showrooms this summer, with prices starting at $21,475. Ford is able to outfit the vans according to a business owner's needs -- housekeeping services would have slots and hinges for vacuums and other appliances, for example.

The commercial version gets 22 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on highways.

Land Rover unveils trio of new vehicles touting power, luxury

Land Rover debuted a trio of new vehicles at the New York International Auto Show on Wednesday as it works to expand its sales in the United States amid the economic slump.

The new Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Land Rover LR4 are all designed to appeal to the U.S. market, which consistently ranks as one of the company's largest in terms of sales, said Land Rover Managing Director Phil Popham.

Popham said all three models include 5-liter V-8 engines that offer the increased power the company's customers desire without boosting fuel consumption or emissions.

The exteriors of the Land Rover and Land Rover Sport models have both been updated, with the Sport model featuring a more contemporary look compared with the base model's traditional style. The new Land Rover design includes a new front end.

Popham said the vehicles also include technologies that American drivers crave, including a surround camera system that gives drivers a 360-degree view of what's going on around them.

Despite the continued economic downturn, Popham said Land Rover's global sales have exceeded expectations in each of the past four months and that its U.S. market share has increased.

"As the recession eases, we will be in a position to move forward," he said.

Porsche introduces $112,000 high-performance 911 to US

Porsche AG's 911 GT3 made its North American debut Wednesday at the New York International Auto Show, and the German automaker said the $112,000 car is still the right type of product despite the difficult economic environment.

"No one knows exactly how long it will take to recover," said Detlev von Platen, president and CEO of Porsche Cars North America Inc. "We do know that there will always be a demand for sports cars with tons of passion and tons of excitement."

The 2010 GT3, a high-performance version of Porsche's venerable sports car, has a larger 3.8-liter six-cylinder engine that generates 435 horsepower with more torque than its predecessor.

It can go from zero to 60 mph in 4 seconds and reach a top speed of 194 mph, Porsche said.

The GT3 also has improvements aerodynamics and available dynamic engine mounts that utilize magnetic fluid to stiffen the connection between the engine and chassis during sporting driving, while allowing engine isolation for more comfort while commuting.

A new lift system is available that uses an air compressor to lift the front of the car more than an inch and allow it to clear steep driveways.

Porsche says the car will be available this fall.