Compiled by Neal White

Dodge announces pricing for all-new 2008 Challenger SRT8

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Dodge has announced pricing for the modern interpretation of the American muscle coupe. The 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 will arrive in showrooms next spring at a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $37,995 (which includes $675 destination).

Due to unprecedented demand, Dodge dealers began taking orders on Dec. 3 for the limited-edition 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 models. Each will feature a numbered dash plaque and a 6.1-liter HEMI V-8 engine. 2008 Challenger SRT8 models will be available in black, silver and HEMI orange.

All will feature dual “carbon-fiber” hood stripes, harkening back to the original Dodge Challenger. The SRT8 will be built at the Chrysler Canada Assembly Plant in Brampton, Ontario, on the same assembly line with the Dodge Charger, Charger SRT8, Magnum, Magnum SRT8, Chrysler 300 and Chrysler 300 SRT8 vehicles.

Ford paces Escape Plug-In, Edge HySeries research

vehicles

DEARBORN, Mich. — Ford Motor Company is advancing plug-in hybrid technology through two different applications on research demonstration vehicles as a way to help improve the functionality and durability of lithium-ion battery packs and the future commercialization of plug-in hybrid technology.

The first Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid demonstration vehicle was delivered to Southern California Edison for testing in early December. Under a unique two-year partnership with the utility company, a 20-unit fleet will be tested in California, first in the utility’s electric vehicle fleet, and later with selected residential customers.

The Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV), capable of delivering up to 120 miles per gallon, would mean far fewer trips to the gas station. The parallel hybrid electric vehicle uses common household current (120 volts) for charging, with a full charge of the battery completed within six to eight hours. When driven on surface streets for the first 30 miles following a full charge, the Ford Escape PHEV can achieve up to 120 mpg roughly 4.5 times its traditional gas internal combustion engine-powered counterpart.

A fully charged Ford Escape PHEV operates in two modes, electric drive and blended electric/engine drive. At urban speeds, the high capacity plug-in hybrid battery allows for extended battery-only driving distance.

At higher power demands and vehicle speeds, the vehicle automatically switches to blended electric/engine mode, providing propulsion using both the engine and the high-capacity battery, further reducing fuel consumption. The vehicle is not range-limited by the amount of charge available in the high-voltage lithium-ion battery, because once the charge in the battery is depleted, the vehicle continues to operate as a fuel-efficient, standard Ford Escape Hybrid. The transition is automatic and unnoticeable to the driver.

Pontiac announces pricing for 2009 Vibe

DETROIT — Pontiac in December confirmed pricing for the 2009 Vibe will start at $15,895 when it arrives in dealer showrooms in February 2008. Also returning to the Vibe family for the 2009 model year, an all-wheel drive model will start at $19,495 and the performance-oriented GT model will start at $19,895. All prices include a $585 destination and freight charge.

“Our goal with the new Vibe was to enhance its style and performance without sacrificing functionality and fuel economy,” said Craig Bierley, Pontiac marketing director. “Every Vibe model now comes with a bold new look, increased engine power and a host of standard safety features, but still gets up to 32 miles per gallon.”

Dodge introduces all-new Journey Crossover

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Chrysler LLC announced in December the U.S. Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the 2009 Dodge Journey as $19,985 (including $625 destination). The 2009 Dodge Journey was designed to give buyers a crossover vehicle that meets life’s changing demands by offering unsurpassed versatility and flexibility in a sporty, stylish package.

“The all-new 2009 Dodge Journey gives our customers the complete package at an incredible value,” said Deborah Meyer, vice president and chief marketing officer, Chrysler LLC. “For less than $20,000, Dodge Journey blends safety, quality and reliability with innovative technology, entertainment features and tons of useful storage, wrapped in a package that is pure Dodge.”

The Dodge Journey is built on the company?s global D-segment platform. In the Dodge brand line-up, this new crossover falls between the compact Dodge Caliber and the Dodge Grand Caravan. It is designed for customers ranging from young singles, couples and families with small children to mature families who want the flexibility to do more in terms of carrying passengers in comfort or storing all their gear.

It will be available in U.S. dealerships in the first quarter of 2008 and in global volume markets outside North America in both left-hand and right-hand drive, starting in mid-2008.

Lexus unveils all-new 2008 LX 570 full-size luxury utility

TORRANCE, Calif. — Lexus introduces the all-new, more powerful, more capable and more luxurious 2008 LX 570 premium luxury utility vehicle. With a host of technological advancements and a new high-strength chassis, the third-generation LX offers significantly increased performance and new safety features over the LX 470 model it replaces. The all-new roomier eight-passenger LX 570 casts about the same footprint as its award-winning predecessor.

For the third generation LX, Lexus retained the basic formula of the previous model, amplifying and enhancing its core attributes. The 2008 LX 570 emphasizes Lexus identity with new L-finesse styling, combining it with the muscular strength and sense of security sought in a four-wheel-drive luxury utility vehicle.

The LX 570 is built on a more capable chassis and features an advanced new suspension system. With 383 horsepower, its new 5.7-liter V8 is 42-percent more powerful than the 4.7-liter V8 engine it replaces, and it is expected to achieve ULEV II certification.

2009 Corvette ZR1 powered by supercharged LS9

small-block V-8

PONTIAC, Mich. — When it arrives next summer, the 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 will be the most powerful and fastest production car ever produced by General Motors, with performance enabled by a new, supercharged 6.2L LS9 small-block V-8 engine. Incorporating the engineering experience already found in the Corvette Z06?s

LS7 engine and the new-for-2008 6.2L LS3 of the Corvette, GM Powertain is targeting 100 horsepower per liter for the LS9, or 620 horsepower, and approximately 595 lb-ft of torque; final SAE-certified power levels will be available in early March 2008. It is, indeed, the ultimate small-block engine for the ultimate Corvette.

“When you experience the LS9 in the Corvette ZR1, the terms performance and refinement take on a new meaning,” said Tom Stephens, group vice president for GM Powertrain and Quality. “The LS9 demonstrates an outstanding performance range, with smooth driveability at low speeds, and surprisingly fierce performance when the customer wants more power.”

The Corvette ZR1’s LS9 engine is backed by a Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual transmission, with a twin-disc clutch system. It is based on the proven T56 six-speed, but upgraded to handle the LS9’s torque output and delivers improved shift quality.

Prototype Honda Pilot

headed to North American International Auto Show

TORRANCE, Calif. — A prototype of the next-generation Honda Pilot will be unveiled at the January 2008 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, American Honda Motor Co., Inc., announced in December. The prototype will convey design features of the more boldly-styled, next-generation Pilot and will emphasize authentic SUV styling, clever interior packaging and advanced technologies for safety, fuel efficiency and convenience.

Limited retail marketing of the FCX Clarity will begin in summer 2008. The CR-Z is a next-generation lightweight sports car concept equipped with Honda’s original gas-electric hybrid system.

All-new Toyota Venza to debut at 2008 North American International Auto Show

TORRANCE, Calif. — Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., will stage the world premiere of the all-new 2009 Toyota Venza crossover sedan at a press conference at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Venza is said to be a unique blend of sedan and sport utility vehicle, offering seating for five, easy ingress and egress, a car-like ride and functional utility. Venza was designed and engineered in the United States and will be assembled at Toyota's manufacturing plant in Georgetown, Ky.

Chevrolet Volt development focuses on aerodynamics

WARREN, Mich. — The massive fan in GM’s aero lab wind tunnel was cranked up to full blast as GM’s designers and engineers work to optimize the aerodynamics of the Chevrolet Volt as part of the quest to make the breakthrough concept car a production reality. Aerodynamic improvement is a critical step in meeting the range targets necessary for moving the vehicle to a final production decision.

The design team, now with its own studio dedicated to the development of vehicles powered by the E-flex propulsion system, has been working with engineering, aerodynamicists and other scientists to develop an energy efficient Chevrolet Volt by optimizing aerodynamics.

As a new trend in aerodynamics emerges, GM leverages its heritage and expertise to develop full-sized trucks as fuel efficient as a mid-sized sedan and the next generation of electric vehicles with extended range, starting with the development of the Chevrolet Volt.

Ford’s new model quality center opens

DEARBORN, Mich. — Ford Motor Company in December marks the opening of its new Model Quality Center at the historic Rouge site to support the introduction and ensure top quality of the new 2009 F-150 pickup next year. Located in the renovated historic Dearborn Glass Plant, the New-Model Quality Center is designed to take Ford?s quality-focused manufacturing processes to the next level. The center is helping Ford prove out manufacturing, test vehicles and train employees for the next-generation F-150.

“Our recent launches have shown that we are among the best in the industry in quality,” said Mark Fields, president of The Americas, Ford Motor Company. “The New-Model Quality Center at the Rouge will ensure the same top quality for the new F-150 when it goes on sale next fall.”

Ford officials said quality is being designed into the 2009 F-150 at the earliest stages of development using highly advanced digital tools. For example, at Ford’s Digital Pre-Assembly laboratory, 18,000 truck design elements are evaluated on computer screens to ensure each part meets Ford’s own high standards, shaped by customer input.

Meanwhile, at the company’s Virtual Build Center, a launch team of engineers, plant employees and suppliers are “building” the new pickup on virtual assembly lines that replicate the Dearborn Truck and the Kansas City assembly plants, where the new F-150 will be produced in 2008.

2008 Saab 9-3 models earn safety pick honors

DETROIT — The Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan, SportCombi and Convertible earned the 2008 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick Award in the midsize category. This is the fourth consecutive year that the 9-3 Sport Sedan brings home IIHS top honors, an unique achievement in the luxury segment. For 2007 the 9-3 earned the Top Safety Pick Award, in 2006 the 9-3 earned the Top Safety Pick — Gold Award and received a Double Best Pick crash-test rating for 2005.

The institute began testing convertibles in 2007. In the inaugural year, the 9-3 Convertible earned a top spot. This is the second year running that the Saab 9-3 Convertible earns the Top Safety Pick Award — one of two convertibles and the only soft-top convertible to earn a top spot.

The Institute rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor based on performance in high-speed front and side-impact crash tests plus evaluations of seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries. Winning vehicles must earn good ratings in all three tests and offer electronic stability control.

Seven 2008 Chryslers earn five stars in government crash tests

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The 2008 Jeep Liberty, 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee, 2008 Dodge Nitro, 2008 Dodge Caliber, 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan, 2008 Chrysler Pacifica and the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country received the U. S. government’s highest safety ratings for frontal- and side-impact crash protection from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“Through a broad range of engineering technologies, Chrysler is offering its customers the safety they expect and deserve,” said Frank Klegon, executive vice president — Product Development, Chrysler LLC. “Both passive and active safety systems enhance the inherent stability and safety we design into all of our Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles.”

Two new GM engines make Ward's 'Ten Best Engines' list

PONTIAC, Mich. — General Motors is the only automaker to have two new engines on Ward's AutoWorld magazine’s 2008 “Ten Best Engines” list for North America. The GM Powertrain engines making Ward's 14th annual list were the Vortec 6.0L Gen IV small-block V-8 hybrid engine, which is in the all-new 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon Hybrid full-size SUVS; and the 3.6L V-6 VVT with direct injection in the 2008 Cadillac CTS sedan.