Compiled by Neal White

New Dodge Viper comes out from under cover

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The all-new 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR — short for American Club Racer — made its public debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.

The latest addition to Chrysler LLC’s Street and Racing Technology (SRT) family of performance vehicles, the all-new, 600 horsepower 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR is a street-legal Viper engineered to dominate on the race track. Because it is street legal, die-hard Viper and track enthusiasts can drive their car to the race track, run it at top speed on the track and then drive it home.

Derived from the all-new 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10, the heart and soul of the all-new 2008 Viper SRT10 ACR is SRT’s new 8.4-liter aluminum V-10 engine that produces 600 horsepower and 560 lb-ft of torque. The 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR will be hand-built at the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit.

The 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR will arrive in showrooms in the second quarter of 2008 at a U.S. Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of less than $100,000. Complete pricing information will be released at a later date.

Toyota unveils all-new 2008 Sequoia

LOS ANGELES — Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) U.S.A, Inc., unveiled the second-generation Sequoia full-size sport utility vehicle during the 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show in November.

Sequoia is completely new for 2008, with a new body, a new interior, a new chassis, an available new 5.7L V8 engine/six-speed transmission combination and an increased focus on efficiency, performance and driver/passenger comfort.

An all-new platform now provides exterior dimensions that are competitive with other vehicles in the Sequoia’s class. Inside, highly efficient packaging gives the new Sequoia a very roomy cabin and a capacious luggage space.

An available new DOHC 5.7L V8 engine enables the 2008 Sequoia to to compete with leaders in its class due to its new acceleration performance, especially while towing. Sequoia engineers developed the new engine to produce 381 hp. This engine, which is ULEV-II compliant, uses four valves per cylinder and Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) to produce 401 lb-ft of torque. The 2008 Sequoia is available in three grades — SR5, Limited and Platinum.

Volkswagen introduces the

all-new Tiguan SUV

LOS ANGELES — Volkswagen of America, Inc., introduced the production ready Tiguan compact sport utility vehicle in November at the Los Angeles International Auto Show. The Tiguan represents a new entry in a new segment for Volkswagen. Tiguan offers distinctive European design characteristics such as a sophisticated and eye-catching face, an available Panoramic sunroof enabling almost 13 square feet of sunshine, and three trim levels allowing personalized configurations for a wider range of CUV shoppers.

Tiguan features the “fun to drive” handling and performance expected from a Volkswagen. A standard 2.0L TFSI engine delivers turbocharged acceleration while still delivering highly responsible fuel efficiency. European tuned suspension enables connected handling, while also providing a smooth and compliant ride. Both front-wheel drive and 4Motion all-wheel drive are available to suit any weather or road condition.

Tiguan will be based priced at $22,490, reflecting the Volkswagen brand commitment to value. Tiguan will be available in United States Volkswagen dealers in summer 2008.

Kia launches new Certified

Pre-owned Program

LAS VEGAS — Kia Motors America (KMA) announced at its national dealer meeting in Las Vegas the company’s new Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program for Kia vehicles. The Kia CPO program launched in November will roll out to Kia dealers through the end of the year and CPO sales will begin in the first quarter of 2008.

“A CPO program is an important part of our evolution into a tier-one automotive brand,” said Len Hunt, executive vice president and COO of KMA. “It will help elevate us to the next level and raise the residual values of our vehicles.”

Kia vehicles up to five model years old with fewer than 60,000 miles are eligible for the CPO program.

The program includes an extended 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty; 150-point vehicle inspection; 10-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance; vehicle history report; towing/rental car/travel coverage; and an available Kia Certified Wrap Service Contract, offering the consumer additional levels of coverage beyond powertrain coverage.

Kia introduces new midsize SUV

IRVINE, Calif. — Kia Motors America (KMA) in November announced it will give its new midsize SUV the moniker of “Borrego” when it debuts in January at the Detroit Auto Show.

The Kia Borrego will be manufactured in Korea and go on sale in North America in late spring or early summer of 2008 as a 2009 model.

Built with body-on-frame construction incorporating the latest in NVH engineering philosophy, Borrego will be Kia’s newest addition to its full line of vehicles that provides a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty to consumers.

Borrego will be available with either a V6 engine or the company’s first V8 offering, which will also boast Kia’s largest towing capacity to date.

Ford SYNC technology honored

DEARBORN, Mich. — Ford SYNC was recognized by the editors of Popular Science magazine as one of the best new technologies of the year and chosen to receive a 2007 “Best of What’s New” award in the automotive category.

Ford SYNC, developed on the Microsoft Auto software platform, was designed to provide consumers the convenience and flexibility to bring digital media players –- Apple iPods, Microsoft Zunes and other MP3 players — and Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones into their vehicles and operate the devices via voice commands or with the steering wheel’s redundant radio controls.

SYNC is striving to make in-car connectivity more affordable and more widely available than ever before. It will be available on 12 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury products this year and on nearly all Ford, Lincoln and Mercury products by the end of 2008.

Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango HEMI Hybrids

AURBURN HILLS, Mich. — With the introduction of the new 2009 Chrysler Aspen HEMI Hybrid and 2009 Dodge Durango HEMI Hybrid, Chrysler LLC delivers two hybrid-electric vehicles designed to combine fuel-efficient advanced-hybrid technology with full-size sport-utility vehicle (SUV) performance and capability.

“The new 2009 Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango HEMI Hybrid vehicles will offer our customers the sought-after blend of performance, utility, capability and vastly improved fuel economy — all in one package,” said Frank Klegon, executive vice president, Product Development, Chrysler LLC. “Combined with Chrysler’s Multi-displacement System (MDS), our advanced, two-mode hybrid technology immediately delivers a more than 25 percent fuel economy improvement to our full-size SUVs — and up to a 40 percent improvement in the city.”

The 2009 Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango HEMI Hybrid vehicles are Chrysler’s first entries in the hybrid market. Capable of towing 6,000 lbs., the 2009 Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango HEMI Hybrid vehicles deliver 385 horsepower.

The new 5.7-liter HEMI Hybrid is expected to deliver an overall fuel economy improvement of more than 25 percent, including an improvement of nearly 40 percent in the city. For customers who desire the performance and capability of a large SUV, the Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango Hybrid vehicles are designed to reduce fuel consumption by several hundreds of gallons of gas per year.

Built at the Newark Assembly Plant in Delaware, the new 2009 Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango HEMI Hybrid vehicles arrive in showrooms in mid 2008.

VW Jetta to be equipped with cleanest diesel ever

LOS ANGELES — Volkswagen of America, Inc., in November introduced its cleanest diesel ever, a 2.0L four cylinder TDI engine that will be available in Jetta sedan and SportWagen body styles in the summer of 2008. The 2009 Jetta TDI, equipped with the clean diesel engine option, will be available in all 50 states.

This new engine meets the most stringent Tier II/Bin 5 standards, without the use of urea injection. Instead, a nitrous oxide storage catalyst reduces NOx emissions by up to 90 percent. The engine management system changes operating modes to periodically treat the NOx stored in the catalyst. A particulate filter further reduces emissions, allowing this new clean diesel to be held to the same standards as gasoline models. This clean diesel technology will be available in 2009 Jetta models in the third quarter of 2008. Pricing for this new model has not yet been established.

New York State opens first Hydrogen Station

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The state of New York opened its first hydrogen station in November to support Chevrolet’s Project Driveway, an effort to move fuel cell technology from the laboratory into people’s driveways. The White Plains fueling station is the first of six hydrogen vehicle refueling stations planned for the U.S., as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Infrastructure Demonstration and Validation Project.

As part of a comprehensive deployment plan called “Project Driveway,” Chevrolet will supply more than 100 Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell electric compact SUVs to private and commercial customers in New York (Westchester County and metropolitan New York), Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Customers will test-drive the vehicles for a time frame of between three and 30 months beginning early next year.

During the past several months, thousands of interested drivers visited Chevrolet’s website or contacted local Chevrolet dealers to see if they lived in a Project Driveway study area. Eligible drivers had to be at least 21 years of age, with good driving records. Participants will provide regular, candid feedback about their use of the vehicle in their daily lives, the vehicle’s performance and their personal preferences.

GM wants to demonstrate its commitment to electrically driven vehicles -– whether the source of the electricity comes from a lithium-ion battery or a hydrogen fuel cell -– as the answer for helping take the automobile out of the environmental debate and reducing US dependence on petroleum.

The zero-emissions Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell SUV is powered by GM’s fourth-generation fuel cell propulsion system and meets all applicable 2007 U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The EPA certified the hydrogen-powered Equinox Fuel Cell as a zero-emission vehicle (ZEV).

Saab introduces XWD "Cross Wheel Drive"

DETROIT -– Developed in Sweden with Haldex of Stockholm, the Saab XWD “Cross Wheel Drive” system is designed to optimize vehicle handling and stability in all driving conditions. It is offered in the 2008 Saab Turbo X and Aero versions of the 9-3 Sport Sedan and SportCombi, in combination with an uprated 280 horsepower 2.8 V6 turbo engine which now delivers almost 15 percent more maximum torque (to exploit the greater traction available. It comes with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.

This all-wheel drive system includes two innovative features: pre-emptive engagement of the rear wheels to optimize traction at take-off; and an active rear limited-slip differential (eLSD), allowing variable torque transfer between the rear wheels. Saab XWD is a fully automatic, on-demand system capable of sending up to 100 percent of engine torque to the front or rear wheels whenever necessary.

Installation of Saab XWD includes the fitment of a new rear sub-frame to carry the RDM, revised rear suspension geometry and new wheel hubs for the drive shafts. The three piece prop-shaft runs through two bearings with constant velocity joints for smooth running with minimal ‘wind-up’. Wheelbase and rear track dimensions are unaltered. All Saab Turbo X and 9-3 Aero XWD Sport Sedan and SportCombi models will have 18-inch alloy wheels as standard equipment.

Audi models are “Top Safety Pick” winners

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -– The current line-up of Audi vehicles sold in the United States are some of the safest according to results from tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Recent crash tests by both organizations demonstrated that Audi is among the top in the industry in terms of passenger safety and vehicle crash worthiness.

For 2008, the IIHS added the Audi A3 to the list of Audi models designated as “Top Safety Pick” in the midsize category. 2007 “Top Safety Pick” winners A4 and A6 continued into 2008 in the midsize and large car category, respectively.

The Audi Q7 SUV was also tested in 2007 for crash worthiness. The NHTSA awarded the Audi Q7 the highest possible rating of “five-stars” for driver and passenger in a frontal collision, and front and rear passengers in a side collision.

Volvo models feted by IIHS

IRVINE, Calif. -— For the past two years, Volvo's XC90 SUV, C70 Convertible, and S80 Sedan all earned IIHS's top honors for vehicle safety in front, side, and rear impact crash protection. Each model presented unique challenges towards achieving top ratings.

"Volvo safety has been over 80 years in the making. Our cars are born from a culture that believes in protecting those in and around everything we make," said Anne Belec, president and CEO, Volvo Cars of North America. "Safety is a matter of cultural pride. Safety is not added on; it comes with the first kernel of thought when designing a new Volvo."