Despite today’s economic hard times, Americans are still buying cars. Here’s our preview of 2009 models from brands that African-Americans favor most.

Cadillac CTS-VCadillac CTS-V
Another gold for the Americans
Cadillac’s Escalade has had one of the greatest runs of all time for a
full-size luxury SUV, and the latest generation CTS is a top-three choice for entry-level luxury sport sedans. The CTS Concept Coupe shown at the North American Auto Show in Detroit is coming in 2009 as a five-seat-only SRX. Cadillac also showcased its CTS Wagon, betting on a shift back to wagons from the big SUVs.

Only in its second generation, the CTS-V is “now a mature thirty-year-old male, whereas the first generation was an anxious fifteen-year-old boy,” says a GM representative. When first introduced, the vehicle was so aggressive and jumpy that it hardly seemed a Cadillac. The 2009 model is bimodal — calm and docile in peaceful driving; a Jamaican track Olympian when you rev up its 556 horsepower and 551 lbs.-ft. of torque. With 400 horsepower available at only 1,200 rpm., and a 0-to-60 mph. time of 3.9 seconds, the CTS-V is one of the “baddest” boys on the block. It won’t be long before Cadillac sets it sights on BMW’s shogun assassin, M5, and the Mercedes-Benz twins, E55 AMG and E63 AMG.

Honda FitHonda Fit
“Fit” for today’s economy
If you need an SUV for five in a great, small package, consider the 2009 Honda Fit, now in its second generation. Its “super-forward” design pushes the wheels out to the corners, providing a spacious interior that belies its diminutive exterior. A larger windshield and large, front-quarter windows ensure an unobstructed view. Side and rear views are also very good — a safety feature sometimes overlooked in a 10-minute test-drive.

Its small size notwithstanding, Fit is very safe. It has Honda’s advanced compatibility engineering (ACE) body structure, combined with improvements to body rigidity for crisp handling and a surprisingly quiet and comfortable ride. Tall drivers and passengers will enjoy Fit’s abundant headroom, but legroom is tight. Drivers with girth will enjoy not rubbing arms with passengers. Pushing the Fit’s 1.5-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder was downright enjoyable.  If you opt for the more expensive Fit Sport, you can choose a sweet-shifting, five-speed manual with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Our only gripe about the 2009 Fit is its lack of electronic stability control on base models. Choose the Fit Sport, however, and stability control is standard, as well as the ability to choose the optional DVD-based, satellite-linked navigation.  The 6.5-inch, voice recognition, touch-screen navigation system opens to reveal PC-card playback capability, further enhancing audio choices.

Lincoln MKSLincoln MKS
Looks can be deceiving
Lincoln was founded in 1917 by the great machinist and engineer Henry Martyn Leland, a master of precision parts and luxury cars. Fast-forward to the 2009 model year and Lincoln seems lost in the world of automotive luxury without its founder. The Lincoln Town Car is gone; the Navigator lost its luster years ago to the Escalade; the MKZ is a nonfactor; and the MKX can easily be substituted by the Ford Edge, a cheaper look-alike.

Lincoln now steps into the second half of the year with its top-of-the-line dime piece, MKS. The MKS is just average. Based on the Ford Taurus platform, it drives big like the Town Car but rides with the 3.7-liter V6 and 6-speed automatic transmission combo. Front-wheel drive (all-wheel drive is available) and 273 horsepower on a wide and tall body is hardly dynamic performance. The design is cool but not original.

The problem with Lincoln is that it has no long-standing vehicle-naming convention like Mercedes-Benz’s letter system, BMW’s number series or Audi’s alphanumeric pattern. Every few years, Lincoln spends time, energy and advertising dollars re-educating buyers about its “all-new” vehicle products. From the quarter-panel view, the MKS looks like a Buick Lacrosse. From the side, with its huge doors and standardized “flower patterned” 19-inch aluminum rims, it looks like 10 others. The front, with its plastic “waterfall” grille, is the only unique feature on the MKS.

 

Mercedes-Benz R320Mercedes-Benz
BlueTEC Diesel SUV
Blue is the new Green
“Green themes” have been a huge battle cry since the state of energy in America has declined. Yet only recently have Americans paid attention to what “Green” really constitutes. Should we opt for a Hybrid, flex-fuel vehicle, electric car, a smaller engine? Or should we do as the Europeans   and rock out with diesel? Mercedes-Benz would have us chant for its new, clean, diesel vehicles consisting of the ML, GL and R320 BlueTEC SUVs. Using diesel allows a vehicle to travel about 30 percent farther per gallon than with gasoline. This was why the commercial transportation industry took to this alternative-fuel source. Unfortunately, diesel prices have skyrocketed, surpassing $5 a gallon in many states.

Diesel vehicles got a bad rap in the 1980s and 1990s. They were loud and belched air-polluting soot. Today is a different day for diesel and Mercedes-Benz is still there to support it. For one, Mercedes-Benz never moved its diesel vehicles out of the United States. New technology was developed to ensure that these bigger vehicles maintained the same cleanliness as their smaller sedan cousins. The SUVs received AdBlue injection in conjunction with BlueTEC.

AdBlue is a urea ingredient stored in an auxiliary tank and injected into the pre-treated exhaust gas to eventually form ammonia within the catalytic converter, which, in turn, converts oxides of nitrogen into harmless nitrogen. Clean diesel is achieved by Benz engineers through four processing systems working together: AdBlue, tuning the engines and combustion chambers as efficiently as possible, oxidizing catalytic converters to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and using a self-cleaning particulate filter.

Consumers will see an increase in mileage in each of the SUVs. The ML320 BlueTEC gets 18/24 (city/highway) miles per gallon, the GL320 BlueTEC gets 17/23 and the R320 BlueTEC gets 18/24.

Recently, the federal government announced that Mercedes-Benz BlueTEC technology is eligible for the same tax credits as hybrids.

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