Models from European, Asian and American carmakers comprise the lineup of specials this fall. Here’s a preview of our 2010 choices.
2010 Audi S4
From a small car company built out of passion and excellence in engineering, Audi sticks to its roots as the company celebrates 100 years of automotive development. Welcome the 2010 S4, whose design fits perfectly with what’s under the hood — a 333 horsepower (325 pound-feet of torque) V6 with a roots-type supercharger. This four-door rocket doesn’t make you think twice about needing a V8 engine. Its 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds puts it on a par with its competitors, while still getting 28 miles to the gallon on the highway. Integrated new technology, like the S tronic (direct-shift gearbox) seven-speed dual clutch design, makes shifting extremely fast and helps improve the car’s fuel efficiency.
Audi is well known for its “quattro” all-wheel drive capability. This time, it incorporated a new sports rear differential that not only varies torque between the front and rear wheels as before, but also varies the torque left and right between the rear wheels, enabling the car’s outside rear wheel to push the vehicle through corners. The sports rear differential helps eliminate under-steer with a link to the cars electronic stability program that can be altered via the vehicle’s presets (Audi Drive Select) for Comfort, Auto and Dynamic modes. It may also be customized per driver via the Individual mode. Starting at $45,900 the S4 wouldn’t be complete without a sporty, redesigned interior, letting you choose stainless steel, carbon fiber, piano black or brushed aluminum trim. Complementing sport-designed seats with more bolstering around the body for passengers prove effective through tight turns. You can choose from several stylish two-toned seat combinations. Each S4 has detailed badging on the seats, steering wheel, doorsills and gauges, a constant not-so-subtle reminder that this is an S4.
2009 BMW 750Li
If you get behind the wheel of the 2009 BMW 750Li, you’d better have a grip on what you are doing. This silky smooth Bimmer is filled with so much technology it requires a bit of study to effectively operate it, even for a seasoned automotive writer who’s used to pushing buttons on every car available for sale in the U.S. And once you’ve read the owner’s manual and mastered all of the bells and whistles, you still may need a Rosetta stone to decipher all of the acronyms associated with the high-tech toys.
There’s a ton of standard equipment with the 750Li as well. High-definition radio, leather seating, tasteful wood and metal accents and a killer audio system are among interior highlights. Standard safety gear is also impressive. Anti-lock brakes with Brake Drying feature and Brake Fade Compensation bring you to a safe stop in a hurry. A full complement of air bags protect you in a collision and adaptive headlights allow you to see your way clearly through turns. And for 2009, BMW’s infamous iDrive system has improved to the point where you no longer have to swear when trying to adjust vehicle parameters or find your favorite radio station.
Our tester has a list price of $84,200. Options, destination charges ($825) and a $1,000 “gas guzzler” tax bring the tally nearly to $87,000. The most expensive package is the $4,900 Sport Package, which includes 19-inch forged wheels/tires, Integral Active Steering, leather steering wheel, body color roof trim and shadowline trim.
2010 Kia Forte
Being seen in a Kia once was considered plebeian. Those days are fading fast, with help from the carmaker. Kia is rolling out rafts of spanking new vehicles that make economic sense and that are visually appealing. Consumers — those who long favored smart, rational buys as well as those forced to be thrifty — are warming up to the idea of buying a Kia.
The 2010 Kia Forte, the brand’s latest set of wheels, appears to go after a mixed bag of consumers in the compact-car segment, including the uncompromising frugal bunch and practical types. This newbie likely will find itself on the consideration list of the aforementioned buyers and anyone on the hunt for a solid car because it is a blaring bang for the buck at a time when it’s chic to be cheap. Moreover, the deal comes with a smorgasbord of standard offerings and a fuel tank that isn’t piggish on gas.
Pricewise, the vehicle knocks the value-pricing concept out of the ballpark. The base Kia Forte LX starts at $13,695, against the base Toyota Corolla priced at $15,350, or the Honda Civic at $15,455. The Forte EX version starts at $15,795 and the SX at $17,195. Those are impressive digits, considering that the top Forte model comes with a plethora of standard amenities while staying below the $20,000 mark. The SX comes with loads of standard equipment, including six speakers with door-mounted tweeters, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity with steering wheel-mounted controls and USB/auxiliary input jacks. Those features are also standard on the LX and EX models.
2010 Ford Taurus
Something about an underdog gets most people rooting for it. Perhaps it’s the fighter in them, that unrelenting, dogged refusal to stay put. The 2010 Ford Taurus is a case in point. Its U.S. manufacturer, Ford Motor Co., wasn’t ready to raise a white flag in surrender to a new day in automotive history in which its rivals across town have done the unimaginable and tumbled into bankruptcy. Instead, Ford went back to the drawing board and devised a full-size sedan that — at the very least — will be graded as one good-looking car, and at the most will prove a capable contender in the marketplace.
The new Taurus, which rolls into dealerships with a high-performance, 365-horsepower Taurus SHO version, demonstrates that Ford isn’t asleep at the wheel. The company gets it that American consumers want bells and whistles, not a choice between the two. It hopes its latest Taurus will be a game changer like the one launched during the 1986 model year. The new Taurus pushing, 263-horsepower, doesn’t conjure up mid-80s images of what it once was. It’s a new car, filled with comparable large-sedan choices and with all-new sheet metal that aims to be seen amid that crowd.
The vehicle comes in two trim levels – SE and SEL – and accelerates nicely. Its six-speed automatic transmission changes gears with ease. The SHO version moves like a linebacker who has taken dance lessons. It whipped right then left, taking the shape of each roadway curve. Its suspension strutted its stuff on the twisty parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway connecting Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. The base price for the Taurus SE is $25,995 and $27,995 for the SEL version. The SHO, SEL and Limited models are priced between $31,995 and $37,995.