Cars Worth the Wait
Five 2011 models that should be significantly better than previous versions.
Fall is here, folks. The days are starting to get shorter, the nights longer, and there is a slight chill is in the air. It also signals the start of the season to move sheet metal. From now until the end of the calendar year, automakers and car dealers will be throwing mad incentives at car buyers in an effort to sell their remaining 2010 model-year inventory to make room for 2011's shiny new crop of autos.
Exceptional deals will be offered on these leftovers, for sure. But beware: Some of these bargains aren't as good as they seem. Why, you ask? Because the cars they will be offered on are significantly inferior to the ones that are replacing them.
While we admit that year-to-year model upgrades are often inconsequential, a few are so good that they are worth waiting for, as they offer owners a bigger payoff in fuel efficiency, performance or value.
Here are our choices for the five 2011 models that promise to be far superior to the 2010 models they replace, and are thus worth waiting for.
Kia has forged a family identity with its latest round of redesigns. From the Forte to the Sorento, shapely bodies and distinctive grille work are the order of the day. But the Sportage, with its aggressive new silhouette and chiseled features, is the real stunner for 2011 and offers the most obvious departure from the 2010 edition.
But there is more going on here than meets the eye. First is value. The Sportage is a serious bargain, starting at $18,295, for a front-wheel-drive version with a 6-speed manual transmission. Standard fare includes Bluetooth connectivity, 16-inch alloy wheels and an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system. Plus, Kia has a number of attractively priced option packages for the LX and up-level EX models, and you can get a fully optioned Sportage LX AWD out the door for $24,795 plus destination. That's a deal.
The Sportage also offers better-than-average fuel efficiency. Take the LX-FWD, for instance. It costs $2,000 more than the base model, comes with a 6-speed automatic transmission and gets an impressive 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway. And the entry-level all-wheel-drive Sportage, the LX AWD, is priced at $21,795 and delivers excellent 21/28 mpg mileage figures.
Jeep Grand Cherokee:
The 2011 Grand Cherokee — base price is $30,215 for the 4x2 and $32,215 for the 4x4 — will make a lasting first impression with its all-new sheet metal. In fact, we think the vehicle's soft-edged, sculpted body lines, modern headlamp treatment and elegant interior take this trusted SUV to the next level.
Plus, a bevy of technological advancements make it more civilized than ever before, on and off the road. Quadra Lift air suspension can raise the vehicle by as much as 4.1 inches for a maximum ground clearance of 10.7 inches. And its handling capabilities can be easily tailored to road conditions thanks to Selec-Terrain. The settings include Auto, Sand/Mud, Snow, Sport and Rock.
The 2011 tC's exterior refresh can be likened to what happens to a snake when it sheds its skin. Is the exterior new? Yes. Is it different? Not really.
What makes this vehicle wait-worthy is the drive. The 180-horsepower Scion is an adept two-faced performer: It's a sedate, fuel-sipping commuter one moment and a high-revving thrill ride the next. It has 19 more horsepower than the outgoing version, a butter-smooth 6-speed transmission, standard 18-inch wheels and tires, and a responsive suspension.
Even more important these days, the tC is a value buy, with a power sunroof, 300-watt stereo and 23 mpg city/31 mpg highway fuel efficiency, for an unbelievably low $18,275 base price.
Whether it was always part of the plan or a reaction to the Chevy Camaro, we like the fact that Ford is once again muscling up the Mustang. The V8-powered 2011 GT model is up 95 horses over the 2010 edition, developing a generous 412 ponies. Even the base V6 produces a whopping 305 ponies. It's a win-win, as both models also improve in the miles-per-gallon department, with the 5.0-liter GT posting 17 mpg city/26 mpg highway, while the V6 delivers segment-leading figures of 19/31 mpg.
The 2011 edition also features bigger brakes, numerous performance packages and a fresh-off-the-drawing-board interior. The base V6 starts at $22,145 and the GT checks in at $29,645.
The M's sculpted, athletic new look makes quite a statement. It is clear Infiniti is gunning for the top of the luxury segment with this sedan. But that beauty isn't just skin deep. The automaker has also upped the M's game in terms of performance, handling and comfort.
The 2011 M lineup features the 330-horsepower M37 and 420-horsepower M56. These flagship sedans are up 27 and 95 horsepower, respectively. They also get an efficient 7-speed automatic transmission in place of the outgoing 5-cog unit.
Road feel and handling have been enhanced thanks to the company's all-new 4-wheel steering system and a refined suspension that includes 18-inch rolling stock. A capable sport option delivers even more grip, bigger brakes, 20-inch wheels and tires and numerous interior and exterior enhancements.
The cabin is as comfy and elegant as one would expect. Plus, Infiniti has made it quieter thanks to Active Noise Control, which cancels low-frequency sounds by emitting sounds of the opposite frequency. Infiniti also enhanced the navigation system with a bigger screen and upped the audio quotient with a Bose 5.1 surround-sound system.
The M works on many levels, and if you are in the luxury market, it should be on your must-test list.