Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Top 10 Cars We Can’t Wait For

No.10 - Toyota Prius

On sale: 2009

The third-generation U.S.-spec Toyota Prius appears to be taking a major step toward bringing unconvinced buyers into the fold; with more power, even better economy and -- finally -- a more pleasant look. What’s not to like? We’ll probably get a look at the 2010 model at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show. Expect a more Yaris-like nose, a slightly revised tail and more stylish flanks. The next edition could even include a plug-in model, though in limited numbers.

No.9 - Hyundai Genesis Coupe

On sale: 2009

What few would’ve predicted from Hyundai is now an ambitious salvo at the luxury car establishment with the now-available Genesis sedan. But wait, as the infomercials say, there’s more. The sports coupe market is going to have another competitor when the 2010 Genesis Coupe goes on sale in 2009. With a 223-horsepower turboed 4-cylinder and a 310-horsepower naturally aspirated V6 slated as engine choices, it promises to be a must-drive. Some call it a pony-car contender and others see it as a low-buck alternative to the Infiniti G37. Either way, it’s one of the upcoming cars we can’t wait for.

No.8 - Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series

On sale: December 2008

In the approximate 3.9 seconds it takes to say this car’s name, you can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph. As you’d correctly suspect, the Merchedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series is more than just a dark-hued SL65. It’s lighter, mostly rebodied (mostly in carbon fiber), now a fixed-roof car, and seriously more powerful. Whereas the “normal” car has 604 horsepower, the Black Series menaces with 661. Torque is still a healthy 738 lb-ft, but the transmission has been revised with an electronically limited top speed of 199 mph -- or so they claim. Now, where did we leave that quarter million bucks?

No.7 - Chevrolet Volt

On sale: November 2010

The new face of green, at least for Chevy, is set to roll by the end of 2010. You’ve heard about the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and the ambitious ramp-up; but thanks to some leaked photos from GM, we have a better idea of what’s to come. Admittedly, it does look far more sober than the cool concept, but it’s easily as appealing as a Prius. The Volt stands apart as a plug-in electric car, with a battery-only range of 40 miles. Beyond that, a compact gas engine will kick in to recharge and extend the operating range tenfold.

No.6 - Audi R8 TDI Le Mans

On sale: TBD

For all those who scoffed at Audi for putting a diesel race car on the track, there’s going to be an oil-burning version of the R8 to humble traffic in public too. We must confess, the 6.0-liter, V12-endowed R8 TDI LeMans is still officially a concept as of this writing. However, the good news is that Audi is carefully allowing the press to sample a pre-production example with 500 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque. Just the idea of a diesel supercar qualifies this Audi as a future car we can’t wait for.

No.5 - Lotus Evora

On sale: Late 2009

If you love everything about the Lotus Elise and Exige, minus the minor details of near-impossible ingress and egress, the upcoming Evora (nee Eagle) is set to thrill those above five-feet tall -- at least in front. Yes, the roomier Lotus is indeed a two-plus-two car, yet remains mid-engined like its baby brothers. Power is expected to be in the 300-horsepower range and courtesy of a 3.5-liter Toyota V6. Where the Ferrari Mondial struck out in looks and functionality years earlier, the Lotus Evora looks to be a winner.

No.4 - Porsche Panamera

On sale: 2009

Porsche used to build two-door sports cars -- period. That ended with a thud when the Cayenne landed, and now another example is coming soon in the four-door Panamera. Spy photos haven’t exactly been thrilling, but we’re going to reserve judgment until we see and drive it firsthand. First, we suspect the car to be a stronger seller overseas than in the U.S., which will likely have an impact on final style tweaks. Second, the engine lineup hasn’t been officially decided. Regardless, as a Porsche, one can reasonably expect the Panamera to be a strong performer.

No.3 - Ferrari California

On sale: 2008 (Europe), 2009 (North America)

In a recent feature devoted to the new Ferrari California, we shamelessly gushed over Maranello’s newest and made it fairly clear why it’s a car we can’t wait for. And why not? This is Ferrari’s first front-engine V8 two-plus-two convertible, with performance to put it very much in line with its stable-mates. Zero to 60 mph is expected to be attainable in under four seconds, with a top speed approaching 200 mph. Besides, it’s exceptionally cool to remark that Michael Schumacher had a hand in your car’s development.

No.2 - Chevrolet Camaro

On sale: February 2009 (coupe), November 2009 (convertible)

Let’s thank Chevy for making threesomes possible. Just as the Dodge Challenger is already running and the 2010 Ford Mustang launches in early 2009, the Camaro returns with a vengeance. Yes, a three-car comparison is already planned. Plus, sources suggest the Camaro could offer a trio of engine choices; including the obligatory 400-horsepower V8, a 300-horsepower V6 and even a 260-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder. So long as the Camaro doesn’t also signal the return of the mullet, we’ll gladly celebrate the new car with the old name.

No.1 - Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione

On sale: 2009 (coupe), 2010 (convertible)

The last time Alfisti were granted a new model in the States was at least a generation ago. Proving the wait was well worth it, the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione is a stunner. If you think Lamborghinis have too-sharp body lines and Ferrari's looks don’t quite thrill, the Alfa stands apart with just the right style. Of course, being Italian, the 8C Competizione does share one thing with the aforementioned: an engine (in this case, a 4.7-liter V8) whose sound will resonate with you long after the drive.

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