For more than a century, wild packs of luxury cars roamed the world and preyed on everything good and honest in the natural world. In southern Europe, a nasty species of exotica, which was only known to the locals as Lamborghini, pillaged towns of their precious resources of aluminum and magnesium — leaving the countryside completely scorched. Hordes of Bentleys crossed the Atlantic on steamships and made a full assault on North American supplies of Birdseye maple, leaving fine furniture makers with only a pound of shavings on which to feed per year. And in the Persian Gulf, a particularly predatory group of Hummers sacked oil-rich principalities and slowly leeched their reserves to near nothingness. 

However, the dawn of the new millennium brought new hope and new technologies to tame the previously nefarious beasts and brought peace and harmony between machine and Mother Nature.

One of the greatest examples of the change from environmental Hun to hero is the perennial sports car — the redesigned 2008 Chevrolet Corvette. Without the aide of electrical motors and “gee whiz” gadgets, the mighty Beast from Bowling Green pumps out 430 horsepower and still fetches a sedan-like 26 mpg on the highway. That combination is good for a face-smooshing zero to sixty time of 4.1 seconds, and a top speed of 190 mph. 

So how does Chevrolet get such impressive numbers from their monster 6.3 Liter V8? According to Terry Lee of Terry Lee Chevrolet, it’s because of the light materials that make up the car’s structure. “It’s a combination of the aluminum structure and the world’s highest volume use of carbon fiber on a production car that makes the Corvette a few hundred pounds lighter than the Dodge Viper.”

He also points out that the new Corvette has done away with the ride harshness that drove many potential customers away in the past. “Now the Corvette rides just as good as it looks,” says Lee.

Want a Corvette with even more power? Check out the ZO6. According to Mike Fayson, product specialist at Kerry Chevrolet in Alexandria, “This beast uses every bit of its 505 horsepower engine. And with the ZO6’s Active Handling System, you’ll really feel it.” And just because Fayson calls this car a “beast,” it’s certainly not a gas hog. True, the engine does contain a litany of racing-derived components, but it also has Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) machined heads for better air/fuel flow.

And if you’re looking for performance but also want the distinction of driving a hybrid, you can opt for the Lexus GS 450h. However, you may be asking yourself, how sporty can hybrid really be? Well, the GS 450h is the fastest car that has Lexus has ever produced: hybrid or straight gasoline-powered.

“The hybrid technology in the 450h is first and foremost a performance enhancement to the vehicle, and secondarily a fuel economy consideration,” says Frank Winstel of Performance Lexus in Mason.

Not only is it quicker than the gas-engined Lexus GS 460, doing zero to 60 in 5.2 seconds compared to 5.4 for the GS 460, but it gets better gas mileage, too. On the highway the hybrid-engined sprinter is good for 25 miles compared to the petrol-burner’s 24. Where the big difference comes from is in the city, where it beats out its brother for 22 miles instead of 17 up and down Vine Street. The hybrid system that makes this possible is very similar to those found in the other Lexus and Toyota models — but it has been considerably beefed up by Lexus’ more lead-footed engineers.

But, what if leaving other motorists in a more eco-friendly cloud of dust isn’t your thing? No problem. Cadillac offers just the solution for those of you who want to roll big and roll green. “Customers are telling us they want their marquee Escalade, but they want to be environmentally conscious as well. The new Escalade Hybrid should do just that,” says Jim Patterson, internet manager for Thompson MacConnell Cadillac in Walnut Hills.

This year, Cadillac will be offering the Escalade Hybrid to drivers who want the spaciousness of a big SUV without the full wallet assault at the gas pump. It’s also for drivers who want the ability to tow a boat or trailer in the typical leather-soaked atmosphere that Cadillac is known for. 

In addition to using the hybrid system that utilizes electric engines at slow speeds instead of the 6-liter gas engine, and a braking system that replenishes battery power through converting heat energy into electrical energy, the Escalade Hybrid has another trick up its sleeve: Active Fuel Management. It works ingeniously to save the tank you just topped off and the planet.

Cars, trucks, and SUVs use considerably less power to cruise at a constant speed than they use when accelerating. Cadillac engineers took advantage of this with Active Fuel Management and designed the gas engine to sense when it doesn’t need as much oomph. Once the Caddy’s electric brain makes this realization, it shuts off four of the V8’s cylinders — in effect making the engine a V4. When the extra power is needed, the engine seamlessly switches back to V8 mode. The transition is smooth and undetectable to regular drivers. Where you see the difference is on the gas gauge.

For many people, the term diesel evokes images of noisy, dirty semi-trucks that belch soot up and down the interstate. Mercedes-Benz is trying to change that perception with its E320 BLUTEC Sedan. “If you sat down in the car and turned it on without having anyone tell you it’s a diesel, you would never know the difference,” says Craig Thomas, president of Mercedes-Benz of West Chester.

The company has done a fantastic job of bringing diesel technology lightyears from where it was just a couple of decades ago — thanks in part to dramatic increases in fuel managing computers that hitch along for the ride. The result of their hard work is a turbo diesel engine in a family sedan that has the fuel economy of a 4-cylinder, but the torque of a heavy-duty pickup truck. Diesel engines are already in heavy use in Europe and undoubtedly will be a major player in the North American market in the very near future.

2008 is also a big year for small luxury cars, and BMW leads the pack with its all-new 1 Series. According to Will Sherman, marketing and IT manager of The BMW Store in Silverton, the new 1 Series follows a tried-and-true formula from the past.

“Its DNA is closely linked to the iconic BMW 2002, a car built in the late ’60s and early ’70s, that embodies what BMW driving dynamics are all about.”
So just how small is the 1 Series?
“It will be smaller and more nimble, if you can believe that, than the 3 Series,” says Sherman.
The path for the 1 Series was paved by the current Mini Cooper — a small car with which parent company BMW has found great success.
The EPA hasn’t yet released fuel mileage numbers on the pocket Beamer, but you can bet the bank that it will reach into the mid-30s on the highway.
Lastly, our pick for the best-looking underdog for 2008 is the new SAAB 93 sport sedan. It’s quick, gets good gas mileage, and really does look like it was “Born from Jets,” as the company’s motto goes. “It’s amazing how our cars can perform so well while being so easy on your wallet and the environment,” said AJ Murphy, sales manager of Just SAAB Cincinnati in Madisonville.

Saab has long been a proponent of 4-cylinder turbo engines, and this year’s model line offers two of them: the 2-liter turbo in the base and a 2.8-liter turbo in the sporty Aero model. The cars fetch 29 and 26 miles per gallon highway, respectively, and each is guaranteed to make red lights and stop signs feel like the deck of an aircraft carrier.

This year’s selection of green machines has never been broader for those who want to tear up the tarmac, haul a horse or two, or just make it to work without having to set up an oil drill in the backyard.  
 
The 2008 Cincinnati Auto Expo, presented by the Greater Cincinnati Automobile Dealers Association, rolls into the Duke Energy Center Feb. 21-24. New model automobiles from 36 manufacturers will be on display. Visitors can check out all the new designs and innovations in the sleekest sports cars and most lavish luxury models. Knowledgeable staffers from many local auto dealerships and manufacturer product specialists will be on hand to discuss vehicles and answer questions.
 
For more information, visit www.hartproductions.com/AutoExpo/index.html.
The BMW Store
In 2008, The BMW Store celebrates its 29th anniversary. We have reached this milestone by relentlessly trying to provide the ultimate customer experience before, during and after the sale. At The BMW Store you have access to the largest inventory of new BMWs in the state, the No. 1 certified pre-owned department in terms of sales volume in an 11-state region and the largest fleet of BMW loaner vehicles in Ohio. 

Kerry Chevrolet
Kerry Chevrolet is conveniently located in Alexandria, just minutes away from Florence and Newport. Kerry Chevrolet has the area’s largest selection of Chevrolets and certified preowned vehicles. Best of all, Kerry Chevrolet has a great staff on hand to assist you with all of your needs when it comes to Chevrolet parts, factory service and OEM accessories for your vehicle.