Rabu, 20 Januari 2010

Kia Forte sedan test drive

Meet the all-new 2010 Kia Forte, which replaces the Spectra as Kia's entry in the crowded compact sedan segment. Kia claims the Forte represents the New Age of Kia -- top-quality cars that can hold their own against Toyota, Honda and Nissan while retaining Kia's traditional value equation (translation: cheap prices). That's a pretty tall order -- can the Kia Forte really deliver, or is this just more marketing hype? Read on. Price range $14,390 - $20,535, EPA fuel economy estimates 22-27 MPG city, 31-36 MPG highway.

When a second-tier automaker says they're going to build a first-rate car, I get all giddy inside, because I know that much hilarity is about to ensue. I've seen it before: Public-relations proclamations that this is the car that will launch them to the top of Consumer Reports' best-buy list and make Soichiro Honda roll over in his grave. The car turns out to be a noisy, tinny, plasticky piece of crap, and I get to write a knee-slapping review telling you not to buy it.

So when Kia said that the all-new Forte was going to give cars like the Corolla, Civic and Sentra a run for their money, I figured I could just sit back and let the jokes write themselves. Don't get me wrong -- I like Kia cars, but they aren't exactly keeping Toyota executives awake at night. A Kia that's as good as a Corolla? Comedy gold, my friends.

And then I drove the Forte...and it was a major disappointment. Not because it's bad, but because it's every bit as good as Kia promised it would be. Damn, I thought as I turned my first mile in the Forte, there goes my review.

Truth is, you could slap any one of a number of Japanese badges on the Forte -- Mazda, Nissan, maybe even Toyota if the light wasn't great -- and most people would believe it. It really is that good. The Forte is handsome, but not divisive; its feature list is long, but not excessive; its road manners are athletic, but not punishing. Like the best cars in this class, the Forte is solidly middle-of-the-road -- a major accomplishment from an automaker that has spent most of its time, metaphorically speaking, in the breakdown lane.
In the Driver's Seat: As good as anything else
2010 Kia Forte EX dashboard
2010 Kia Forte EX dashboard
Photo © Aaron Gold

Larger interior photo

Inside the Forte, the plastics, fabrics and carpets are as good as or better than those found in competing cars. The controls (link goes to photo) are simple, the instruments clearly labeled, and visibility is great. All Fortes get a height-adjustable driver's seat and steering column; only the top-of-the-line SX model get a telescope (in-and-out) adjustment for the steering wheel, but even without it I found the driving position comfortable enough. Ditto for the back seat -- I had plenty of room back there, and even with the front seat adjusted all the way back there was adequate space for my feet. The trunk is huge -- 14.5 cubic feet -- but the opening is small.

Being a Kia, the Forte is heavy on value. The base model costs $14,390 -- $1,825 less than the cheapest Honda Civic sedan -- and comes with stuff the Civic doesn't get, like a Bluetooth speakerphone, CD stereo with USB input jack, and electronic stability control. You can add air conditioning for $1,500, but a better deal is to spring for the $16,490 Forte EX, which comes with A/C, power windows, mirrors and locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control, a split/fold rear seat, and other goodies. (For those keeping score, that's $1,675 less than a mid-level Honda Civic LX, and the Forte EX is better equipped). Top of the range is the $17,890 Forte SX, which, like the $19,610 Toyota Corolla XRS, gets a bigger engine and a sportier suspension. Tick all the option boxes -- heated leather seats, moonroof, automatic -- and the Forte SX tops out at a reasonable $20,535.
On the Road: A tale of two engines

LX and EX models are powered by a 2-liter engine. Its output of 156 horsepower sounds promising, but its old-tech automatic has only four speeds -- which means frequent flooring of the pedal to get at the engine's power. There are two fixes: First, save a thousand bucks and get the five-speed manual; second, spend an extra $600 on the Fuel Economy Package, which includes a 5-speed automatic that provides more flexibility (and better gas mileage, to boot).

The Forte SX is a different story. Under its hood is an overachieving 2.4 liter 173 hp engine with either a 6-speed stick or a 5-speed automatic. The automatic leaps off the line with a neck-snapping jerk and jets ahead like a wannabe muscle car, but it was the 6-speed manual that really put a smile on my face, although I found the SX's stiffer suspension a bit jarring on bumpy city streets. LX and EX models ride a bit more comfortably, and all Fortes are decent handlers, offering lots of grip and good control of body roll.

What I like best about the Forte is that all versions come standard with a full load of safety features, including six airbags, antilock brakes and electronic stability control (ESC), a life-saving technology that reduces the chance of the driver losing control in a swerve or a skid. Honda only offers ESC on the priciest Civics, but it comes free on the Forte. Bravo, Kia! Another good deed: Both engines are available in Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) versions for California-compliant states, with only a slight drop in power output.
Journey's End: Good news for you, bad news for me
2010 Kia Forte EX rear view
2010 Kia Forte EX
Photo © Aaron Gold

The 2010 Kia Forte is an impressive car that does the job just as well as mainstreamers like the Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, and Ford Focus. The Honda Civic's innovative interior and the Mazda3's long list of creature comforts put them ahead of the Forte, but both are significantly pricier. The Forte SX does even better against big-engine compacts like the Toyota Corolla XRS and Mitsubishi Lancer GTS -- it's more fun to drive than the Toyota and has a better interior than the Lancer.

The Forte's best rival is the Hyundai Elantra. (Hyundai is Kia's parent company.) Like the Forte, the Elantra has a roomy interior and long warranty, plus it's good to drive and a great value. But base models don't come with ESC, and the Elantra is as bland-looking as the Forte is attractive. Advantage: Kia.

Resale values are a Kia weak point, but the Automotive Leasing Guide (ALG) has set the Forte EX's 3-year residual value at 50% -- 15% better than the outgoing Spectra and only 3% and 11% behind the Toyota Corolla LE and the class-leading Honda Civic EX-L respectively. (Other Fortes range from 46 to 54%.) And Kia backs their cars with a great warranty -- 5 years/60,000 miles on the whole car and 10 years/100,000 miles on the powertrain.

Bottom line: The Forte is exactly what Kia promised -- a first-rate car that can run with its mainstream rivals. It may not be best in class, but it's far, far, far from the worst. That's great news for car buyers, even if it's bad news for us writers.

Kia Forte (2010)

Kia Forte

Kia introduced the all-new 2010 Kia Forte (pronounced for-tay) compact sedan at the 2009 Chicago Auto Show. Forte blends Kia's exciting new design direction under the tutelage of Peter Schreyer, Kia Motors' chief design officer, with a multitude of standard features. The 2010 Kia Forte will go on sale in North America in late spring or early summer of 2009.

"Kia Motors' product line is rapidly evolving and the Kia Forte compact sedan is another head turner," said B.M. Ahn, group president and CEO, KMA and KMMG. "The Forte is an aggressively stylish blend of comfort and practicality - and with a host of standard features it provides the great quality and value that consumers have come to expect from Kia vehicles."

Style in Motion

Sporting stylish and aggressive design cues, the new Kia Forte firmly establishes itself as a strong contender in its segment. With a bold look set apart by crisp lines, swept-back headlamps and a sleek profile, Kia Forte exudes a confident stance that conveys motion both while cruising the highway and parked in the driveway. Available in three trim levels (LX, EX and SX), Kia Forte offers a sleek, sophisticated design. The sportier SX trim offers a more athletic profile with 17-inch alloy wheels paired with P215/45R17-sized premium tires and a rear spoiler.

Smooth and Comfortable Ride

With a wheelbase of 104.3 inches, an overall length of 178.3 inches, an overall width of 69.9 inches and overall height of 57.5 inches, Kia Forte offers one of the roomiest interiors in its class with seating for up to five passengers. The Kia-engineered body achieves high torsional stiffness giving Kia Forte better handling, smoother ride quality and greater refinement than its competitors, with a specially tuned suspension adjusted perfectly for responsive handling on curvy roads. Additional refinements are fitted throughout Kia Forte to help ensure a comfortable ride with good noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) reduction qualities.

Built on a front-wheel-drive unibody frame, Kia Forte utilizes an independent front suspension with MacPherson struts and a stabilizer bar and a torsion beam rear suspension with struts and coil springs. This combination helps provide the optimal balance of handling and comfort. An engine-speed-sensitive, power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system adds the finishing touch for precise handling by providing the most advantageous amount of assist for varying road conditions. In keeping with the sporty essence of the SX model line, a sport-tuned suspension gives the chassis a firmer feel and responsiveness resulting in a sportier and more spirited ride. The SX model also features larger front brakes for improved stopping capabilities.

Attractive and Practical Interior

Kia Forte boasts a class-leading¹ 96.8 cubic feet of passenger volume, while driver and passengers have an impressive 40.0 inches of headroom and 43.3 inches of legroom in the front seats and 37.8 inches of headroom and 35.0 inches of legroom in the rear seats. Kia Forte's trunk also offers an impressive 14.7 cubic feet of cargo space, one of the largest in its class, perfect for luggage for weekend getaways.

Capitalizing on its spacious interior, Kia Forte pampers its riders with a host of interior features, starting with comfortable, nicely appointed full cloth seats. A six-way adjustable driver's seat, tilt steering column, rear defroster and dual 12-volt power outlets in the center console are driver- and passenger-conscious luxuries standard on every vehicle.

EX and SX models offer a number of additional standard luxurious touches such as: power windows and door locks; remote keyless entry; air conditioning; map lamps; steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls; dual front and rear cup holders; and floor mats. Kia Forte EX and SX models also include standard cruise control with an optional sunroof and leather-trimmed seats. Also standard on SX models is a telescoping steering column as well as sport cloth seats adorned with red stitching, further enhancing its energetic persona.

Peppy Performance

Kia Forte LX and EX are powered by a 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine, producing 156 horsepower and 144 pound-feet of torque, that features Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) and multi-port electronic fuel injection, both of which provide for greater performance and fuel economy. The SX features an upgraded 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine, also with CVVT, which delivers 173 horsepower - more than the most powerful versions of the Toyota Corolla or even the 2010 Mazda 3.

Two transmission options are offered for the 2010 Kia Forte: a standard five-speed manual transmission or an optional electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission (LX and EX models). The SX model features a standard six-speed manual transmission and an optional five-speed automatic transmission with Sportmatic®.

The optional Fuel Economy Package, available with the 2.0-liter powerplant, will include the five-speed automatic transmission, Motor Drive Power Steering and low-rolling resistance tires with aero enhancements. These improvements result in class-leading combined fuel economy of 36 mpg (highway).

Music that Moves

Kia Forte comes with a standard four speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system outfitted with SIRIUS Satellite Radio capabilities with three months complimentary service². Standard on all models is an auxiliary audio input jack and USB port for connecting personal MP3 players. Standard Bluetooth® connectivity enables hands-free operation for compatible cell phones. For true audiophiles, the EX and SX packages also add a standard six speaker surround audio system and steering wheel controls.

Standard Kia Motors Safety

Kia Forte offers a class-leading level of standard safety equipment, with features such as active front headrests, advanced two-stage airbags, front seat-mounted and side curtain airbags, four-wheel disc brakes with an antilock brake system (ABS), electronic stability control (ESC) and traction control (TCS), and a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).

Industry-Leading Warranty

Like all Kia models, Forte is covered by a comprehensive warranty program, which offers unprecedented consumer protection. Included in this program are a 10-year or 100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, a five-year or 60,000-mile limited basic warranty, and a five-year or 100,000-mile anti-perforation warranty. A five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan is also part of the comprehensive coverage program.

Kia Forte - What the Auto Press Says

The 2010 Kia Forte ranks 4 out of 29 Affordable Small Cars. This ranking is based on our analysis of 22 published reviews and test drives of the Kia Forte, and our analysis of reliability and safety data.

The automotive press is heaping praise on the trendy and feature-laden 2010 Kia Forte. While the Forte's predecessor, the Spectra, was a disappointment to most reviewers, the all-new Forte delivers on style, performance and available features.

The Forte is a class leader in cargo space with its 14.7 cubic feet of cargo volume that has reviewers very excited, but the trunk isn't the only great feature that the Forte has. Features like Bluetooth, SIRIUS satellite radio, USB ports, auxiliary input jacks and even iPod connectivity, which aren't even offered in some of the Forte's competitors, come standard in the Forte.

One of the strongest selling points for the Forte is the price. The Forte LX-the most basic model-starts at just over $13,500 and the LX (which has more features like air conditioning and adjustable head rests) at just under $14,500. That is a serious bargain in comparison to its competitors, the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, both of which start off at a base price of over $16,000.

The Forte hasn't been on the market long enough to compete for many awards, but it was NADAguide's "Car of the Month" in August.

Like many small cars, the Forte's weaknesses are its accelerating abilities and rear seat -- both get mixed reviews. The car doesn't accelerate as well as some would like but most agree that it was designed more as a commuter car than a joy-riding machine. The Forte's backseat is also a bit tight so despite the fact that the Forte is advertised as a five-seater, most reviewers say only four will be comfortable.

If you're looking for an affordable small car with excellent gas mileage, a stylish look and an engine that will get the job done, the Kia Forte is well worth a look. That said, if you are looking for something that is a little more fun to drive, you might also want to check out the Mazda3 or the Volkswagen Rabbit. Neither is as fuel efficient as the Forte, but both boast trims with more powerful engines.

The Kia Forte comes as either a sedan or a coupe. The sedan comes in three trims. The standard LX model and the more advanced EX and SX models. The Kia Forte also comes as the XK coupe (which Kia calls the Koup).

Kia Forte officially launched

Kia Forte

Naza Kia Sdn. Bhd. has officially launched the Kia Forte for the Malaysian market at the Pavilion KL. As previously mentioned, three models of the Forte are available including the 1.6 EX, the 1.6 SX as well as the range topping 2.0 SX.

There are some updates on some questions that readers have asked in the previous story. Yes, the engine in the 2.0 liter model is the single variable valve timing model. The 1.6 liter engine is able output 126 PS at 6,300rpm and 157Nm of torque at 4,200rpm while the 2.0 liter variant makes 156 PS at 6,200rpm and 194.2Nm of torque at 4,200rpm.


All models are offered with 2 years warranty or 50,000 kilometers, which ever comes first and there is no option for a warranty extension for now.

They plan to sell 6,000 units annually and also revealed that it will introduce more than four new models in various segments next year.

Kia Forte 1.6 EX – RM75,800
Kia Forte 1.6 SX – RM81,800
Kia Forte 2.0 SX – RM93,800

Continue reading to view live images of the launch, or read the related post earlier today to find out the full specifications of the car.

Related Posts:
Kia Forte here in Malaysia: amazing value for money


Click image for enlarged version
Kia Forte
Click image for enlarged version

Kia Forte Sedan priced from $14,390

2010 Kia Forte – Click above for high-res image gallery

Following the ill-timed Borrego and ultra chic Soul is the new 2010 Kia Forte Sedan. This compact four-door, soon to be joined by a Koup, will replace the Spectra in Kia's line up and wind up being only a couple hundred dollars more expensive. Kia announced today that the 2010 Forte Sedan will start at $14,200 in base LX trim, which includes a delivery charge of $695. The mid-level Forte EX will start at $16,490 and the top shelf SX model will begin at $17,890.

The SX model will be the sportiest trim level and has a sport tuned suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels and larger front brakes along with a black interior trimmed in red stitching. What really gets the Forte SX going is its 2.4-liter four-cylinder rated at a healthy 173 horsepower; it's paired with either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. The LX and EX make do with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing 156 hp and 144 lb-ft of torque that's paired with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.

Our choice would clearly be the SX, and we wouldn't necessarily be penalized at the pump with its 22 city/32 highway mpg rating. LX and EX models with the smaller 2.0-liter engine achieve a slightly better rating of 25/34 mpg, while a special Fuel Economy Package can be ordered on the EX model that includes Motor Drive Power Steering, a "smart alternator", silica tires and special aero enhancements to achieve 27/36 mpg.

Check out Kia's official press release after the jump for more info.

2010 Kia Forte EX

First impressions last. Except when they don’t. A few years back, I didn’t think the new-generation Accord was all that special. The enlarged Honda mid-sizer did the monkey-making thing; ascending the sales charts to become America’s top-selling mid-size family sedan. My first impression of Kia’s all-new Forte: it’s a hit. The Kia Forte’s a cheap (as in inexpensive), safe, somewhat stylish, fuel-efficient sedan that transports up to four adults in perfect comfort, without driving like a penalty box. In fact, this car is good enough that it could be a turnaround product for Kia, which has struggled to establish its place on the American automotive scene. But will it? What am I, psychic?

Design may not be the Forte’s forte, but it’s got the whole non-objectionability thing nailed nailed. Kia’s California design studio crafted a car where cleanliness cozies-up to divinity. The Forte’s tall greenhouse provides plenty of glass; a welcome change from the current trend for rising beltlines (and plunging sight lines). The Forte’s front fenders have flair, albeit with a clear Mazda influence. But the Kia’s overall shape could have been penned by a European Ford stylist; it reminds me strongly of the Ford Mondeo and VW Jetta.

The Forte’s cabin is as simple and inviting as the Fairmont hotel’s restrooms. My tester came in a mix of grey hues. As is the way of such things, none of the materials or shapes looked cheap or flimsy, although the price point demands the former and time will tell on the latter. Still, someone’s sweated the details. The Forte’s steering wheel offers an attractive symmetry, the right grippable thickness, and a soft, leather-like polymer covering that’s easy on the palms. There’s ample leg room for all four passengers, and a large trunk.

The Forte tries to be the Hannah Montana of ergonomics; combining knobs and buttons to get the best of both worlds. In this it succeeds, in both the good (popular) and bad (as satisfying as bubble gum) sense. The learning curve is as steep as a bunny slope; major gauges are large and easy to read at both day and night. Taste-wise, well, an airplane model plastic silver bezel surrounds the center stack of the instrument panel. Make of that what you will.

On the road, the Kia Forte moves with more enthusiasm than you’d expect from a 156-horse, 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine. While the Forte’s target market probably doesn’t even own a stopwatch, I estimate the quad cog autobox-equipped sedan’s zero to sixty mph times live somewhere in the mid-eight second range. (A five-speed manual is available. The SX has an optional five-speed automatic). Bottom line: the Forte EX’s powertrain is more than sufficiently spirited for suburban driving and quite capable of drama-free passing maneuvers on two-lane highways.

Thanks to a well-sorted suspension and modestly aggressive 16-inch rubber, the Kia’s handling is poised and . . . poised. More importantly, the four-wheel disc brakes come complete with electronic brake-force distribution. Nanny rides shotgun. Alas, you can’t switch of the electronic stability control system in the Forte EX. Did I say alas? [A lass joke deleted.] Yes, I did. When flung through a series of very tight esses (flung I tell you!), my test Forte remained flat and composed. That said, even before turning a wheel, Jack Baruth would tell you that front-wheel-drive understeer is the name of this game.

Unfortunately, the Forte EX’s engine goes all Suicidal Tendency (i.e., thrashy) at anything above 4000 rpm. It’s not enough to be irritating, unless you’re irritated by such things. As Kia Forte buyers are more likely to dine on budae jjigae as push the four banger to its upper reaches of its rev range, it’s no biggie. Still, it’s too bad that Kia doesn’t fit the five-speed automatic on the EX; it would make a huge difference in the NVH department.

The Forte’s suspension tuning needs some, perhaps any, refinement. On frost heaves and worn concrete pavement joints, the Forte feels loose, hard riding and crashy, even at moderate speeds. Again, it’s not quite enough to enervate budget shoppers, but urban drivers might be happier in something, anything, a little more plush riding.

Value, though. Value. The Forte features a lengthy list of standard equipment, including Bluetooth, the aforementioned electronic stability and brake-force distribution, anti-lock brakes and a tire monitoring system. With a $19,000-and-change bottom line on my Forte EX, the Monroney could be the best looking thing about the whole car.

The Forte is a three-base hit for Kia. With more powertrain and suspension tuning refinement, the Forte could go yard against some of the toughest rivals in the automotive league. Provided my imprimatur is not the kiss of death, the Forte will go a long way to bolstering the budge brand.

Kia Forte – Bottom Line

TheCarConnection.com has driven the 2010 Kia Forte, then researched reviews from other respected sources to bring you the most complete assessment possible. Here you'll find firsthand observations from the experienced TheCarConnection.com editors along with other reviewers, plus a comparison of the Forte to other affordable small sedans.


  • Simple, elegant exterior styling
  • Tight, quiet cabin and overall refinement
  • Seating and cargo space
  • Top tech and safety features standard on base model


  • Awkward clutch coordination for manual transmission
  • Steering feel (hydraulic assist)

Kia has renamed its core small-sedan model the Forte to signal a new beginning for the brand in this segment, and it only takes a glance at the new model to understand why. It’s a really good-looking car. While the Spectra that preceded the Forte certainly wasn’t a bad car, its anonymous styling didn’t win many friends and its feature set was far from exciting.

Like the fashionable 2010 Soul, the 2010 Kia Forte merits a new trip to the Kia dealership and perhaps a new look at Kia, which is quickly shedding its reputation for dowdy vehicles. The Forte has many of the elements of much more expensive cars, yet it’s still one of the least expensive small sedans.

Thank Kia’s new design studio in California for creating such a clean, assertive, and attractive look for the 2010 Forte. With smooth, clean sheetmetal and an uncluttered look in front and in back, the new Forte doesn’t go over the top and it’s likely to age well; even more to the point, the trim proportions are just right. The svelte Forte doesn’t have any awkward angles, and a nice wide stance from the front and back somehow matches the flowing, elegant roofline. Inside, the look is simple, with a smoother, more organic version of the teardrop center stack used in the Forte; the look is no-nonsense yet surprisingly upscale.

2010 Kia Forte

2010 Kia Forte
2010 Kia Forte Wheel
2010 Kia Forte rpm
2010 Kia Forte Engine
The 2010 Kia Forte is an all-new compact 4-door sedan with aggressive styling and a bold look. The new Kia Forte is available in three trim levels, LX, EX and SX. The SX trim level is the sporty model with 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Pirelli tires starting at $17,195. The EX trim level starts at $15,795 and the LX model starts at $13,695. Not only is the Kia Forte priced right it includes a host of features unlike any compact sedan in it's class.

If four doors is not your style try looking into the all-new two door 2010 Kia ForteKoup.

The Kia Forte is a front wheel drive sedan with an independent front suspension with MacPherson struts, stabilizer bar and a torsion beam rear suspension with struts and coil springs. Basically in lehman terms the suspension is really good compared to other sedans on the market. The sportier SX model offers larger front brakes from some serious stopping power.

Kia Forte Interior Highlights

* 96.8 cubic feet of passenger space
* High-visibility center stack
* Three gauge instrument cluster with stylish red glow
* EX model offers full cloth seats
* Six-way adjustable driver's seat
* Tilt Steering column, rear defroster and dual 12-volt power outlets

EX and SX models offer a number of additional standard luxurious touches such as: power windows and door locks; remote keyless entry; air conditioning; map lamps; steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls; tweeter speakers; dual front and rear cup holders; and floor mats. Forte EX models also offer an optional Premium Package that includes a power moonroof and 16-inch alloy wheels, or a Leather Package that includes leather-trimmed seats with front seat warmers, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and metal-finish trim.

The SX model brings even more standard features, including a unique black interior with sport cloth fabric adorned with red stitching, a telescoping steering column, Supervision gauge cluster, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and metal-finish trim and pedals. The SX model also offers the optional power moonroof and leather-trimmed seats with front seat warmers.

Kia Forte Performance and Power

The Forte EX and LX offer a 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine producing 156 horsepower and 144 lb-ft of torque. The engine features continuously variable valve timing (CVVT) and multi-port electronic fuel injection. The sportier SX features an upgraded 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, also with CVVT which delivers 173 horsepower.

Kamis, 07 Januari 2010

2010 Mercedes-Benz E350 Coupe

2010 Mercedes-Benz E350 Coupe – Click above for high-res image gallery

Marketing does funny things. Recently the word "coupe" has been rendered null and void of meaning by crafty marketing types behind cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLS, BMW X6 and Volkswagen CC, while the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo has sucked every last ounce of truth, honesty and passion from the term "Gran Turismo." It's now just advertising flim-flam. The BMW 8 Series was a grand tourer. The 535i Gran Turismo? We hear it's very practical...

We mention co-opting of the terms "coupe" and "Gran Turismo" because marketers pulled a similar stunt back in the early '70s with the phrase "Personal Luxury Car." Some cars did fit the definition well (roughly, a luxury coupe exists where practicality and efficiency are traded in favor of style, plush and image), others did not. For example, in the U.S. where we like our luxury by the yard, a 1971 Buick Riviera is a perfect example of a personal luxury car. An AMC Matador Brougham complete with Oleg Cassini interior isn't. Regardless of reality, by 1973 every car with two doors and faux-vinyl seats got tagged with the PLC label. As such, the phrase "personal luxury car" became meaningless.

Apropos of all that, Mercedes-Benz was kind enough to let us test its two-door version of its new W212 E-Class, the 2010 E350 Coupe. The new model marks the first time in three generations that Mercedes has offered a coupe version of what's generally considered to be its sauerbraten und spƤtzle. You'd have to go back to Bill Clinton's first term (that's pre-Lewinsky) to find the two-door W124 E-Class. Obviously, the B-pillarless two-door qualifies as a coupe, but a personal luxury car? Or, dare we say it, a GT?

2010 Mercedes-Benz E350 Coupe

his will comprise 89bhp or 108bhp 1.0-litre units and a 170bhp 1.6. Diesel

Ford Focus

When it comes to show-stopping unveils, the Focus is on Detroit! Rumours are gathering that Ford is preparing to reveal its third-generation Focus in saloon and hatchback form at the US expo next week.

As Auto Express closed for press over the Christmas holidays, news had leaked on to the North American International Auto Show’s own website. We brought you pictures of the whole new Focus family in Issue 1,092 (right), and the four and five-doors will get a bold face characterised by triangular lights and a stylish grille.

Don’t expect the latest Focus to be too radical, though. As a global car, it will need to have mass-market appeal. Contrary to previous reports, the car is believed to be based on a front-wheel-drive platform from the Mondeo, to ensure class-leading handling and increased space.

A new range of EcoBoost turbo petrol engines will be available. This will comprise 89bhp or 108bhp 1.0-litre units and a 170bhp 1.6. Diesel choices include a 1.6 giving 128bhp, plus a 2.0-litre with 168bhp or 197bhp.

Stop-start is expected to be standard on most cars, while Ford’s dual-clutch Powershift transmission should also help reduce emissions. In addition, the Focus will come with adaptive dampers, a lane departure warning system and traffic sign recognition. Wi-Fi is likely to be offered, too. Sales will start towards the end of this year.

Minggu, 03 Januari 2010

Lexus of Europe has announced via the corporate Twitter account

Another country heard from – this time, a mole in Lexus of Europe has announced via the corporate Twitter account that the LFA's V10 will definitely not be going into the GS F. The supercar's 10-pot wonder is "bespoke to LFA," which is ur-English for something custom made, but in this case we'll take to mean "None of you can have this engine if you don't drive an LFA."

You'll note that the 106-character tweet deftly avoids confirming the existence of any sort of GS F in the first place – a car that has existed solely as a fairytale for nigh on three years – with the deflection, "not going to comment on those." But at least now if the GS F does come, we know what it won't have. But hey, they didn't rule out a derivative, right? Hat tip to Stan!

Ford dealers say Kuga should be named Escape in U.S. - Do you agree?

2008 Ford Kuga in front, possible 2011 Ford Kuga out back – click above for high-res image gallery

Here's the skinny: Ford's current Escape is heading the way of the dodo bird. In its place will be the Kuga, a much less dowdy looking compact CUV that should compete nicely with the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Hyundai Tucson. The European designed 2011 Kuga will be built here in the United States at a Louisville, Kentucky plant. All this we already know and have known for some time now.

What we don't know is what Ford will call the Kuga when it goes on sale here in 2011. Kuga is obviously one option, but so, apparently, is Escape. According to Wards Auto, Ford's domestic dealers are pushing for Escape. "I believe the Escape is a great vehicle with a great reputation and that it would be a big mistake to kill the Escape name," says one San Diego based dealer.

Others point back to Ford's decision to drop the Taurus name in favor of Five Hundred – part of the brand's strange decision to make all cars start with the letter "F" (Focus, Fusion, Five Hundred – though the Mustang never became Fustang) and all SUVs and crossovers start with the letter "E" (Edge, Escape, Explorer, Expedition, Excursion). Though, of course, reverting back to Five Hundred was supposed to drum up some long lost brand equity/nostalgia, which is the first thing CEO Alan Mulally did when he changed Five Hundred back to Taurus. Very complicated stuff, no?

So, Kuga or Escape? While there are many good arguments for Escape, here's one for Kuga – Ford's One World strategy. Simply put, rather than having one Focus for Europe and one for North America, Ford is working toward offering one global vehicle per a given segment – and that's it. And naming one car one thing for one market and one car another for another is essentially a monkey wrench in the plan. What should Ford do, and more importantly what will they do? Place your vote in our poll below and leave any further thoughts in Comments.

What should Ford call the Kuga when it reaches the U.S. market?

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