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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Wed, Nov 5, 2008

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

WILL THE GENERAL SURGE IN 2009? Words and Pictures by Reed Berry So many cars; so little time. Shiny new cars, trucks and crossover vehicles from GM's eight brands are represented at the GM Collection event in Phoenix, Arizona. This is an opportunity for automotive journalists to see and experience the 2009 product line. I plan to drive as many of the vehicles as I can, especially those with air conditioning as the temperature is approaching a sizzling 100 degrees.

The location of the event is the Bob Bondurant School of High-Performance Driving. A legendary racecar driver, Bob opened his school in California in 1968 and moved the operation to Phoenix in 1990. At the age of 75, Bob continues to teach on a regular basis as well as racing in various events across the country. Bob is moving at a more conservative speed today, observing the event and supervising school operations from a Segway.

Rather than taking the cars on the track, we have been given two pre-planned routes to pick from that take us off the property and on to the streets and freeways around Phoenix. While neither route is particularly lengthy, each is designed to give participants a good idea of how the various vehicles perform under everyday driving conditions. Clearly, GM's current focus is to offer consumers a wide variety of fuel efficient vehicles. For 2009, GM offers eight hybrid models and a total of 18 models with 30 mpg or better highway which, according to GM, is more than any other automaker. There are even a number of flex-fuel models that run on less expensive E85 ethanol.

All eyes seem to be on a car we can't even drive today - a preliminary production model of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle. Plug it in to the wall using a common household electrical plug and charge the battery to give you up to 40 miles of gas-free and emissions-free driving. Beyond 40 miles, onboard power sources using gas (or E85 ethanol) will charge the battery as you drive. Another new vehicle featured at today's event is the Chevrolet Traverse, a spacious eight-passenger crossover with the ability to tow up to 5,200 pounds. The interior is attractive and comfortable and, needless to say, it offers the practicality of a crossover. Even more impressive is that the two-wheel drive model has an EPA-estimated highway mileage of 24 mpg.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are on the horizon and, while we may not see one in our driveway for a few years, some lucky drivers already have them as part of a program called Project Driveway. More than 100 hydrogen-powered electric vehicles have been placed in key markets in the U.S. and around the world. Virgin Atlantic Airways is using Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell vehicles as complimentary ground transfer service for Upper Class passengers landing at LAX. But fuel efficiency isn't Chevrolet's only priority. New models, even at the lower end of the price range, will have features and options that represent quality to and value to car buyers. Eight new GM vehicles are available with USB connectivity, allowing drivers and their passengers to enjoy their favorite music from iPods, memory sticks, and other portable media drives. Just plug in and listen through the vehicle's sound system.

Among my favorite cars at today's event are the Saturn Sky, a sporty little two-seater that may make you forget you're driving a Saturn. Combine sporty and classy, and you have the 2009 Cadillac XLR Platinum, a two-seat luxury roadster with a power-retractable hardtop and a 320-hp V8 engine. A sweet ride that you may want to consider if you're budgeting $90,000 for your next car.

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