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What's New at the Auto Show?

General Motors, currently the number one auto maker by volume worldwide, has a few interesting models making their debuts at the 2007 auto shows. (You can check out the Buffalo Auto Show at the Buffalo-Niagara Convention Center, February 7-11. Look for me at the Buick display—I’ll be the good-looking one.) Here are just a few of GM’s newest:

The 2008 Chevrolet Malibu. It looks like this time all of the Malibu’s designers spent some quality time together, as the latest midsize from the bowtie division has a much more cohesive look than the previous model. Although the Malibu has always been a good value, it was difficult to get past its looks—that front end reminded me of an excited rodent. Looks aren’t everything, though. Chevy has lengthened the Malibu’s wheelbase by three inches; added a segment-exclusive six-speed automatic transmission as available with the four-cylinder engine; and made available a house-type 110-volt AC power outlet. And did I mention it’s now a much better looking car?

Buick will be debuting a new crossover vehicle, the Enclave, which will replace the Rendezvous and Rainier. Tiger Woods rolled out the Enclave to the press at the Los Angeles show to rave reviews. Seating for either seven or eight passengers, library-quiet Buick Quiet Tuning, high-density discharge headlamps, 18- or 19-inch wheels and available articulating headlamps (they turn to the left or right with the steering wheel’s motion to light up the corner you’re about to turn into) are just a few of the highlights. It’s powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 which was jointly developed by GM in Australia, Germany, Sweden and North America, and will be available in front- or all- wheel drive.

Ford is feeling the pinch these days even more than GM, as they’ve already been passed by Toyota for the number two spot among manufacturers. One of the sharpest new vehicles to come along from the Blue Oval folks is the Ford Edge crossover. You’ve probably seen a lot written about the Edge lately, so I’ll just mention here that Lincoln also has a version of this car, called the MKX. Contrary to what Lincoln first announced, the name is not pronounced “Mark Ex” but is actually “Em-Kay-Ex,” just like it looks. Naturally it’s a bit more luxurious than the Edge, and I think even a bit better looking. Niceties will include a panoramic VistaRoof, heated and cooled front seats, a 14- speaker THX II audio system and DVD-based navigation system. The Edge (and, I guess, the MKX), are make-it-or-break-it cars for Ford.

DaimlerChrysler is also coming out with a mucho important vehicle: the next generation Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country minivan. Just when GM and Ford have thrown in the towel on this segment, DC, who invented the minivan back in 1983, have gone back to the drawing board on theirs. And why wouldn’t they? They, unlike Ford and GM, are still selling them in numbers high enough to be profitable. One new feature, besides the new, more mature styling which has replaced the “melting jellybean” look, is the Swivel ’n’ Go seating system. Swiveling second row seats turn 180 degrees to face the third row with a removable table that goes in between. Neat.

Look for these and other new models to go on sale later this year.

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