2007 Lemon Aid Luxury Cars


Acura TL

GM Cadillac CTS

Nissan Maxima

Acura TSX

Infiniti G35

Saab 9-3

Audi A3

Lexus ES 350

Volvo C30

Audi A4

Lexus IS 250

Volvo S40/V50

BMW 3 series

Mercedes-Benz B Class

Volvo S60

Ford Lincoln MKZ

Mercedes-Benz C Class

Volvo V70


Luxury cars are expensive to buy and maintain, and can be less reliable than mainstream cars. Luxury car makers, and particularly the European firms, provide cutting-edge safety equipment in their cars. Features like side-curtain air bags, active head restraints and electronic stability control ally with the heavier weight characteristics of luxury cars to enhance safety. The Europeans still have the edge in safety, with stronger seats, better head restraints, advanced side impact protection and more crash resistant car bodies. Most of the cars in the luxury category tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety earned a Good rating in more than one category. A trend in the luxury car market is the greater availability of all-wheel drive. Audi, BMW, Infiniti, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo offer all-wheel drive variants of their key models this year. An unwelcome fad in this segment, as it is in others, is the move to bigger and bigger wheels, with 17 inch, 18 inch, and even bigger rims becoming the norm. The large tires are often hard-riding, are be costly to replace when worn, and snow tires to fit the larger wheels may be hard to find.

There are a number of changes to luxury segment stalwarts this year. The Acura TL, Audi A4 cabriolet and Nissan Maxima's are treated to mid-life remakes for 2007. BMW issued the coupe and convertible versions of its fifth-generation 3 Series, the Infiniti G35 sedan is all new this year and Volvo's 1800 ES-themed, S40-based C30 hatchback is now on sale. The end of the 2007 model year will mark the retirement of the current versions of the Cadillac CTS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Volvo's V70 and XC70.
 


Acura TL

ABOVE AVERAGE

ACURA
TL (FWD),
Body Style: 4SD
Engine: 3.2L-V6 SOHC VTEC 258 HP*, 3.5L SOHC VTEC 286 HP (Type S)
Transmission: 6M, 5A*
City Fuel Economy: 11.6L/100 km

What's new
Mid-cycle facelift with new grille, bumpers, lights, new gauges and minor cabin trim changes. The Dynamic model is replaced by a 286 horsepower Type S with firmer suspension and Brembo brakes. New "Sequential SportShift" automatic transmission.

Performance
With strong acceleration, smooth operation and a delicious growl at high revs, the TL's 3.2L engine is a credit to Honda. The manual transmission has a crisp, short-throw gearchange, but some APA staffers found the clutch a bit heavy. Torque steer is well controlled considering the power flowing through the front wheels. The TL is a stable and comfortable highway car. Steering is precise and nicely-weighted. Braking effort and modulation are well judged, but brake travel can become extreme during repeated emergency stops. The space-efficient TL boasts generous accommodations for a car its size. Legroom is good, front and rear. The front seats are large, supportive and comfortable, but their relaxed side bolters do little to grip the occupants during spirited driving. The rear seat can take three passengers, but is much more welcoming for two. The cabin is attractive and contemporary, but not distinctive in any way. The dash centre stack looks a bit busy on navigation-equipped cars, but in reality works very well. The new gauges are better looking and easier to scan than the ones used last year. Interior fit and finish are very good for the price. Honda's navigation system covers more areas than it used to. Very good audio system.

Reliability
Above average. Four years/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Comments
The TL is based on the North American Honda Accord and built alongside it in Ohio. Its angular lines are quite striking, but it may date quickly. Power reaches the front wheels via a five-speed automatic on the base TL, with a six-speed manual option on the Type S. TL sales fell about 10 percent last year. Built in the U.S.

Price
TL pricing begins at $42,500 for the mainstream automatic car. With automatic, the Type S is priced $51,00 higher than the base car, but the gap narrows to $2,000 if the navigation system, standard on the Type S, is added to base car. The base TL is priced $7,600 higher than the Accord EX V6, but feels worth the extra money. The base TL is priced closely to both the Nissan Maxima SL and the Toyota Avalon.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags. The TL was rated Good in the IIHS frontal and side impact tests, and Marginal in the IIHS rear impact test, ranked 6th of the 13 cars in its class. Standard ABS.


 

Acura TSX

ABOVE AVERAGE
ACURA
TSX
(FWD)
Body Style: 4SD
Engine: 2.4L-4 DOHC i-VTEC 205 HP
Transmissions: 6M, 5A*
City fuel economy: 10.5L/100 km

What's new
Standard tire pressure monitoring system.

Performance
No excuses need to be made for the TSX's 2.4L four; it combines eager performance with delicious smoothness right to the redline. However, with only 164 lb-ft of torque, this engine needs to be revved to provide its best response, perhaps more than North American buyers in this class are accustomed to. The six-speed manual has a light smooth, clutch, and a precise gearchange. The steering is nicely weighted, but feels slow at low speeds, and over-sensitive on the highway. The ride is never harsh, but is stiffer than expected. Handling is secure, but some testers complained about the lack of grip from the Michelin Pilot tires. The TSX is very quiet around town, and is a serene highway car. The instrumentation is crisp and clear, and controls move with precision. Cabin materials and fit and finish are superb. The front seats are comfortable, and grip the driver in spirited cornering. The rear seat is nicely shaped and padded. Room in the front is ample, but rear seat legroom is more adequate than generous. The trunk is large, regularly shaped, with a low lift-over height. Exterior paint and panel fit reflect close attention-to-detail. The powerful audio system in the TSX is one of the best the APA has experienced, combining deep lows with clear highs. Good air conditioning.

Reliability
Above average. Four year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, five years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Comments
The TSX sold in North America is simply the Accord sold elsewhere, stuffed with all the toys, and sold as a premium car. The TSX is marginally smaller in all directions than the North American Accord, and roughly shadows the Mazda 6. The styling is more angular than our Accord, with a few BMW and Alfa-Romeo overtones. Standard equipment includes Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, xenon headlights, leather trim, a powerful audio system, and multiple air bags. Only one engine, a 205 horsepower high-output version of Honda's 2.4L i-VTEC four is offered. Though it sold nearly 3,000 units last year, TSX sales dropped about 25 percent compared with 2005. Built in Japan.

Pricing
TSX prices start at just over $36,000, with a $1,300 supplement for automatic transmission, and an additional $2,800 for the navigation system. The TSX is $3,300 cheaper than a BMW 323i with vinyl upholstery (leather not even optional), and about $3,000 cheaper than a similarly-equipped Audi A4 FrontTrak.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags. Rated Good in the IIHS frontal impact test, Acceptable in the IIHS side impact test and Poor in the IIHS rear impact test, ranked 11th of the 13 cars in its class. Standard ABS.


Audi A3

AVERAGE

AUDI
A3
(FWD*, quattro)
Body Style: 4HB
Engine: 2L-4T DOHC*, 200 HP, 3.2L-VR6 DOHC 250 HP
Transmissions: 6M (2L only), 6 DSG* (Direct Shift Gearbox)
City fuel economy: 9.3L/100 km

What's new
VR6 renamed S Line. S Line trim features offered on the 2L. Audi Care service, standard last year, is a $700 option this year.

Comments
Audi's VW Rabbit-based A3 arrived in 2L front-wheel drive form in early 2005, followed by the VR6 quattro range-topper last year. Power from the 2L four is fed to the front wheels via either a conventional six-speed manual transmission, or Audi's Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG). The DSG can be used as a clutchless manual gearbox or a full automatic. The 250 horsepower VR6 engine sends power to Audi's quattro system through the DSG exclusively. Audi's bombastic keystone-shaped grille fronts the A3, leaving no mistake about what make of car it is. The rest of the A3 is handsome enough, but lacks the restrained grace that defined the Audi revival in the 1990s. The interior is elegant, practical, and the quality of the interior materials is high. The A3 has more rear seat legroom than the bigger A4. The A3's capacious and luxuriously-finished cargo area can be increased by folding the split back rear seats. Reports in the automotive press praise the smooth, flexible 2L four, and the DSG's slick operation. Precise, nicely-weighted steering, and compliant suspension round out the on-the-road experience. A3 sales increased by 50 percent in 2006. Made in Germany.

Reliability
Predicted reliability is average. Four year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty. Audi bumper to bumper warranty recommended if you are not leasing. The Audi Care service plan, included last year, is a $700 option this year. Twelve year warranty against perforation corrosion.

Pricing
Very expensive in 2L front-wheel drive form, and super expensive with the VR6-quattro combination. Adding even a few options can push the base car's price into A4 territory, and it is possible to spend more than $40,000 on a 2L A3. The VR6/quattro S Line base model is priced $10,000 higher than the base 2L car. If you can live without the four rings on your key fob, a VW Rabbit GTI five door is nearly $6,000 cheaper than a similarly-equipped 2L A3.

Safety
Standard front seat-mounted side air bags and side-curtain airbags. The Audi A3 was rated Good in the IIHS frontal test, Good in the IIHS side impact test and Acceptable in the IIHS rear impact test, ranked 2nd of the 16 cars in its class. Standard ABS.


Audi A4

AVERAGE

AUDI
A4
(FWD, AWD*)
Body Styles: 4SD, 4SW
Engines: 2L-4T DOHC* 200 HP, 3.2L-V6 DOHC 255 HP, 4.2L DOHC 340 HP
Transmissions: 6M, 6A*, CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission)
City fuel economy: 10.8L/100 km

What's new
Insane 2007 RS4 went on sale last summer. The cabriolet is updated with Audi's "new bombast" grille, and the 2L and 3.2L engines introduced on the sedan and wagon last year. All cabriolets are available with quattro drive this year.

Performance
The V6 is strong and flexible, but the direct injection system can be noisy. With smooth gearchanges, eager kickdowns and a near-instant manumatic function, the six-speed automatic is near flawless on highways or secondary roads. However, the transmission is less effective in town, where its operation is marred by excessive hesitation from a stop and at low speeds, making the A4 difficult to drive smoothly. Likewise, the clutch on manual transmission cars requires a lot of concentration to release smoothly. The Audi's steering is precise and nicely weighted. Good roadholding and handling combine with a sense of stability imparted by the all-wheel drive system. The brakes are a bit over boosted, and while powerful, stopping distances are a bit long due to the A4's great weight. Wind and road noise louder than expected in this class of car. Exterior paint and panel fit are excellent The cabin is elegant, luxurious and carefully constructed. Space is at a premium, with rear seat legroom being quite tight.

Reliability
Average. Higher than average parts and service costs. Audi bumper to bumper extended warranty recommended if you are not leasing. Twelve year warranty against perforation corrosion. Four year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty. The Audi Care service plan, included last year, is a $700 option this year.

Comments
Two engines, a 2L turbo four, and a 3.2L twin cam V6, are offered on the A4. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on all models, the quattro versions offer an optional six-speed automatic, and a CVT is available on front-wheel drive variants. High performance V8 S4 and RS4 versions of the A4 are available. The cabriolet is updated with the exterior facelift and new engines introduced on the sedan and wagon last year. Sales of the A4 declined from 2004 to 2005, but stabilized at just under 5000 units per year in 2006. The current A4, a 2006 update of a 2002 design, is starting to look and feel past its prime. Made in Germany.

Pricing
At around $35,000, the base A4 is priced very close to the entry-level 3-Series BMW, and about $5,000 cheaper than the cheapest Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan. The A4 is good value when compared to the A3, especially if you want the quattro drive system. The station wagon body, offered only with all-wheel drive, is priced $1,450 higher than the equivalent sedan. Automatic transmission is priced at $1,340 regardless of whether it is the conventional six-speed automatic or the CVT. The quattro system, standard on V6-powered A4s, is a $5,580 option on the 2L cars, but the difference is only $3,780 if leather, standard on the quattro, is added to the FrontTrak as an option. V6 power adds $8,585 to the price tag of any A4 quattro.

Federal Green Levy of $1,000 on the Audi A4, S4 and RS4 with manual transmission. Click here to go to the Canada Revenue Agency.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags, optional rear side air bags. The Audi A4 was a Top Safety Pick, 2007, rated Good in the IIHS frontal test, Good in the IIHS side impact test and Good in the IIHS rear impact test, ranked first of the 13 cars in its class. Standard ABS.


BMW 3 Series

ABOVE AVERAGE

BMW
3-Series
(RWD*, AWD)
Body Styles: 4SD*, 4SW
Engines: 2.5L-6 DOHC 200 HP (323i), 3L-6 DOHC* 230 HP (328i), 3.0L-6T DOHC 300 HP (335i)
Transmissions: 6M, 6A*
City fuel economy: 11.3L/100 km

What's new
Horsepower increased to 200 on the 323i, the 328i replaces the 325i, and the turbocharged 335i replaces the 330i. New coupe and coupe/cabriolet body styles join the model range. All-wheel drive available on the coupe body style this year.

Performance
BMW's sophisticated inline six engines impress with their flexibility and low rotational inertia that bestows a delicious effervescence to their operation. The straight sixe makes a glorious noise, but makes it more quietly than previous BMW engines. The manual gearchange is light, precise, and is allied to a smooth and docile clutch. With quick, precise steering, tenacious grip, and strong, easily modulated brakes, the 3-Series is a car with tremendous sense of balance. Despite low-profile tires and sports suspension, the ride is firm but never harsh. The small diameter steering wheel and quick steering ratio imparts a heightened agility that seduced and irritated equal numbers of drivers. All major control inputs, whether it is throttle, clutch, gearchange, brakes or steering, require the same input force, imparting fluidity to the car's movements. The 3-Series is BMW's main model, and its restyling was much more conservative and less controversial than with BMW's lower-volume cars. The car, easily-identifiable as a 3 Series, looks like a Bangle-ized (after Chris Bangle, BMW's head of design) update of the landmark 1992 third-generation design. Exterior paintwork is good, but panel fit is hard to perfect due to the challenging nature of the design itself. The cabin is where the new 3 Series is most noticeably different from its predecessor. The design language uses shapes more than applied ornament to express a clean, spare, almost avant-garde interior ambience. Cabin materials and assembly are, for the most part, top notch. Instrumentation, including BMW's eccentric "real time" fuel consumption needle, will be familiar to BMW owners, as will the red gauge lighting at night. Don't look for a temperature gauge, as it has been banished to a read out on the trip computer. The audio and climate controls are difficult to fathom, and adjustments are made via hollow feeling buttons and cheap-feeling rotating controls. BMW replaced conventional one-step key starting with a two-stage protocol that requires inserting the keyless remote fob into the dash, and then pushing a starter button. Tedious. Some minor controls, like the exterior mirror controls, are initially hard to find. Front seating comfort, even with the optional ultra-bolstered sports seats, is good for all sizes of drivers. Rear seat passengers are treated to a comfortable seat as well, but legroom is just adequate, and headroom is tight for the tall.

Reliability
Insufficient data. Expensive parts and service, with some electrical problems predicted as the car ages. Avoid the Active-Steer option as it requires more time to be perfected. Four year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, free scheduled maintenance for the first 3 years/60,000 km. A BMW extended bumper to bumper warranty recommended if you are not leasing. There is no road-hazard warranty on the run-flat tires, so buy the tire insurance sold by BMW dealers.

Comments
The 3-Series undergoes a tidal wave of changes for 2007, including new coupe and hardtop convertible body styles, and a big shuffle in engine capacities and horsepower ratings. The 2.5L 323i is now rated at 200 horsepower, 24 more than last year. The 328i replaces the 325i, retains the 3L engine capacity, but produces 230 horsepower, 15 more than the 325i did. The 300 horsepower turbocharged 3L 335i supplants the 255 horsepower 330i at the top of the 3 Series lineup. All three engines are available with rear-wheel drive in the sedans, with the two larger engines available on rear-wheel drive coupes and convertibles. The all-wheel drive 328xi is offered in sedan, coupe, and wagon formats. Power can flow to the rear wheels, or all wheels, via manual or automatic transmissions with six speeds. The new coupe is 62 mm (2.4 inches) longer, 35 mm (1.4 inches) narrower and 26 mm (1 inch) lower than the sedan. While the coupe is not attractive in the classical sense, it is recognizably a BMW, which should be enough to attract buyers. Made in Germany.

Pricing
The base 323i sedan starts at just over $35,000, but equipment is basic, with expected feature like cruise control and heated seats buried deep within the $2,200 Premium package. Leather upholstery is not offered on the 323i model, compelling vinyl-avoidant customers to move up to a 328i or buy a different car. It costs $5,400 to move from the 323i to the 328, and another $8,900 to progress from a 328i to a 335i. Despite its high list price, leather upholstery is still a $2,400 option on the 335i. The all-wheel drive system on the 328i costs $2,400. The premium for the 328xi wagon is only $1,500 over the 328xi sedan. The 328i and 335i coupes are priced $2,600 and $1,700 more respectively than their sedan equivalents. If you can live with vinyl upholstery and rear-wheel drive, a Premium package-equipped 323i is a good all-round car that combines good performance, a quality feel, reasonable price and good resale value. High lease-end values make the 3 Series a good car to lease.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags. The 3 Series was rated Good in the IIHS frontal test, Good in the IIHS side impact test and Good in the IIHS rear impact test, ranked 4th out of the 13 cars in its class. Standard ABS.


Lincoln MKZ

NOT RATED
FORD
LINCOLN MKZ
(FWD*, AWD)
Body Style: 4SD
Engine: 3.5L-V6 DOHC* 263 HP
Transmission: 6A
City fuel economy: 12.6L/100 km

What's new
The Zephyr morphs into the MKZ (pronounced M K Z), and in so doing gains a new 3.5L V6 and an all-wheel drive option. Powertrain warranty extended to six years/110,000 km.

Comments
The Zephyr blew out of town at the end of the 2006 model year, replaced by the MKZ. In addition to the name change, Lincoln's upmarket Fusion variant is graced with Ford's new 263 horsepower 3.5L V6, as well as an all-wheel drive option. The process of turning a Fusion into an MKZ includes a very Lincoln front end, a different trunk lid and taillights, and a heavily-revised interior. The exterior is very tailored and elegant. While a keen observer will recognize a few Fusion pieces in the MKZ's cabin, the Lincoln's bespoke dashboard, an interpretation of the piece in the landmark 1961 Continental, and attractive materials give off real "luxury car" vibes. The look does not ape the styles of the Japanese or Europeans, but is a new interpretation of American luxury. Lincoln offers wood or alloy trim packages for MKZ buyers to chose from. Large comfortable seats and good space utilization make the MKZ's cabin a comfortable place to spend time in. The Zephyr's V6 and automatic transmission worked well last year, the new 3.5L V6 should deliver greater urge and enhanced refinement. The MKZ's ride and handling compromise is near ideal for a luxury touring car, with an absorbent yet never wallowy ride and secure handling. Sound from the optional THX audio system fills the MKZ's cabin with a rich clear sound that can be tailored to all tastes. The navigation system works very well. The MKZ draws appreciative glances from other road users, and the test car's wood trim prompted many positive comments about the cabin. Made in Mexico.

Reliability
Not rated, insufficient data. Four year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty including scheduled maintenance, and a six year/110,000 km powertrain warranty. A Lincoln bumper to bumper extended warranty is recommended if you are not leasing. APA members can get a discount on the warranty from a dealer recommended by the association.

Pricing
MKZ pricing starts at just under $38,000, with very few options available. Perforated leather seats with a cooling function are priced at $600, xenon lights cost an extra $625, and a sunroof is $1,600. A fully-equipped MKZ is price about $3,000 than a Lexus ES350 with the Premium package, but the Lexus will be worth more at trade-in time.

Safety
Seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags are standard. The MKZ was rated Good in the IIHS frontal test, Acceptable in IIHS side impact test and Marginal in the IIHS rear impact test, ranked 10th out of the 13 cars in its class. Standard ABS.


Cadillac CTS

NOT RATED
GENERAL MOTORS
CADILLAC CTS
(RWD)
Body Style: 4SD
Engine: 2.8L-V6 DOHC 210 HP, 3.6L-V6* DOHC 255 HP, 5.7L-V8 OHV 400 HP (CTS-V)
Transmission: 6M, 5A*
City fuel economy: 13.4L/100 km

What's new
OnStar directions and connections standard. Powertrain warranty increased to 5 years/160,000 km. Last year for the current model.

Comments
Two Australian-built twin cam V6 engines, a 2.8L and a 3.6L, power mainstream CTSs. Power can flow to the rear wheels via either a six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic. Cadillac's high-performance arm has created a CTS-V that sends the 400 horsepower from its Corvette-derived V8 to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmission. The CTS is based on GM's "Sigma" architecture that also underpins the SRX and STS. The interior is roomy and comfortable for four, but tight for three people in the back seat. Interior styling, like the exterior, is unique, creating a new American style that does not mimic Europe or Japan. The dashboard and dash centre-stack face the driver; signalling a change in philosophy for Cadillac. Interior materials and fit and finish are to class standards. The automotive press has been impressed by the car's handling, steering and solidity. CTS sales held steady at around 4,000 units last year. Made in the U.S.

Reliability
Not rated, insufficient data. Expensive parts. Four year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty including free maintenance, and a 5 year/160,000 km powertrain warranty. A bumper to bumper extended warranty from GM is recommended if you are not leasing. APA members can get a discount on the warranty from a dealer recommended by the association.

Pricing
Adding leather upholstery to the 2.8L CTS (vinyl is standard) brings it to within $2,560 of the 3.6L model. The 2.8L car is priced about $1,600 less than a CTS 3.6L when both cars are equipped with the Luxury package. The 2.8L engine will likely do best in markets where cars are taxed by engine capacity. Both the Luxury package and the Performance package offer a lot of extra equipment, but both are light on content for the money charged. If you can live with vinyl upholstery, the base 2.8L car looks is good value.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags. The CTS was rated Good in the IIHS frontal impact test, side impact not tested, rated Poor in the IIHS rear impact test, ranked 9th out of the 11 cars in its class. Standard ABS.


ABOVE AVERAGE

NISSAN
INFINITI G35
(RWD, AWD*)
Body Style: 4SD*, 2CP
Engine: 3.5L-V6 DOHC* 308 HP (sedan), 3.5L-V6 DOHC 275 HP (coupe auto) 295 HP (coupe manual)
Transmission: 6M, 5A*
City fuel economy: 12.6L/100 km

What's new
Totally new sedan. Coupe retains old body style, loses five horsepower.
 

Sedan
Comments
The new G35 sedan is built on a second-generation Nissan FM platform that keeps the previous car's dimensions. The new sedan looks like a bulgy caricature of the last car, but with an odd character line that parallels the window line, then arcs oddly over the rear fender, like a shopping trolley mishap. The cabin offers comfortable seats, a good driving position and excellent space-efficiency for a rear-wheel drive car this size. The dashboard is styled more to look good than to function well. While lacking nothing in the way of conveniences, the cabin looks stark, and the materials look a bit downmarket for this segment, especially the trim panels finished to resemble scratched alloy. Spacious trunk. The G35 is powered by a 3.5L V6 once again, but Nissan claims that 80 percent of the engine internals are new. Horsepower increases to 308, 28 more than in 2006. Power reaches the rear wheels, or optionally, all four wheels, via a five-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual is optional on rear-wheel drive variants. The all-wheel drive system is rear-wheel drive biased, but will send up to 50 percent of available torque to the front wheels when required. Made in Japan.

Reliability
Predicted reliability is above average. Predicted expensive brake service, Four year/100,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 6 years/110,000 km on the powertrain.

Pricing
Leather upholstery is standard, but a sunroof, power passenger seat, a six-CD changer and upgraded audio system are part of the $4,200 Touring package. Infiniti charges $3,400 for the all-wheel drive system, but when you deduct the standard CD changer and power passenger seat, the cost of the drive system itself is around $1,900. The Sport, priced at $2,600 more than a Touring Package-equipped G35 rear-wheel drive sedan, boasts bigger wheels and tires, rear spoiler and side skirts, steering-wheel mounted magnesium manumatic shift paddles, and a six-speed manual transmission option. Equipped the same, the bigger, roomier G35 Sport is priced $7,160 less than a Sport packaged-equipped Lexus IS350, and $8,800 less than a BMW 335i.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags. The G35 sedan was rated Good in the IIHS frontal impact test, side and rear impacts not tested by the IIHS, ranked last of the 13 cars in its class. Standard ABS.

Coupe
Performance
The G35 coupe's 3.5L V6 is fast, flexible, and emits an infectious bark over 3,500 rpm. The five-speed automatic shifts smoothly when left to its own devices, but the manumatic self-shifter responds slowly. The foot-operated parking brake makes for a crowded footwell in cars equipped with manual transmission. The ride is firm, too firm for some; but the car's suspension tackles corners eagerly. The steering telegraphs little road feel to the steering wheel and the boost feels artificial. Wheelspin is easily induced on rainy surfaces, causing the traction control to kick in. Wind noise is barely detectable, but road noise on rough surfaces is high, and the engine isn't as smooth as expected. The sedan's cabin is roomy for this size of car and the sports coupe lacks only headroom to make it truly comfortable. The firm front seats are only a qualified success, as part of the inboard seat cushion is scooped out to make space for the electric seat control, rendering support slightly asymmetric, and the control buttons can be covered by the thighs of larger occupants. The cabin is nicely-styled with pleasing shapes. Vision from the driver's seat is very good. Good air conditioning. Radio reception is poor, and the audio quality of the radio is mediocre, but the CD player delivers good sound. Shallow trunk. Good paint and panel fit outside, and careful assembly inside. Rear-wheel drive compromises winter traction; the APA recommends smaller 16" steel wheels and snow tires for winter use.

Reliability
Reliability is above average. Expensive brake service. Four year/100,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 6 years/110,000 km on the powertrain.

Comments
Other than a five-horsepower drop on G35 coupes, there is little new for the model in its last year prior to its replacement. There is a base coupe, and two versions of the Sport, one with manual transmission and the other with a six-speed manual. Buy this supremely-elegant coupe while you can, its follow-up is much less chic. Made in Japan

Pricing
The $3,400 Sport package delivers different side skirts, sport suspension, unique deck spoiler, 19 inch wheels, limited-slip differential, alloy pedals and a smoother underbody. Rear-active steer, a feature on some Japanese cars in the late 80s and early 90s, is a $1,200 option on manual transmission Sport package-equipped G35 coupes.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side airbags and standard side-curtain airbags. Not crash tested. Standard ABS.


 

Lexus ES 350

ABOVE AVERAGE

TOYOTA
LEXUS ES350
(FWD)
Body Style: 4SD
Engine: 3.5L-V6 DOHC 272 HP
Transmission: 6A

Comments
The all-new Camry-based Lexus ES350 went on sale in the spring of 2006 as an early 2007. Built on a 55 mm (2.2 inch) longer wheelbase, the new ES is the same overall length as before, and is marginally wider and lower than previously. The ES 350 weighs 49 kg (108 lbs.) more than the ES330 did. The styling is tastefully conservative, has a better stance due to its longer wheelbase, and looks more cohesive than the ES330. The interior is yet another vision of the Lexus "restrained opulence" school of design. The longer wheelbase liberated some rear seat legroom, making occupants feel very welcome. Power comes from Toyota's increasingly ubiquitous 3.5L twin cam V6. In the ES 350, this engine produces 272 horsepower, 47 horsepower more than the 3.3L V6 employed in the ES330. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. Toyota resisted the current horsepower race for years, but, starting with the Avalon introduced last year, has joined the battle with great gusto. Performance is strong, but is mixed with the serenity that is so much part of the Lexus experience. By reducing the five packages available in 2006 to just three in 2007, Lexus has rationalized the ES lineup. The Luxury package, Premium package and Ultra Premium with navigation are all that return for 2007. The top model includes a higher grade of leather and a Mercedes-style "Panorama" sunroof. Made in Japan.

Reliability
New car, no data. Lexus products have proved exceptionally reliable, so this new car should be reliable. Four year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 6 years/110,000 km on the powertrain.

Pricing
The elimination of the sub $40,000 base model has pushed up the base price of the ES series in 2007 but not much beyond what most buyers paid for last year, as a sunroof and a CD-changer are now standard. As usual, the packages are expensive considering their content.

Safety
Seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags are standard equipment. Not crash tested. Standard ABS.


Lexus IS 250

ABOVE AVERAGE

TOYOTA
LEXUS IS250
(RWD, AWD*), IS 350 (RWD)
Body Style: 4SD
Engines: 2.5L-V6 DOHC* 204 HP (IS250), 3.5L-V6 DOHC 306 HP
Transmission: 6A*, 6M (IS250 RWD only)
City fuel economy: 10.5L/100 km

Comments
The second-generation IS series enters its second year on the market with no changes of note. The new IS is the second product of what Lexus tout as its L-Finesse styling philosophy. Lexus, not content to be the purveyors of prosaic and perfect luxury, wants the public to desire its cars. While the new IS looks clean and purposeful, it does look a bit derivative, like a chance encounter between a Pontiac Grand Prix and a Saab 9-3. While style is personal, quality is not, and the IS has excellent panel fit and a lustrous paint job. Where the IS shines is inside. Design, material choices, colour combinations and fit and finish are all excellent. The appearance of the cabin fittings easily outclass those of the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, and approach the previously unassailable standard set by Audi. The front compartment is snug, and those in the rear are at the mercy of those in front for their comfort. Lexus offers two engines, two transmissions and two drive systems on the new IS. The IS250 is powered by a 204 horsepower 2.5L twin cam V6, with a 3.5L version of the same engine producing 306 horsepower in the IS350. Both engines utilize Toyota's VVT-i (variable valve timing with intelligence) system, as well as ETCS-i (electronic throttle control with intelligence). Except for a six-speed manual transmission offered on the rear-wheel drive IS250, all IS models send power to the road via a six-speed automatic equipped with a steering wheel-mounted thumb paddle gearchange. The IS350 is exclusively rear-wheel drive, but IS250 buyers can select an all-wheel drive system that employs a 30/70 front/rear torque split under most conditions, shifting to a 50/50 split on slippery roads. The all-wheel drive system has been warmly received and about half of all IS250s sold are so equipped. The IS250 is the volume model, with the IS350 tempting between 10 and 20 percent of buyers. Lexus sold about 2700 IS cars in 2006, a 300 percent increase compared with the IS300 sales in 2005. Reports in the automotive press note that the IS series is Lexus smooth and quiet, with good acceleration on the IS250, and blistering performance on the IS350. While handling and braking are very good, the ride is unsettled, and the electric steering is too light and devoid of feel. Made in Japan.

Reliability
Insufficient data. Predicted reliability is above average. Four year/80,000 bumper to bumper warranty, 6 years/110,000 km on the powertrain.

Pricing
Prices for the IS250 rear-wheel drive base model start at just over $36,000, not a big sum for a car with a quasi-prestige badge and a sterling reputation for reliability. Adding automatic, sunroof and leather upholstery boosts the price to $41,500. The Sport package is expensive, but its additional features are good value. In general, the option packages have far less content than their prices can justify. The all-wheel drive system priced $4,000 higher than a similarly-equipped rear-wheel drive IS 250 with automatic transmission. The 3.5L IS350 is priced $8,250 higher than an IS250 with the same equipment. When equipped to match the Subaru Legacy GT, the IS250 AWD is $5,200 more expensive.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side air bags and side-curtain air bags. The IS250/350 was rated Good in the IIHS frontal impact test, Good in the IIHS side impact test and Acceptable in the IIHS rear impact test, ranked 3rd out of the 13 cars in its class. Standard ABS.


Mercedes B Class

NOT RATED

MERCEDES-BENZ
B-Class
(FWD)
Body Style: 4SW
Engines: 2L-4 SOHC* 134 HP, 2L-4T SOHC 193 HP
Transmissions: 5M, 6M (Turbo), CVT*
City fuel economy: 7.2L/100km

What's new
Standard alloy wheels and revised packaging.

Performance
The base engine and CVT combine to deliver adequate acceleration from a stop, relaxed cruising and good fuel economy. While generally quiet, the high sustained revs permitted by the CVT lets the engine get quite raucous when maximum thrust is demanded. The sophisticated CVT has regular, sport and manumatic settings. The turbo engine is powerful, and progress is more serene than with the base engine as the powertrain doesn't have to work as hard. Precise steering, an absorbent ride and confident handling. The air conditioning worked well during hot summer whether, but the system served up some interesting noises. The B-Class is a paragon of space-efficiency that packs a lot of room into a smallish body shell. Legroom is very good up front and in the rear, the trunk is big with the rear seats up, and impressive with the seats folded. The seats are both supportive and comfortable. Big, easily-scanned gauges and, except for the European-type parking lights that confused some APA staffers, the controls are logical and straightforward. Fit and finish are quite good, but the pale yellow and pale grey interior hues on offer may be too light for real life. Good exterior panel fit and paint, and the car feels very robust.

Reliability
Not rated, insufficient data. Previous Mercedes cars have had average reliability at least during the warranty period. Expect typical electrical glitches common in European cars. This car is not offered in the United States, so a breakdown there could be a real adventure. If you travel to the U.S. often, another car may be a better choice. A Mercedes-Benz bumper to bumper extended warranty is recommended if you are not leasing. Four year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty

Comment
The B-Class is a spin-off of the second-generation A-Class that debuted in Europe two years ago. Mercedes-Benz North America envisaged the B-Class as its entry-level car on this continent, but the U.S. branch of the Stuttgart firm cancelled its plans when currency exchange fluctuations between the Euro and the U.S. dollar rendered the car unprofitable. In a new-found spirit of independence that began with the decision to import the smart fortwo, Mercedes-Benz Canada elected to offer the B-Class here, and sold about 2700 units last year. Like the A-Class it is based on, the compact front-wheel drive powertrain and high build of the B-Class creates a lot of interior volume for a car of its size. Compared with a C-Class sedan, the B-Class, built on a 63 mm (2.5 inch) longer wheelbase, is 261 mm (10.2 inches) shorter, 192 mm (7.6 inches) taller, and 49 mm (2 inches) wider. Cabin space is significantly better than in the C-Class, and is about the same as in the bigger E-Class. The B-Class is powered two versions of the same 2L single overhead camshaft two-valve-per-cylinder four. The normally-aspirated unit produces 134 horsepower, with the turbocharged version pumping out 193 horsepower. Both engines require premium fuel despite their low-tech specs. Power goes to the front wheels via either a five-speed manual or optional CVT (continuously variable transmission) on the normally-aspirated car, or a six-speed manual and a CVT on turbocharged cars. Made in Germany.

Pricing
For its interior volume and the Mercedes name cachet, a basic B-Class is reasonably priced. The base car starts at just over $31,000, with the turbo priced $4,000 higher. The CVT transmission is a $1,500 option with either engine. The $1,500 Premium package on the base model is the only way to get cruise control, and includes heated seats, rain-sensing wipers, illuminated vanity mirrors and an auto-dim rear view mirror as well. The $15,00 Sport package includes vinyl and cloth sports seats, bigger wheels and tires and firmer suspension settings. In typical Mercedes fashion, options are really expensive. Metallic paint costs $890 and leather upholstery is a $2,400 option on the turbo model.

Safety
Seat-mounted front seat airbags, rear side impact airbags and side-curtain air bags are standard. Electronic stability control is standard. The B-Class will not be tested by the NHTSA or the IIHS as the car is not offered in the U.S. The B-Class is rated 5 stars out of a possible 5 stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests. Standard ABS.


Mercedes C Class

ABOVE AVERAGE

MERCEDES-BENZ
C-Class
(RWD, AWD)
Body Styles: 4SD, 3HB
Engines: 2.5L-V6 DOHC 201 HP (C230), 3L-V6 DOHC* 228 HP (C280), 3.5L-V6 DOHC 269 HP (C350),
Transmissions: 6M (C230 and C350 , 7A*, 5A (4Matic models)
City fuel economy: 10.9L/100 km

What's new
Model range reduced in the last year of the current C-Class. Hatchback body style and AMG-powered models discontinued. Focus is on the special-edition high-value C280 Avantgarde, with limited numbers of C230 and C350 models available.

Performance
The C280's 3L V6 delivers spirited acceleration while emitting only a cultured hum from under the hood. The seven-speed automatic transmission is, in most conditions, a paragon of smoothness, but low-speed urban driving occasionally catches it out, causing it to first hesitate, and then downshift roughly. The C280's suspension absorbs the worst pockmarked city streets can throw at it with great aplomb. The ride is deliciously smooth and absorbent, and the handling, while lacking the animal-like reflexes of the BMW 3-Series, is exceptionally stable and reassuring. The steering is nicely geared, but its weighting is a bit light for some tastes and feels slightly detached. The C-Class is soothingly smooth in town, and stable and serene on the open road. The C-Class cabin, with clear instrumentation and logical controls, is a pleasant place to be. The much-improved interior starting in 2005 removed most of the grim and cheap aspects of the car, but some, like the gritty-feeling climate-control knobs and the "I wonder if it will snap off" lighting switch, remain. The interior is colour-sensitive, and looks much better in a darker colour than it does in pale gray or pale cream. The front seats look insubstantial but prove immensely supportive and comfortable, the rear seat is no less welcoming. Cabin space, always an issue in a small rear-wheel drive car, is restricted. Front seat occupants have abundant space, but rear seat legroom is just adequate with the thoughtful co-operation of those up front. Very good audio system on the base model tested. Big, easily-accessed trunk.

Reliability
Average reliability. Dealer service is expensive and indifferent. Problems can be hard to diagnose even for dealers with a direct connection to the manufacturer. Reasonable parts prices for a luxury car. A Mercedes-Benz bumper to bumper extended warranty recommended if you are not leasing. Four year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty.

Comments
Three twin cam V6 engines power the C-Class this year. The base car, the C230, is powered by a 201 horsepower 2.5L V6. The 3L V6 in the C280 churns out 228 horsepower, and the 3.5L V6 in the C350 develops 268 horsepower. Most rear-wheel drive C-Class derivatives send power to the rear wheels via a seven speed automatic transmission, with a six-speed manual available on the C230 and C350. All-wheel drive 4Matics send power to all wheels via a five-speed automatic. Rear-wheel drive is offered with all engines; the 4Matic drive system can only be linked to the 3L V6 in the C280 and the 3.5L V6 in the C350. However, stocks of the C230 and C350 are limited this year, with the C280 Avantgarde model being the key model in the lead up to the third-generation C-Class in the summer of 2007. Made in Germany.

Pricing
The C280 Avantgarde is priced at $43,500, $3,500 higher than an automatic C230 was last year. However, the Avantgarde package includes a sunroof, a six-CD changer and metallic paint, all very expensive options on a Mercedes-Benz. Sadly, vinyl upholstery is the sole seating material available. The 4Matic all-wheel drive system is a $2,600 option on the Avantgarde.

Safety
Standard side airbags in all the doors and side-curtain airbags. The C-Class was rated Good in the IIHS frontal impact test and Acceptable in the IIHS side and rear impact tests, ranked 8th out of the 13 cars tested in its class. Real world collision protection is likely one of the best in this class. Standard ABS.


Nissan Maxima

ABOVE AVERAGE
NISSAN
Maxima
(FWD)
Body Style: 4SD
Engine: 3.5L-V6 DOHC 255 HP
Transmission: CVT (continuously variable transmission)
City fuel economy: 11.1L/100 km

What's new
Mid-cycle facelift includes new bumpers, grille, exterior lighting, restyled interior, revised 3.5L V6, new CVT, standard keyless go system.

Performance
The revised 3.5L engine is more refined than its predecessor, and works very well in concert with the CVT. From oozing away from a light, to fierce acceleration, to relaxed cruising, the CVT instantly provides whatever the driver wants. Ride comfort, a Maxima bugbear last year, is smoother this year, especially on the SE model. Lurid torque-steer despite an electronic stability programme. The steering is nicely weighted, but numb. Vision to the front is panoramic, but thick rear roof pillars restrict vision for lane changes. With pronounced road noise and lots of other noise working its way past the door seals and sound proofing, refinement is disappointing. The revised cabin features clear gauges, simplified controls and more attractive finishes. Comfortable seats and lots of space round out the cabin. Trunk space is disappointing for a car this big. The keyless go system works very well. Very good audio system.

Reliability
Predicted reliability is above average. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Comments
The mid-cycle remake brings a revised engine, new transmission, facelifted styling and a new cabin to the Maxima this year. Five passenger seating is standard; but the SE has a four bucket seat option. All SEs have a narrow fixed-glass skylight running along the roof's spine that looks like two clear cookie sheets from the inside of the car. Maximas send power to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Maxima sales fell about 20 percent in 2006 compared with 2005. Made in the U.S.

Pricing
At just under $37,000, the base SE five-seat with cloth upholstery is the cheapest of the three trim levels offered. The $4,100 Luxury package on the five-seater SE is good value, but so equipped, it is priced only $391 less than an SL. The SE four-seater is priced $14,00 higher than a Luxury-package SE five-seater, and $2400 more than an SL. The SL is the best overall value of the line. Take a look at the Toyota Avalon, it isn't a good looking as the Maxima, but is roomier and more refined.

Safety
Standard front seat-mounted side air bags and side-curtain air bags. Rated Good in the IIHS frontal impact test, Marginal in the IIHS side impact test, rear impact test, ranked 12th of the 16 cars tested in its class. Standard ABS.


Saab 9-3

BELOW AVERAGE
GENERAL MOTORS
SAAB 9-3
(FWD)
Body Style: 4SD*, 4SW, 2CV
Engines: 2L-4T DOHC* 210 HP, 2.8L-V6T DOHC 250 HP
Transmissions: 6M, 5A*, 6A
City fuel economy: 11.2L/100 km

What's new
Six-speed manual transmission is now standard. Revised cabin including a new dashboard. Satellite radio standard on the Aero.

Comments
The Saab 9-3 is one of a quintet of cars, including the Opel Vectra, Chevrolet Malibu, Pontiac G6 and Saturn Aura, built on GM's Epsilon platform. Sedan, wagon and convertible body styles are available. The turbo four and turbo V6 engines power the 9-3 once again this year. Both engines can be hooked to a six-speed manual transmission. Automatic transmissions, a five-speed on the 2L and a six-speed on the 2.8L, are optional. Two trim levels, one nameless, and the Aero, are campaigned this year. The 9-3 sedan's styling is quite conservative. The SportCombi (station wagon) looks quite chic, and is arguably better looking than the sedan. The convertible is an elegant car, with the top completely hidden under a body-coloured tonneau cover when the car is in alfresco mode. The interior of the 9-3 is very Saab, right down to the console-mounted ignition key. While other cars built on this platform are spacious, the 9-3's cabin is tight on space, especially in the back seat. The SportCombi wagon offers good cargo space for a "lifestyle" wagon. Reports in the automotive press indicate that the 9-3 has reasonable ride, handling and acceleration in four-cylinder form, but the V6 Aero, with a crashy, unsettled ride, numb steering, an imprecise shifter and peaky engine, is a disappointing car. Saab 9-3 sales increased about 35 percent in 2006. Made in Sweden.

Reliability
Predicted reliability is below average. Indifferent servicing, high parts prices and parts shortages. Purchase of a GM bumper to bumper extended warranty recommended if you are not leasing. Four year/80,000 km warranty, 5 years/160,000 km on the powertrain.

Pricing
Saab 9-3 sedan pricing starts at just over $35,000 for the four, and just under $44,000 for the V6. Adding a sunroof and the Premium and Audio packages to the 2L car to equal V6 equipment levels leaves $4,000 in your pocket. Automatic transmission is a $1,500 option on all models. The Aero trim level is priced $7,260 and $4,500 higher than the base model on the wagon and convertible body styles respectively. The SportCombi body style costs $1,500 more than the equivalent sedan, with the convertible commanding a $14,100 to $17,000 supplement over the sedan, depending on the trim level chosen. The base 9-3 is about $2,500 cheaper than a similarly-equipped Volvo S40, but the two cars cost the same with a full load of options. Depreciation is predicted to be catastrophic. Lease the Saab and let GM absorb the depreciation, and wait until GM has a rich incentive package on this car before you lease it.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side airbags, side-curtain airbags. The 9-3 sedan was rated a Top Safety Pick, 2007, rated Good in the IIHS frontal, side and rear impact tests, ranked first of the 13 cars in its class. Standard ABS


Volvo C30

NEW
VOLVO
C30
(FWD)
Body Style: 2HB
Engines: 2.4L-5* 168 HP, 2.5L-5T 218 HP
Transmissions: 5M, 6M, 5A*
City fuel economy: 10.6L/100 km

Comments
The sporty S40-based hatchback "lifestyle" tourer is reminiscent of Volvo's 1800 from the seventies. The S30 shares the S40's platform, but is 22 cm (8.7 inches) shorter, with a lower roof than the sedan. Like the 1800 ES, the car has a large glass hatchback for cargo, but unlike the sports car-based 1800 ES, the C30 is pretty roomy for rear seat passengers. With the "control tongue" centre stack from the S40, the C30's cabin design is very Volvo. The C30 was designed by Quebecer Simon Lamarre. Powertrain choices are the same as for the S40, although no all-wheel drive variant has been announced yet. In Europe, the C30 will compete in the premium hatchback market along with the Alfa-Romeo 147, Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Except for the MINI Cooper, which might interest some Volvo intenders, the C30 has the market to itself in Canada. Volvo's steady march upmarket has left many former owners unable to replace their Volvos. The C30 is designed to attract well-heeled younger customers who will stick with Volvo as they age and prosper. Volvo expect the C30 to help it achieve a 20 percent sales increase in 2007. Made in Belgium.

Reliability
New, not rated. Four year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side and side-curtain airbags. Not crash tested. Standard ABS
 


Volvo V50

NOT RATED
VOLVO
S40, V50
(FWD*, AWD)
Body Styles: 4SD* (S40), 4SW (V50)
Engines: 2.4L-5 DOHC 168 HP, 2.5L-5T DOHC 218*
Transmissions: 5A*, 5M (2.4i), 6M (5T/5T AWD)
City fuel economy: 11L/100 km

What's new
New wheels, audio input jack and keyless go options.

Performance
With similar torque figures, the normally-aspirated 2.4L and 2.5L turbo move off the line with equal verve, but the turbo moves ahead once underway. Turbo lag is minimal, but the drive-by-wire system can be slow to react to throttle inputs. The automatic works well with either engine. The manual transmission has a clunky shift action like other Volvos. The suspension provides a well-developed blend of secure handling and an absorbent ride that swallows all but the biggest bumps without complaint. The interior is stylish and carefully constructed from high quality materials. The "tongue" that connects the dashboard to the centre console injects a touch of whimsy to the cabin. Very comfortable seating, with good space up front and sufficient space in the back seat. Good trunk space on the sedan, but cargo space with the rear seat up is disappointing in the wagon. The car feels reassuringly solid on the road, but there were a few squeaks and rattles on the cars tested.

Reliability
Not rated, insufficient data. Some electrical problems reported. Four year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty.

Comments
The 40/50 is the product of collaboration between three Ford companies, Ford, Mazda, and Volvo. The European-market Focus, the Mazda 3, and the Volvo S40/V50 share the same chassis, to which each company adds its own styling and powertrains. Both the S40 sedan and V50 wagon look handsome, nicely-proportioned, and very Volvo. Volvo's modular engines are found under the hood, with Canada getting two versions of the inline five, with outputs of 168 and 218 horsepower respectively for the normally-aspirated and turbo engines. The normally-aspirated 2.4i engine sends power to the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic. The turbocharged engine is linked to a six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic, regardless of whether it sends power to the front wheels, or optionally, to all wheels. Volvo made its reputation on safety, and not surprisingly, makes much of the safety aspects of this car. The front end has several crush zones that use different grades of steel to control the rate of energy absorption so thoroughly that Volvo maintains the occupants of the new small car will be protected as well as if they were in their large S80 model. The steering column has three links that allow it to deform at a rate suited to the intensity of the crash, and the steering wheel will actually draw closer to the dashboard in a severe crash. The foot pedals are deformable. Volvo's usual safety features are present, and a plethora of air bags are standard as well. In anticipation of the European Union's guidelines on pedestrian impacts, Volvo has shaped the front end of the new car to be as pedestrian-friendly as possible. Volvo has also devised an information concierge that will, if it determines the driver is in the midst of a complicated maneuver, direct all telephone calls to voicemail, and prevent warning lights from coming on so as to not break the driver's concentration. Sales of both the S40 and V50 fell about 30 percent in 2006. Built in Belgium.

Pricing
At just over $34,000 with alloy wheels, leather upholstery and metallic paint, the base S40 is a chic and nicely-equipped car for the money. However, with 168 horsepower, the S40 has 37 less horsepower than either the BMW 323i Series or Audi A4 2L. The turbocharged S40T is priced $6,000 higher than the normally-aspirated S40. S40 option packages are light on value for the price. The V40 wagon is priced $1,500 higher than the equivalent S40 sedan. All-wheel drive is a $2,500 option on turbocharged cars. A base Saab 9-3 sedan is about $2,500 cheaper than a similarly-equipped Volvo S40, but the two cars cost the same with a full load of options. Tick all the boxes and the T5 AWD turbo sedan prices out at roughly the same as an Audi A4 2L quattro, but costs $5,000 more than a Subaru Legacy 2.5GT Limited.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted front side airbags and side-curtain airbags. The S40 was rated Good in the IIHS frontal impact test, Acceptable in the IIHS side impact test and Good in the IIHS rear impact test, ranked 9th of the 16 cars in its class. Real world collision protection is likely one of the best in this class. Standard ABS.


Volvo S60

AVERAGE
VOLVO
S60
(FWD*, AWD)
Body Style: 4SD
Engines: 2.5L-5T DOHC 208 HP*, 2.4L-5T DOHC 257 (T5) 2.5L-5T DOHC 300 HP (S60 R)
Transmissions: 5M, 6M (T5, S60 R), 5A*, 6A (S60R)
City fuel economy: 11.1L/100 km

What's new
Revised front spoiler and grille, repeater flashers added to door mirrors, 3-flash lane-change feature, revised cabin with two-tone leather option, firmer suspension settings and redesigned anti-roll bars. Dynamic stability control and traction control standard on the S60 AWD and T5.

Comments
The low-pressure turbo 2.5T five cylinder engine is standard equipment on front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive S60s. A 2.4L high-pressure 257 horsepower five-cylinder turbo engine powers the front-wheel drive T5. The 2.5L five serves as the basis for the 300 horsepower S60R. The R series is Volvo's answer to the Mercedes-Benz AMG, and BMW M-Power models. The R has all-wheel drive, adjustable shocks, lowered suspension and huge 17 or 18 inch wheels. Automatic transmission is the sole choice for the light-pressure turbos, and is optional on the T5. The T5 and S60R can be teamed with a six-speed manual, and the S60R can be linked to a six-speed automatic. The S60 is very comfortable inside, but Volvo has lost its space-efficiency gene as this car has less room than the old S70, and offers no more room than the smaller S40. The cabin is stylish and luxurious in a restrained Scandinavian way, and very durable. The controls and displays are the fruits of much logical thought. The roomy and luxuriously finished trunk has conveniently-located, easily-seen release toggles for the rear seat back rests. Reports in the automotive press indicate that the car is not quite as sporty as it looks, and that the lower-powered least-expensive models are the most satisfying on the road. Like Subaru, Volvo offers a discreet all-wheel drive sedan that does without SUV-like body-cladding and increased ride height. Built in Sweden.

Reliability
Average reliability. Four year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty. Higher than average prices for factory replacement parts. Volvo withholds technical information and diagnostic tools from the aftermarket. Expensive brake service, some electrical circuit problems, engine and turbocharger are reliable. Four year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty.

Pricing
At $41,000, the base S60 has become a pretty expensive car, but it may be worth the money to savour the genuine Volvo experience that represents the last gasp of Volvo's independence. The all-wheel drive model is priced $5,000 higher than the front-wheel drive model, but is good value for the extra equipment it brings. The $7,000 premium for the T5 over the S60T seems excessive at first, but if you add the T5's features to a base car you basically get the extra 45 horsepower for about $600. It is possible to spend more than $55,000 for a T5. At $63,000 equipped with automatic transmission, the S60R exists in a unique universe. A base model S60 is priced too closely to prestige cars like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3 Series to be of much interest non-Volvophiles. The Subaru GT Limited is more powerful and much cheaper than the Volvo S60 AWD.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags. The S60 was rated good in the IIHS frontal crash test, Acceptable in the IIHS side impact test and Good in the IIHS rear impact test, ranked 7th of the 13 cars tested in its class. Real world collision protection is likely one of the best in this class. Standard ABS


Volvo V70

ABOVE AVERAGE

VOLVO
V70*
, XC70 (FWD*, AWD)
Body Styles: 4SW
Engines: 2.4L-5 DOHC 168 HP, 2.5L-5T* DOHC 208 HP, 2.4L-5T DOHC 257 (T5) 2.5L-5T DOHC 300 HP (V70R)
Transmissions: 5M, 6M (T5, V70R), 5A*, 6A (S70R)
City fuel economy: 11.8L/100 km

What's new
Dynamic stability control and traction control are standard on the V70T AWD and XC70. Last year for the current model.

Comments
The normally-aspirated 2.4L five, low-pressure turbo 2.5T, the high-pressure turbo 2.4L 5T and crazy 300 horsepower 2.5L five in the V70R return for 2007. Transmission choices include a five-speed manual on the 2.4i, a six-speed manual on the T5 and V70R, a five-speed automatic is standard on all 2.5Ts and is optional on the T5. The optional automatic on the V70R has six speeds. The R series is Volvo's answer to the Mercedes-Benz AMG, and BMW M-Power models. The R has all-wheel drive, adjustable shocks, lowered suspension and huge 17 or 18 inch wheels. The V70's cabin is very comfortable, and its layout and design are the products of much thought. V70 and XC70 sales dipped about 15 percent last year. Built in Sweden.

Reliability
Average reliability. Higher than average prices for factory replacement parts. Volvo withholds technical information and diagnostic tools from the aftermarket. Four year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty.

Price
Despite scrapping the S60 2.4i model due to lack of interest, Volvo continues with the normally-aspirated 2.4i version of the bigger and heavier V70. With an automatic transmission, the base car is priced only $1,000 less than a 2.5T with 40 more horsepower. The sole point behind the 2.4i is so Volvo can advertise a sub-$40,000 base price for the V70 range. The base 2.5T is without doubt the very best value of the V70 lineup. The all-wheel drive system adds about $5,000 to the list price of a V70, but it includes the $1,500 sunroof option and a power driver's seat, bringing the real difference down to about $3,000. The XC70, a V70 with greater ground clearance and acres of body cladding, is priced the same as the V70. The V70 T5 is much cheaper than a Mercedes E350 wagon. Take a look at the Mazda 6 station wagon, it lacks the Volvo's name cachet, but has similar cabin and cargo volumes, and is much cheaper.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags. Not crash tested by the IIHS. The V70 provided very good protection for front seat occupants in the NHTSA's frontal crash test, and very good protection for all outboard occupants in the NHTSA's side impact test. Real world collision protection is likely one of the best in this class. Standard ABS.