General Motors stole the show in Los Angeles as it unveiled a quartet of new production models under its Saturn, Buick, and GMC brands. As a sign of the changing times in the automotive world, two of its new offerings are hybrids.
With the launch of the 2008 Enclave, Buick is aiming to build on the success of its upscale Lucerne sedan. The Enclave can seat up to eight passengers in leather-and-wood trimmed comfort. All models come with the same 275-horsepower V-6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox. Standard equipment includes variable power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering and four-wheel independent suspension.
The Enclave is offered in CX and CXL trims and comes with an impressive lineup of optional comfort features, including a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a voice-activated and touch-screen navigation system, a Bose audio system, and XM Satellite Radio. The 2008 Enclave will be available in dealer showrooms next summer.
The 2008 Aura Green Line Hybrid is the second car to make use of the same belt alternator system (BAS) hybrid-assist technology that GM pioneered in the Saturn Vue Green Line Hybrid. The car will offer a 25 percent increase in fuel economy over the gasoline-only Aura, according to Saturn. Production of the Aura Green Line Hybrid is scheduled to begin in March 2007, and the car is expected to have a base price less than $23,000.
The Saturn Vue also gets a makeover for the 2008 model year. Exterior lines are considerably softened from the previous model's, and vents have been added to the front fenders--we assume to better cool the big 3.6-liter V-6 engine in the XR and Red Line versions. Any Vue with a V-6 also gets a new 6-speed automatic transmission. There also will be a new Green Line version of the '08 Vue, which will serve as the platform for GM's much-anticipated plug-in hybrid vehicle.
Inside, the Vue is going upscale with its 8-way power driver's seat, an as-standard MP3-compatible stereo and optional navigation. Other tech features include rain-sensing wipers, remote start, and a heated windshield washer system. One accessory that won't be coming to the States, however, is the fold-out bike rack that is available on the Vue's European counterpart, the Opel Antara.
The 2008 GMC Yukon hybrid will be the second production car to use GM's two-mode hybrid system that lets cars operate entirely on electric, entirely on gasoline, or on a combination of both. The Yukon Hybrid pairs an electric motor/generator with a V-8 engine with active cylinder management. The Yukon uses the same drivetrain as the Chevrolet Tahoe hybrid, and will follow the latter vehicle into dealers toward the end of 2007.
Drivers of the GMC Yukon hybrid can expect to see a 25 percent increase in fuel efficiency compared with the gasoline-only version. The two-mode hybrid system works by switching between first mode, for low speed and light loads, and second mode for highway driving. When in the first mode, the car is able to run solely on electric power or on a combination of electric and gasoline. In highway driving, the electric motor can be used to assist the gasoline engine.