Saturday, March 31, 2007

GM pumps up sedans, SUVs

Wednesday, March 28, 2007
New York International Auto Show
GM pumps up sedans, SUVs
LaCrosse front redone; H2 upgraded; new H3 in works
Sharon Terlep and Scott Burgess / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- General Motors Corp., on a mission to pump some life into the often-dreary world of sedans, will highlight its latest efforts next week at the New York auto show.

GM will show a made-over Buick LaCrosse, as well as performance versions of the LaCrosse and Buick Lucerne and a refreshed Cadillac STS.

The new LaCrosse will feature a redesigned front end and a beefed-up package of premium equipment. All versions of the car will come standard with a chrome exterior appearance package, remote start, XM Satellite Radio and dual-zone climate control, among other features.

It'll be the latest addition to GM's sedan lineup, for years in the shadow of more popular trucks and SUVs. But as jitters over volatile gas prices send more consumers back to cars, GM is giving family cars more attention.

"We're putting a much stronger face on the vehicle," GM engineer Ed Zellner said, showing off the made-over LaCrosse.

The midsize sedan market grew 2 percent last year, with about 3.6 million sales.

Also on display in New York will be the new Super high-performance versions of the LaCrosse and Lucerne. The LaCrosse Super will include a 5.3-liter small block V-8 that will push 300 horsepower. The Lucerne Super will come with a 4.6-liter Northstar V-6 and produce 292 horsepower. Both will come with special badging, which Buick first used on cars more than 60 years ago.

Zellner says much work went into making sure the larger, more powerful engine didn't compromise the ride and handling of the vehicles. Larger brakes, advanced steering gear and 18-inch wheels are part of the Super packages.

"In the old days, when you started making engines big, it would make it hard for the cars to drive," Zellner said of the Super models. "This isn't the case."

Buick's models have been strong, but are hurt by the brand's less-than-stellar reputation, said Tom Libby, senior director of industry analysis at J.D. Power and Associates.

To be successful, Libby said, Buick needs to have a clearly identifiable lineup and make sure vehicles stand apart from Cadillac.

"They need to create a clear and distinct brand entity," he said.

GM also will use the New York show to display the latest offerings from its Hummer brand.

Upgrading the H2 and offering a new model in the H3 lineup are in the works at Hummer.

The larger H2 gets a completely refashioned interior and new powertrain, Hummer's executive director, Ross Hendrix, said Tuesday. "I'd call this a major midcycle enhancement."

The 2008 H2's new engine, a 6.2-liter V-8, will boost the H2's horsepower to 393, 28 horsepower more than the 2007 model H2. It will add 90 pound-feet of torque, from 325 to 415.

While the new engine will provide more power, Ross said other changes, such as adding a six-speed transmission and cutting several hundred pounds from the vehicle's weight, will make the engine 10 percent more fuel-efficient than the current one.

While nothing changes on the H2's exterior, its interior will be overhauled. The H2 will feature a new instrument panel, a two-person third row, which is removable, and a lot more brushed aluminum accents, Ross said.

"We're making the interior closer to the Cadillac Escalade," he said. "When people get into the new H2, they're going to say, 'Wow, this is a really high-end truck.' "

The all-new 2008 H3 Alpha may also impress Hummer drivers looking for enhanced performance on the smallest Hummer to hit trails.

It will come with a 5.7-liter V-8, much more powerful than the H3's standard 3.7-liter inline five-cylinder engine. It also features a much more luxurious interior, as well as the Alpha badging throughout the vehicle.

The H3 is the second Hummer to receive the Alpha designation.

"This is a rocket," Ross said. "People have been asking for this model and now it's coming."

Other GM vehicles that will debut in New York include:

2008 Cadillac STS equipped with a more powerful direct injection V-6 and retouched styling.

Saab BioPower 100 concept car: Powered by 100 percent ethanol, the BioPower makes its North American debut. It features a 300-horsepower turbo-charged engine.

You can reach Sharon Terlep at (313) 223-4686 or

© Copyright 2007 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.


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