Give yourself or someone in your life a ticket to ride.
By James Hurst
Welcome to our annual list of new and redesigned cars introduced in the 2008 model year. Whether it is your dream car or you want to make someone in your life really happy—here’s our list of fun, sexy, good-looking cars which offers a variety to fit all budgets and tastes.
Volvo’s all new C30 is the smallest and sexiest car in Volvo’s model range. For 2008, the C30 offers Volvo’s first-ever custom-build interior combinations, which allows for up to 17 different exterior colors and 12 interior combinations. Available in version 1.0 and 2.0, both are front-wheel-drive models. The C30 comes equipped with a turbocharged inline five-cylinder engine that produces 227 horses and 236 pound-feet of torque. Anyone familiar with Volvo’s product line will appreciate that the new C30 is 8.5 inches shorter and weighs around 320 pounds less than the Volvo S40 sport sedan. Inside this very safe car are four bucket-style seats and typical Volvo amenities we have grown to appreciate over the years.
The Smart ForTwo is the first mass market microcar to go on sale in the United States. These cars have been roaming all over Europe with lots of success. It has plenty of room, lots of cargo space and they’re fun to drive. They also come in an array of cool colors. If you live in a crowded urban city, are eco-minded and want a car that is really easy to park, then the Smart ForTwo is for you. Don’t expect to break the speed limit as the three-cylinder engine sets a moderate pace around town.
BMW 1 Series
The legend continues and grows a bit smaller for 2008 with the introduction of the new 1 Series Coupe from Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (Bavarian Motor Works). This sporty rear-wheel-drive coupe or soft-top convertible combines agile handling, powerful engines, and seating for four into a fun–filled package. The 1 Series Coupe reinvents the niche that the legendary BMW 2002 created 40 years ago, and for ’08 comes in two engine choices. The 128i coupe is propelled by a 230-horsepower, 3.0-liter six-cylinder, while the more powerful 135i coupe features a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that produces 300 horses and an incredible 300 pound-feet of torque. Both engines are offered with a choice of either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. U.S. pricing for the 128i coupe will be just under $30,000 and the 135i likely will be in the mid-$30,000s. It is relatively safe to guess the 1-series convertible will probably be in the $40,000 range.
Chevy said the new Malibu is well-equipped even in the base model, with standard antilock disc brakes, six airbags, traction control, turn-by-turn navigation, air conditioning, and XM Satellite Radio. The base and optional engines are bigger and more powerful for 2008. Choices range from the 2.4-liter four-cylinder to the optional 252-horsepower DOHC 3.6-liter V6. The all-new 2008 Malibu hybrid models are easily distinguished by their specific exterior appointments and badges. Inside, a unique gauge cluster provides info and feedback about the hybrid powertrain’s operation. The Malibu hybrid is equipped with a unique electric motor/generator mated to a 2.4-liter Ecotec VVT four-cylinder engine and Hydra-Matic four-speed transmission rated at 164 horsepower.
Saturn staged the world premiere of its new Astra XR three-door compact car at last year’s Chicago Auto Show. We are glad to say the 2008 Astra is offered this year in two trim levels for the XE and the XR five-door models, and single trim XR three-door configuration, the latter being created for enthusiastic drivers in mind. Well-appointed interior combined with proven success in Europe provides a fun, easy-to-drive car. All Astras are equipped with a 1.9-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine that delivers 140 horsepower, and paired to a five-speed manual gearbox. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional.
All new for 2008 is the fourth generation of the C-Class, Mercedes-Benz entry-level four-door sedan. Larger, roomier, and more powerful, the new C-Class arrives in three basic versions, the C300 Sport, C350 Sport, and C300 Luxury. Propelling the C300 offerings is a 228-horsepower 3.0-liter DOHC V-6. The C350 offers the 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 and 268 horsepower. C300 buyers get a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox, or seven-speed automatic, while the latter is the only choice for the C350. Also available is the C63 AMG version with a 336-horsepower 6.3-liter DOHC V-8 for those people who still like to play hard and sexy.
For 2008 Scion has expanded the xB into a proper larger-size car, endowing it with plenty of room for five. A new, bigger engine addresses the old xB’s lack of muscle. Yet the new xB retains its stand-out styling, big boxy cargo bay, good fuel economy, and road manners of a mid-size car. The interior is far from boring in this Toyota-engineered vehicle—rest assure it will provide fun weekends to Salado “antiquing” or hauling the gang to IKEA.
One of my favorites for 2008 is Infinity’s 330-horsepower fast, sexy, and elegant G37. A fantastic deal on your pocketbook ($35,000), it is available in graphite, wheat, and stone leather with lots of other luxury ammenities. Infinity offers several models and provides excellent service. My favorite would be the sport model with its six-speed manual transmission, tighter suspension, bigger brakes, and limited-slip differential. The G37 comes with a really sweet-sounding exhaust which everyone will notice.
Subaru Impreza WRX
In 2001, Subaru changed the face of the performance market with the introduction of the original turbocharged, rally-bred Impreza WRX. For 2008, the WRX is all-new, 50 pounds lighter than its predecessor, and now rides on a 3.7-inch longer wheel base that improves ride, interior space, and utility. The 2.5-liter flat-four Boxer engine has been modified, delivering 224 horses and 226 pound-feet of torque. Standard transmission is a five-speed manual, and the optional four-speed automatic comes with Sportshift manual control. Available in two new body styles, a four-door and a five-door, each with refined interiors that contain a sweeping twin cockpit for five passengers, and, with rear seats folded flat, 45 cubic feet of cargo space. The WRX frontal design features a widened grille with a spread wing logo that connects to Subaru’s aircraft heritage. All in all, a lot of fun!
VW’s new ’08 Tiguan is the small brother of the Toureg, and offers a chassis that sets new standards in the world of SUVs. The VW GTI shares its 200-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder power with Tiguan. The transmission choices are the standard six-speed manual and optional six-speed automatic. The interior is akin to the well-appointed big brother Toureg. The well-organized interior offers five-passenger seating, and the reclining rear seats offer six inches of for-and-aft travel for additional legroom or cargo space. There is 16.6 cu. ft. of cargo room with rear seat folded flat. A new entertainment system is offered in the Tiguan that features a 6.5-inch color touchscreen and optional 18-inch wheels, as well as a panoramic glass roof that stretches the length of the cabin.
Bentley Continental GT Speed
For 2008 Bentley has stepped up with the Bentley Continental GT “Speed.” This special variant traces its roots back to Bentley Speed models of days of yore. The 2008 model is powered by a twin turbo 12-cylinder engine producing over 600 horsepower at 6000 rpm—an increase of 50 horsepower over the base Continental GT. Bentley claims the GT Speed will go 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. This is one car you should dream of owning for sheer audacity and high-profile elegance. The gorgeous interior and supple leather are a feast for the senses.
Ford Hybrid Escape
For 2008 Ford has given the Escape Hybrid a facelift making it stand out better in the crowded small sport-ute segment. For the Escape, that translates into a new squared-off grille, power bulge hood, cleaner sides and, as Ford claims, “the most fuel-efficient SUV on the planet.” Using both gasoline and electric engines, plus an advanced battery pack, this eco-conscious SUV gives you outstanding fuel efficiency with the benefits of V6-like performance. The Hybrid electric engine captures kinetic energy whenever you apply the brakes, so your battery is being recharged as you drive. The Escape Hybrid can be praised for its spaciousness, size, ease of driving, and excellent gas mileage.