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Chevrolet Volt

In 1996 GM shocked the world by releasing the first modern all-electric vehicle, the EV1. It was a bold, broad stroke to the future of the automobile, a sign that traditional gas-powered cars were nearing the end of the popular road and would become a sort of relic, a toy to be used on Sundays. The E-vehicle had arrived, again, and the world rejoiced. But then GM did a funny thing – when all the EV1s returned from their leases, they dismantled and destroyed them. This really upset a lot of people. Fans of the green movement  even protested outside some GM facilities to save the EV1. Interestingly, however, what no one mentions is that only 800 people actually signed on the dotted line to give the EV1 a chance. Only 800. That breaks down to 16 leases per state. Needless to say, EV1 was not a profit-maker for the company, but rather an exercise in what they needed to look to in coming decades. Interestingly, no one really commended GM for their efforts, but ridiculed and skewered them for “destroying the hope,” as one eco-weenie put it. And no, that particular eco-weenie didn’t lease an EV1, but preferred a large German luxury car. The irony. But that aside, GM was thinking more long term than EV1.In 1996, the call for an E-vehicle was low. Gas wasn’t overtly expensive and the whole global warming thing, while something we all knew about, hadn’t been truly popularized outside of scientific circles. Things were still good. Besides, the EV1 was weird looking. It made no noise and it was small. People didn’t quite understand it. But the knowledge that GM gained from that noiseless, weird-looking little car was glacial in size. Today, it’s filtering down into a new generation of the E-vehicle called Chevrolet Volt, the only one of its kind slated to be on the road as early as 2010. The Middle East is shaking in its overpriced dino tar.Despite the obvious hope, expectations and excitement surrounding the Volt are still very delicate topics. After all, a lot is still up in the air about the Volt, but what is known is that it currently has a cruising range of 40 miles on battery power; it will be a more useful sedan opposed to the EV1 coupe; it will carry a gas tank should you need to travel beyond the 40 mile electric range (still no official declaration of what kind of engine it will have, or if it will recharge the battery yet); it can be recharged by plugging it into a typical home outlet and achieve full charge in about six hours; the T-shaped lithium-ion battery will hold 16 kilowatt hours of energy, have less than 300 cells and weigh around 400 pounds; the Volt will not be as odd looking as its EV1 predecessor and will run you between $30,000 and $40,000. GM is taking the car more seriously than most would believe. So seriously in fact, that they’ve devoted a new $359 million facility to much of its development and a team of roughly 650 people to work exclusively with Volt, many of whom worked on the EV1. From body and interior construction, to safety and electrical durability, to battery longevity and transferability, the team is working to ensure that the Volt will amaze. And they have to; a lot is riding on this new car. With it all, transferability is very important, as it indicates that GM is considering the Volt technology for other vehicles. The battery is transferable to other vehicles. Driving this point to fact, GM USA has been working with GM Europe to develop an Opel using the Volt driveline for the overseas market....For more about the Chevrolet Volt, be sure to pick up this month's copy of FoothillStyle. Click on the "Get Your Copy" link on the bottom of this page for some of our newsstand locations. Or, to order a copy of this issue, please email Gloria Schroeder at gloria@sierrastyle.com, or call her at 916-988-9888 x116.

VW Sportwagen

With the cost of fuel helping to short out the world’s economy, fewer people see the logic in buying massive SUVs for the daily grind. Interestingly, buyers who once saw station wagons as an automotive styling plague are beginning to rethink the idea of a tiny SUV, or essentially, a wagon. And, fuel economy aside, there are a lot of other reasons to love a wagon over an SUV – they’re easier to drive, ride better, often easier to get in and out of, take less room to park, frequently look better and are simply smarter for a daily use regime.Volkswagen is the latest to the segment with the new Jetta SportWagen. Where the Passat wagon was once the VW wagon of choice (it was the only one), the Jetta SportWagen brings a level of youthfulness and fun that the Passat is simply too formal and familial to offer. In a word, the SportWagen is fun. Yes, that adjective can be used in conjunction with wagon.The SportWagen is available in three trim levels and accompanying prices: S (starts at $18,999), SE (starts at $21,349), and SEL (starts at $25,990); and they are all well equipped from the get go. But, VW has taken the liberty of offering a wide array of optional extras to help tailor the exact SportWagen that customers would like to have. Things like polished aluminum exterior mirror covers, several rims from 16 inches to 18 inches, mild body kit upgrades, fog lights, leather, rear cargo cage, panoramic moon roof, manual or automatic transmission, and normally aspirated or turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine (SEL only) are but a few of the things buyers can choose from to build the wagon that suits their lives perfectly.The top-of-the-line SEL is the best equipped with heated leather seats, leather shift knob, brake lever, and steering wheel, the turbocharged engine, 17-inch wheels, 12-position power driver’s seat with three-position memories, larger dual exhaust tips, premium sound system, and several more standard features that all come together to create a vehicle that truly rivals even higher-priced nameplates.Beyond how well equipped it is, the SEL is also no slouch, zipping to 60 miles per hour in 6.9 seconds, roughly a full second quicker than the non-turbo equipped S or SE. Each is relatively athletic and much more inspiring than the heavier, larger Passat, but not quite as capable as an Audi A4. Again, keeping the prices in mind, the SportWagen is a gem.Poking around with the “Build It” feature at vw.com, and selecting the most expensive wheels, panorama moonroof, and no roof storage options, we were able to load an S model to the hilt, and tip the price to just over $28,000, but for all the goodies we checked off in the options box, it’s a bargain. We clicked the same options with an SEL and broke the piggy bank for a cool $37,917. A bit flabbergasting for a VW, but again, taking into account all of the bells and whistles, both standard and optional, it’s not a horrific deal, but does knock loudly upon the Audi A4 door. Electing the same options for an SE, we built a $33,276 wagon.In terms of comfort, the SportWagen isn’t cavernous, but it’s not tiny either – it’s just right. A little snug, but not overbearingly so, the seats are supportive, the visibility is good, and it’s simply an easy car to drive. It also offers no pretensions whatsoever, meaning you don’t get glaring jealous eyes staring at you along the highway, but rather curious folks wanting to know more. And, should you go antiquing one weekend, you’ll have plenty of room for all the needful things available, and the merchants won’t be inclined to demonstrate the pricier sides of their goods, thanks to owning a VW.Later in 2009, VW will offer a Clean Diesel version of the SportWagen, which promises to be a much more efficient vehicle than we’re used to seeing. Some sources cite that 35 MPG on the highway isn’t far fetched, and in town, the Clean Diesel SportWagen won’t be hard pressed to achieve 28 MPG, which is utterly amazing. However, the turbo and non-turbo gas-powered engines currently available do pretty well too, finding 21/31 (T) and 21/29 (NT) respectively.All things considered, the wagon is back, but in a new way. Thanks to sleek styling and ample performance, the VW SportWagen isn’t the plague-inducing wagon of yore, but rather a sexy alternative to the bank-breaking SUV.

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