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New XL-7 bows in fall

Production of the all-new, second-generation Suzuki XL-7 SUV starts late this fall at CAMI in Ingersoll.

Production of the all-new, second-generation Suzuki XL-7 SUV starts late this fall at CAMI in Ingersoll.

A ceremony marking the return of a Suzuki-badged vehicle to the plant was held there Aug. 11.

CAMI, a General Motors-Suzuki joint venture, previously built such vehicles as the Chevrolet Tracker and Suzuki's Sidekick and last-generation Vitara.

Since those two were discontinued, however, the factory has produced only the Chevrolet Equinox and subsequently its Pontiac sibling, the Torrent, successor to the Aztek.

While it is derived from the same platform as the Equinox/Torrent, the XL-7 differs significantly in many critical ways, not the least being size.

With a seating capacity of seven for the Canadian market (the two domestics hold five), it's 213 mm longer than either, albeit on the same wheelbase.

The new Suzuki, in fact, is longer than a Chev TrailBlazer or Ford Explorer, placing it solidly in the mid-size SUV category.

Unlike Equinox/Torrent, it offers a high-tech, Japanese-built, 3.6-litre V6, yielding 252 hp at 6400 r.p.m. and 243 lb.-ft. of torque at 2300 r.p.m.

A five-speed automatic transmission is standard, and front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive models are available.

Prices, still unannounced, are expected to span the $30,000-to-$40,000 range, which should make the XL-7 highly competitive.

Opened in 1989, CAMI has built more than 2 million vehicles.

It has a production capacity of 220,000 vehicles a year.

FORD CONFIRMS NEW MODELS

Ford says it will build a production sedan based on the Lincoln MKS concept, seen at the Detroit auto show in January.

The full-size flagship, arriving in 2008, is expected to be based on the AWD platform used by the Ford Five Hundred and Freestyle.

Among its many features will be a capless fuel filler, first introduced on the Ford GT supercar.

Expected to find widespread use throughout the Ford lineup, this device is said to eliminate the inconvenience of forgetting to put the gas cap back on after refuelling.

It's also better for the environment because no gas fumes escape.

Nearer term, a new Mustang model, the Shelby GT, goes on sale next January.

Filling a niche between the Mustang GT and the Shelby GT500, it will be, in essence, a retail version of the Shelby GT-H Mustang developed for Hertz's rental car fleet and revealed at the 2006 New York auto show.

A 325 hp version of Ford's 4.6-litre V8 is under the hood.


MORE HYUNDAI SUVS

Hyundai is adding another model to its new Santa Fe SUV lineup.

Initially the uplevel GLS model was available only in seven-passenger form. Now, a five-passenger version will also be offered.

Standard features for both include AWD, ABS, six airbags, leather, power sunroof and more. But the five-seater deletes the third seat and related components.

Starting prices for the Santa Fe, which uses the Sonata car platform, range from $29,995 to $35,995.

Meanwhile, Hyundai plans to build another, larger sport-utility as part of its push upmarket.

Continuing the auto maker's pattern of naming vehicles after places in the North American southwest, the newcomer will be called the Veracruz, after the Mexican port and state.

Derived from the Azera sedan platform, Veracruz hits showrooms next year.

Hyundai says it will be bigger than a Honda Pilot, with more cargo room than a Mercedes-Benz GL-Class.

Power will come from a 3.8-litre V6, mated with a six-speed automatic transmission.


HONDA F1 CAR SETS RECORD

Just how fast can a Formula One car really go if given its head? Try 400 km/h.

At the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, Dutch racer Alan Van der Merwe recently hit 400.459 km/h in a Honda F1 car on a one-way run.

He wasn't able to top the magic 400 mark on a backup run, as is required to set an official speed record, but after three days of running, he did set an official land speed record for an F1 car of 397.360 km/h on two passes through Bonneville's flying mile.

At the same time, he set a new class record for the flying kilometre, with an average speed of 397.481 km/h (both records pending official ratification by la Fédération internationale de l'automobile).

Honda's F1 team backed the project and prepared the car, including countless hours of wind-tunnel development.

The car was not in the trim used for normal circuit racing, where high downforce is essential to fast lap times.

To achieve top speed in the trials, downforce was minimized, including replacement of the rear wing with a single vertical fin to ensure stability.

Photos, video and more details are available at

http://www.bonneville400.com

Rumblings

  • Mercedes's next-gen C-Class Coupe will be built only in the Brazilian city of Juiz de Fora, beginning early in 2007.

    It's not slated for sale in North America.

  • DaimlerChrysler, Ford
    and General Motors have sent a letter to the U.S. Congress promising to double their annual production of alternative-fuel vehicles to 2 million by 2010.

  • Chrysler reportedly is planning a mid-size crossover vehicle, based on the new-for-2007 Sebring, to compete with Ford's yet-to-be released Edge. Expect it to arrive in 2008 as a 2009 model.

  • Although GM won't confirm it at this point, scuttlebutt from the London auto show says Saturn will import a version of the next-generation Opel Vectra wagon for sale in North America in 2008 or 2009.

    The mid-sizer will be based on the next evolution of the auto giant's front-wheel-drive Epsilon platform, currently offered here in the Chevrolet Malibu, Pontiac G6 and Saab 9-3.

  • GM
    's 2007 Chev Aveo and unique-to-Canada Pontiac Wave sedan arrive at dealers this month with a starting price of $12,950.

  • Honda says it has no plans to follow Nissan and Toyota into the conventional full-size pickup market.


    wheels@thestar.ca;

    mgmalloy@aol.com


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