Fuel up to explore the sexy, re-designed cars of 2011. (Psst — They’re efficient, too!)

by Lauren Mifsud

The purr of the engine, the squeal of tires, and the smell — the undeniable smell of a new car — are the things that prospective new car owners crave. And when the doors open at this year’s Pittsburgh International Auto Show at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, an entire class of new 2011 cars will be introduced to local buyers, collectors, and aficionados. We turn to our local experts for their insights on the best new cars of the year, including compact cars that have gone luxury and the first five-seat MINI. Some of these rides may surprise you…  The Pittsburgh International Auto Show takes place February 10-13 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. pittautoshow.com/autoshow.

On the Road Again - New 2011 Cars

On the Road Again - New 2011 CarsPosh in Porsche — The new Porsche Panamera 4 offers the sleek look and handling of a traditional sports car, but with more room to ride in style. The four-door Porsche features a new 3.6 Liter Direct Injected V6 engine and is equipped with Porsche’s Double Clutch Gearbox and fuel-saving Auto Start Stop function that enhances and aids its 30 miles per gallon rating. “Thanks to its safety, styling, and pricing, this is a great car for Pittsburgh,” says Auto Palace Porsche General Manager Aaron Comstock. “It’s stylish, powerful, and efficient.” The Panamera 4 starts at $78,900, and includes automated manual transmission, side/curtain airbags, and a navigation system. Auto Palace Porsche, 412.687.4000. auto-palace.com.

On the Road Again - New 2011 Cars

Photo courtesy Porsche

On the Road Again - New 2011 Cars

On the Road Again - New 2011 CarsMan around Town – The first five-seat MINI is one giant oxymoron — in a good way. It’s the biggest MINI yet and the first all wheel drive platform for the brand. “It still has the go-kart handling that we’re known for and carries everything over from the regular MINI,” says Jon Merkel, Sales for MINI of Pittsburgh. And with more cargo space and the new “MINI Connected” system, which allows drivers to hook up their iPods and iPhone to the center dash and update statuses and locations. “If you take a MINI and add more versatility to it you get the Countryman. It’s the same formula, just new style,” Merkel says. The vehicle gets an estimated 35 highway and 28 city miles per gallon, and starts at $22,350. MINI of Pittsburgh/P&W Foreign Cars, 412.999.5927. miniofpittsburgh.com.

On the Road Again - New 2011 Cars

On the Road Again - New 2011 Cars

Savvy Saab – Behind the wheel or under the hood, the 2011 Saab 9-5 XWD is a treat for drivers. In a nod to Saab’s aeronautical past, the interior features elements such as the altimeter-style scrolling speed readout, one of many cool functions on a hot car. Available in two engine levels (2.0 Liter Turbo and 2.8 Liter 300 Hp V6), the car offers great gas mileage (33 miles per gallon highway) and an exhilarating drive, says #1 Cochran Director of Sales Calvin Lane. This completely redesigned Saab is priced from $38,525 to just more than $50,000, “with all of the goodies,” Lane says. #1 Cochran, 412.373.3333. cochran.com.

On the Road Again - New 2011 Cars

On the Road Again - New 2011 Cars

On the Road Again - New 2011 CarsLap of Luxury – Our local Lexus dealers agree: The newest luxury vehicle has a completely new feel. “It’s stylish, easily distinguishable, great looking, and ecologically efficient,” says Tim Brady, General Manager of Rohrich Lexus. Targeting a younger buyer, the CT 200h starts at around $30,000 and gets nearly 40 miles to the gallon, adds Kevin Mullen, Vice President/General Manager of Lexus North Hills. With its increased handling and driver control (there are four different settings offered through Drive Mode Select), the new model is sure to rev your engine. “If people are looking for something that gets great fuel efficiency, is distinctive, and ecologically aware, this is the right car,” Brady says. Rohrich Lexus, 888.234.2044. rohrichlexus.com. Lexus of North Hills724.940.1400. lexusofnorthhills.com.

On the Road Again - New 2011 Cars

On the Road Again - New 2011 Cars

On the Road Again - New 2011 CarsCruze Control— This compact car is “totally redesigned for 2011,” says Kirk Brosius, Sales Manager at Day Chevrolet. “[General Motors] is putting a lot of thought into the car; it’s out to compete with the Hondas and Toyotas.” But the Cruze is racing its way past other compact cars, too. Its standard highway fuel economy (36 miles per gallon) beats other small cars like the 2010 Toyota Corolla (35 miles per gallon). It has 10 standard airbags to the competition’s six and comes with standard built-in navigation. “GM is really getting behind this vehicle,” Brosius says. Best of all, the Cruze looks like a luxury car with its sharp angles, sculpted fenders, and beveled hood, but starts at only $16,275. Day Chevrolet, 724.327.0900. daychevrolet.com.

On the Road Again - New 2011 Cars

On the Road Again - New 2011 Cars

Elegant Engineering— The 2012 Passat is bigger, better, and beautiful, says Three Rivers Volkswagen General Manager Kathi Tennant. With the coveted German-engineered car starting at around $20,000 (nicely equipped), other drivers will crave the price. Choose one of three engines, such as the impressive TDI Clean Diesel Engine (43 miles per gallon highway), opt for premium touch screen navigation, or ask about standard Bluetooth capabilities. The seventh-generation Passat is roomier than ever before thanks to a redesign featuring more rear legroom and trunk space. Its styling and price will have drivers exploring the open road all year long. Three Rivers Volkswagen, 724.941.6100. 3riversvw.com.

On the Road Again - New 2011 Cars

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This article is featured in the February 2011 issue of WHIRL Magazine.
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