HEELS ON WHEELS: 2009 CROSSOVER WATCH LIST


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2009 Volkswagen Tiguan

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HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE CROSSOVER
As something of a self-appointed crossover queen, evidence shows crossover shapes began as far back as 1980 with the AMC Eagle. However, I dare pinpoint the first CUV (Crossover Utility Vehicle) you see today were General Motors' creations.

The 2000 Pontiac Aztek was an ugly duckling of a vehicle and what the down-and-out high school teacher Walter in the AMC television series "Breaking Bad" drives. The Buick Rendezvous was another "first" standout, but not because it was anymore attractive or any less clunky. Both these GM vehicles are examples of the standout boxy look crossovers took on – and serve as testimony to how much crossovers have changed.

Crossovers are a sticking trend, offering SUV function and styling with car function (sometimes more of one attribute than another other). Choices in this class have overgrown and branched off into many different directions, so we've created a 2009 Crossover Watch List to give you ones to watch out for.

 2009 Mazda5 Grand Touring. The crossover style is so infectious; it's taken on economy cars and morphed into a boxy shape like the Mazda5. This little guy had three rows, mini-van style sliding rear doors, leather seating, a navigation system, a moonroof and rear spoiler – all included for a total price of $25,695. You'll forget you measure just 181.5-inches from bumper to bumper. A peppy, capable 4-cylinder that will teach you to be brave in traffic (now I understand where the "zoom-zoom-zoom" jingle comes from). With an average of 24-25-mpg, you're doing better than V6 engines, but not as good as a hybrid.

 2009 Nissan Rogue. Think of shrunken Murano. Add more fun with zero lean on hard turns. A Rogue Sl with full-wheel drive and a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cyliner engine, a long list of standards (steering wheel mounted controls, remote keyless entry) and additional features like a 7-speaker Bose stereo, Bluetooth, and Garmin Navigation run you $25,170. The Rogue has received NHTSA's highest 5-star ratings for side-impact safety. It has also won MotorWeek's Driver's Choice Award for Best Utility as well as Parents Magazine's "Best Family Cars for 2008" Award.

 2009 Subaru Forester. Applause for the Forester to drop its nerdy look and finally get some SUV sex appeal. Critics are loving this car, which has the honor of being awarded Motor Trend's 2009 Sport/Utility Car of the Year. It also became Consumer Report's top-rated small SUV, beating out competitors like the RAV4 and Honda CR-V. The panoramic moonroof is a definite standout. My 2.5-liter 4-cylindar Pzec (Partial Zero Emissions) engine was $25,623, which came with great new (free) standards as the moonroof, roof rails and steering wheel mounted controls. The EPA's Green Vehicle Guide gives the Forester a 9.5 out of 10 for reducing air pollution.

 2009 VW Tiguan. A compact CUV taking style cues from its bigger sibling, the Touareg. A 2.0-liter turbo-charged 200-horsepower engine loaded with 8-way power seating, navigation and the power panoramic sunroof for a total cost of $33,165. The Tiguan is another vehicle setting the trend with an amazing panoramic sunroof, this one offering 13-square feet of open space and a pull shade. The 4-cylinder turbo engine was responsive and peppy, which does give any smaller vehicle a sense of superiority over others of the same size. It's important to keep in mind it not just VWs that are fun to drive – it's vehicles with turbo engines. The Tiguan has good road grip, responsive brakes, and low engine noise.

 2009 ML 320 Diesel Bluetech. Can you spoil yourself? If so, I'd do it with the 210-horsepower, V6 3.0-liter turbocharged cleaner diesel engine that gets an average of 22-mpg and a score of 7 out of 10 from the EPA's Green Vehicle Guide. Starting price for this smaller crossover/SUV is $49,475, but with all the amenities that make this vehicle what it is, you're looking at low $60k. The ML 320 is off the style charts: blue-tinted window glass; square chrome exhaust tips; 3-zone climate control; full leather seating with wood trim; heated steering wheel; 8-way power adjustable seating with a 4-way lumbar support, not to mention the fact your seats can be heated three different ways. I had a very hard time saying good-bye to this vehicle, and put it a step above the Land Rover, Range Rover, and VW Touareg I drove.

Katrina's Car Tips For Women Drivers
Katrina's 2010 and 2009 Model Reviews For Women Drivers
Katrina's 2008 Model Reviews For Women Drivers

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