Start Your Engines

Area auto dealers showcase some of the year’s show stoppers

Ready for a new ride? Whether you’re looking for luxury, power, performance, safety, fuel economy or something else altogether, there is a car for you on a lot somewhere in town. The most current models feature of-the-moment technology and extras that might surprise you and will certainly delight you. From touch screens on the console to heated passenger seats to apps that let you know if your kids are out past curfew, there are creature comforts and innovative amenities to make your drive—maybe even your life—a little smoother.

 

All the rage in Europe

Forget everything you know about diesel. Gone are the noisy, smoky, dirty diesels of the past. The Audi TDI Clean Diesel technology, available on five different models, offers improved fuel economy and emits significantly less carbon dioxide than do traditional gas engines. But lest you think it’s all about environmentalism, take note of this: Audi TDI Diesels have won six LeMans titles since 2006. In other words, these cars are powerful.

That’s enough to convince eco-minded European drivers. Zimbrick Audi’s Mike Tolleson says nearly three-quarters of drivers there choose diesel engines for their value and performance.

Of course, Audi is known for more than diesel technology. The German luxury line is highly regarded for styling, performance, comfort, safety and pricing along with efficiency. In truth, people who love cars love Audis, and for good reason.

“The United States lineup includes thirteen model lines that branch out into fifty-two variations by engines, transmissions, front-wheel drive or the industry-leading Quattro all-wheel-drive,” Tolleson says. “Every model is either newly designed or freshened in the past twenty-four months.”

Have you met Mercedes lately?

People think they know Mercedes-Benz. They think the cars are high-end German luxury sedans: a hallmark of success, the capstone of a career.

That’s not far off the mark, says Joe Santowski of Zimbrick Mercedes-Benz. What such folks are missing, though, is the versatility. A Mercedes isn’t the car that you buy when you get to the top; it’s the car that can take you there or that simply keeps you moving when you’re on your way. Consider the E Class. It’s the Mercedes-Benz midsize sedan and a mainstay in the automaker’s product line.

“It’s just right for a family or to pick up clients for business,” Santowski says. “It offers great style, comfort and safety, and the entire E Class is the perfect size. Not too big, not too small, the E Class is just right.”

While Mercedes-Benz still knows luxury forward and back, it is no stranger to handling and contemporary styling. Case in point? The E350 Sport Sedan. “Other cars in its class might offer a very sporty ride and miss out on the luxury side, and others try so hard for luxury that their car is boring to drive,” Santowski says. “The 2014 E350 Sport balances the two perfectly.”

Santowski is such a fan that he’s got his own E Class on order.

“This is the car that other manufacturers will try building at some point,” he says, “and it’s available today at Zimbrick Mercedes-Benz.”

Feel the road (and nothing else)

There’s something you won’t notice when you drive the 2013 Nissan Altima. No matter how long you’re behind the wheel—quick jaunt to the grocery store or long haul to the cabin up north—you won’t ever feel any discomfort in your back.

“The comfort is incredible,” says Zimbrick Nissan’s Peter Filandrinos. “You feel weightless in the seat.”

He’s talking about Nissan’s zero-gravity seats, which were inspired by actual NASA research on weightlessness. The whole point is to maximize comfort and minimize driver fatigue. The engineering is actually pretty sophisticated, but the effect is beautifully simple: zero-gravity seats make the Altima a totally sweet ride. And they aren’t the only thing: The completely redesigned interior and exterior capture contemporary styling, innovative technology, best-in-class highway fuel consumption and other creature comforts, too.

“The car is comfortable to drive with a lot of power,” Filandrinos says. “This is like no other car.”

Nissan plans to roll out the zero-gravity seats on other models eventually. Right now, customers who want to feel like they’re floating on air while they’re driving are going to want a 2013 Altima.

 

Care to cross over?

The baseball tournament in Stoughton. The swim meet in Middleton. The hockey invitational in Wausau. The Girl Scout cookie sale at the grocery store across town.

Let’s face it. You haul around a lot of gear, supplies and kids from the time they enter preschool until they get their own sets of keys. It can be a tight squeeze in a sedan, and not everyone wants a minivan.

Enter the crossover. The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe is a classic with seating for six without sacrificing storage. “With all the different sports my son is in, the Santa Fe is a perfect match,” says Zimbrick Hyundai’s Jason Syens. “It’s also a well-built, fun-to-drive crossover.”

Of course, the kids grow up and eventually start driving on their own. This can save parents time, but usually not worry. The Santa Fe has that covered, as well. Hyundai’s BlueLink Assurance Connected Care service provides three years of concierge and emergency assistance with select new Hyundai vehicles. BlueLink also supports some apps, including a teenager-monitoring service called GeoFence, which alerts parents if the car is driven out of a select area. There are other apps that monitor speed and curfew.

Now that’s the car for keeping track of the kids when they are out of sight but not out of mind!

A family Porsche

When people think of Porsche, they think performance. You know: sports cars, fast sports cars that handle well, zero to sixty in mere seconds.

None of that has changed. Porsche is still synonymous with high-end handling and styling, and lightening-fast luxury. If that weren’t enough, Porsche is taking it even further with the sport utility Cayenne, which blends space and power with speed and performance. It’s the Porsche for families who think they’ve outgrown a sports car but aren’t quite ready to let go, says Zimbrick Porsche’s Brian Robbins.

“You can load up the family and tow 7,600 pounds, or go out for a spirited drive,” he says. “The Cayenne adds diversity. It can be used as an SUV, but it’s still a Porsche. It never loses its performance heritage.”

The six-model Cayenne line starts at 300-horse power and goes all the way up to the Turbo S at 550HP. With diesel and hybrid engines, too, there is a Cayenne for just about anyone.

Innovative and uncompromising, the Cayenne proves you don’t have to outgrow your love of performance just because you’ve grown up. You can have your Porsche and your family, too.

When you mean business

Some of us just need a truck. Maybe we like the way it drives. Maybe we need to haul and tow, or handle rugged terrain. Maybe a truck just fits our ideas about who we are, deep inside. Some of us need a truck.

But the truck lovers among us know that not just any truck will do. It has to be the right truck. And right now, that truck is the 2014 GMC Sierra 1500.

Why? The all-new Sierra has a few things going for it. “It is the quietest, most technologically advanced truck that GM has ever built,” says Clint Lenz, Buick/GMC sales manager for Zimbrick Buick. “This truck has a quieter ride than a lot of luxury SUVs.”

With best-in-class V8 fuel-economy, the Sierra bests some competitor V6 engines. The SLE trim level also offers more standard equipment and features—including rear backup camera, LED Box lighting, Intellilink Radio and more—than any other truck on the market.

Plus, this is the truck that can serve as a mobile office. Sierras can have up to five USB ports, a 120-volt power outlet and a center consol that can hold hanging file folders. That means no more back seat full of paperwork and records, and no more running down the battery on the cell phone.

Some of us just need a truck. And some of us need the 2014 GMC Sierra, because the Sierra is the truck for people who mean business.

Small car, big impression

The MINI Cooper Countryman AII4 packs a lot into a little. The compact Countryman has the retro-modern style of the Cooper, but it throws in four doors, all-wheel drive and additional cargo space. It’s a bit less small but no less iconic. How could it be? It’s a MINI, after all.

It’s also virtually worry-free for four years thanks to its four-year, fifty-thousand-mile warranty and three-year, thirty-six-thousand-mile maintenance package. “That’s virtually cost-free driving for the first four years,” says MINI of Madison’s Stephen Leger.

The Countryman also boasts seven airbags and wins awards for its safety, retained value and overall vehicle appeal. This car is style and substance. Plus, it gets thirty-two miles per gallon on the highway. “That’s great for an all-wheel-drive vehicle,” Leger notes.

But just because its warranties, safety standards and multiple awards help you feel responsible doesn’t mean that the Countryman won’t let you have fun. “Drivers will notice its go-cart-like handling and its versatility,” Leger says. “This car appeals to anyone who wants their car to be as unique as they are.”

There’s a reason

It’s not called a Cadillac for nothing. The automaker has long been synonymous with top-of-the-line products. If it’s the best, it’s the Cadillac.

While that says a lot, there is still more to say. Consider the Cadillac XTS. Its innovative touch-screen driver interface brings the best of Internet technology to the best of auto technology. Widely recognized for its safety, the XTS has ten airbags and an advanced braking system that delivers maximum control without compromising the driving experience.

Yet, for all its focus on innovation, technology and safety, Cadillac never forgets about the experience. After all, the thoughtful details are what give a luxury car a luxurious feel. From the heated steering wheel to the nearly panoramic sunroof, the XTS delights the senses of drivers and passengers alike.

 

Uncompromising and conscientious

Completely redesigned from front to back and top to bottom, the Toyota Avalon is a new car with a familiar name. The advanced hybrid technology blends performance with fuel economy, proving that sustainability can be the ultimate luxury. With three different hybrid models in the lineup, Avalon offers eco-conscious drivers more choice than ever.

This matters in Madison. Hybrids account for forty percent of new car sales for Smart Motors, which leads the Chicago region (extending from Indianapolis to Minneapolis). The hybrid engine also makes the Avalon the most fuel-efficient full-size sedan on the market. Smart’s John Dolan says most customers looking for a top-of-the-line Toyota at least consider the hybrid version “if they have any green sense at all.”

Sustainability is usually the big motivator for those customers, but Dolan points out that it isn’t the only benefit of hybrids. “One feature that a lot of people overlook is how quiet hybrids are,” he says, “and with the new generation, you don’t have any penalties with respect to storage, since Toyota redesigned the Avalon to maximize trunk space.”

Of course, Toyota never forgets about the elements that make its cars so reliable. Dynamic radar cruise control automatically adjusts when other cars on the road get too close. Also, a blind-spot mirror and back-up camera are just two of several safety features available on the Avalon.

And let’s not forget comfort. No matter how reliable or efficient a car is, no one wants to drive it if it doesn’t feel good. Toyota knows that well, and the Avalon proves it. Zoned climate control, sunshades and ambient lighting are a few examples of ways Toyota focuses on feel and experience.

Performance, safety, luxury and sustainability come together on four wheels in the Avalon Hybrid. As usual, Toyota thought of everything. The only thing missing is you.

From comfortable crossovers to fuel efficient hybrids to playful roadsters to luxurious sedans to powerful pick-ups, the options are endless at today’s dealerships. Current models have all the features you expect, many you wouldn’t, and some you haven’t even heard of yet. The only thing these cars can’t do is drive themselves. But what fun would it be if they could?

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