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Vehicles like the 2011 Porsche Cayenne have vastly impr... Vehicles like the 2011 Porsche Cayenne have vastly improved over the past decade (Porshce).
The U.S. economy is still dragging. Middle Eastern regimes seem to be imploding almost weekly, spiking the cost of oil and gasoline at the pump, and shaking consumer confidence. Unemployment remains around 9% with many older baby boomers and new college grads have dropped out of the workforce for lack of jobs. And because so many people have precarious incomes, they are hanging on to their vehicles longer.

In 2005, the average age of a vehicle on the road was 8.9. Today, it is almost ten years. The good news is that carmakers were improving quality so much in the early part of the last decade that those hit by falling home values and layoffs can drive their cars well beyond 100,000 miles.

But if you are among the fortunate who are prospering or at least holding your own, and have been putting off a new vehicle purchase because you are simply a tight-wad and want to drive the car you have into the ground, think again.

Cars and trucks have changed dramatically for the better in just the last decade in the areas of safety, entertainment and fuel economy. If you're driving a decade-old vehicle, here are five good reasons to consider upgrading to a 2011 model.

Economy

Numerous governmental and industry studies demonstrate that new vehicles generally use less fuel than their older counterparts. Comparing vehicles from 1975 to 2005 shows a 50-percent increase in fuel efficiency.

The trend continues. High fuel prices and government regulations have increased the demand and the incentive to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles. Technology, however, is the genuine reason behind today's higher mpg vehicles.

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Many individual features enable real jumps in efficiency compared to older vehicles. For example, in 2001, many new cars were offered with automatic transmissions. These gearboxes used just three or four forward gears.

Today, even low-priced subcompact cars like the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Cruze feature automatic transmission with six gears. Chrysler will soon have a fuel-saving automatic with nine! Additional gears enable the engine to run at more efficient engine speeds.

Another significant change is direct fuel injection. Unlike standard fuel injection systems, direct injection (DI) squirts fuel directly into an engine's combustion chamber (instead of in the intake manifold). The DI injectors enable greater efficiency and lower fuel use.

Many vehicles are also using electric power steering pumps as opposed to belt-driven hydraulic pumps. The later pumps were working all the time, sapping up valuable engine power. Electric power steering systems require less power to do the same work. According to Nexsteer, a supplier of both kinds of steering systems, switching to an electric steering system saves the equivalent of 500-pounds of vehicle weight.

Power

While new engines and transmissions help deliver more fuel economy, newer vehicles also tend to be more powerful. It's a win-win situation.

In many cases, changes to engines that improve fuel economy also increase horsepower. During the past decade, engine engineers have:

- Reduced internal friction so that engine components can move more freely

- Increased the computing power of engine power-train control modules (the computers that control engines) to enable fuel-saving modes of operation such as cylinder de-activation. That means some vehicles that are V8 or V6 can operate 4 or three cylinders respectively at highway speeds where less acceleration power is needed.

- Used computer-aided-design to maximize the efficiency of air intake and exhaust systems

An example of increasing horsepower is the Chevrolet Camaro. In 2001, a Camaro with a 3.8-liter V-6 produced 200-horsepower. Today, a 2011 Camaro with a 3.6-liter V-6 produces 312-horsepower (more than the 5.7-liter V-8 from 2001) and gets better fuel economy. The 2011 Camaro with the 6.2-liter V-8 runs with a fire-breathing 426-hp. Those who can wait until the 2012 Camaro ZL1 arrives can enjoy a pavement shredding 550-hp.

Power trends aren't any different for family sedans or minivans.

Safety

Significant changes in technology make vehicle occupants safer than ever before. For instance, on the 2001 Toyota Camry, front airbags were standard. Side airbags for the driver and front passenger were optional. An anti-lock brake system (ABS) was standard on highly contented V-6 models, but traction control was optional across the board. Electronic stability control was still an exotic, not-available-on-affordable-car feature.

Today, the 2011 Toyota Camry offers seven standard airbags including side-curtain airbags that stretch back into the rear seats, and a driver's knee airbag. A sophisticated electronic stability control system is standard, as are ABS and all-speed traction control.

Which car would you rather drive? (And in case you haven't heard, a Federal investigation concluded that Toyota's electronic system does not cause its vehicles to accelerate by themselves, though plaintiff attorneys continue to challege the government's findings).

In addition to the basics, technologies such as lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, and various traffic warning systems are migrating down from luxury cars to the mass market.

Tech

Not a single new 2001-model year vehicle sold in the US offered factory-installed iPod connectivity or the ability to play music off of a USB device. However, you could option up to an audio system that played both cassette tapes and CDs. And since then, satellite radio has been added as standard or optional equipment on most vehicles.

Other technically advanced features you couldn't find in 2001 include power ventilated front seats (that cool or heat one's seat) Bluetooth wireless connections that enabled cell-phone integration into the vehicle's audio system, and Satellite TV.

Options including head-up display, voice-controlled navigation systems and rear-view cameras - some available in 2001 and some not - are becoming more widely available today.

Comfort and Design

If you have the opportunity to drive a 2011 model back-to-back with a 2001 vehicle, you'll be surprised at everything you don't notice; wind noise, engine noise, and road noise.

In order to make voice-activated systems such as GM's OnStar and Ford's Sync operate more reliably, engineers were forced to make automotive interiors quieter. The results are notable and help making driving more relaxing and comfortable.

Modern interiors are also generally more handsome than those of a decade ago. Illustrating a major improvement in just seven years, the differences between the 2003 Porsche Cayenne and the all-new 2011 model couldn't be more obvious. Gone are the acres of plastic and cheap looking vents. The second-generation Cayenne picks up styling cues from the Panamera sedan, enveloping drivers in a rich interior filled with careful detailing and vastly improved materials.

The same could be said for the wholesale changes Chrysler made in their line from 2010 to 2011. While the 2011 Chrysler 200 is still not one of our favorite cars, the sedan's interior is much improved over the 2010 edition. Materials feel richer because designers specified soft surfaces for the areas occupants touch. The feel is certainly superior to hard plastic. Likewise, the instrument cluster features a highly designed, 3-D appearance as opposed to plain gauge faces.

What It All Means...

While 2011 models still have four wheels and burn fossil fuels, much has changed, and it's all for the better.

Hit a dealer showroom near you to see the advances for yourself.


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  • 181 Comments
      yoceeoman
      • 4 Years Ago
      I don't know if this is relevant but I would like to buy a new car because I want to. Is that wrong ? I have a 2002 Nissan Xterra S/C and it runs great. I paid it off years ago and I drive it daily. It has 4 wheel drive and it's fantatsic in the northeast snow. I put new snow tires on this winter (Bridgestone Blizzacks), new shocks, new brakes and a new exhaust and it's like brand new. I know I put in a good amount of money recently but I wanted to keep it, and I wanted it to be dependable. Everyone at work wants to buy it and I tell them I'm keeping it. It has about 75,000 miles and I can't complain. But I still want to buy a new car and I can afford it. My wife drives a 2007 Chrysler Pacifica and she loves it. That one is paid off also. So you tell me, am I wrong for wanting to but a new car ? Time will tell as they say.
      Butch
      • 4 Years Ago
      As far as tech goes....keep your old auto and buy a new up to date CD/DVD/RADIO if you need a better stereo and save thousands of dollars. I have a 1997 Geo Tracker with 99,000 on the speedometer and it still runs great. It gets good gas mileage so why replace it ? Save your money and put in the bank.
      wosund
      • 4 Years Ago
      People say that a new car depreciates when you drive off the lot. In California your car depreciates 8.375% BEFORE you drive off the lot. That is the current sales tax rate. No Thanks, I will keep my old 2006.
      t28c
      • 4 Years Ago
      Great, a new car along with higher insurance, property tax (about $1000) first year. Oh, don't forget the upfront price tag and / or monthly payment. I'll stick with my 94 Buick , all paid for, runs well and low insance payment along with low property tax.
        dx75
        • 3 Years Ago
        @t28c
        In MY state, "Stealers" are allowed to advertise a "sales price" and "monthly payment" in big bold lettes and put in fine print at the bottom the notation that the PRICE is "based on your $5000 trade in" . That's SLEAZE. Democrats run the state.
      hmolina910
      • 4 Years Ago
      I will be driving my 98 Honda Civic for a while longer. I already have 237,750 miles, but the maintenance cost has been fairly low since I bought it.
      bshum3
      • 4 Years Ago
      Buy new ? No way I would prefer to buy from a private seller . Those folks just might need the money to save their home .
      • 4 Years Ago
      You will have to pry my 2004 Honda Accord out of my cold dead hands. My last 3 cars have all been Hondas - since undergraduate school. I wish I was older and wiser re: leasing the next two but had the sense to just transfer the 3rd to a purchase. I have a sedan and small children of my friends and teens always walk past it or ride and say "this is a nice car". I just want it to crank up every morning and it NEVER lets me down. NO CAR NOTE. My motto is the outside of the car is for other people and the inside and maintenance is for the person driving. I live in LA and I think the number of people who continue the lease loop to "look rich" are dumb
        searay0301
        • 4 Years Ago
        Good for you. Honda makes a great automobile. Toyota is another one. No matter what is being said. I use to be a General Motors person until 8 years ago. Have had too many GM's with problems not supported by the factory. I now drive a 7 year old Nissan Titan. Ok, the mileage is only 13-17 depending on what I am doing with the truck and weather. But it's paid for, Still looks good and most of all I enjoy the truck. Why do I need higher payments, higher insurance and licensing fees?
      • 4 Years Ago
      You don't necessarily need to buy new, like the article says any models beyond 2005 will give you good gas mileage depending on the car you buy + you lose a crapload of value once you drive it off the lot. I bought a 2007 civic with low miles at a fraction of what I would've paid for it new and wouldnt want it any other way. Do your homework before getting any type of vehicle so you get the best for your money, just don't waste money by buying new.
      • 4 Years Ago
      just bought my 2011 vw gti! I guess im in the loop.
        Billy
        • 4 Years Ago
        Not unless is is a diesel model.
        dx75
        • 3 Years Ago
        Yopu'll be on first name terms with the guy in the white coat in the service department anyway.
      • 3 Years Ago
      No Thank you!!!!! I 'll let someone else pay the STICKER Price!!!( you loose 5 to $6,000 just driving it away from the Dealer!!! I'll buy a 1 yr. old anyday!:)
      Ken
      • 4 Years Ago
      Reading this carefully, he makes a good case for buying a five year old used car. Generally you can get that for about 25% of the cost of a new one. For about forty years now, every five years I sell my ten year old and buy a five year old. Hardly any depreciation, cheaper insurance and I would estimate my retirement fund is about $100,000.00 ahead of the game.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Anyone buying a new car should read this recent post: http://www.arlington-toyota-beware.com/
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