Introduction
  • Image Credit: Volkswagen

Introduction

2009 was an interesting year, wasn't it? Automakers would care to put the last 12 months in their rear view mirrors (come to think of it, they thought the same thing of 2008), what with the economy still in the trough and many consumer segments feeling gun shy about purchasing new metal.

But we're sad to see 2009 go because a few of our favorite car brands are going to end up walking the plank. Some brands will be disappearing for good while others will be taking a brief hiatus while new models launch.
Pontiac G8
  • Image Credit: GM

Pontiac G8

"Too little, too late" might be the epitaph that appears on Pontiac's tombstone, right below the dates: 1926-2010. Earlier in 2009 when GM went through its government-organized bankruptcy, the company announced it would shut the brand down (along with Hummer and Saturn and Saab).

Enthusiasts lamented Pontiac's closure the most and although a lot of people never experienced the meaty, pavement-ripping Pontiacs of the muscle car era, a new model seemed to set the brand in a direction that made sense: the rear-driver G8 sedan.

The G8 was a vehicle that GM brought over from its Australian Holden unit (where it was badged the Holden Commodore) and almost immediately became a cult hit for its driving character and surprisingly good interior, although its results did not meet expectations. The G8 had the tough task of replacing both the Pontiac Bonneville and Pontiac Grand Prix, two cars that were never high on our list in recent years but still constituted large sales numbers for GM. When the G8 failed to meet its goal, it seemed to find itself in a tough spot. Marketing support dried up. Those who loved the car -- especially in V-8 trim -- worried it would be discontinued.

In April our fears became a reality when the entire Pontiac lineup when the way of GM's recycling bin. While there were rumors that the G8 would return as the Chevrolet Caprice, that never materialized. Goodbye, G8.
Honda S2000
  • Image Credit: Honda

Honda S2000

One of the most underrated sports cars ever sold in America might have been the Honda S2000. The small, lightweight roadster was about the size of a Mazda Miata but had the speed of a BMW Z4 or Porsche Boxster. It was only sold with a high-revving four-cylinder, mated to a manual transmission, all sitting on top of one of the harshest suspension setups available on the market. And for that reason we loved it.

The S2000 became a hit among the racer set while never really finding success among the same golden girls that warmed up to the Mazda MX-5 Miata (perhaps this is part of the problem -- the car never sold more than a few thousand per year).

A late model "CR" trim (for "club racer") debuted in 2009 and was the last of the breed. Key to the racing ethos many options could be deleted, such as air conditioning and radio in an effort to save weight.

With the S2000 going away that leaves Honda without a real sports car until its planned CR-Z makes its way to America, but alas, that won't feel like a proper replacement from our perspective.
Volkswagen GLI
  • Image Credit: Volkswagen

Volkswagen GLI

While the Volkswagen GTI seems to garner more of the awards, there have always been vocal owners who swear by the Jetta GLI as their high-performance VW of choice.

While some have been critical of the car's design, saying it got a bit portly in the wrong places, the mid-size sedan did have a bunch of interesting kit that made it a serious driver's car. It was available with VW's excellent DSG direct-shift gearbox, a lowered and firmer suspension and of course the company's now-famous 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. It was a bit heavy, though, at about 3300 lbs.

The GLI is taking a brief hiatus for 2010 and is expected to return when the new 2011 Jetta goes on sale in 2010, the sixth-generation of the car to date.
Audi S8
  • Image Credit: Audi

Audi S8

The high-performance Audi S8 is one of our favorite luxe-barge super sedans from our German friends. Built in Audi's Neckarsulm plant in Germany, the sport sedan shares not only its point of assembly with other exotic sports cars from Audi and Lamborghini but also a version of its V-10 engine.

The beastly 5.2-liter V-10 puts out 450 horsepower to all four wheels (Audi's Quattro system, of course), managed by the car's Tiptronic six-speed. Whenever anyone asks us about our favorite $100,000 sedan, the S8 is typically number one or two on the list, so it is with a bit of sadness that we watch it go the way of a champagne cork for 2009.

The S8 goes away while Audi prepares the launch of its new A8 sedan for next year, which should see the advent of a brand new S8 model in a few years' time.
Land Rover LR3
  • Image Credit: NorthJoe, Flickr

Land Rover LR3

Is the Land Rover LR3 actually discontinued? Yes and no.

At the New York Auto Show in 2009 the company announced that the Land Rover LR3 would go away in favor of a new model that looked very similar...the LR4. The differences between the two are more than just one number, however. The new model features a new direct-injection 5.0-liter V-8 and some new styling to the front and rear ends. But beyond that it's very much the same vehicle. Consider this one more of a figurative loss. If you really loved the LR3 you can now move up to the LR4.
Bentley Arnage
  • Image Credit: Bentley

Bentley Arnage

The Bentley Arnage was one of those tasty morsels of yesteryear -- a truly grand old car that felt like a grand old car. It's just, well, it was a very expensive and fast one, which made us love it.

The original Arnage was created back when Bentley was joined at the hip with Rolls-Royce. In 1998 both companies launched vehicles from the same platform (Rolls had their Silver Seraph while Bentley had the Arnage) and the motoring press was generally warm to receive them. Not only were these new vehicles (something that previously occurred at Bentley and Rolls on about the same schedule as a comet's appearance in the northern sky) more modern, but the engine found underneath was something of a departure: they were built by BMW. Bentley's BMW unit was a V-8 with two turbos, something that made drivers smile and dealer service people salivate.

The final Arnage models, aptly named "Final Series" consisted of 150 specially badged cars that rolled out of England in 2009. The Arnage is replaced by the new Mulsanne, which goes on sale next year. Bentley is now wholly owned by Volkswagen while Rolls-Royce is owned by BMW.
Pontiac Vibe
  • Image Credit: GM

Pontiac Vibe

The Pontiac Vibe was never a car that set the world on fire (which is why, in part, we no longer have the Pontiac brand at all) but stories from owners prove that it was a much beloved little crossover.

It was one of the brand's most recommended cars and -- like its assembly-line cousin, the Toyota Matrix -- did a tough job well. The Vibe wasn't a wagon, SUV or sedan yet it was big enough, sporty enough and easy enough to drive that it did a serviceable job of mimicking many larger vehicles. Perhaps due to a lack of competition, it was one of the best American hatchbacks for sale in our market.

The Vibe dies along with the Pontiac brand itself, gone officially in 2010 although the company isn't producing any new cars beyond 2009's run.
Hyundai Entourage
  • Image Credit: Hyundai

Hyundai Entourage

Hyundai's Entourage was never the class of the minivan segment, but that being said we appreciated it for its value position. Like its corporate sibling, the Kia Sedona, the Entourage offered a credible alternative to the Honda Odyssey / Toyota Sienna / Chrysler Town & Country / Dodge Caravan stranglehold.

That being said, the Entourage was never more than a gussied-up Kia Sedona. When the minivan market took a hit in the second half of this decade, it became clear to a lot of automakers that the market for that type of vehicle would likely move to crossovers or SUVs. Ford and GM both exited minivans. Soon Hyundai followed suit -- the Sedona lives on for Kia but Hyundai's version of the van was shut down in 2009.


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