Pontiac G8 GXP

It will become the flagship of Pontiac's performance series.

In New York Pontiac unveiled the hottest version of its new G8 sedan, called the GXP. It will become the flagship of Pontiac's performance series -- which includes GXP versions of the Solstice, G6 and Torrent -- when it goes on sale late this year. The two main differences that make this G8 a GXP are the LS3 V-8 and the optional 6-speed manual transmission.

The 6.2-liter LS3 V-8 (the G8 GT uses a 361-bhp 6.0-liter) is pretty much the same terrific new pushrod small-block found in the 2008 C6 Corvette -- one of the very best V-8s ever made. Although horsepower and torque numbers aren't finalized yet, Pontiac estimates the outputs at 402 bhp and 402 lb.-ft. of torque (the torque for the 6-speed manual is estimated at 400 lb.-ft.). The horsepower figure is down 28 to the Vette, but torque is about the same.

Unlike the G8 GT, which is currently available only with an automatic, the GXP can be ordered with the Tremec TR6060 6-speed manual transmission. A Hydra-Matic 6L80 6-speed automatic will come standard. Pontiac estimates the G8 GXP will hit 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds and will run the quarter mile in 13 flat. A limited-slip differential comes standard, as befits a true performance machine. The manual-transmission GXP has a curb weight of 4025 lb.

Pontiac officials say the GXP's suspension system -- which is adjustable front and rear -- was developed on racetracks all over the world, including Germany's famous Nürburgring. The front features fully adjustable caster, camber and toe, while the rear has adjustable camber and toe. The car rides on 19-in. polished aluminum alloy wheels with summer performance tires, size 245/40R-19; an all-season tire will be available as well. Brembo supplied the GXP with 14-in. vented rotors with 4-piston aluminum calipers up front and 12.8-in. rotors clamped by single-piston calipers at the rear.

The G8 GXP can be differentiated from the regular G8 by a unique front fascia with a lower splitter and a new rear that includes a diffuser. And the hot new wheels that completely fill up the muscular fender flares. Inside are highly bolstered, two-tone sport seats.

2009 Volkswagen Passat CC

Offering Lane Assist, electronic chassis control and a park assist feature.

The Volkswagen Passat CC might be the so-called missing link between the regular Passat and the Mercedes S-Class-competing Phaeton, which had to be withdrawn from the U.S. market due to poor sales.

Slightly larger than the current Passat, the CC measures 188.8 in. overall, but true to its 4-door coupe styling, stands only 55.9 in. tall, 2.0 in. shorter than the standard model.

Although the Passat CC has fastback styling, is retains a conventional rear trunk. In keeping with the car's sporty nature, it has four bucket seating positions and a panoramic glass roof. European models will be equipped with a choice of 140 - or 170 - bhp 2.0-liter turbodiesels, while U.S. models will have a 200-bhp 2.0-liter direct-injection turbocharged four. An optional 3.6-liter V-6 will also be offered with standard all-wheel drive. In Europe, the V-6 will be rated at 300 bhp, while U.S. versions will produce 280. Among the new features offered on the car are Lane Assist, which unlike other lane-departure warning systems, will actually steer the car back on track; electronic chassis control; and a park assist feature that will automatically steer the vehicle into a parallel parking space.

Infiniti FX

Inside you'll find an 11-speaker Bose-developed audio system, Intelligent Cruise Control, Distance Control Assist (DCA) and the Around View Monitor system.

Here in the U.S. and Canada, we've been enjoying the sporty-yet-luxurious Infiniti models for years. And the FX takes credit as one of the first vehicles to blend sports-car-like handling with the utility and high driving position of an SUV. Infiniti says the second-generation FX is all that, as well as being "a showcase of Infiniti's design and technology leadership."

The FX's new body is still wrapped around a variation of the FM (Front Midship) platform and will be available in three models. The top-of-the-line will be the FX50, the designation referring to its new 5.0-liter 380-plus-bhp V-8, which replaces the FX45's 320-bhp 4.5-liter V-8. The FX50 will feature a 7-speed automatic transmission (previously a 5-speed) with Adaptive Shift Control, with optional magnesium paddle shifters. Details on a new V-6 engine will come later, Infiniti says.

All FX models will have double-wishbone suspension front and rear. Available features will include all-wheel drive, a Continuous Damping Control (CDC) suspension system, Rear-Active Steer and 21-in. alloy wheels by Enkei.

The FX's new interior has what Infiniti terms a "driver-oriented cockpit," and has available as options the latest in navigation and entertainment systems, as well as an 11-speaker Bose-developed audio system, Intelligent Cruise Control, Distance Control Assist (DCA) and the Around View Monitor system.

Look for the new FX at U.S. and Canadian dealers this June.

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