2008 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
In 1997, Mercedes-Benz made news by becoming the first German luxury automaker to build a mass-market SUV, the M-class. Equally newsworthy, however, was that said luxo ute was to be built in, of all places, Vance, Alabama -- a nice enough place, but one that couldn't be farther in every way from the automotive hubbub of Stuttgart. Initially, this was a problem, reflected in the subpar quality of early MLs. But fresh from a recent overhaul, the plant has been brought up to fit-and-finish standards befitting the three-pointed star, while making room to also provide the world's supply of the Mercedes-Benz R-class and GL-class trucklets.
With 65-percent American content, the GL-class lineup -- which consists of the relatively fuel-efficient, diesel-powered GL320 CDI, the GL450, and the decadent GL550 -- is by far the biggest and most macho of the trio of trucklets and, therefore, nothing if not the most American.
What do Hofu, Hiroshima, Bogotá, and Flat Rock, Michigan, have in common? All four cities can take credit for being a birthplace of one of the sportiest family sedans around, the Mazda 6.
As we've noted before, Mazdas tend to be at least a bit -- if not buckets -- more fun to drive than most of their competitors, which is why we're particularly proud that the sassy 6 is built here as well as bought here. That said, the outgoing 6 was showing its age, becoming less and less competitive with larger, more powerful competitors such as the Toyota Camry, the Nissan Altima, and, of course, the 10Best-winning Accord (each of which is also U.S.-built, incidentally).
But all three had better look out. The gorgeous new 2009 Mazda6 is larger inside than pretty much everything in the class other than the queen-size Accord. And with 272 horsepower in S guise, it's also the most powerful in the class. Better yet, we've noted how the 6 has retained its delightful road manners in spite of the gains, which we feel makes it one of the best cars built in America, regardless of brand.
2009 Toyota Corolla
Sourced as it is from some four locations-- one in Fremont, California, one in Cambridge, Ontario, and two in Japan -- and with only about 50-percent U.S.-sourced content, the 2009 Toyota Corolla is the one car in this group that could be said to have dual citizenship. So if you're a real purchase patriot, check that VIN to ensure that it starts with 1, 4, or 5 so you can go to sleep knowing that big hunk of metal, glass, and plastic in the garage gives a big hunk of its proceeds right back to the American economy.
Also built in Fremont are Corolla-based cars of a more versatile variety: the five-door Matrix and its fraternal twin, the Pontiac Vibe. Regardless of its point of origin or body configuration, however, the Corolla feels well matched for American drivers, with its excellent fuel economy, comfortable ride, feature-laden interior, and son-of-Camry styling. And although it's not the most fun car in its class, the 2009 is easily the best Corolla ever made.