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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Jeep, Sonata top bumper class

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Jeep, Sonata top bumper class

Grand Cherokee, Hyundai sedan lead stellar crop of rookies and redesigns

What a difference a year makes.

Nearly every carmaker has seen this year end much better than the last and consumers have been rewarded with a raft of new and redesigned vehicles from numerous carmakers during the 2010 calendar year.

But the very best cars and trucks of 2010 have pushed their brands. They give us a look at a company, where it's going and what we should expect in the future.

That's why the Detroit News Car and Truck of the Year are the 2011 Hyundai Sonata and the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

These are much more than smartly redesigned vehicles with head-turning looks, magnificent interiors and excellent powertrains. The whole for both vehicles is larger than the sum of their parts.

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Price: $30,995 Mileage: 16 mpg city / 23 mpg highwayWhen Chrysler Group LLC launched the all-new Grand Cherokee, it was the first major overhaul of a vehicle since Fiat SpA helped bring the Auburn Hills-based carmaker out of bankruptcy. Until the Grand Cherokee appeared, a handful of Chrysler's "new vehicles" had been shown with minor interior improvements that left most people just a little less disappointed.

This all-terrain SUV underwent much more than a plastic-molded makeover. From the new 280-horsepower Pentastar V-6 to a gorgeous interior, the Grand Cherokee delivers both on the road and off like no other vehicle at this price.

The iconic seven-slotted grille remains on this sleek-looking SUV. It never compromises off-road abilities while maintaining its on-road presence. Out of any made-over SUV, the Grand Cherokee provides the very best from its history with a determined look at its future.

2011 Hyundai Sonata

Price: $19,915 Mileage: 24 mpg city / 35 mpg highway Few vehicles have had such a first-year impact as the 2011 Hyundai Sonata. This sedan represents a monumental and philosophical shift for the carmaker — many more will follow.

The beautiful Sonata does not offer any model with a V-6; instead there is a direct injection and turbo I-4 models offered to satiate customers looking for power or fuel economy. (There's also a gas-electric hybrid version.)

Inside and out, the Sonata is a home run. The exterior conveys the new face of Hyundai and the interior is plush, well laid out and complete. Most of all, Hyundai's new look is completely its own. The carmaker, once scolded for using trace paper on its designs, is now mapping out its own future with innovative, elegant vehicles. It is leading instead of following.

2011 Ford Fiesta

Price: $13,995 Mileage: 28 mpg city / 37 mpg highwayFinally, a subcompact worth driving. The all-new Ford Fiesta is fun, spirited and easy on the eyes. Instead of the traditional cheap and cheerful econobox, the Fiesta comes with a six-speed automatic transmission, a good-looking hatchback and a technology-laden cockpit worthy of a midsize sedan.

2011 Buick Regal

Price: $26,995 Mileage: 19 mpg city / 30 mpg highwayStylish, sporty with a luxurious interior that puts more premium brands to shame, the Buick Regal is the newest member to wear Buick's badge. This car, especially the version with a 220-horsepower 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, should help attract younger buyers looking for a luxury sports car without high prices. Buick's growth may surprise some consumers, but that's only because those people haven't driven one.

2011 Chevrolet Volt

Price: $40,280 ($32,780 after government rebate) EPA electric range: 35 miles per charge Gas mileage: 37 mpgGeneral Motors Co. kept its word and delivered the Chevrolet Volt with all the trappings originally promised — kind of. The electric four-passenger car with a range-extending gas engine is the only car available that can run purely on electricity - for up to 50 miles, GM says — and then keep rolling using the gas engine. Call it whatever you want: A hybrid, a plug-in hybrid or an electric car, it doesn't matter. I call it phenomenal. And it's the most advanced vehicle on the road today.

2011 Nissan Leaf

Price: $33,600 ($26,100 after government rebate) Range: 73 milesThe electric car is reborn with the Nissan Leaf — an all-electric car with a range up to 100 miles — though the EPA pegged it at 73. The ideal city car, the Leaf will allow for driving without ever producing a whiff of smoke from the tailpipe (in fact, it doesn't have one). Electric powertrains are the future of the automotive industry, and the Leaf hopes to take people there faster.

Best of the Rest, Trucks 2011 Ford Explorer

Price: $28,995 Mileage: 17 mpg city / 25 mpg highwayA complete overhaul for the Ford Explorer creates a new unibody SUV that can still handle off-road terrain while smoothing out the highways. Chock-full of features, the new Explorer provides tons of driver-friendly technologies while never sacrificing quiet performance. With the base engine of a V-6 and no V-8 in the Explorer's future, it shows how seriously Ford is trying to boost fuel economy without limiting its customers.

2011 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD diesel

Price: $28,526 Mileage: N/AThe only thing the new Silverado heavy duty shares with the previous generation HD is the exterior. From the ground up, Chevrolet rebuilt this hardworking truck into a powerhouse. Add to that an improved Duramax V-8 and you have an awesome truck that can tow nearly 10 tons. Yes, 10 tons.

2011 Toyota Sienna

Price: $25,270 Mileage: 19 mpg city / 24 mpg highwayJust when you thought the minivan was dead, along comes a whole new string of minivans, starting with the vastly improved Sienna. This Toyota offers a much more car-like ride and performance while giving it a much more aggressive exterior. The interior is well thought out and offers all the amenities a growing family could want. Minivans may not be in vogue, but they're sticking around because no other vehicle offers as much utility as these original crossovers.

2011 Dodge Durango

Price: $30,045 Mileage: 16 mpg city / 23 mpg highwayWhat's not to like about the all new Durango. Resurrecting the nameplate after two years, the Durango returns as a modern SUV with a smooth car-like ride, a mix of powertrains, and because it's a Dodge, a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. But for the first time, this V-8 includes cylinder deactivation (shutting off four-cylinders when not needed). The interior is downright luxurious and the exterior is curved and powerful.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20101216/OPINION03/12160373/Jeep--Sonata-top-bumper-class#ixzz18HW3fdKU

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