2007s ready to roll off dealers' lots; From powerful SUVs to the latest hybrids.

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Byline: Art Simas

Audi

According to Mike Katz and Phil Morrill of Wagner Motors in Boylston, the big news is the Q7 SUV, the first entree for Audi in the SUV line. It comes with a standard 3.6-liter V6 with an available 4.2-liter V8. It also offers third-row seating and all-wheel drive is standard on all makes and models of the Q7.

Mr. Morrill said buyers can expect to get 20 miles per gallon on the 3.6-liter. It has a towing capacity of about 6,600 pounds.

In other news, vehicles that have a V8, the A8 and A6, have been redesigned with a 4-valve configuration and direct fuel injection system.

"It gives you better fuel economy and a cleaner burn for better power," Mr. Morrill said. "That will add about 25 more horsepower to the engine. And both models are based on the same technology as in the Q7."

Audi scores well in vehicle safety ratings, thanks mainly to the aluminum technology is being used, Mr. Katz said.

Don't look for any drastic changes in exterior styling in most models.

In the spring the new two-plus-two TT coupe will be out and a roadster version will come later.

Audi in the fall will debut the A5, the first full-size coupe since 1991.

Chrysler

Chrysler rolls out a brand new Sebring sedan, available in 4- or 6-cylinder engines. John Glick of Bancroft Motors, 72 Shrewsbury St., Worcester, said this model is significantly improved in performance and looks.

Chrysler basically hasn't changed the looks of the car since 2001. But now it features a face similar to other Chrysler models, including the revised Pacifica.

In addition, buyers will have upgraded interior styling, with two-tone treatment or leather seats. It comes with a navigation/radio system on a 6.5 inch touch-screen display, with voice-activated commands.

Other high tech creature comforts in the new Sebring include heated and cooled cup holders, a 20 gigabyte hard disk for storing music and photos, a DVD entertainment system for passengers in the rear seat.

Mr. Glick said the Sebring this summer will come out with a convertible with three different types of tops - cloth, vinyl or retractable hardtop.

The 2007 Aspen, a midsized SUV that has the same chasis as the Dodge Durango, will first SUV for Chrysler, competing in the Yukon and Tahoe markets, and possibly the Lincoln Town Car company because of its long wheelbase.

Aspen can seat up to eight adults. Options include a power rear liftgate, remote start, rear-seat DVD entertainment system, navigation radio and Sirius satellite radio system.

The Pacifica also gets a new look this year with exterior styling, an accent strip on its fascia and new grille. It carries a 4.0-liter V6 engine with 255 horsepower in a 6-speed automatic.

Dodge

Say goodbye to the Neon and hello to the Dodge 2007 Caliber, the new entry-level vehicle. Looking more like a crossover SUV than a small sedan, the Caliber comes with the Dodge Ram logo emblazoned on its grille, and its oversized headlights give the impression that the car has broad shoulders.

It seats five and takes a wide stance on the road, giving it more interior room than its predecessor.

The Caliber is available as a front- or all-wheel drive vehicle, with a buyer's choice of horsepower. One can get 148 horses on the SE and SXT model; 178 on the sport R/T or up to 300 horsepower in a turbo engine on the Caliber SRT4.

In other model revisions for 2007, Durango has a redesigned fascia grille, hood fenders and headlights. It also has the latest craze options - the ability to park itself - as well as remote start, 20-inch wheels and quad bucket seats.

The 4.7-liter V8 edition can run on a blend of 85 percent ethanol to 15 percent gasoline and the 5.7-liter V8 also promises to deliver better mileage than in years past.

And the 2007Nitro, the little brother of the Durango, will have a range of engines, topping off with the 255-horsepower V6 on the high end Nitro R/T. It has a sliding Load n Go cargo floor for up to 18 inches of excess storage space.

Ford

In early February, Ford switched gears and announced it will resurrect its best selling sedan of the 1980s - the Ford Taurus - by renaming the current Ford 500 and significantly upgrading it for the 2008 model year, which will be out in late spring. The car will have a 3.5-liter 265 horsepower engine.

The New England Motor Press Winter Car of the Year, the Edge (see other awards on page xx), has just arrived in dealer showrooms, according to Michael Gross, general manager for Harr Ford, Goldstar Blvd., Worcester.

Speaking about the car, Mr. Gross said, "It's very uncharacteristic of Ford ... We never had a product like it before. It's a crossover. When Ford attempted the last crossover, the Freestyle, they made it a seven-passenger and very `wagoney.' Whereas, this really doesn't feel like a wagon. This time Ford has focused on larger compartment capacity (this is a five-passenger) and concentrated on the interior roominess of it.

"It's got a wide stance, so it's very stable on the road. And it has 265 horsepower engine, so it's got plenty of power. And it's got a great look to it."

The best-selling vehicle for the Ford division at Harr has been the 150 truck. "The Focus and Ford Fusion have also done well for us, especially those with all-wheel drive," Mr. Gross said.

In the hybrid world, "I'd say the interest has fallen off. People may have weighed the cost difference between a hybrid and the regular version and may have decided it's a little bit too much.

"We have a Toyota store right next to us and I see hybrids sitting on the lot as opposed to a few years ago, when you couldn't get them. I think on a national level and on a local level, the interest in hybrids has fallen off.

"When manufacturers figure out how to get them a little bit more price-competitive, that's when you'll see more interest - or when you see gas prices skyrocket again," Mr. Gross said.

The new Ford Super Duty is coming out in a 2008 model very soon. That will feature all new interior design and a new 6.4-liter twin-turbo diesel engine that will feature a new state of the art fuel injection system that will help emissions.

In the high performance segment, Ford legend Carroll Shelby has offered his expertise to create the Shelby GT500. It's the most powerful Mustang ever built, with a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 engine producing 475 horsepower. It will be available as a coupe or a convertible.

Honda

While the Civic Si sedan is pumped up to a performance-oriented vehicle for 2007, the new CRV is completely redesigned. "It's a phenomenal automobile with the best crash test rating you can get," said Tom Van Fechtman, general manager for the Herb...

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