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11/05/2009 Selects the 5 Biggest Surprises of Annual MPG Track Day

You can read the fact sheet and pour over the technical specs, but the only true measure of a car's ability is to get behind the wheel and push it to the limit. The annual Motor Press Guild Track Day, which takes place every October, gives automotive journalists the opportunity to sample cars side-by-side from a wide range of manufacturers in a true track setting. After two days and hundreds of laps around the Auto Club Speedway infield course, the Auto Experts selected the five Biggest Surprises of the MPG Track Day.

"Driving these cars around a track allows you to experience them in a way you never could on the street, the strengths and flaws of each model really start to shine through," said Mike Caudill, Automotive Expert. "Whether it was unexpected performance, intriguing technology or sheer fun factor, each of these five cars had something special that just made us say, 'Wow!'"

2010 Acura TL SH-AWD Manual ($42,385)

SH-AWD stands for super handling all-wheel drive, and that moniker is no marketing hype. The system distributes the engine's power exactly where it's needed for any given road condition. Simply throw the big sedan into a turn and the system responds beautifully, sending up to 70 percent of available torque to a single rear wheel and sorting out any wheel spin or understeer to keep the TL moving fluidly through the line.

2010 TL SH-AWD models also get a 25 hp boost over their front-wheel drive counterparts thanks to a larger 305 hp 3.7L V6. Ordering the 6-speed manual version takes the sportiness to another level with short, precise throws, a perfectly linear clutch engagement and an 88 pound weight reduction versus the automatic.

"The Acura TL with the 6-speed transmission combined with all-wheel drive takes performance to a whole new level for Acura. With its solid power and superb handling, the TL proved to be a great track car."

2010 Volvo XC60 ($32,395)

Volvo has always been synonymous with safety, and the 2010 XC60 is a prime example of why this is true. The list of standard and available safety features is simply staggering: Adaptive Cruise Control with Distance Alert, Driver Alert Control, Lane Departure Warning, Dynamic Stability and Traction Control, Roll Stability Control, Side Impact Protection System, Roll-Over Protection System, Whiplash Protection System, the list goes on and on.

One of the more unique features is the standard City Safety system, which uses infrared lasers to detect an impending collision with a stopped vehicle and automatically applies the brakes to lessen the severity of an accident or avoid it altogether. The system works up to 18 miles per hour, the speed range which Volvo says accounts for 75 percent of all reported collisions.

"A true safety technological breakthrough - City Safety is the future of automotive safety in that the system prevents accidents before they happen."

2010 BMW X6 M ($88,900)

Conventional wisdom says that a high profile 5,324 pound crossover will be useless on a racetrack, but this BMW proves otherwise. Aided by a 555 hp twin-turbo V8, Adaptive Drive roll stabilization and intelligent xDrive all-wheel drive, the X6 M seemingly defies the laws of physics with its cornering agility and straight-line performance. Combine these abilities with a 6,000 pound towing capacity and the luxury and technology BMW is known for and you have a high-performance vehicle that defies categorization.

"The gadget wizardry going on under the uniquely-styled skin on this X6 M may have fancy terms like Adaptive Drive Roll-Stabilization or Electronic Damper Control, but in more simple terms that I can understand, this vehicle offers a thrilling ride both on the track and the street behaving not like a family truckster but like the finely-tuned BMW Sports Activity Vehicle that it is."

2010 Kia Forte Koup ($16,595)

Part stylish sports car and part sensible commuter, the Forte Koup impresses with excellent driving dynamics and good manners around the track. The 173 hp 2.4L engine and the less than 3,000 pound curb weight helps the Koup dance through the corners, hit 60 mph in 7 seconds and achieve 32 mpg on the highway. With a base price of just $16,595 the Kia Forte Koup is the perfect solution for the driving enthusiast with an economy car budget.

"Kia continues to hit the ball out of the park building fun-to-drive, sporty and practical cars. A true MPG standout."

2010 Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid ($87,950)

Marking the first Mercedes-Benz series-production hybrid model is the all-new S400 Hybrid based on the flagship S-Class sedan. The S400 sandwiches a 20 hp electric motor powered by lithium ion batteries in between the 3.5L V6 gas engine and 7-speed automatic transmission, resulting in a class-leading 19 city/26 hwy mpg.

The COMAND media interface has also been refined, allowing music and navigation information to be adjusted between a 6.5-inch center console display and a smaller display set in the middle of the instrument cluster.

"Just when you thought in-vehicle entertainment couldn't get any better, Mercedes delivers a breakthrough with the COMAND Media Interface."

For more on the cars featured in the Five Biggest Surprises at MPG Track Day, stay tuned for vehicle information at and full coverage of MPG Track Day in the Garage.

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