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New car models come to town

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune

To test drive a Chrysler Crossfire is to be taken back in time to high school days — sports car heaven as a free spirit.

That tight steering and split-second power arrived at Shehadi Motors as one of several 2004 models just released across the United States. South Lake Tahoe saw its piece of the action Friday.

“When this car pulled up on the lot, all the mechanics and all the office staff — everybody — came out to touch and look at this car,” Shehadi salesman Craig Tyler said.

The 2004 Crossfire — the product of German-influenced engineering when Chrysler bought Mercedes Benz — isn’t all about performance even though its V6 cranks out 215 horsepower with back wheel wells that are wider than the front to enhance stability.

An “auto-stick” shift gives the driver the convenience of an automatic with the control of a 4-speed manual transmission.

The look is like something out of a modern kitchen redesigned in stainless steel. Even the door handles are made out of chrome.

The console has built-in buttons with idiot icons that highlight features like heated seats and a speed-sensitive spoiler.

Tyler said he’d consider taking the car to its maximum of 160 mph, with a helmet and a track. Buyers should be prepared for more than the average upper echelon of cars. It has a sticker to prove it — $39,955.

Tyler doesn’t expect serious buyers to get sticker shock.

“I’ve had people lay down $40,000 in cash on a car before,” he said. “Some cars we have on the lot are worth more than houses.”

Tyler, who hails from Missouri, cited the $61,000 Toyota Land Cruiser.

Despite the high price tags of limited editions, longtime Shehadi Motors saleswoman Chris Alper said the increase in new car prices has leveled off in recent years.

People have gotten more discriminating about gas mileage, given high fuel prices lately, she said. So buyers have asked for the Toyota electric-gas hybrid and looked seriously at Shehadi’s Corolla Matrix. It rakes in 26 mpg on city streets and 31 on the highway.

Vehicle sales have always been a little sporadic in Tahoe, with a major portion of buyers consisting of new residents “moving up here and finding out they need a 4WD,” Alper said.

“I put snow tires on my Porsche,” Marvin Langer said, while gawking at the Crossfire.

Langer pledged to buy one in April to accompany his Mercedes and Porsche because he likes the look of it. The gleam in his eye showed a big boy waiting for a new toy.

“I like the lines. It looks like it’s moving when it’s standing still,” he said.

Being a resident, he knows Tahoe is 4-wheel drive country, but since he’s retired, he’s got the solution.

“I don’t leave the house when it snows,” he said.

Across the way at South Shore Motors, Linda Sine and Robert Sylva of Truckee had something else in mind.

Sine was considering a Subaru Forester while walking around the lot Monday with longtime salesman Robert Klemer.

The dealership just received the 2004 Forester XT Turbo, with a sticker price of $27,000. But being her first car, Sine believed the price tag was a little rich for her blood. She bought the 2004 Forester without the boost in horsepower and climate-control air conditioning for about $6,000 less.

Still, scaling down from the ultimate Forester was a major step up from Sine’s current vehicle — which was “dead in the driveway,” she said.

Since she’s been out of the car-buying loop for a while, Sine soon learned how Subaru gained its popularity in the basin.

“I talked to a lot of people who have them and they say they run forever,” she said.

People buy cars and trucks for a variety of reasons.

In the 2004 models, there’s the Toyota Siena minivan with all-wheel drive. It comes with an internal camera that shows the area in the rear of the vehicle for when the driver backs it up.

Also in showrooms this fall, the sport utility vehicles will likely make another strong appearance. The 2004 Pathfinder Armada sport utility has a towing capacity of 9,100 pounds.

Then there’s the proof soccer moms still exist and have auto design influence. With the Mercury Villager gone for a while, the 2004 Mercury Monterey features stow-in-the-floor third-row seats.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at swood@tahoedailytribune.com


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