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Investment Advice-
Cars that make "Cents"
June, 2008 - Issue #44
The shaky economy has most of us unfolding our wallets with more anxiety than "teenager number four" opening a closet in the latest Halloween installment. And with gas prices rising, a flashing low-fuel light generates more panicky hyperventilation than hearing your doctor slapping on a size-XL rubber glove.

But that's all the more reason to take a stroll through some auto dealers' lots. A new car might be just what the doctor ordered. Some shiny steel in the driveway does wonders for your attitude and today's latest fuel economy technology makes the decision good for your pocketbook. Add in the fact that the slow market gives buyers the upper hand and you'd be crazy not to buy something. So have a look at these select choices.

Acura MDX
Acura MDX
High-style SUV: Acura RDX—Starting at $33,195
Small crossover SUVs are exercises in compromise. Manufacturers saddle them with underpowered engines and trucklike handling, combining the worst of the vehicles they emulate. Acura's RDX changes that with a 240 horsepower turbocharged four cylinder engine generating frugal efficiency when you need it, and eye-watering power when you want it. The super-handling all-wheel drive doesn't just sound good—it delivers with its ability to augment the driver's intentions in turns. Take a fast run through Bouquet Canyon and in this SUV you'll swear you were driving a sports car.

Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
Do-it-all Capability: Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid—Starting at $49,590
Being green doesn't mean you have to drive something that looks like a reject from a Jetsons remake. Chevy's Tahoe hybrid brings an innovative two-mode hybrid system that allows this huge 8 passenger SUV to deliver the same city fuel economy as a limp-wristed Camry four banger. No wonder the Green Car Journal named it the Green Car of the Year. With a powerful 6 liter V8, this hybrid can still tow 6200 pounds of gear while offering all the creature comforts we've come to expect from full-sized SUVs.

Chrysler Sebring
Chrysler Sebring
Guilt-free Fun: Chrysler Sebring—Starting at $19,380
Sebrings can be had in sedan or convertible configurations with the latter available in a traditional ragtop or a sleek retractable roof rivaling the finest luxury machines. Despite the friendly pricing, Sebrings offer features missing on even the most expensive cars. Take a drive on a hot day with the drink coolers built-into the cupholders and you'll congratulate yourself for making a sensible choice. Keep the payment pain to a minimum while enjoying the open-roof motoring that makes a summer's morning in the SCV worth living. Just remember to spend some of that money on some sunscreen.

Dodge Journey
Dodge Journey
People Hauler: Dodge Journey—Starting at $19,985
The inventor of the minivan has addressed the segment's main drawback—all the machismo of a fruity umbrella drink. Dodge's new Journey delivers seating for up to 7 adults while returning highway mileage of 25 MPG. The innovative design takes all the positives of full-sized SUVs and packs them into a tidy box that looks more muscular than a congressional sports steroid hearing. With more storage space than a herd of kangaroos in cargo pants, the Journey is set for whatever journey you've got in mind.

Ford Escape Hybrid
Ford Escape Hybrid
Future Tech: Ford Escape Hybrid—Starting at $26,640
Who says you have to choose between fuel efficiency and load capacity? Ford's Escape delivers the best fuel economy of any SUV on the planet—34 city, 30 highway. Using technology licensed from Toyota, Ford's engineers figured out how to make this tidy "ute" sip like a sparrow while hauling like a 747 cargo plane. With Ford's top-tier reliability ratings the available navigation system, and more option choices than a corporate CEO, this car screams for a long trip. You know it won't require many fuel stops.

Honda Accord
Honda Accord
Full-sized Fuel Miser: Honda Accord—Starting at $20,360
All new for 2008, the Accord remains one of America's best-selling cars. For good reason, too. Bigger than a Mercedes E-class, but bearing a much friendlier price-tag, the Accord offers outstanding roominess and trim levels to suit every taste and budget. A run through the options buffet will have you filling your plate with more tasty features than just about any other vehicle. Go for the fuel-efficient 4 cylinder and laugh past gas stations at 31 MPG highway, or choose the 3.5 liter, 268 horsepower V6 for a low-key Q-ship guaranteed to take no prisoners.

Jeep Patriot
Jeep Patriot
Fuel-savvy Off Roader: Jeep Patriot—Starting at $16,055
Want the off-road "cred" that comes with an honored nameplate, but don't want to sacrifice your gas budget? Jeep understands your needs. The Patriot takes Jeep's off-road heritage and blends it into a crossover that can tackle those rough roads while still returning a 23/28 performance at the gas station. Up to nine inches of ground clearance and a choice of two-wheel drive or two four-wheel drive systems, this is no poseur. Wearing the company's coveted "Trail Rated" badges, the Patriot will take you anywhere, except to the cleaners.

Lexus IS
Lexus IS
Adrenaline Pump: Lexus IS F—Starting at $56,000
Lexus isn't content to dominate the luxury market with its upscale cars and an unsurpassed dealership experience. No, the company that built its reputation on impeccable service and better reliability than a titanium-alloy letter opener has branched out into the performance market. The IS F piles on with a 5.0 liter V8 howling out 416 horsepower. Imagine a plate of caviar smothered in 100,000 scoville heat-unit habanero sauce and you've got the idea. Despite enough power to uproot a heritage oak, the IS F still delivers a palatable 23 MPG on the highway.

Range Rover Sport
Range Rover Sport
Trek Master: Range Rover Sport—Starting at $59,000
If you want to stand out, look no further. The Range Rover Sport merges the off-road capability of a crampon-wearing mountain goat with the luxury of a private jet. Finding this sort of off-road competence in such a beautiful body is like finding out that Claudia Schiffer can rebuild your transmission. With a choice of V8 drivetrains feeding 300 or 390 horsepower into the six-speed automatic transmission you'll have more clout than a Democratic superdelegate holdout. Infused with the craftsmanship and attention to detail of a Beverly Hills jeweler, this vehicle guarantees a primo spot at the valet stand.

What's with the MPG numbers? Don't let the window sticker's fuel economy estimates scare you. The EPA's rating method changed for 2008, reducing figures by about 20 percent overall. You can't easily compare today's numbers to prior figures, but you have a much better chance of meeting, or even exceeding, the EPA's predicted mileage now.
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