West Coast gets first peek at Mustang, Mini's electric

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Though two of the Detroit Three have no new models to unveil at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Ford Motor Co. showed off a revamped Mustang and an updated midsize car that is an example of how serious it is about gas mileage and about clawing its way back into the car business.

The Mustang is refreshed in an effort to compete with new muscle car competitors -- the Chevrolet Camaro, coming next spring, and the Dodge Challenger, which recently went on sale. Though Challenger and Camaro had been dead for years, Mustang has continued to sell, if at lower numbers.

GM had planned to unveil a new Buick LaCrosse sedan but pulled out to focus on the company's cash-flow problems. It said debuting the car at the Detroit auto show in January would get better Chinese media coverage; Buick is popular in China.

Chrysler LLC did shown some concept electric vehicles.

Ford, which also has cash issues, went ahead with its scheduled model releases.

The 2010 Mustang has what the company calls a "new muscular, sculptured exterior," along with larger wheels, adjusted suspension and more power. Ford says the V-6 engine has 210 horsepower and the V-8 version has 315 horsepower.

"The best Mustangs have always been the ones that connect young America with the spirit of the times -- and the 2010 does exactly that," said J Mays, Ford's vice president for design, in a news release. He said it has "the swagger you'd expect, but with modern refinement and attention to detail like you've never seen in a muscle car."

The midsize 2010 Fusion and the Milan, its Mercury counterpart, get new aerodynamic front and rear sheet metal, more powerful yet more efficient engines, six-speed automatic and manual transmissions and vastly improved interiors as Ford aims at the top-selling Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The Lincoln MKZ version also was shown.

Besides upgrades of the conventional models, Ford rolled out new hybrid gas-electric versions of both the Fusion and Milan. Ford says they will get 39 miles per gallon in the city, which it says is best in class and 6 mpg better than the Camry hybrid.

The base Fusion will get 33 mpg on the highway, beating comparable 2008 versions of the Accord and Camry by 2 mpg.

Other show highlights:

- Mazda debuted its updated Mazda3 sedan, the Japanese automaker's top seller. The five-door hatchback is expected to follow soon.

- Nissan Motor Co. debuted the latest version of its Z sports car, the 370Z. It is the first redesign of the car since its reintroduction as a 2003 model. With 26 more horsepower than the 350Z, it goes on sale in January beginning at $29,990.

- Nissan also unveiled its boxy 2009 Cube, which goes on sale next spring.

- Honda Motor Co. unveiled the 2009 Insight, which is promised to be the cheapest gas-electric hybrid on the market.

- Lexus unveiled new versions of its best-selling RX-series crossover, including an RX 450h hybrid with features that improve fuel-efficiency.

- Volkswagen of America Inc. debuted its Touareg V-6 TDI clean diesel sport utility vehicle.

- Porsche Cars North America Inc. unveiled its new2009 Boxster and Cayman models, touting their power and refined styling. The Boxster roadster and the mid-engine coupe Cayman offer more powerful and more fuel-efficient flat-six boxer engines.

The auto show opens to the public Friday and runs through Nov. 30.


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