Motor City Madness: From the Detroit Auto Show

Los Angles has palm trees, Chicago has rhythm and blues and Detroit has herds of long horns. Chrysler staged the cattle round-up to introduce the 2009 Dodge Ram truck at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

10 cowboys drove 120 longhorn cattle down Washington Boulevard: a potent photo op and fitting metaphor for what most urban commuters experience on a daily basis. The new Dodge Ram full-sized pickup truck comes with a variety of available engines, from a new Hemi that accelerates from zero-to-sixty in just over six seconds, to a more conservative 3.7-liter V6. A light-duty diesel engine arrives after 2009, and a two-mode fuel economizing hybrid goes on the market for the 2010 model year.

The new hemi delivers 404 foot-pounds of torque for towing heavy loads. Commuters will appreciate new comfort and convenience features that include heated and ventilated front seats and back seat Sirius television.

New off-road performance enhancements include standard hill start assist. Trailer sway control and electronic stability program, both standard, make maintaining direction control easier on uneven surfaces.

The crew cab has two in-floor storage bins big enough to hold coolers. An available cargo management system adds two weatherproof lockable storage compartments that are integrated into the fender sides.

2009 Ford F-150

Not to be outdone, Ford took the wraps off its newest F-150 full-sized pickup. The 2009 model comes with three available engines: a 5.4-liter V8 capable of running on E85 ethanol/gasoline blends, and two new 4.6-liter V8 engines. The new F-150 has improved towing capacity over the outgoing model, as well as several new safety features: advanced traction control with roll stability and trailer sway control, and an available rear camera backup system.

The super crew model has rear seats that flip up and out of the way to create a large cargo area in the passenger cabin. New comfort and convenience features include Sirius travel link that provides real-time traffic, weather and fuel prices, Ford's Sync voice-activated command software and an available Sony premium sound system.

A cargo extender in back stows out of the way when it's not being used. A tailgate step makes it easier to reach into the cargo bed.

Honda Unveils the New Pilot

The 2009 Honda Pilot that rolls out this spring will have better fuel economy than the outgoing model, be more spacious inside and is engineered to minimize damage to smaller vehicles in the event of a collision. Honda took the wraps off a prototype model in Detroit.

The eight passenger Pilot is powered by a V6 engine with variable cylinder management. When power demands are low, the car's on-board computer cuts out two or three engine cylinders to save fuel.

A 60/40 split second row seat on the new Pilot slides further forward for better access to the third row. The Pilot seats up to eight passengers. Both second and third rows fold flat to create a long cargo floor.

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