2007 Saab 9-5 Sedan

The cars from the Swedish brand known as Saab withered upon the vines from which they sprouted by 2007. Outside opinions molded and sculpted by automotive journalists in collaboration Saab’s languished state cause most, even those with automotive obsessions, to dismiss the innovative, aviation-themed brand to this very day. Mention Saab and they will mention BMW and the dynamics of rear-wheel-drive that are absent in Saabs. They may also thumb their noses to the Saab quirks: the central ignition, egg crate vents, and the long production runs the vehicles normally enjoyed. In reality, the 2007 Saab 9-5 is an unexpectedly competent luxury sedan undeserving of much of the criticism it receives.

The 2006 Saab 9-5 was a rework of the original 1998 9-5. The 2006 was obviously from the late 90s, however new front and rear fascias in addition to trunk lids and hoods made the 9-5 appear trim, clean and modern, perhaps the best looking midsize sedan of its day. Smoked headlights, a restrained application of chrome, and smooth, flush taillights  allowed the 9-5 to have a unique style a cut above its competitors. Not that the original 9-5s lacked styling substance as evidenced by the subtle, flowing curves of the 9-5s basic shape. The slope of the rear window, how it integrates into the decklid, and the forward rake of the rear door windows create a shape both beautiful and reminiscent of past Saabs.

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Pictures can be worth so many words though they can omit crucial details, as is the case with the Saab 9-5 interior. It is better than you may think it is, unless you have seen it in person. Then again, nothing is perfect. The design of the dash is as far as can be from timeless, an anachronism in its day, though it would look at home in any Saab 900. A large, concave area is the site of all of the instrumentation, most of the controls, the infotainment system, and HVAC controls. The vents are of the egg crate variety and are adjusted with with a clever central knob, but it must to be admitted that they are visually unappealing. An expanse of shiny, ultra-fake dark wood trim covers this concave area. The topmost area of the dash is squishy, while other areas of the dash make do with various kinds of hard plastic. Most of the hard plastics are of sufficiently nice quality; not everything has to be soft to be nice in an interior. The door panels are noticeably nice with a dash of wood trim on the grab handles, and a metallic door handle. A Saab quirk is the entertaining passenger-side cupholder which folds out from the dash in a series of satisfyingly fluid motions. Attention to these seemingly insignificant details extends to even the overhead console with a neat lamp. The tan, perforated leather seats are some of the best. Sitting upon one is to find exceptional suppleness not found in many of the Saabs Germanic competitors. The interior exudes a sense of spacial plentifulness. The rear seat is roomy and befitting of a midsize sedan with excellent legroom and comfort. The trunk opening is wide granting ample access to 15.9 cubic feet of cargo room.

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A list of Saab quirks would make an interesting, if long article in itself. This article likely glosses over some but cannot ignore the one that becomes the most apparent at start-up: the centrally mounted ignition cylinder. Irrationally fun is to place the key between the seats and turn. The car shimmies and comes to life with a quiet burble. The 9-5 may not be refined in the same way as a German competitor, but it sure is characterful and charming. At first glance, interior switchgear seems placed in a slapdash manner but is strikingly logical to use making it easy to adjust seats and mirrors. The curved windshield presents a partially panoramic view of the outside world and unlike some luxury cars, the Saab has a low cowl that helps the car afford great forward visibility to the driver. Piloting the car through a tight area reveals both its dimensions and front-wheel drive roots. The 9-5 is a rather sizable vehicle with a wide turning radius. The accelerator is awkwardly positioned far to the right, necessitating a little experience to become fully used to driving the Saab. The steering, despite lacking to a slight degree in engagement, proves to be successful in displaying a fair amount of nimbleness in the 9-5. Shove your foot far into the long traveling accelerator pedal, and the car comes into its element. The 2006-2009 Saab 9-5 is propelled only by a 2.3 liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 260 horsepower and 258 lbs-ft of torque. The monster of an engine channels its wealth of power and torque through a five speed manual, or a five-speed automatic with a sport setting. The 2.3 is a phenomenal motor able to pull the Saab along in tenacious and torque-rich acceleration and in the process serenades with a throaty growl. Amazingly, the turbocharged four-cylinder lends the car the heart of a six-cylinder.

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The Saab feels like it can easily desecrate speed limits. Luckily, a set of clear and informative gauges gives the driver the opportunity to percisely monitor not only speed but also other functions, even turbo boost. The night panel switch, located to the left of the steering wheel, takes into account eye fatigue and the distraction of dash backlighting by limiting lighting to only crucial instrumentation such as the speedometer. This seems to be another example of the many insightful features Saab designed into the 9-5. The tuning of the all-independent suspension firmed the ride quality but not to any fault or deprecation in comfort. The boosted engine gives the 9-5 mixed fuel economy according to the EPA ratings of 17MPG city and 26MPG highway for vehicles equipped with the automatic. Manual 9-5s add 1MPG in the city and on the highway. All of the vehicles require premium gasoline.

A 2007 Saab 9-5 with the average of 98,789 miles and an automatic is expected to cost $5,906 by Kelly Blue Book. For reference, a 2007 BMW 525i with similar mileage costs $10,290. From these numbers it is ascertained that the Saab is an incredible value.

The 2007 Saab 9-5 is a highly unique and desirable sedan. The 2006 refresh gave it a stunning exterior, adding to the powerful turbocharged four-cylinder, comfort, and ergonomics the 9-5 already possessed. For those who like things that are particularly clever and unique, the Saab 9-5 is an enticing vehicle.

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2012 BMW 328i

The BMW 3-series is a seamless concoction of practicality, shocking composure, and understated style. All 3-series have been the objects of raving and fanatical praise by all who drive them and have driven them since its inception. The tested 2012 328i proves the accolades are well deserved and the ravings justified.

BMW created the niche of car it excels in so much so with the humble “New Class” cars. The upright 2002 derivative demonstrated that a conservatively designed and tall proportioned body could be mixed with precision engineering and performance. The unassuming 2002 was and is a desirable car while circumventing brashness and inefficiency. The mentality of doing more with less continued to the e21 3-series introduced in 1977. The blocky e30, sleek e36 and e46, and e90 superseded it, each car maintaining the reputation of the 3-series. The latest F30 3-series was a quite frightening prospect to BMWs following when shown to the world for the 2012 model year. It grew into an intermediate size, discarded the beloved and spectacular naturally aspirated inline-six, and threatened the hallmark of BMW’s unequivocally good steering with an electric assist. Furthermore it played along with BMW’s newest naming scheme and confusing model proliferation with the discontinuation of the coupe and convertible and the introduction of the aesthetically challenged GT. Contrary of what BMW’s abandonment of its former unyielding reservation beginning in the early 2000s may convince, the F30 is an undeniable improvement over its predecessor.

All BMW sedans have a shape and design that goes beyond fads and the mainstream. Its a far from polarizing style; its a simplistic and traditional three-box design. With the principles of this design, the 3-series becomes uniquely subtle as it it s the long hood, tall cabin, short deck, and angled rear quarter window convalesce to grant it the essential BMW look. This general appearance is shared with all other 3-series but small details contrast the F30 with its predecessors. Such cues include thinner taillights, a flatter appearing hood, and the perhaps jarring way headlights and kidney grills meet. Both soft and sharp creases in the doors and hood make for cleanly contoured sheet metal. Sensibly sized five spoke rims on the 328i are most welcome.

Like the exterior, the interior is familiar to those acquainted with BMWs, and actually likable to those who are not. The interior of the F30 is amelioration over the innards of the e90.  In a rare instance, the chronic growth of modern automobiles meaningfully benefits a car. The 328i felt airy and lacked the uneasy stuffiness of prior 3-series interiors. The obvious increase in height was a miracle for headroom, a seemingly lower cowl and distanced windshield was another revelation. The rear seating was just as comfortable as the front, undoubtedly a sufficiently spacious place to reside. The seats themselves had a combination of softness and support that reached Goldilocks levels of pleasant compromise. The SensaTec vinyl is as nice as leather for its nicely textured and thick appearance. The unobtrusive, gently curving and sloping dash is covered in black squishy material while doors and bottom of the dash rely on padded material for tactile quality. Atop the dash and embed among a series of contours is a small screen controlled by a tactually satisfying rotary knob. The trunk is rather shallow but measures a decent 13 cubic feet.

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It is while driving that the BMW leaves the best and most indelible impressions. The driver sits low in the car behind a high cowl but thankfully visibility remains mostly unobstructed and a bunker feeling avoided. The electronic gear selector is one of the best, however its needlessly odd operation makes it seem like an unnecessary complication. The steering wheel falls to hand nicely with a perfect diameter and thickness. Take note that the 328i tested was left in the comfort mode strictly for convenience and time constraints. The electrically assisted steering is undeniably different than the hydraulic assisted setup of the prior 3-series, but this may be for the better. The feel is very light but the steering exact and extremely quick; this helps for parking and slow-speed maneuvers. On the road the lightness permits easy cruising as much as it does hard cornering. The MacPherson strut front suspension and multilink rear simply refuse to translate sudden impacts into the cabin beyond distant thumps, while completely silencing the ill effects of bad road textures. This, in sequence with the muffling of wind noise, lets the 328i glide down the road stolidly and relaxingly.

Be not misinformed, the 328i is a true performance car and exhibits the traits of such in corners. The largely imperturbable ride only enhances the drivability of the car by shielding the driver from unwanted pavement disturbances. The absorbency of the suspension and instantaneous responses of the steering makes exuberant cornering and more reserved driving fluid and graceful. Driving power to the rear wheels is the combination of a turbocharged 2.0 liter inline four-cylinder and the widely used ZF eight-speed automatic. The four-cylinder churns out 240 horsepower and 260 lbs-ft of torque and is forcibly fed with a single twin-scroll turbocharger and fueled with direct-injection. The specifications and performance are impressive, but the four has the big shoes of the previous 3.0-liter inline-six it unsuccessfully attempts to fulfill. The unmistakable and undesirable baritone thrumming of a four-cylinder replaces the sweet howl of the six. The torque-rich lower RPMs and muted throbbing sound fail to encourage vicious throttling of the engine. Straighten the right foot and the car tenaciously surges forward and because of the low-end torque, the BMW moves quickly without even having to spin above 3,000 RPMs. Yet the soothingly linear and buttery smoothness of the power delivery of the naturally aspirated inline-six is conspicuously gone from the 328i. Even so, the car is fast; 60 mph takes only 5.8 seconds. The ZF eight-speed has too many gears for this writer’s preferences, but it is likely a boon to efficiency. The EPA rates the 328i equipped with the eight-speed at 23MPG city and 33MPG on the highway. In this application, the eight-speed avoids its avid and rather hectic need to reach the highest gear as soon as possible thereby eliminating that annoyance in normal driving situations. Issues arise when downshifting for hard or moderate acceleration is demanded. A brief hesitation blunts the aloofness of the car, however this may be caused by the fact the 328i was in comfort mode instead of one of the other, sportier driving settings. The brakes were easily regulated but initially a little grabby.

Kelly Blue Book says that a 2012 BMW 328i with the average of 54,782 miles should cost 21,325 dollars. In purchasing or driving a F30 328i is to experience a mostly uncompromised performance vehicle. Ageless styling wraps tight around magical engineering and exceptional comfort. The F30 carries on and improves upon the rear-wheel drive based ingredients of BMW and the 3-series. The 328i has only the most unobtrusive of flaws; flaws only projected because the car faces such high expectations. The trading of the confining interior for a light and roomy habitation, the comfortably light steering, and the untouched principles of clear and accurate handling in combination with driving tranquility show the F30 as a very likable vehicle and a successfully executed BMW.

 

2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata Sport Automatic

The NC Mazda MX-5 Miata, introduced for the 2006 model year and produced until 2015, is the largest, heaviest and most powerful of all the four generations of MX-5. Nevertheless, Mazda crafted an exhilarating roadster that stays true to the principles that draw people to small and simple sports cars. Lightness, ingenuity, and style all contribute towards the driving experience, culminating in a car that punches above its weight in terms of enjoyment and performance.

The original MX-5 paid homage to revered British roadsters but to the Lotus Europa in particular. Like those roadsters, and the Europa with which it bared a strong resemblance, the Miata adhered to the default front engined, rear-wheel drive format. Power came from a 1.6 liter DOHC inline four-cylinder with 116 horsepower and 100 lb-ft of torque and moved only 2210 pounds, creating a respectable performance without the use of excessive power. The Miata gained power and safety in 1996 with the utilization of a 1.8 liter four-cylinder and airbags, before a 1998 redesign. Sixteen years after the its introduction, the 2006 MX-5 showed a weight gain of more than 200 pounds, 1.9 inches in length, and 1.8 inches in width. The extra size came with also significantly increased power in the form of the 2.0 liter four-cylinder generating 167 horsepower (158 horsepower when mated to the automatic transmission) and 140 lb-ft of torque. Five or six speed manuals, and a six-speed automatic were available. An aluminum double-wishbone front suspension, and an aluminum multilink rear suspension kept wheels planted. Unfortunately, the NC was unable to retain its predecessors lithe and chiseled looks, and instead appeared considerably more bulbous with the help of prominent fender flares and a blunt nose. Outside of the Miata lineage, its easy to appreciate to the exquisite proportions and uncluttered styling of the NC. The featured 2012 model wears the more expressive grill and headlights, as well as the reworked tail lights first applied for the 2009 model year. As a result of these enhancements, the car looks pleasantly less rounded and takes on a more defined shape.

The purposeful interior of the Miata is a breath of fresh air in the era of LCD screens and soft-touch materials. Though small, the cabin allows for a comfortable amount of room and is surprisingly ergonomic. The trunk is usefully rectangular, but measures only 5.3 cubic feet. Similarly revitalizing is the rather quaint sound emitted by the inline four and its dual exhausts. It’s a far cry from the loud and obnoxious crackling roars and screams voiced by many of todays sports cars and sedans. The thick-rimmed steering wheel is excellently sized and very nice to grab hold of, but once on the move it communicates the cars motions with an admirable competence and a perfectly weighted feel. The car resides close to the road below and is in its element careening through corners with incredible precision due in part to its 51/49 weight distribution. It corners flatly until pushed hard, after which, body roll sets in and reigns in the driver from doing anything regrettable. The brakes are easily modulated and free from the numb hypersensitivity of others. The brake pedal itself is positioned too near the gas, and the gas too close to the right side of the foot well, a very minor issue. A clutch was not to be found in the tested car for the fact it was an automatic. Some of the shifting can be preformed manually with paddles on the back of the steering wheel and with the gear selector. The Miata’s light weight allows the car to make the most of the power it has so that 60 mph is reached in only 6.8 seconds. It eagerly revs high while accelerating with considerable alacrity and authority.

The cars rather conventional powertrain combined with its lightness produce decent, if not excellent, fuel economy. The EPA rates models equipped with the six speed manual transmission and six speed automatic at 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. Five speed equipped Miatas gain 1 mpg in city driving. A 2012 Miata Sport with the average of 43,215 miles and an automatic transmission is valued at $14,088 by Kelly Blue Book.

The NC Miata has already been replaced with the next generation, the ND, for the 2016 model year. This new Miata is both faster, and significantly lighter, however the NC is still an incredible car for less money. The car is a precision tool for negotiating corners and in doing so is immense fun. The strangles of incessant demand for more comfort and refinement have been unable to grasp the Miata, and have left driving a high-fidelity experience.

2012 Jeep Liberty Latitude  

        The boxy silhouette of the second-generation jeep Liberty denoted it as a rugged machine, unlike its predecessor which hid its competent mechanicals under a rounded, awkwardly proportioned disguise. Gone was the outside spare tire, bulbous hood, and four-cylinder. In was a standard V6, some extra girth, and sharp styling. 

    Like it’s Jeep contemporaries, the 2008-2012 Jeep Liberty has a tall grill and plastic front fenders separate from the body. The headlights are round, but are contained in rectangular bezels. View it from the side, and its top heavy look becomes apparent; one of the few aspects of the old Liberty to permeate the new look. Inset windows, chrome, and sheet metal bends keep with the theme. As mentioned before, the spare tire was removed from the tailgate leaving a conventional hatch and a cleaner appearance in its place.



    The interior of the tested Altitude model was very comfortable and left good impressions. Many critics admonished the lack of soft touch materials, however the hard plastics do little to detract from the interior. Perhaps the nicest thing in the interior was the thick-rimmed leather wrapped steering wheel. Also pleasant were the comfortable leather seats and the range of adjustment for the power driver’s seat. The rear seat had a reasonable amount of space, although an intrusive hump limited legroom for center passengers. Cargo space appears to be lacking because it is. Only 26.1 cubic feet is found behind the rear seat; this expands to 62.4 cubic feet. Under the floor, a shallow compartment lined with plastic awaits muddy items. 

    On the road, the Liberty is extremely maneuverable and and surprisingly responsive. The hydraulically-assisted rack and pinion steering has a nice amount of resistance and exudes a sense of precision not expected to be found in such a utilitarian vehicle. The low-speed navigation of parking lots is trouble-free thanks to a tight turning circle and excellent visibility. Wind, road, and engine noise where quelled with much success and the ride was mostly comfortable, albeit a bit stiff.   



    Under the angular hood is a 3.7 liter V6 pushing out 210 horsepower and 235 pounds-feet of torque through a smooth four-speed automatic. This powertrain worked just adequately for 4,000-plus pound Jeep, although more power would be greatly appreciated. Two four-wheel drive systems were offered in the Liberty; the part-time Command-Trac system, and full time Selec-Trac. Fuel economy is a demerit of the Liberty. A four-wheel-drive model like the one tested swills 15 gallons of gas per mile in city driving, and 21 on the highway. Two wheel drive allows for a 1mpg improvement in both driving conditions. Towing capacity, however, dwarfs that of the Jeep’s crossover competitors at a hefty 5,000 pounds.

    Kelly Blue book says the fair purchase price for a 2008 Jeep Liberty Sport is $12,314. At the other end of the price spectrum, a 2012 in Limited Jet Edition trim should leave one’s wallet $22,888 lighter.

     The Jeep Liberty is not an ideal or recommendable family vehicle. Heavy, inefficient, and impractical when compared to car-based SUVs, it makes little sense to purchase one unless all-terrain capability is a priority. That aside, the Jeep is a characterful and enjoyable alternative to those SUVs who are confined to the road.

 

1985-1987 GMC Suburban and 1981-1983 Dodge Ram Club Cab

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See the gallery below for more photographs.

Early morning at a boat ramp brought out a couple of interesting vehicles with some very notable features. The GMC Suburban 2500 Sierra Classic pictured above uses a naturally-aspirated 6.2 liter Detroit diesel for motivation. This particular engine produced 130 horsepower at 3600 rpm and 240 pounds-feet of torque at 2000 rpm during the time of its introduction while later models gained 13 horsepower and 17 pounds-feet of torque. A two wheel drive half-ton suburban from 1985 could achieve 15 MPG in the city and 22 MPG on the highway while a comparable Suburban equipped with the five liter V8 could muster only 12 MPG in the city and 16 MPG on the highway, showing the more economical nature of the diesel. Diesels were connected to a three speed automatic or a four speed manual. Suburbans of this iteration had a lengthy production beginning in 1973 and concluding in 1991, outlasting the rounded-line pickups by four years. This example of GM’s giants was extremely clean, with nearly flawless paint and trim, and no rust to be seen. Behind was an empty trailer, showing that this beauty is still hard at work.

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Parked nearby was this battered Dodge Ram pickup optioned with the Club Cab. The first extended cab Dodges ran from 1973 to 1983, although it returned unchanged for 1991 until the 1994 redesign. This was the first extended cab offered in an American pickup, giving Dodge costumers a good compromise between the three seater regular cab, and the big crew cab available only on heavier duty trucks. This Dodge could be an ’81, ’82,  or an ’83 due to the fact it has the revised styling that came with the change to the Ram name. The proven slant-six, a 239 cubic-inch V8, a 318 cubic-inch V8 and a 360 cubic-inch V8 made up the range of power plants. This example was looking quite worn with sun damaged blue paint, missing trim and areas of exposed primer, however this only added to the purposeful look possessed by most old domestic pickups.

Quick Overview: 2014 Kia Sedona

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2014 Kia Sedona EX

After a year of absence from the Kia lineup, the Sedona minivan returns for 2014 with significant updates. This will be the last year for the current Sedona as a redesigned van will arrive for 2015. Despite being on the market for more than seven years, the Sedona hides its age well allowing for generally good impressions.

2014  brings a reworked front fascia with two strips of LEDs and a new lower grill.  Chrome strips, and Kia’s corporate “Tiger Nose” upper grill help bring the styling in line with the rest of the lineup.   The headlights are somewhat triangular in their shape and the short hood features a slight bulge that helps to highlight the grill below. The  sharp crease below the side windows  and slightly bulging wheel wells add some character to the van while plastic strips attached across the doors helped keep the Sedona from looking slab-sided. The rear of the van features a large hatch and very tall angular tail lights. Overall, the Sedona’s styling looks modern and clean, if a little plain.

Inside, the van has a commodious, mostly well put together interior. The front leather seats were exceptionally comfortable, and headroom was aplenty. The leather wrapped steering wheel only tilted and did not telescope, perhaps limiting comfort for some drivers. The instrument cluster was easy to read and adequately comprehensive, while the center stack was within easy reach. Controls for the infotainment system and climate control seemed logically placed and a storage bin with various auxiliary power outlets was located below the climate controls. Oddly, the Sedona featured a cigarette lighter and ash tray possibly making it one of the last vehicles sold in the United States to include these features. Towards the bottom of the dash,  cup holders could be pulled out and a small glove box accessed.

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Interior

A larger glove box providing ample room for napkins, books, and miscellaneous items could be accessed on the passenger side. A small tray located between the front seats offered storage space for only thin items however it could be folded away to create a sizable pathway to the rear of the van. The second row captain’s chairs were very comfortable although they could not be folded into the floor. The third row seat was comfortable as well, and space seemed plentiful. 32.2 feet of cargo space can be used behind the third row seat, while this can be expanded to 80.1 cubic feet when the third row is folded, while 141.5 cubic feet can be found once all of the rear seats are stowed away. Total interior volume is 172.3 cubic feet. The interior was nicely constructed towards the front as many materials were soft to the touch, however the hard plastics used in the rear of the van felt cheap in places.

Equipment and Specifications

The Sedona uses Kia’s 3.5 liter V6  which produces 269 horsepower and 246 pounds-feet of torque and is paired only with a six-speed automatic transmission allowing the Sedona to tow 3,500 pounds. Fuel economy is rated at 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. Two trim levels are available, the base LX and the more upscale EX. Highlights of the LX include sixteen inch steel wheels, cloth seating, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, auxiliary input jacks, a reverse warning system, tire pressure monitoring system, and stability control. The EX  demands $5,000 more over the $25,900 price of the LX and adds seventeen inch alloy wheels , chrome exterior trim, heated side-view mirrors, dual-zone climate control, standard power-sliding doors and power hatch, an optional navigation system with an Infinity sound system, leather seats, powered and heated front seats, and an optional sunroof among other features.

Sources

Kia Motors America, Inc. 2014 Kia Sedona Minivan – Trims & Colors. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2014. <http://www.kia.com/us/en/vehicle/sedona/2014/trims&gt;.

1972 Volkswagen & 1968 Chevrolet Camaro

 

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In the parking lot in front of the local warehouse store, a few surprises rested among more modern machinery, including this bronze colored Volkswagen. As a Super Beetle, this variation of the iconic “bug” features a wider and higher hood that hides an independent front suspension and an extra four cubic feet of cargo space. The rear of this example housed either a 1300cc flat-four or the 57 horsepower 1600cc flat-four used in the 1302S model. On the decklid were four rows of cooling vents revealing this early form of the Super Beetle to be a 1972 model.

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Not far away, a red Chevrolet Camaro SS convertible featured the revised front grill and turn signals added for 1968. Equipped with the SS package, this Camaro utilizes a 350ci V8 for power, while a 396ci unit was also available. An upgraded suspension for increased handling capabilities, and exterior styling upgrades, such as the black stripe seen on the front of the featured vehicle, where also part of the SS package. Check out the photo gallery below for more images of these vehicles.