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         To say that Chevrolet’s Cruze has been a long time coming is certainly an understatement. Unveiled in world market form over a year ago, the North American model finally made its debut today at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

         The new Cruze is powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged Ecotec four-cylinder and a 1.8-liter four-cylinder with a choice of six-speed automatic or manual transmissions. The turbocharged engine puts out 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft. of torque and should be capable of up to 40 mpg on the highway, GM says. The 1.8-liter puts out 136 horsepower and 123 lb-ft. of torque.

         The Cruze will be offered in three trim levels, LS, LT and LTZ, the latter two of which will come standard with the turbo motor.

         Safety will be a priority in the new Cruze, GM says. Ten airbags will come as standard, including the rear seat side airbags and knee airbags. Stability control and ABS will be standard across the lineup, although rear disc brakes remain an option. The Cruze will come standard with 16-inch wheels, although 17 and 18 inchers will also be available.

         Outside, the Cruze takes styling cues from the new Malibu, and promises to be a much sharper car than the current Cobalt. Chief designer Taewan Kim says that the new Cruze’s design is meant to be "bold, not evolutionary.       We wanted to take a big step forward, making a strong design statement for Chevrolet products around the world.”

         The car hit the European market in March, but U.S. production at the Lordstown, Ohio, plant, where the Cobalt is currently made will begin in June 2010.

         Although there is widespread speculation that the Cruze will eventually replace the Cobalt, it still remains possible that both cars could coexist within GM’s lineup. In fact, Chevrolet’s North American head, Ed Peper, says the      Cruze is actually intended to create a new segment that slots above the Cobalt but below the Malibu. Seeing the car in person confirms the Cruze could fill that hole in Chevy’s lineup as it is actually bigger than it looks in pictures.

         Based on what was once called the Delta 2 platform, the all-new Cruze rides on GM’s Global Compact Vehicle Architecture. The primary engineering and development will come from GMDAT — General Motor’s Korean partner (although there has been strong input from the North American and European planning groups).

         The Chevrolet Cruze sedan has yet to enter production for the United States market, but rumors are already beginning to surface about future variants of the four-door. The Cruze has been in production for well over a year in many global markets, but was first shown in the U.S. at last year’s Los Angeles Auto Show.

         According to Motor Trend, General Motors is considering two new variants for the Cruze’s Delta platform – a four-door coupe along the lines of the Mercedes-Benz CLS and a high-performance Cruze SS.

         Although it remains to be seen if the Delta-based four-door coupe would carry the Cruze name, it would employ the same wheelbase as the Cruze and be sold under the Chevrolet banner. The new model would give GM an added stream of increased revenue as the four-door coupe would undoubtedly carry a higher sticker price than the Cruze, despite its similar Delta roots. Chevrolet could also use the four-door coupe as a stepping stone towards the Camaro.

         In addition to the four-door coupe, it is also rumored that GM is considering a high-performance SS version of the Cruze sedan. Like the Chevy Cobalt SS, the Cruze SS would use GM’s 260 horsepower 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder. Although the standard Cruze will only be available in front-wheel drive, the SS version could borrow the all-wheel drive system from GM’s Epsilon platform, ensuring that power doesn’t end up as a cloud of tire smoke.

         As the Cruze has taken so long to reach the U.S. market, it should come as no surprise that the Cruze variants are still several years off. The Cruze SS isn’t expected until at least 2013 with the four-door coupe a year or two behind that.

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