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Some automotive summer blockbusters to keep your eye on

The loudest setting on guitar amps is 10. The exceptions, of course,are the amps of Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel. All his “go to 11.” He knows11 is special, magical even. How about for vehicles? Will model year2011 be special?

The loudest setting on guitar amps is 10. The exceptions, of course, are the amps of Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel. All his “go to 11.” He knows 11 is special, magical even. How about for vehicles? Will model year 2011 be special?


We’ll soon find out, as many notable 2011 model year vehicles arrive at dealerships through the summer and early fall.


Following are some early 2011 models that we feel will make some serious noise (in a good way) with potential buyers. While there will be plenty of expensive dream cars to heat up summer, we’re keeping things under 50 grand, with a particular eye on the brace of exciting new products which thrive in urban environments.


Ford Fiesta
The new Fiesta has had a bit too much preamble, but the new “premium” subcompact does have a lot to offer. A new six-speed double-clutch automatic transmission is so efficient it nets better mileage (40 mpg) than the five-speed manual. Luxury options include leather, ambient lighting, and SYNC. The $12,999 base model is a four-door sedan. Five-door hatch models start at $16,799.


Mazda2
Unlike the rest of the world, we here in North American have been Mazda2-deprived. But all that changes this June when the subcompact arrives, ready to flaunt its curvaceous lines and zoom-ability. In Canada, Mazda2 is only available as a five-door hatch, starting at $13,995.


Scion tC
While Toyota’s Scion division has been in the U.S. since 2002, the Canadian adventure begins this fall. One of the Scions that will be available from the “get go” will be the tC sport coupe, now featuring a 180-hp 2.5-litre engine, 18-inch wheels and fender flares.


Nissan Juke
You’d think there couldn’t be anymore crossover niches, but here is the Nissan Juke -- based on the same platform as Versa and Cube -- but definitely going its own way with extroverted styling, a new 180-hp engine, and an AWD system programmed to make cornering a hoot.


Kia Sportage
Following on the heels of the 2011 Sorento crossover, is the slightly smaller Kia Sportage. Look for it on dealership lots by June, with a starting MRSP of $21,995. Sportage features the Kia-Huyndai 2.4-litre I4 engine and lots of kit, including Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), which actually nudges the steering wheel to keep you tracking on your intended path.
Buick Regal
The midsize Buick Regal, starting at $31,990, could be the new poster child for the re-incarnated GM. It’s closely based on Opel Insignia (2009 European Car of the Year), and features the new and nifty 2.4-litre direct-injection 182-hp I4. Regal’s CLX Turbo model ($34,990) packs a 220-hp 2.0-litre I4.

Jeep Grand Cherokee
Jeep Grand Cherokee has always been able to straddle the line between comfortable people mover and competent rock climber, and the all-new 2011 version continues to work that dual theme. Based on the rear-drive, unibody platform of Mercedes-Benz ML, this new Jeep will also showcase Chrysler’s new 3.6-litre V6. Pricing starts at at $37,995.


Volvo S60
Interesting times for Volvo. China’s Geely recently purchased the automaker and come September the all-new 2011 S60 arrives at dealerships to show off the brand’s new design language. Prices start at $45,450.