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■ 2006 Car of the Year

116 96 Space/Craft Pagani Zonda F Paul Horrell

46 New World Order Angus MacKenzie 104 Special FXX 48 The Process

Ferrari FXX Arthur St. Antoine

The courses, the criteria, and the judges. Angus MacKenzie

116 Blown Away Cadillac STS-v meets Mercedes-Benz CLS55 AMG Todd Lassa & Frank Markus

50 The Contenders ■ Audi A3 ■ BMW 3 Series ■ Buick Lucerne ■ Cadillac DTS ■ Chevrolet Cobalt ■ Chevrolet HHR ■ Chevrolet Impala ■ Dodge Charger ■ Ford Fusion ■ Honda Civic ■ Hyundai Accent ■ Hyundai Azera ■ Hyundai Sonata ■ Infiniti M35/M45

■ Kia Rio ■ Lexus GS ■ Lexus IS ■ Lincoln Zephyr ■ Mazda5 ■ Mazda MX-5 ■ Mercedes-Benz CLS ■ Mercedes-Benz R-Class ■ Mercury Milan ■ Mitsubishi Eclipse GT ■ Pontiac Solstice ■ Toyota Avalon ■ Volkswagen Jetta ■ Volkswagen Passat

130 Join the Club Cadillac SRX V8 AWD vs. Mercedes-Benz R500 vs. Volvo XC90 V8 Chris Walton

■ Newcomers 146 Top Floor, Please 2006 Jaguar Super V8 Portfolio Matt Stone

147 Here’s the Beef 2006 Toyota RAV4 Kim Reynolds

148 Excitable Boy

82 The Winner Setting a new class benchmark. Arthur St. Antoine

■ Road Tests & First Drives 90 Warp Drive Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Matt Stone

MOTOR TREND

2006 Pontiac G6 GTP Matt Stone

148 Echo Eraser 2007 Toyota Yaris Kim Reynolds

■ Feature 110 The Shape of Things To Come Interview: Chris Bangle Gavin Green ■

Cover photography Jerry Garns

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this month @ motortrend.com ■ Car of the Year Ride along with Motor Trend editors as they flog almost 30 vehicles to determine which car deserves to be named the 2006 Car of the Year. From the Azera to the Zephyr, check out our online wallpaper galleries and videos.

■ Mobile Electronics Buyer’s Guide

■ Departments 16 The Big Picture The bottom line. Angus MacKenzie

20 Trend News/opinion/gossip/stuff.

32 Your Say

The world of in-car entertainment is undergoing a revolution, so we’re developing a growing compendium to review the various entertainment systems and empower you to make smart purchase decisions. Tune in here to find out how to get more entertainment from motoring.

40 The Asphalt Jungle

■ Everybody’s Got One

42 Technologue

An opinion, that is! Share yours with fellow community members in our online bulletin boards. Or check out our polls and tell us which V-8 Crossover you prefer or whether you’d rather drive the Cadillac STS or the Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG.

■ Motor Trend Radio Each Friday, you can find the list of high-profile guests for the weekend radio shows on the home page. Then click into forums to discuss the topics before, during, and after the shows with other listeners and host Bob Long.

■ Motor Trend en Espanol ¿Quieres leer pruebas de carretera en espanol? Visit the motortrendenespanol.com Web site, complete with road tests, features, and auto-show coverage.

MOTOR TREND 10 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

172

Talk to us.

Flash Jeff Gordon. Arthur St. Antoine

Slime me. Frank Markus

152 Long Term Test Update 2005 2005 2005 2005 2005

Porsche 911 Carrera S Acura RL BMW X3 2.5i Chrysler 300C Hemi Infiniti M45

154 Long Term Test Verdict 2004 Toyota Prius

172 Archive 1965 Mobile Economy Run. Matt Stone


(the big picture) angus mackenzie

the bottom line Pinch those pennies too hard, and something’s gonna break MASSIVE LOSSES, collapsing market share, make-or-break deals with the UAW, tough-guy stockholders, rumors of a management shakeup: GM’s been hogging the bad news coming out of Detroit in recent months. But there’s a quieter disaster going down in Motown: Ford. The Blue Oval’s in a bad, bad way. Its share of the U.S. market has plunged from about 24 percent to just over 18 in just five years—and that’s before sales stalled in the aftermath of Katrina and the winding back of the so-called “employee pricing” incentive programs. And its quality problems are threatening to spiral out of control: Qualityrelated costs increased by $500 million during the first nine months of 2005 compared with the same period the previous year. Chairman and CEO Bill Ford made the best of its $248 million loss posted during the third quarter of 2005 by forecasting that the family business would finish the full year in the black. But, even as I write this, Ford’s North American operations are still losing about $15 million. Every single day. Analysts estimate the

company has burned through $4 billion in cash in just over a year. I checked Ford’s stock price this morning. It was eight bucks, give or take a few pennies. Back in January 2005, it was over $14. Something like $12 billion has been wiped off the value of the company in less than a year. Bill Ford’s now talking of company-wide “sacrifices.”There’s been a major shake-up of senior management, with former Mazda/ Premier Automotive Group/Ford of Europe chief Mark Fields now installed as vice president of North American operations. Plant closures are inevitable. And, of course, there’s a lot of talk about cutting costs. This time, though, Ford insiders will admit over a quiet beer, the beancounters will be hitting bone. Ford’s financial mavens have always prided themselves on their ability to save a buck. This, they’ll tell you, is good business management. The evidence—Ford’s plunging market share— suggests consumers don’t agree. There’s a difference between efficiently managing costs and doing stuff on the cheap. I’m not convinced Ford’s beancounters get it. The irony is that the

what we’ve been up to... A LOT MORE THAN USUAL: (from left) Up 100 feet for the spectacular Car of the Year contenders’ shot; Danny King holding up his bride’s wedding gown (we were there!); and Matt Stone upholding retro tradition in this late-1920s Bugatti.

16 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

company invariably ends up spending a helluva lot more money fixing problems that could’ve been avoided had it wisely spent a few extra bucks in the first place. Take that blowout in quality costs: If Ford hadn’t been in so much of a rush to outsource the manufacture of so many of its parts and hadn’t beat up the suppliers so hard on price, it might not be staring down the barrel of a $500 million bill. There’s a lesson here, Bill. You get what you pay for. Here’s the other problem with beancounters: They have a short-term view of the world. From the outside looking in, you can’t help feeling Ford’s a company so intently focused on next quarter’s results that it struggles to think much more than three years ahead. One small example: Ferrari went two decades without its drivers winning a Formula 1 world championship before Michael Schumacher started his five-year winning streak in 2000. Ford bailed out of its Jaguar F1 team after a handful of seasons without a result, moaning about the expense. Another: Ford execs look enviously at the profit BMW makes on its cars without apparently making the connection between the Bavarian automaker’s unwavering investment in product development over the past four decades, even in years when that meant the shareholders had to make do with a skinny dividend. So, Bill, here’s the bottom line: Close the plants your market share can’t sustain, bring the healthcare costs under control, and tighten the corporate belt. But don’t hack away at the product design, engineering, and development budgets. You’re in the business of making cars and trucks. And good ones don’t come cheap. ■


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Drama in Detroit GM boss rolls the dice again. This time it’s for keeps LUTZ WAGONER

YOU COULD

say Rick Wagoner almost got away with it. News GM had lost $1.6 billion for the third quarter of 2005 (even though revenues for the quarter were up 5.2 percent on last year to $47.2 billion) was almost lost in the excited chatter surrounding the last-minute deal with the UAW to reduce health-care costs. But cooler business heads noted the deal will save GM only $1 billion a year—roughly two-thirds the amount it bled in just three months. Not surprisingly, Detroit is swimming in rumors that a management shakeup’s in the works. Wagoner is young enough to preside over the Renaissance Center corporate offices for another dozen or so years, but he won’t have that tenure unless the world’s largest automaker starts making money again and unless he can drag it out of junkbond status. Whoever’s in charge, GM is going to become a very different company. Here are the converging forces for change:

THE PLAYERS ■ KIRK KERKORIAN: The feared corporate raider now owns nearly 10 percent of GM stock (and has purchased a significant share of Volkswagen AG). He’s the largest individual shareholder and says he wants two seats on the GM board. ■ JEROME B. YORK: Kerkorian confidant and CEO of Harwinton Capital. The 66-yearold West Point grad was an effective costcutter at Chrysler, IBM, and Waste Management (but he also lost lots of cash buying a computer retailer in the late 1990s). ■ BOB LUTZ: Well into the fourth year of his three-year stint as the senior car nut at GM, his work is beginning to emerge. The future stuff looks good, but six new models failed to impress us at Car of the Year. Claims Kerkorian’s purchase of GM stock is proof the billionaire has confidence in GM’s future. “Assuming I don’t fly a perfectly good airplane into the ground, I expect to stick around for a long time.” ■ ROBERT S. MILLER: Delphi chief exec who took the GM spinoff, its biggest supplier, into bankruptcy protection. He seeks

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financial help from GM and 63-percent wage cuts from the United Auto Workers, which represent 34,000 Delphi employees. Warns that GM and Ford bankruptcies could be next. ■ CARLOS GHOSN: GM and Ford are said to have tried to lure Le Cost Cutter from Renault-Nissan, but Ghosn isn’t interested. “Approaches are not always direct,” he says, in a nonconfirming confirmation.“I like what I’m doing and see no need to change.”

THE SITUATION GM HAS reorganized its design, engineering, and product development into a global system. Previously, GM had to lay off overseas designers at the same time design chief Ed Welburn was hiring new North American designers. Twelve design centers and 11 engineering centers will work on vehicles for the world, specifically for their various regions. All designers report to Welburn. Purchasing is global. ■ SAVINGS: Forty percent on prototype builds, 20 percent on material costs, 25 percent on overall investment, according to Lutz. More than $1 billion over the lifetime of a midsize vehicle.“Ultimately, we won’t measure success by region, but by global profit and loss.” ■ PLATFORM RATIONALIZATION: Under the old system, two cars of the same architecture, say an Opel and a Chevy, couldn’t be built in each other’s factory. Now, with the new midsize architecture, for example, Chevy Malibus, Pontiac G6s, Saturn Auras, Saab 9-3s and Opel/Vauxhall Vectras can be built in any Epsilon factory, even though various models have different windshield touchdown points. ■ REGIONS: Big trucks and SUVs will be designed in the U.S., midsize cars in Europe, and subcompacts in Asia, for example, but with designers and engineers from around the world in each studio.“No region will be forced to turn down a product program due to budget constraints,” Lutz says. GM North America now has the budget for “a tiny SUV,” and “we now have Australian designers working on North American products.” ■ REAR DRIVE: Lutz promised a rear-drive concept this year, likely a Pontiac sport sedan. But GM needs a good, affordable big

American rear-drive platform for Buick and Chevy as well to compete with Chrysler 300/Dodge Magnum and Charger and a 2009 Challenger.

THE DEADLINES ■ SPRING 2006: All the new GMT900 sport/utilities will be on the market. They must have a good launch or Kerkorian & Co. will certainly move. ■ FALL 2006: Launch of several important new cars and all full-size pickups reflecting GM’s new design direction, including muchimproved interiors. ■ FALL 2007: New GM-UAW contract due. Delphi’s Miller has told The New York Times that, if GM doesn’t win big concessions from the UAW,“they’re finished.”

THE PROBLEMS ■ COSTS: Late last year, GM pegged its health insurance and pension/legacy costs at $2325 for every car and truck it builds. Wagoner scored a victory when he persuaded the UAW to give GM concessions on health-care coverage, but GM’s 2005 losses totaled $3.8 billion for the first three quarters. ■ KERKORIAN: The billionaire believes Saab isn’t worth any more investment and that GM should sell off the Hummer brand. The remainder of GM Acceptance Corporation, the automaker’s huge financial services division, would be sold off (GM already has sold parts of GMAC).

THE BOTTOM LINE WE’VE SEEN major restructuring plans at GM every three or four years, and its market share continues to slide. For Wagoner, the big issue isn’t product as much as it is labor cost, pensions, and health care. But if market share continues to drop and profits keep eroding, it’ll offset any UAW concessions, and guys like Kerkorian and Miller will take over. They’ll cut Saab and Hummer loose and perhaps do the same for one or more of Pontiac, Saturn, Buick, and GMC. Wagoner has been saying good product will save the company since the late 1990s, but he’s now rapidly running out of time. ■ todd lassa


words motor trend editors

LUTZ LUTZ

MILLER

GHOSN

KEY VEHICLES

SOLSTICE Turbo gives needed power.

S3X Chevyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s new SUV for Europe.

COMMODORE

Might become Pontiac G8.

SIERRA

Has to fight big, new Tundra.

AURA

Euro-style reinvents Saturn.

YUKON

GMT900 SUVs must succeed.

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Finally, a real glimpse at GT-R The fastest Nissan ever is coming to America

NISSAN UNVEILED its GT-R Proto at the Tokyo motor show, a “concept” that design chief Shiro Nakamura says is 80 to 90 percent of the 2008 production model that’ll be launched at the 2007 Tokyo show. The first concept version of this global GT-R, codenamed R35, appeared at the 2001 Tokyo show. Lack of engineering resources in the face of Carlos Ghosn’s rapid turnaround of Nissan stretched its development to seven years. The R35 is the first GT-R with its own sheetmetal, and it’s the first built to accommodate left-hand-drive markets, including ours. Nissan has confirmed that North America will get the same powertrain as the rest of the world, rumored to be a twin-turbo, 450-horse, 3.7-liter V-6 (there was talk our market only would get a 4.5-liter V-8). Officially, Nissan brass says it

hasn’t decided whether to sell the GT-R in Nissan or Infiniti dealerships in the U.S., but we hear it’ll be sold through selected Infiniti dealerships (they have the experience and facilities to handle high-priced vehicles), and there’ll be no Nissan badging on the car —only GT-R. ■ Single center-front air intake is for optimal airflow and connects the R35’s styling with the 1999 Skyline GT-R’s (R34). The front of the car is the least production-like, Nakamura says. ■ Designers used analysis of airflow around the front fenders to develop their shape. ■ Body sides are sculpted toward the rear fenders to express “the power and dynamic tension of the car.” ■ C-pillar crease is designed for optimum aerodynamics. ■ Like previous GT-Rs, the R35 has ring-shaped taillamps.

Audi TT, take two Audi ponders a three-model lineup

YOU’RE LOOKING AT

the 2007 Audi TT, mostly. The next TT will be aluminum-bodied and pick up many of the design cues of the production-ready Shooting Brake concept revealed at the Tokyo Show. The question is: Will the new TT be a wagonlike hatchback like the Shooting Brake (a British coach-building term for a sport two-door wagon) or hatchback coupe like the current car? Will there be a roadster? The answer, according to insiders, is yes, yes, and yes. The new TT, codenamed AU354, is due on sale in the third quarter of 2006. The roadster version will go on sale a year later and may come with vestigial rear seats. The Shooting Brake is expected to follow that. Higher-performance TTS and TTRS models will follow about 2008, with the TTRS’s turbocharged 3.2-liter V-6 making up to 350 horsepower. Audi is reportedly planning to double TT volume to about 65,000 buyers worldwide. Meanwhile, the Tokyo Shooting Brake concept features a raft of high technology that’ll find its way into production. Let’s have a look. ■

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Talking points ■ Dimensions: At 164.6 inches overall, the Shooting Brake is nearly half a foot longer than the current TT coupe. It’s slightly narrower (72.4 inches) and barely taller, at 53.1 inches. ■ Hood: The 250-horsepower, 3.2-liter V-6 carries on and is the Shooting Brake concept’s engine. In the next TT, the 200-horse FSI turbo four replaces the old 225-horse 1.8T. Again, the next TT will share the A3/VW Golf platform. ■ Nose: Hope you like Audi’s signature single-frame radiator grille by now because the TT gets it next, though happy to say without the giant vertical bars. ■ Headlamps: LED low beams are described as an open pinecone; high beams are blossom-shaped. ■ Under nose: An aluminum diffuser guides airflow beneath the car. ■ Under car: MacPherson struts up front, multilink rear. Magneto-rheological fluid in the dampers applies voltage (like GM’s system) to adjust the suspension between sport and ride-comfort modes. ■ At dash-to-axle point: Steering is electromechanical with speed-dependent power assist. ■ Wheels: The 19-inch doublespoke wheels are from Audi’s quattro tuner company and are similar to the RS4’s.


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TOKYO’S COOLEST PRESS KIT TO EDUCATE the rest of the world about the GT-R’s long and illustrious heritage (the badge was first added to a high-performance six-cylinder Nissan Skyline back in 1969), Nissan PR chief Simon Sproule commissioned a bespoke manga comic about the car. Printed in English and Japanese—and reading from back to front, just like the real thing—the GT-R manga tells the story of the GT-R from its beginnings with the Prince Motor Company (taken over by Nissan in 1966) right through to the reveal of the GT-R Proto. Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn, already a bona-fide manga star (in 2002, his life story appeared in a six-part serialization in Big Comic Superior, which sells 500,000 copies an issue), makes a couple of appearances. ■

■ Rear side: Note wide C-pillar, prominent rear end. ■ Tail: Horizontal rear lights wrap around to the sides and are designed to accent the horizontal divide along the car’s tail. The hatch lid extends well into the roof for a wider, taller opening. Dual exhaust pipes are large. ■ Taillamps: LEDs cast light onto the reflector, distribute it back to the rear through a double-cloverleaf-shaped mask for an unmistakable appearance. ■ Interior: Low seat position, high center console, short shift lever.

MT CONFIDENTIAL ● MIKE CONNOR

MARK FIELDS VERSUS PHIL MARTENS: No contest. Just as I pondered whether the Glasshouse was big enough for these two healthy egos came the news that Martens had “left” the Blue Oval for a top job at Plastech Engineering. Hmm. Leaving a glamorous, highprofile role at an automaker for work at a supplier. Doesn’t sound like a career move of choice, although Bob Lutz did bounce back from Exide to land at GM…The smart money has long said Fields is Ford’s next CEO. But does he really have what it takes? Like a lot of Ford fast trackers, he’s moved up the ladder before results at his last job were known. Most recently Ford of Europe/Premier Automotive Group chief, he can claim a 31.9-percent jump in U.S. sales for Land Rover for the first 10 months of 2005 (thanks to the all-new LR3). But Jaguar sales are down 31.7 percent, Volvo is off 6.4 percent, and PAG is still losing money…Speaking of guys known for self-promotion, Peter Butterfield was fired as Kia North America’s chief at a dealer meeting. His bosses called him into another room, gave him notice, and then escorted him from the building, reports say, as his replacement got up from the audience and took over. His replacement? Len Hunt, demoted Volkswagen of America chief…How Detroit works: Division X meets its cost targets but misses its revenue targets. Division Y blows its cost targets but makes up for it by better revenues; in other words, selling more vehicles at a higher profit. So who gets its butt kicked? Division Y, of course…How Detroit thinks: One Motown analyst has claimed GM’s decision to sell its 20-percent stake in Subaru parent company Fuji Heavy Industries was driven by Subaru’s intransigence over its trademark boxer engines, which prevented platform sharing. He slammed Fuji’s conviction that the boxer engines are an integral part of Subaru’s brand character, saying few U.S. Subaru buyers know or care what’s under the hood of their cars. Just like all those Oldsmobile buyers who didn’t know or care when GM fitted their cars with Chevy engines… ■ Got gossip? E-mail mike.connor@motortrend.com

Traffic jam NOW YOU can drive Motor Trend’s 2005 Car of the Year right in your living room. Mattel’s Tyco R/C Chrysler 300C one-sixth-scale model ($99), part of the maker’s new Dropstars line, features radio-controlled steering and motion (up to 65-foot range), pulsating lights and glowing LED spinners, and built-in three-inch speakers with a connector for your MP3 player. Buy one for your kid, then hide it in your office. Available at Target, Wal-Mart, and most major toy stores. www.tycorc.com. ■ MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006

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CRUNCHING

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BUGATTI EB112 CONCEPT, 1993

Veyron, the sequel Bugatti now plans $1 million, 950-horsepower sedan BUGATTI’S NEXT model will be a million-dollar sedan. Having relaunched the brand with the Veyron, a car that’ll never make money, Bugatti’s plan is to defray the immense cost of developing the W-16 engine, sevenspeed DSG transmission, and all-wheeldrive system by reusing them in a frontengine platform. Bugatti chairman Thomas Bscher says the new car will use a structure of mixed materials—aluminum and carbon composites. The Veyron has steel end frames, a carbon tub, and part-aluminum skin. Once Bugatti designs a new platform, it can spawn

sedan, coupe, and convertible bodies. The aerodynamics will be much easier to arrange because top speed will be limited. The turbos will be smaller for better engine response, reducing horsepower to about 950. To meet LEV2 requirements, the engine will switch to

direct gasoline injection. Although some of the engineering can be scaled back because the top speed will be lower, it’s unlikely the new car can be any lighter than the Veyron because of additional wheelbase and luxury equipment. By maintaining its price and performance points well above the level of Rolls-Royce, Maybach, and, more important, sister VW Group company Bentley, it’s possible to find a market, Bscher insists. Bugatti’s previous owner, Romano Artioli, also planned a sedan. But the Giugiaro-designed EB112 of 1993 (above) never got beyond the concept stage. ■ paul horrell

GORDON MURRAY ON THE VEYRON McLaren F1 designer drives the supercar to end all supercars

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■ “But what’s the Veyron for? It feels so big, wide, and intimidating to drive in the mountains, and vision is poor. The secondary ride harshness and noise are terrible. It has a tiny trunk and no room for the stuff you need to carry with you in the cabin. So it’s not a real-world supercar.” ■ “The real disappointment is it doesn’t feel that quick in a normal road situation. Oh, once you’re going there’s loads of torque then power and the acceleration that goes with it, but there’s turbo lag and far too much rotating mass. But they’ve done some amazing things with it. On the track, the chuckability, steering, and braking shine.” ■ “Bugatti says it’s not a track car but a road car. But I enjoyed it more on the track than in the mountains. If I had one, that’s all I’d do with it—take mates to the track and give them rides, show them what 1001 horsepower feels like when the turbos get going—and what the brakes are like. It’s brilliant at that.” * Read Matt Stone’s Veyron story Page 90.

■ “My heart goes out to the Bugatti engineers in a way I wouldn’t have understood at all if we hadn’t done the SLR. With the McLaren F1, I set targets, and we saw them through. Starting with the weight and weight distribution, package, and the aerodynamics.” ■ “The SLR, like the Veyron, was done the wrong way around. The styling was done as a show car, and then they said to us,‘Make that.’ With the Bugatti, they had two other arbitrary figures to meet, 1001 horsepower and 400 kph. So it needed 10 times as many engineers finding solutions to problems they should never have had if they’d started from the right point. And it’s not a bad car.” ■ “In aerodynamics, it’s no further ahead of the F1. In body structure, it’s behind the F1 and the SLR in that it’s a hybrid construction where they’re all carbon. But the engine and transmission are excellent. And the ESP system lets you get on with chucking the car about.”

EPA HIGHWAY MPG RATING OF THE 2006 HONDA INSIGHT HYBRID, MAKING IT THE MOST FUEL-EFFICIENT AUTOMOBILE CURRENTLY SOLD IN AMERICA.

725 MILLION ESTIMATED AMOUNT IN DOLLARS THAT GM RECEIVED FOR SELLING ITS 20-PERCENT STAKE IN FUJI HEAVY INDUSTRIES, PARENT COMPANY OF SUBARU. TOYOTA WILL BUY SOME OF THE SHARES TO TAKE AN 8.7-PERCENT INTEREST IN FUJI.

550 LAST-MINUTE NAME CHANGE (TO S550) OF THE FIRST 2007 MERCEDES-BENZ S-CLASS MODEL SET TO REACH OUR SHORES IN FEBRUARY. AT THE TIME OF OUR PREVIEW DRIVE (MT, DECEMBER 2005), THE COMPANY HAD EXPECTED TO CALL THE 5.5-LITER V-8POWERED CAR THE S500.


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SAAB, meet Saturn GM sell-off of Fuji forces 9-6x rethink SAAB’S 9-7x sport/utility has a new lease on life, but not because it captures the Swedish automaker’s character so well. The Saab 9-6x (the 9-7x’s would-be replacement), based on the Subaru B9 Tribeca and, until now

BOTTOM LINE: The 9-7x is to be Saab’s sole SUV for several years to come. ■

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TOYOTA CHIEFS ordered a last-minute redesign of the next-generation Corolla after seeing Honda’s avant-garde Civic at the Geneva show earlier this year. Insiders say senior execs were worried the new Corolla, said to resemble a scaled-up Yaris, would be seen as far too conservative. The redesign reportedly has pushed back the launch of the tenth-generation Corolla by at least six months. But it underscores Toyota’s resolve to shake off its reputation for building bland cars. Toyota executive vice president Kazuo Okamoto concedes some of Toyota’s products, including Lexus, haven’t had the desired impact on consumers because of the way these cars look.“I think our design could’ve been weak,” he said in Tokyo recently.“We didn’t have enough aggression in our design.” ■

scheduled for early 2007, is dead because General Motors has sold its 20-percent equity stake in Fuji Heavy Industries. GM ended its “strategic alliance” with Subaru’s parent company to “refocus its efforts

and resources” with its other Asian partners, Daewoo, Suzuki, and Isuzu. Translation: Building the Saab 9-6x with the Subie’s horizontally opposed six doesn’t fit in with GM’s new global manufacturing rationalization. So the 9-6x is out, at least until GM can find another donor platform for the long-awaited Saab crossover. Saab gave MT hell for describing the 9-6x as “Tribeca-based”—Saab said it was as responsible for the crossover’s development as Subaru. Curious, then, that Saab didn’t have enough ownership in the vehicle to continue development, the way Chrysler’s next Sebring will be built on a platform shared with Mitsubishi. Meanwhile, the Subaru Impreza/WRX-based, Japanese-built Saab 9-2x lives on probably through the 2008 model year. Saab says it still needs and wants a sevenpassenger crossover SUV, and the likely candidate would be GM’s Lambda platform. It launches this fall with the 2007 Saturn Outlook, one of the models designed to make that division a bigger premium import-fighter. Bob Lutz already has crowed about how different the Outlook is from versions from Buick and GMC, and so a Saab Lambda 9-6x would require distinctive characteristics and sheetmetal.

Toyota Corolla gets new outfit Hot new Civic forces last-minute redesign

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BMW’s next segment busters FROM THE AUTOMAKER that gave us the sport/activity vehicle comes a minivan we aren’t supposed to call minivan. It’s known internally at BMW as LSC or Luxury Space Cruiser. It features elements of touring, SUV, and van genes, says Michael Ganal, BMW Group marketing chief. The van element is least significant, he claims—it’s not an appropriate vehicle type for BMW. The LSC will be based on the 5 Series platform because it’s built in Europe. (This differentiates it from BMW’s other new model line, the coupe SUV, which will be built in South Carolina on the Mk2 X5 platform.) It’ll be smaller and lighter than a Mercedes-Benz R-Class or Audi Q7, which are SUV-based. BMW will save weight partly from compactness and partly from use of aluminum in the body and suspension. And it’ll be more carlike to drive than a Q7 or R-Class, Ganal insists. It’ll be a two-box body, with six- or seven-seat three-row interiors offered. Despite the name, ultimate space isn’t the chief priority. Ganal cites what happened when Mercedes and BMW both decided to make a car smaller than the 3 Series/C-Class size. Mercedes went for space, with the front-drive one-box A-Class, whereas BMW’s 1 Series is—apart from the hatchback—a traditional rear-drive BMW, leading to a sacrifice of space. The same will happen when BMW builds its LSC—space and versatility will be better than in a 5 Series, but driving characteristics and style won’t be sacrificed as much as they have been with the R-Class. Standard 5 Series engines and transmissions will power the LSC. That means the new magnesium-blocked Valvetronic six-cylinder engine goes up to 3.0 liters and Valvetronic V-8 up to 4.8 liters. Later in the model cycle, BMW will introduce directinjection gas engines. But there’ll be no M version: BMW insists its M tag is applied

we we hear Chrysler has confirmed it’ll build the Dodge Nitro as a production sport/utility. Dodge launched the Nitro last year at the New York show. With a longer rear overhang and four inches added to the wheelbase of the Jeep Liberty on which it’s based, Dodge is calling the SUV midsize. It’s on sale this fall as a 2007 model. Bentley won’t build a sport/utility vehicle, according to company chairman Franz-Josef Paefgen, who says the decision has been ratified by the VW Group board. Paefgen admits the idea was carefully considered, but it now seems certain the Bentley range will be restricted to the Continental-based models—the GT coupe, Flying Spur sedan, and the forthcoming GT convertible—and the Arnage sedan and Azure convertible. VW itself is said to be working on a bunch of new models to be launched before the end of the decade. Of most interest is an all-new two-door coupe said to be the spiritual successor of the much loved Corrado. Designed to fit above the new Golf-based Eos coupe/cabrio, the Corrado successor reportedly will be built on a modified Golf platform, have all-wheel drive, and be powered by a 247-horse, 3.2-liter V-6. Stanford University has won the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s Grand Challenge with a driverless Volkswagen Touareg nicknamed “Stanley.” Stanley crossed the Mojave desert circuit more than 11 minutes ahead of the second-place Hummer with a time of six hours, 53 minutes, and eight seconds. The DARPA Challenge is designed to advance driver-free technology for use in combat. Ford Motor has teamed up with Boeing and Northwestern University to collaborate on nanotechnology research for products in future cars and airplanes. The technology could help Ford increase power in hybrid auto batteries by creating more energy from traditional materials. It also could help develop highercapacity hydrogen storage tanks in cars. ■

only to cars that can make use of the power and suspension upgrades—again making M an operation different from Mercedes’s application of AMG across the range. BMW will offer rear-drive or Xdrive all-wheel-drive options on the LSC. Further chassis options will include self-leveling air suspension and Active Front Steering. BMW will preview this machine with a show car in late 2006 or early 2007. The coupe SUV, however, is a different story.“It’s a 4x4 with coupe styling, but a high driving position, produced in the U.S. So you can imagine what that could be,” says R&D chief Burkhard Goeschel.“It should behave as it looks.” BMW also is working on a new range of engines, using direct gasoline injection (known as High Precision Injection and exhibited on the X3 Efficient Dynamics show car at Frankfurt) and turbocharging. The HPI concept, where fuel is guided into the cylinder by the jet itself, allows the engine to run lean at all operating ranges, not just light load, so is claimed to offer fuel savings of about 10 percent. It’ll be introduced first in Europe where low-sulfur fuel is widely available. But combining with turbos at a later stage, BMW will downsize the cylinder capacity and increase compression ratio for improved fuel efficiency. Goeschel says these engines have no turbo lag, can produce 150 pound-feet of torque per liter displacement, and have fuel efficiencies to match diesels. ■ paul horrell

Quality time THE ALPINE RALLYE Swiss watch ($375) from Wenger (maker of the Swiss Army knife) not only commemorates the 49th running of the Rallye des Alpes—one of Europe’s oldest auto rallies—it also looks damn cool. The watch includes a blue face, vented leather strap, and a Swiss chronograph movement that’s water-resistant to 330 feet. Just 1000 pieces of this limited-edition timepiece are available; www.wengerna.com. ■ MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 29


FEBRUARY IN DAYTONA BEACH

ONLY MEANS

(your say)

(your say)

speech therapy

letter of the month

ONE THING back to the future

JACK IS BACK! Win a trip to Daytona Beach and the Jack Daniel’s Racing Kickoff Party.

Visit www.jack-is-back.com to enter.

You can always depend on the engineers at Lexus to approach competitive car design as if they’re solving a math equation. Could it be that on some corporate level they’ve made the mistake of thinking that “fun to drive” isn’t a question of human involvement with the car but only of achieving certain performance benchmarks? Imagine 30 years in the future, the Lexus IS 650—with its solar-powered, fuel-cell, cold-fusion hybrid engine—is capable of 0-to-60 in 1.5 seconds with an electronically limited top speed of 305 mph, while the primary passenger plots a course to his destination safe in his sensory isolation chamber. Back in 2006, with the IS 350, Lexus created the perfect sport sedan for the digital-age consumer who loves performance but not necessarily driving. I count myself as one of the many enthusiasts disappointed that Lexus can no longer build a car just for us. John Wooldridge Cabot, Arizona

write us at 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048

e-mail us from motortrend.com

■ letter of the month wins! John wins a bunch of cool stuff—a spotlight jumpstarter, power inverter, surge strip; shoplight, adapter—courtesy of this magazine. Now you can really keep Motor Trend in the trunk of your car.

Angus MacKenzie writes (“The Big Picture,” October) that we need a “Man on the Moon” speech to solve our dependency on foreign oil. That already happened over 25 years ago when President Carter said the energy crisis was the moral equivalent of war. Since then, billions of taxpayer dollars and even more private investment money have been spent. The result: We use more oil now than ever.The fundamental problem is that, as long as gasoline is relatively affordable, any technology that increases efficiency will be used to improve performance, not fuel consumption. Witness the current horsepower wars, the boom in SUVs, and the fact that Chrysler/Jeep soon will offer a Hemi engine in virtually everything it sells. This isn’t a technological problem; it’s an economic and political one. Gas-guzzler taxes on new cars are tempting but do nothing relative to the millions of cars currently on the road or how many miles they’re driven. Until the price of gasoline is significantly increased through taxes, there’ll be no incentive for anyone to use less gas in the cars they have right now, use public transportation more, or buy cars that get better gas mileage in the future. Robert du Mont Goose Creek, South Carolina We can choose our destiny by charting the future with a vision, or we can be reactionary. In today’s world, the visionaries survive and the reactionaries fade away. Thanks for being a visionary. Christian Belady Richardson, Texas

bite the bullet “Bullitt,” the number-one car-chase movie (“Trends”)? Maybe number two. The best car chase (and I can’t believe you guys didn’t list it) is Roy Scheider’s in “Seven-Ups”—actually, the bad guy Roy was chasing was also in the “Bullitt” chase. But the chase through New York beats Steve McQueen’s by a mile. Johnny S. Brooklyn, New York Those weren’t necessarily our choices for the best car chases.We were simply reporting on a recent online pole.We agree with you, though.The car chase in “Seven-Ups” should be at the top of the list.—Ed.

show and tell

Pace yourself. Drink responsibly. No Purchase Necessary. Sweepstakes ends 12/30/05 and open to legal residents of the 48 contiguous United States who are at least 21 years old at the time of entry. Void in CA and where prohibited. See Official Rules at www.jack-is-back.com. JACK DANIEL'S and OLD NO. 7 are registered trademarks. All trademarks used with permission of their respective owners. ©2005 Jack Daniel's. Come visit us at www.jackdaniels.com Tennessee Whiskey Alcohol 40% by Volume (80 proof). Distilled and Bottled by JACK DANIEL DISTILLERY, Lynchburg (POP. 361), Tennessee.

32 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

I just about passed out from laughing so hard when I read the following sentence (“Trends”): “Dieter Zetsche deserves credit for a Carlos Ghosn-like turnaround of Chrysler’s fortunes.” What’s so funny about that sentence? Four days before Motor Trend hit my mailbox, the Harbour Group released a report stating that, for the first six months of the year, Chrysler had earned an average profit of a paltry $186 per vehicle. After seven years, a reduction of around 40,000 jobs,


(your say) and literally billions invested into the business, all it has to show for it is an average profit of $186 per vehicle? By any rational business standard, that’s a failure. In the same Harbour Group report, Nissan, of which Ghosn orchestrated the turnaround, is reported to be earning, on average, $1826 per vehicle.Two companies in the dumper, both being bought into simultaneously, but one making 10 times the profit per vehicle of the other at the end of the same period. Carlos Ghosn delivered the goods. Dieter Zetsche delivered smoke and mirrors. I won’t even go into the amusing irony of the Grinch statement made later in that article.You’ve been punked by the DCX propaganda machine. Ted Slezak Owatonna, Minnesota

danse macabre If all these cars of the future were that smart, isn’t there the possibility that one out of every 100 driveways could have Christine straight from Steven King’s novel parked in it (“Asphalt Jungle”)? Cars with that much technology could turn into the next big brother and be

watching our daily lives. The idea of my Jetta refusing to drive me to the movies because it knows I have paperwork to file is frightening. Imagine if cars were given not only super computers but emotions as well? I’ll pity the driver of a Corvette as he sees a pack of jealous “little brother” Aveos coming lightning quick on his tail to run him off the road. Chris Shrader York, Pennsylvania

she’s all that When Corvette first came out with exposed headlights, I was nervous (“Red Roar”). But on this new Vette, they look wonderful. It’s now my dream to own and drive a 2006 500-horsepower-plus Corvette. I can picture myself flying down the road, throttle wide open, radio and air-conditioning cranked up, having the time of my life. Sad that it’ll probably take me a long time to afford the Vette—it’ll probably take an even longer time for me to drive legally, after all, I just turned 14. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I can persuade my parents to get me a fake I.D. and $80,000. Anyway, now that you wrote this arti-

readers on location where do you read motor trend? E-mail digital photo(s) of you and Motor Trend to: motortrend@gmail.com or mail them to: Motor Trend, c/o Mail, Readers on Location, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048. Below left: Captain Matt “Sharkey” Hargis, B-52 Radar Navigator, takes a reading break in the skies over Afghanistan—only wishing for a window seat. Bottom left: Tim Rife, aircraft maintenance engineer in Canada, hopes someone doesn’t turn that thing on before he has to get back to work. Below right: Motor Trend on patrol with the U.S. Army in Iraq. From right: Lieutenant Colonel Dan Bochicchio, medics Marilyn Kelly, Jason Janis, Joe Toth, and Paul Pueyes. Bottom right: CPT Holand Lujan in Kuwait, with his CH-47D Chinook helicopter. Feel free to drop MT subscriptions over enemy territory.

cle, I can show my so-called car-expert friends that their 1990 Civic with NOS and a carbonfiber hood is all that. Finally, an American musclecar that can pump out high horses and look sweet at the same time. Nathan Kinneberg McVille, North Dakota As I was scanning the specs, I stopped on the entry: three valves/cylinder. Is this a misprint or has GM produced a version of its developmental three-valve head? Although the text and sidebar talked about the valvetrain, there was no mention of a three-valve head other than it resembled the race head. Has the “race” Corvette been using three-valve heads? Max E. Lantz Meadowlakes, Texas Our goof. It’s still just two big valves per cylinder.—Ed.

corporate raider Argh! Is Ford, excuse me, Jaguar raiding the corporate parts bin too much (“Mirror Image”)? The Jaguar XK’s front looks like that of a Ford Taurus, the back looks like a Mazda RX8’s, the mirrors are off a 1999 Cougar, the door handles and side gill must be from Land Rover, and the roofline is an overgrown Ford ZX2’s. Having owned a sultry Jaguar XJS, I can honestly say this car doesn’t make me want to run out and purchase one. It was bad enough when Jaguar started selling the tarted-up Lincoln LS and calling it the S-Type. We’re still living through the failing X-Type based on the Ford Contour. But to do this to the beautiful XK8 series is a crime. Mike Saporetti Hanford, California

all-american beef I’ve been selling VWs now for about three years and have always felt the Passat was a great car—and the new model is no exception (“Due Respect”). The article says there are 2.7 million midsize-sedan buyers, but only 75,000 are opting for Passats. I don’t see this number improving much in the coming years unless VW wakes up to smell what American buyers want in a car. I can’t count the number of customers who’ve looked at the Passat and bought something else simply over power seats. VW needs to realize that Americans are lazy, and those kinds of features are now expected in cars in this segment. Damian Sherrick Overland Park, Kansas

which way to the front? We’ve asked for a powerful V-8 engine, and we got a 303-horse V-8 (“Begging for Attention”). We’ve pleaded for more sophisticated styling, and Chevy redesigned the Impala inside/out, top to bottom. So who cares if all the horsepower is headed to the front wheels instead of the back? Chevy has clearly made a faster, 36 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


all-american beef sexier, and more luxurious Impala, so get over the fact that it’s front drive already. Why is rear drive so important to buyers in the first place? It’s not like all these old farts with 300Cs and Chargers are doing donuts and burnouts in empty parking lots anyway. Mike Johnson Marietta, Georgia It’s not the donuts we relish, it’s the fact that powering the rears frees the front tires to do what they do best—bend the car into a corner.—Ed.

quick change Good to see that Motor Trend remembered the heart-stopping Zonda (“New Car Buyer’s Guide”). However, a couple of cars also deserve mention: the Morgan Roadster V-6, a limitededition Plus 8 variant with a newer powerplant for $75,000-ish, and the Koenigsegg CCR, which is almost as quick as a Veyron—and it’s a better bet because it’s already in production (unlike Bugatti’s repeated delays) and homologated for U.S. sale (due to arrive by the end of the year). 800 horsepower for half the Veyron’s price, and a removable roof? I know which one I’d buy if my sofa held enough change. Jason Klinger Grand Haven, Michigan

dept. of corrections Despite our crack test team’s rigorous testing and fastidious correction for environmental conditions, a determined gremlin still scrambled the acceleration numbers for the Toyota Camry LE we included in “Family Values” (December 2005). Here’s the correct info. 0-30 mph…2.4 sec 0-40 mph…3.7 sec 0-50 mph…5.3 sec 0-60 mph…7.2 sec 0-70 mph…9.7 sec 0-80 mph…12.8 sec 0-90 mph…16.0 sec 0-100 mph…20.4 sec

horseplay Why did you leave out the Audi A8L W12 (“Thoroughbreds”)? It has all of the comfort and interior class of the Bentley and the smoothest power of any that you reported upon. It’s the thoroughbred of this class, even though limited to 150 units at the current time. Richard Glassman Memphis, Tennessee Is Audi also splicing out the rear doors on those 150 W12s? This was a coupes-only race.—Ed. ■ All correspondence must include an address and a

You listed the Mazda Miata as a front-drive car. You also noted the Miata shares its platform with the RX8. But this contradicts what was said in the September 2005 issue where the 2006 MX5 was the cover car. On page 46 of that September issue you state:“The new MX5 shares no major parts with the rotary-powered RX8.”Which is correct? Jeremy May Laughlin AFB, Texas Mea culpa on the front-drive bit, and you’re right that barely anything is shared, except enough common points to allow the cars to be assembled on the same line.—Ed.

daytime telephone number. Any material accepted is subject to such revision as is necessary at our sole discretion to meet the requirements of this publication. All materials sent to the editors become property of Motor Trend magazine and cannot be returned. Unsolicited materials will not be accepted and will not be returned. This magazine assumes no responsibility for loss or damage thereto. The act of mailing a manuscript and/or material shall constitute an express warranty by the contributor that it is original and in no way an infringement upon the rights of others. Due to the volume of mail received, we can reply only to letters selected for publication.


(the asphalt jungle) arthur st. antoine

flash jeff gordon These racers will be driving rockets. Might you be one of them? ■ photograph lionel deluy

LIKE OUT-OF-CONTROL NASCAR machines, they’ll fly off the asphalt and pirouette into the sky—except it’ll be intentional. At full speed, they’ll leave Indy cars in the dust. Like Formula 1 racers, they’ll battle for the checkered flag on tracks kinked like your lower intestines. Although the tracks will be in 3-D. And invisible. Welcome to the Rocket Racing League (www.rocketracingleague.com), the brainchild of X Prize founder Peter Diamandis. If Diamandis and league co-founder Granger Whitelaw—a venture capitalist and two-time Indy 500-winning team partner—succeed in bringing their vision to life, in 2007 we’ll be watching futuristic, rocket-powered “X-Racers” duking it out in the skies like Alonso and Raikkonen after drinking way too much Tang. Diamandis isn’t some starry-eyed dreamer in a

40 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

“Yoda Rules”T-shirt. His résumé includes undergraduate and graduate degrees in aerospace engineering from MIT and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School. One of his first companies, Space Adventures, helped get private citizens Dennis Tito and Mark Shuttleworth to the International Space Station. I met Diamandis briefly at the 2004 Reno Air Races, where he was taking journalists up in a modified Boeing 727-200 cargo aircraft to showcase his newly launched Zero Gravity Corporation (www.nogravity.com), which offers the public “weightless” parabolic flights that mimic the astronaut-training flights of NASA’s famed KC-135 “Vomit Comet.” Diamandis impressed me then with his vision, seemingly limitless energy, and hands-on style. A month later, he handed SpaceShipOne

designer Burt Rutan a $10 million check for winning the Ansari X Prize, which Diamandis had set up to recognize the world’s first private spacecraft to successfully complete two consecutive flights to the edge of space. And now comes the RRL. The X-Racers— expected to cost about $1 million each—will initially be based on the XCOR Aerospace EZRocket, a modified Long-EZ aircraft (also designed by Burt Rutan). Power will come from liquid-oxygen and kerosene motors developing about 1800 pounds of thrust, enough for top speeds in the 250-mph range. Though races are expected to last for an hour, the X-Racers will carry fuel for only four minutes of powered flight—meaning pilots will need to switch the rockets on and off, gliding over part of the course, firing up to overtake a competitor, and even landing to refuel before rejoining the fray. The pilots will use differential GPS technology to follow individualized airborne “tracks” that viewers will be able to see on TV. A recipe for spectacular racing action? For sure. A ridiculous, sci-fi pipe dream? Based on Diamandis’s track record, don’t bet on it. Indeed, an RRL exhibition race is scheduled for October 2006. Diamandis has a bonus feature that could give other race-series bosses chills: Using videogame links, RRL viewers will be able to fly their own “virtual” X-Racers, competing in real-time against the actual pilots. You always wanted to be world champion, didn’t you? ■


(technologue) frank markus

slime me Put a Spirulina alga in your tank ■ illustration nathan jurevicius ■ photograph lionel deluy

COULD THE LIFE form that helped give us our atmosphere now fuel our cars? A couple billion years ago, give or take, Earth had an air pollution problem that would make L.A., Mexico City, and Beijing seem as pristine as Alpine Switzerland. Then a bunch of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) evolved and started turning carbon dioxide into oxygen. This lowly slime helped provide the atmosphere required for intelligent life to flourish. Today, some of our most intelligent minds are learning how to cajole these humble algae into powering our cars. You read that right. Someday you might tank up on clean biodiesel fuel produced from oils extracted from one of five exotic algae varieties. Feed these simple organisms water, sunlight, and a stream of nasty carbon monoxide and

42 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

carbon dioxide, and they form hydrocarbon molecules inside their simple multicellular bodies. The oil accounts for half the organism’s mass and can be isolated mechanically (spinning them on a centrifuge) or chemically (cracking them with hexane). Once isolated, these algal oils are converted to biodiesel in much the same way as are the oils from soybeans, rapeseeds, or McDonalds’ deep-fat fryers. But don’t scrape the green slime out of your aquarium and run it through the salad spinner just yet. The five special algae in question are all naturally occurring, but they’re far from ubiquitous. They can be isolated and grown successfully in open ponds, as a government study in the 1980s determined, but privatesector research conducted since then has found that the algae are vulnerable to predators and

other environmental factors, so cultivation in special enclosed ponds or clear vertical tubes can greatly improve the yield. And the sludge left over when the oil is extracted can provide protein for livestock feed or be distilled into alcohol.“Farming” the algae requires minimal energy input (no tractors used to plow, fertilize, spray, and harvest), and the oil yield per plant mass is hundreds of times better than soy, rapeseed, or any other biodiesel feedstock. It may even whiten teeth and lower cholesterol. So when can we buy it? According to one of the technology’s principal cheerleaders, Mark Cardoso, his EcoGenics company will spend this winter choosing among the five finalist algae species and then break ground in the spring on a full-scale facility to produce biodiesel from algal oils. EcoGenics has extensive experience developing and producing other biofuels and marketing closed-loop biosphere systems for raising Spirulina algae (a dietary supplement) and tilapia fish. Cardoso’s utopian vision imagines a nation dotted with thousands of small-scale algae farms and biodiesel refineries. Such decentralization would eliminate the cost and ecological effect of transporting fuel and make us less vulnerable to local catastrophes like the recent hurricanes. And, according to a 1998 report from the Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Lab, algae farms covering 15,000 square miles of land could yield enough biodiesel to cover all our transportation needs. That’s less than one percent of the land currently used for farming and grazing. Price is, of course, still a big unknown. The inherent costs of production and refining are low enough that Cardoso targets a per-gallon pump price that would undercut all other fuels by 50¢ or more, but he acknowledges that Big Oil and Big Agribusiness aren’t entirely likely to stand quietly by and watch him erode their market share. So he hopes grassroots support of eco-friendly fuels and a renewed interest in weaning ourselves off foreign oil will help create a political climate in which algal biodiesel can flourish. The cynic in me bets on Big Oil to win in the near term, but I take solace in knowing Microscopic Oil will be waiting for us when the dinosaur juice dries up. ■


★★★★★ motor trend

26

2006 car of the year 23

the contenders 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

(and things you probably didn’t know about them) MAZDA MX-5 Has two cupholders per occupant MERCEDES-BENZ CLS Exhaust outlets total 25.5 square inches HONDA CIVIC Si’s 8000-rpm redline is highest here BMW 3 SERIES 330i and 325i are both 3.0-liter AUDI A3 The only contender with two clutches INFINITI M Backup cam plots parking trajectory PONTIAC SOLSTICE A V-8 will fit under the hood HYUNDAI AZERA Boasts 104 LEDs across its tail FORD FUSION The name was almost used for Focus LEXUS IS 350’s 5.3-second 0-to-60-mph time fastest here MAZDA5 80 percent as big as R-Class, but still seats six LEXUS GS Most bars (55) of any grille here MERCURY MILAN A hybrid version is planned VW JETTA Interior has French (!) stitching DODGE CHARGER Boasts the best back seat here HYUNDAI ACCENT An airbag for every $1850 of car MITSUBISHI ECLIPSE Galant, Endeavor underneath BUICK LUCERNE All get one Venti-port per cylinder CHEVROLET IMPALA SS as quick to 60 as Hemi Charger HYUNDAI SONATA Rated as a large car by the EPA CHEVROLET COBALT Cheapest here with oil-life monitor KIA RIO Outbraked Eclipse; outslalomed Audi A3 VW PASSAT Engines now mounted transversely LINCOLN ZEPHYR The first Mexican-made Lincoln TOYOTA AVALON Shares platform with next Camry MERCEDES-BENZ R-CLASS 19.5-square-foot sunroof CADILLAC DTS No longer the only front-drive Caddy CHEVROLET HHR Only contender with runningboards

18

22

17 13 12

8 7

3 2

JAPAN, KOREA, EUROPE, THE USA— NO ALLIANCES WERE FORMED IN THIS PROLIFIC FOUR-WHEEL BATTLE TO RULE THE PLANET ★ words angus mackenzie ★ photograph john kiewicz

NeW

★ WORLD

46 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

ORDeR


27

28

24 19 25

20 21 14 15 16

9 10 11

HERE’S

4 5 6

1

a compelling snapshot from almost two weeks of testing and evaluating the largest Car of the Year field in Motor Trend history: The moment we lined up all 28 contenders, we realized Ford had delivered us one all-new car done three ways—Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, Lincoln Zephyr—but Hyundai had presented us with three completely different all-new cars—Accent, Sonata, and Azera. And what’s more, the Koreans were better built. The world has changed. It pays to check your preconceptions at the door at Car of the Year. Driving each and every new or significantly updated car launched over the past year back to back over the same stretches of road and track provides a unique opportunity to take the pulse of the global auto industry. This year, this much was clear: The Korean automakers are moving fast, taking over the territory their Japanese counterparts once owned, while the best of the Japanese are now muscling in on Europe’s premium brands. And Detroit? When Detroit gets it right, it’s a home run. But, sad to say, Detroit doesn’t seem to get it right as often as it should these days. And the things it got wrong on some of its Car of the Year contenders this year was truly basic stuff. Car of the Year 2006 gave us one of the highestquality fields in years, with at least 10 of the 28 contenders in with a real shot at the title. But after all the driving and testing, all the discussion and argument, all the thinking and agonizing, there could be only one winner. ■ ■ ■

MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 47


★★★★★ motor trend

★ words angus mackenzie

2006 car of the year

★ photographs john kiewicz/brian vance

IT’S ALL ABOUT

trusting the process; suspending judgment until each contender has been carefully scrutinized, fully performance tested, and then driven back to back over the same piece of road. Only then can Car of the Year be decided. It’s a tough process—and not just for the cars: There are a lot of early mornings and late nights, discussion and argument, and a coffee and bagels. But, most of all, there’s a lot of driving. Each judge logged hundreds of miles over our test loops. Nearly a week’s worth of track testing gave judges the baseline data to work with during their walk-around appraisals and initial drives. But it was the short but devilish handling course, devised by roadtest editor Chris Walton, that enabled the judges to qualitatively explore the dynamics of each contender. With its combination of twists and turns, including braking and rapid acceleration, the handling course was designed to bring out the worst in chassis, engines, and transmissions. Most important here wasn’t how fast a vehicle went around the course, but how smooth, quiet, and composed it felt. It’s here we learned how lumpen the Pontiac Solstice feels and how chuckable

ENGINEERING EXCELLENCE, design

advancement, utilization of resources, and safety are the key components of this criterion. Vehicle concept and execution, selection and use of materials, packaging, and dynamics are considered, as are styling and interior layout, fuel consumption, and primary and secondary safety features.

SIGNIFICANCE HOW WELL DOES THE VEHICLE do the

job its maker intended it to do? It’s not just sales numbers that count here: How the vehicle may impact or change its particular market segment, influence consumer perceptions, and transform product development trends are also taken into consideration.

THE CRITERIA

VALUE

CAR OF THE YEAR isn’t a comparison test. With 28 contenders ranging from over $14,000 to almost $75,000, covering every niche from two-seat roadster to six-seat minivan, it’s hard to find common ground when you simply look at the hardware. So we don’t. Instead, we evaluate each contender against three criteria:

EACH VEHICLE IS COMPARED with its

handling course

on-road loop

CALIFORNIA CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY SPEEDWAY 0.62 0.62 mile mile

THOUSAND OAKS, CALIFORNIA 32.6 miles

100 feet

SUPERIORITY

the Mazda5 is. More than a few judges, flicking the surprisingly entertaining Cadillac DTS sideways through a lane change, fielded calls from OnStar operators enquiring the nature of the emergency. Nice to know OnStar works. The track testing, early drives, walkaround appraisals, and handling course didn’t quite tell us which would be Car of the Year, however. What they did reveal was which cars wouldn’t make it, leaving 10 finalists to face our Thousand Oaks loop, which packed almost every conceivable real-world road environment—from tight and twisty canyon roads to suburban back streets to lumpy, traffic-choked freeway— into just 32.6 miles. We spent the best part of two days pounding around that loop before we found our worthy winner.Yes, the process works.

Hard braking into corner

LY N N B LV D

rivals in its market segment. While a vehicle with a low sticker price might seem to have an advantage, it may not be as good a value as a more expensive vehicle that offers higher performance and build quality, along with better functionality, lower running costs, and higher resale. ■

1 mile LOWEST ELEVATION 101

Higher speed allows for windnoise evaluation

Four-lane neighborhood roads

FASTEST POINT

S WENDY DR

Decreasingradius corner

101

PORTRERO RD

KANAN RD WESTLAKE BLVD

Left & right combination Narrow gate

Tight two lane downhill run; great right- & left-hand cornering test; slowest corners of the drive

Skidpad corner

Older, rougher asphalt; tight road N

SLOWEST POINT Braking with car unsettled after gate

48 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

W

E S

DECKER CANYON RD MULHOLLAND DRIVE

HIGHEST ELEVATION (+1340 FEET)

Rough surface, rocks & dirt to negotiate New, smooth asphalt


★ ★

★★★★★★★★ THE JUDGES ★★★★★★★★ (From top left to bottom right)

JEFF BARTLETT

RON KIINO

FRANK MARKUS

MATT STONE

ONLINE EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

SENIOR EDITOR

TECHNICAL DIRECTOR

EXECUTIVE EDITOR

Owns: 1980 Corvette Wants: a cool haircut

Owns: Nothing (yet) Wants: Honda S2000

Owns: 1967 Maserati Ghibli Wants: Bugatti Veyron

Owns: 1989 Porsche 911 Wants: Ford GT

NEIL CHIRICO

TODD LASSA

KIM REYNOLDS

CHRIS WALTON

ROAD-TEST EDITOR

DETROIT EDITOR

TECHNICAL EDITOR

SENIOR ROAD-TEST EDITOR

Owns: Ford Focus SVT Wants: Lancer Evo X

Owns: 1988 Honda Accord Wants: Bugeye Sprite

Owns: 1997 Toyota Camry Wants: Toyota Prius

Owns: Honda CR-V Wants: BMW M5

ALLYSON HARWOOD

ANGUS MACKENZIE

ARTHUR ST. ANTOINE

MARK WILLIAMS

ASSOCIATE EDITOR/COPY

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

EDITOR-AT-LARGE

TRUCK TREND EDITOR

Owns: Mazda MX-6 Wants: Mini Cooper S

Owns: 2005 Mini Cooper Wants: Porsche Cayman S

Owns: Mercedes ML350 Wants: Ferrari F430

Owns: 2003 Acura MDX Wants: Mercedes CLS55 AMG

MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 49


★ 2006 finalist ALL PHOTOGRAPHS FOR CAR OF THE YEAR: JOHN KIEWICZ/BRIAN VANCE/EVAN WOLLENBERG

audi a3

TRYING TO

2006 AUDI A3

PROVE LESS CAN SOMETIMES COST MORE

BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

IS THE

ENGINE

premium-small-car trend going anywhere? It’s been big in Europe for years, but $30K hatchbacks still have limited appeal in the United States. Wherever the nation’s automotive zeitgeist is headed, enthusiasts will like the A3. It’s a tight, light, tossable small car with one of the best engines in the business, the 2.0-liter FSI turbo four. Thanks to the VW Group’s innovative six-speed direct-shift gearbox, you can click off lightning-fast upand downshifts with the F1-style paddles, or you can let the transmission do the thinking and waft along with smoothness and silence that rivals a conventional automatic. Once you’ve used the DSG, you won’t want any other transmission. The A3 proved a rare find among our sportier Car of the Year nominees; it’s as much fun on our short, tight test course as it is on mountain roads, although the howling, lowgrip all-season Pirelli tires—and the VW Golf-based chassis—let us down on both track and road.

50 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

$25,460-$31,000 (est) $30,010 (2.0T FWD) Front engine, FWD/AWD, 5-passenger, 5-door hatchback 2.0L/200-hp/207 lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4

The A3’s interior is like those of other Audis, only smaller and with less glitz. Expensive-looking materials and tight instrument panel fit set a benchmark for the segment. The rotary dials that open and close the dashboard vents are a nice reminder of the TT. There’s head- and legroom for four or for two and plenty of luggage in back with the rear seats down. Outside, the tightly drawn sheetmetal and gaping corporate grille clearly link the littlest Audi with its larger siblings, right up to the 6.0-liter W-12-powered A8. Ultimately, the A3 is part of an emerging downsizing trend, joining the Honda Civic and Mazda5 in this year’s competition in proving you’re not driving a rolling Port-A-Potty just because your car is small. But are the right style and the right badge enough? ■

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH X HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

6-speed auto-clutch manual 3315 lb (61/39%) 101.5 in 168.7 x 69.5 x 56.0 in 6.1 sec 14.7 sec @ 95.1 mph 124 ft 0.81 g avg 64.1 mph avg 27.4 sec @ 0.62 g avg 25/31 mpg (2.0 FSI tested) ★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★

The VW Golf for social climbers


2006 finalist ★ bmw 3 series

2006 BMW 3 SERIES BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$31,595-$39,195 $42,070 (330i RWD) Front engine, RWD/AWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

ENGINE

3.0L/255-hp/220 lb-ft DOHC 24-valve I-6

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

6-speed manual 3449 lb (50/50%) 108.7 in 178.2 x 71.5 x 55.9 in 5.9 sec 14.5 sec @ 96.7 mph 112 ft 0.89 g avg 67.3 mph avg 26.3 sec @ 0.68 g avg 20/30 mpg ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★

Improved, but the competition’s closing in

THE WORLD’S

FAVORITE SPORT SEDAN— FOR NOW IS IT CONCEIVABLE

that BMW’s reign as king of the compact-sportsedan hill may not be eternal? The 3 Series has long provided a fast-moving target for wannabe competitors, but either this latest variant didn’t reach far enough out or its assailants have greatly improved their aim. Our 12 judges enjoyed throwing the 330i around our twisty 33-mile road course. Logbooks gushed with praise for the neutral handling dynamics and permissive stability-control nanny. The weighty but communicative steering drew raves (our tester had the base, noncomputerized helm), as did the powerful and reassuring brakes and supportive front seats that give a welcome hug. The BMW has a tight, controlled, almost spring-loaded feel when

driving. There’s nothing lazy about its steering or suspension. BMW still holds the high ground in the chassis department with the peerless way in which it draws handling raves, while providing a supple, compliant, and comfortable ride. But Lexus’s latest IS 350 has the 330i outgunned in the power department, its new V-6 throbbing out 306 horsepower to the silky Bavarian straight-six’s 255. While there’s no stick offered with the big motor at Lexus, its paddle-shifted six-speed auto works exceptionally well, and a few testers dared to criticize the BMW’s stick for longish throws and a reverse position that can be confused for first. Another Bavarian vulnerability is the interior design, which was seen as one of the most somber and ordinary of all the premium-class COTY contenders. There were ergonomic nits to be picked—from the stubby electronic turn-signal switch to the multistep start procedure to the stereo that’s a threat to anger management—even in this iDrive-free test car. Consider all the above in light of 330i pricing that struggles to undercut $40,000 and can top $50K (expect real-world 325is to sell for about five grand less), and the 3’s reign looks decidedly vulnerable. But for now, long live the 3. ■ MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 51


★ 2006 contender buick lucerne

YOUR FATHER’S

2006 BUICK LUCERNE

OLDSMOBILE IN DISGUISE

BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

BUICK’S ROLE

in the new General Motors brandscape is to build quiet, luxurious, smooth-riding cars of the sort that Lexus specialized in before it mounted its current assault on BMW’s driving machines. The Lucerne, which replaces the LeSabre and Park Avenue in Buick stores, attempts to sell LS 430 spaciousness at the price of a loaded ES 330. The Lucerne and Cadillac’s revamped DTS share an enlarged and strengthened platform that dates to the original Olds Aurora, which was deemed a paragon of structural rigidity in its day. To quiet the Lucerne, considerable engineering effort was invested in eliminating noises at their source (by revising the accessory drive, induction box, side mirrors, etc.), keeping noises out (laminated dash panels and side glass, wheelhouse liners) and hushing the sounds that get in (carpet deadeners, largervolume A/C ventilation system). The result is a cabin built for a librarian. Lucernes priced to sell to the LeSabre faithful are powered by a 197-horse, 3.8-liter pushrod V-6 that’s almost as old as 52 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

$26,990-$35,990 $38,420 (CXS) Front engine, FWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

ENGINE

4.6L/275-hp/290 lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8

Buick’s front-fender porthole motif. The technophile’s choice is the 4.6-liter Northstar V-8 good for 275 horsepower. As editor Harwood says, “It gives the car energy, like a can of Ensure.” Both cars are backed by a four-speed automatic. Our V-8 felt spry for a two-ton GM frontwheeler. Driving the Lucerne in an un-Buick-esque manner, we managed to slide it around our autocross course like a cop-show stunt driver, trail-braking to induce mild oversteer. Lucerne intenders will be sold on the car’s smooth ride, roomy back seat, and cavernous trunk. A midlevel CXL model with the optional V-8 seems a good deal at $26,990, until you price a Hyundai Azera, which boasts nearly equal passenger and trunk space, better performance than the V-8, a classier interior, better build quality, and a lower price. Ah, but the Buick faithful don’t shop those foreign brands, do they? ■

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

4-speed automatic 4048 lb (62/38%) 115.6 in 203.2 x 73.8 x 58.0 in 7.5 sec 15.7 sec @ 92.7 mph 132 ft 0.82 g avg 60.9 mph avg 27.9 sec @ 0.60 g avg 17/25 mpg ★★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★

It’s a better Buick. But is that enough?


2006 contender ★ cadillac dts

2006 CADILLAC DTS BASE PRICE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$41,990 $52,485 Front engine, FWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

ENGINE

4.6L/291-hp/286 lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

4-speed automatic 4188 (60/40%) 115.6 in 207.6 x 74.8 x 57.6 in 7.1 sec 15.4 sec @ 92.6 mph 132 ft 0.81 g avg 61.4 mph avg 28.1 sec @ 0.61 g avg 17/24 mpg ★★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★

Cadillac still needs a flagship sedan

NOT EXACTLY THE

STANDARD OF THE WORLD

IT WOULD BE easy to dismiss the new DTS as a New York livery driver’s dream. But it’s also an update for the car that led Cadillac’s renaissance six years ago, when black DTS sedans with darkly tinted windows were briefly a trend among well-heeled baby-boomers posing as characters from “The Sopranos.” Now the DTS has been left behind as other Cadillac cars are rear drive again and the trucks are hip-hop video stars. But there’s some innovation in the new DTS. The styling is a solid evolution of Cadillac’s edgy look, and GM has done wonders for the interior quality and design,

partly because there was no other direction to go. Fit and finish are much improved, with a decent choice of wood tones and just the right amount of flash. But here’s much of the elegant new switchgear in the lesser Buick Lucerne, and even in new Chevys. While it’s true you’ll recognize Mercedes switchgear in Chryslers, it’s not so obvious as to put Benz buyers off. And while the Chrysler looks like it’s trading up, the shared pieces in the Cadillac make it look like it’s trading down. Dynamically, the DTS is good for a frontdrive Caddy. Its Magnetic Ride Control adjustable shocks allow decent handling in the “sport” mode, given how cushy it is in the other setting. On our short handling course, the DTS was neutral and more fun than the smaller Chevy Impala SS. The Northstar engine always has been a good performer, with a distinctive, overheadcam V-8 growl. But the car’s electronic brain doesn’t get along with the suspension’s “sport” setting, at least when driven the way you’d infer from “sport.” A few quick corners on the short course set off the airbag-warning light, which in turn alerted OnStar Emergency to the possibility of an accident. The lesson? Don’t spill the boss’s coffee in the back seat. ■ MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 53


★ 2006 contender chevrolet cobalt

AN INJECTION

SHORT OF THE GOOD STUFF AS THE successor to the lackluster, long-in-the-tooth Cavalier, the Cobalt didn’t have big shoes to fill. However, that doesn’t diminish its significance in Chevy’s lineup. With coupe and sedan body styles and four trim levels, the Cobalt is Chevy’s premier small car, the brand’s answer to such stalwarts as the Ford Focus and the Honda Civic. For this year’s Car of the Year competition, Chevy sent us the all-new SS sedan, which complements the 145-horsepower LS and LT sedans and coupes, the SS coupe, and the 205-horse SS Supercharged coupe. The lineup’s sportiest four-door, the SS sedan is motivated by a 2.4-liter, 171-horse Ecotec four-cylinder— the same engine used in the Pontiac Solstice—mated to a five-speed manual, a combo that produced respectable runs from 0 to 60 (7.1 seconds) and the quarter mile (15.6 seconds at 90.0 mph). As its “SS” badge suggests, the Cobalt gets a healthy dose of sport—stiffer suspension, 18-inch wheels, and a tasteful ground54 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

effects package. The prescription works. On the track, the SS displayed a definite taste for the skidpad (0.83 g), the slalom (64.1 mph), and the figure-eight course (27.2 seconds), producing results on par with those of the Audi A3 and the Lexus GS 430. Track prowess aside, the SS sedan failed to impress us in several key respects, notably interior quality and ergonomics. For a sport compact that commands a nearly $20 grand price tag, the Cobalt SS’s plastics were underwhelming to the look and touch; its back seat was low, flat, and hard; and its shifter seemed placed too far rearward. In light of the all-new Honda Civic, as well as the Hyundai Accent, the Cobalt ultimately lacked the competitive sophistication to be a real contender. ■

2006 CHEVROLET COBALT BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$14,490-$21,990 $20,105 Front engine, FWD, 5-passenger, 2-door coupe/4-door sedan

ENGINE

2.4L/171-hp/163 lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

The best Cavalier ever!

5-speed manual 2899 lb (60/40%) 103.3 in 180.5 x 67.9 x 57.1 in 7.1 sec 15.6 sec @ 90.0 mph 132 ft 0.83 g avg 64.1 mph avg 27.2 sec @ 0.63 g avg 25/34 mpg ★★★ ★★★★ ★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★


2006 contender ★ chevrolet hhr

2006 CHEVROLET HHR BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$15,990-$16,990 $22,045 (2LT) Front engine, FWD, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon

ENGINE

2.4L/172-hp/162 lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

Better late than never

5-speed manual 3214 lb (57/43%) 103.5 in 176.2 x 69.2 x 65.2 in 7.9 sec 16.2 sec @ 87.2 mph 134 ft 0.77 g avg 60.8 mph avg 28.7 sec @ 0.57 g avg 22/30 mpg ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★ ★★★ ★★★★

AT LAST!

A SMALL COOL CAR FROM CHEVY WITH PRICING starting well below $20,000 and funky retro styling, the HHR is precisely the sort of small car GM’s mainstream brand needs. Yes, Chrysler was here five years ago with the PT Cruiser, but the HHR’s early sales success suggests there’s room for more cars with character at this end of the market. Interior versatility is the HHR’s strong suit. Rear and front-passenger seats fold flat to create a large deck; seats removed, its 63.1 cubic feet of cargo volume is more than in the PT’s. But, typically, GM can’t quite keep the

good stuff coming: Seats don’t provide enough support; interior plastics aren’t as viable as those in compact Korean and Japanese cars; window switches aren’t placed in an intuitive location. And just as the exterior design is like that of a scaleddown Suburban, the interior is scaled down, too: The seat cushions are too short and narrow, the I.P. is undersized, as is the tachometer in it, and, overall, the cabin feels cramped. The optional 172-horsepower four provides enough juice, and, compared with an HHR with the four-speed auto, the manual trans decreased time to 60 mph by more than a second and increased quartermile trap speed by four mph, though the five-speed manual transmission feels rubbery. The Delta platform is capable and serves the wagon well, and handling and steering response are decent. The fivespeed will allow you to wind up the HHR and make it bend to your will, but there’s more fun to be had in a 230-horsepower turbocharged PT or the Mazda5 for similar money. GM has increased HHR sales projections—a welcome bright spot for the embattled giant. Sometimes, a goodlooking body, functional interior, and low price are enough. Now, if GM only sweated the details more. ■ MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 55


★ 2006 contender chevrolet impala

ONE-TRICK

PONY

BLINK AND

you’ll miss it: Chevy’s sort-of-new Impala, available with a choice of two V-6 engines or the new SS-specific 5.3-liter, 303-horsepower V-8 with fuel-saving cylinder deactivation, is almost invisible. With its complete redesign inside and out, this Chevrolet won’t offend anybody who finds himself at the rental-car counter looking for a large car—but GM should be aiming higher than lowest-common-denominator transportation. Whatever happened to the idea of a mainstream Chevy sedan with pizzazz and eyeappeal? It used to build ’em in the 1950s and 1960s, you know. The SS is a step in the right direction, but isn’t a complete answer to cars like the Charger. While it may deliver the same 0-to-60 time as a rear-drive Dodge Charger R/T, no one will notice. And it’s a lead-tipped arrow: Dial in any more than 90 degrees of steering, and you’ll be sliding out of the unsupportive seat at the same time the front wheels begin to howl in protest. There are other cars in the marketplace—not necessarily wearing legendary performance badges such as SS—that are 56 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

more fun to drive, although this one does make good noises. The cabin is either clean or bland, depending upon your view. It’s curious that the shifter surround displays no markings to indicate what gear has been selected; consult the instrument cluster for that. We might be falling prey to our too-high expectations and from our rose-colored memories of past SS models. Yes, it beats the pants off the mid-1990s Caprice-based Impala SS, and it’s better than the previous, ugly, V-6-only Impala, but that’s not enough these days. If you think of the 2006 Impala SS as a car that keeps the old-school 1960s tradition of implanting a powerful motor in an otherwise sensible-shoes sedan, you’ll be pleased. We’d like it with a bit more soul—and a whole lot more driving pleasure. ■

2006 CHEVROLET IMPALA BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$21,990-$27,790 $29,980 (SS) Front engine, FWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

ENGINE

5.3L/303-hp/323 lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

4-speed automatic 3756 lb (62/38%) 110.5 in 200.4 x 72.9 x 58.7 in 5.7 sec 14.3 sec @ 97.7 mph 134 ft 0.78 g avg 60.5 mph avg 27.6 sec @ 0.61 g avg 18/28 mpg ★★ ★★ ★★ ★★★ ★★ ★★ ★★★

More like a water buffalo than an Impala


2006 contender ★ dodge charger

2006 DODGE CHARGER BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$22,995-$38,095 $36,950 (R/T) Front engine, RWD, 5 passenger, 4-door sedan

ENGINE

5.7L/340-hp/390 lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

5-speed automatic 4153 lb (54/46%) 120.0 in 200.1 x 74.5 x 58.2 in 5.7 sec 14.3 sec @ 99.5 mph 122 ft 0.84 g avg 62.6 mph avg 26.9 sec @ 0.66 g avg 17/25 mpg ★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★

When you’re onto a good thing, stick to it

ENOUGH ABOUT THE FOURALREADY DOORS, THE NEW CHARGER draws inspiration from Dodge’s horsepowerfilled history to join the Chrysler 300 in redefining the family sedan. The recipe is as rock-solid as the Mercedes E-Class-derived LX platform it rides on, with a trio of powerful engines, independent suspension, roomy interior, and dramatic styling. Starting in the mid-$20s, the base model is a great value with its 3.5-liter, 250-horsepower SOHC V-6, but our test scrutiny focused on the bang-for-the-buck enthusiast’s choice, the R/T. Clearly, the one word you need to know here is “Hemi.” The brochure-friendly numbers break down to 5.7 liters and 340 horsepower, but it’s the broad torque curve

and rich exhaust rumble that give the OHV engine its magic. Enhanced with the MultiDisplacement System, this Hemi is able to manage its cylinder operation to match load conditions, from all eight pistons thundering under full acceleration, to four lazily ticking over while cruising. The MDS enhances fuel economy by more than 10 percent, and its operation is seamless. At the dragstrip, the Charger races down the quarter mile in a musclecar-worthy 14.3 seconds, reaching 99.5 mph—impressive performance for a two-ton family sedan with more interior volume than a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Hustled around our road course, the Charger’s dynamic acumen impressed; the rigid, generously tired car was easy to push and control. Even when off, the ESP system still provides a measure of safety by intervening progressively to counter potentially dangerous motions, albeit at a greater tolerance threshold. Downsides? Like the Dodge Magnum, the spacious Charger interior is a bit too stark. Yes, it’s a direct sibling to the Chrysler 300 that won our hearts and Car of the Year award 12 months ago. And, yes, we like it just about as much. But in COTY terms, the Charger is simply a well-executed variation on a winning theme, and in this year’s competition that wasn’t enough. ■ MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 57


★ 2006 finalist ford fusion

TAKING AIM AT

2006 FORD FUSION

ACCORD AND CAMRY— AGAIN

BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

58 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

$25,135 (SEL V-6) Front engine, FWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

THE MAZDA6’S

platform was too good to go untouched by the rest of Ford Motor Company. It’s so good, in fact, Ford has pinned its future on it in the form of three sedans: the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, and Lincoln Zephyr. The Fusion, which slots between the Focus and the Five Hundred in the Ford lineup, will impress people who’ve driven only Detroitmade cars over the past 10 years, yet it leaves something to be desired for those whose eyes wander toward the Japanese brands. It enters a price and size category that includes heavy-hitters like the Accord and Camry, and, as such, will be instantly compared with those rivals—as it was during Car of the Year. What the Ford has going for it are excellent real-world handling and quick, tight steering, both of which feel like they came from a Europeanmarket car and make it quite possibly the best-handling midsize sedan Ford’s ever sold in the U.S. However, to be able to enjoy the drive,

$17,995-$22,360

ENGINE

3.0L/221-hp/205 lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6

several aspects of the car’s personality have to be ignored and forgiven. There’s its thrashy, harsh V-6 (the base engine is a 160-horse four), which has a respectable 221 horsepower, but lacks the refinement of comparable Japanese engines. Backing that is a six-speed automatic. In Drive, it did a decent job of holding the right gear, but the closest this trans gets to a Sport setting is in Low, where gears are held longer and downshifts happen more quickly—but the driver has no other control of gear selection. Another unfortunate standout is the cabin, which has cheap materials that look like the result of cost-cutting. It’s a parts-bin mish-mash, with the same greenLED stereo display seen in Fords for the last decade. The interior is functional and purpose-built, and that’s all. The car is a big step up for Ford, but it hasn’t quite reached the top rung. ■

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

6-speed automatic 3449 lb (61/39%) 107.4 in 190.2 x 72.2 x 57.2 in 7.2 sec 15.5 sec @ 90.3 mph 137 ft 0.80 g avg 63.7 mph avg 28.0 sec @ 0.59 g avg 21/29 mpg ★★★ ★★★ ★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★

Ford’s best sedan in years, but no bull’s-eye


2006 contender ★ hyundai accent

2006 HYUNDAI ACCENT BASE PRICE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$11,995 est $14,195 est Front engine, FWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

ENGINE

1.6L/110-hp/107 lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4

TRANSMISSIONS CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

4-speed automatic 2610 lb (63/37%) 98.4 in 168.5 x 66.7 x 57.9 in 11.8 sec 18.6 sec @ 73.7 mph 129 ft 0.78 g avg 61.9 mph avg 29.7 sec @ 0.53 g avg 28/36 mpg ★★★ ★★ ★★★ ★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★

Cars like this made Toyota’s reputation

AND YOU WAS A FAST LEARNER

THOUGHT JAPAN

“THEY’RE HEEEEYER.” We’ve got to hand it to the Koreans; this year’s trio of Hyundai cars (and one Kia) is damned impressive. With its rich interior, standout build quality, and impressive list of standard equipment, the Accent appears poised to dominate the entry-level segment once owned by Japanese automakers. The 2006 Accent comes in one moderately equipped trim and body style, the GLS sedan, starting at a mere $12,000 with few options. Standard safety equipment is far from basic and includes anti-lock brakes, six airbags, front-seatbelt pretensioners, and load limiters. While an AM/FM/CD audio system and five-speed manual are also standard, luxuries like airconditioning, four-speed automatic, and power windows and locks with keyless remote cost extra. But not so much that ordering them will break the budget of a first-time buyer. Even so, the Accent isn’t a Golden Calipers winner. As we’ve witnessed with recent Hyundai products,

this car covers all the bases for thousands of dollars less than direct competitors, but is by no means a new benchmark for the segment. For example, the Accent’s modest 110-horsepower four-cylinder engine—though boasting continuously variable valve timing—and four-speed automatic conspired to singlehandedly raise the entire COTY field’s acceleration average with a leisurely 11.8-second 0-to60-mph time. And the handling, with the optional 15-inch tires, is entertaining, but again, it’s not the segment-beater. With its five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and included 24-hour roadside assistance, the neat, honest, undemanding Accent is one of those cars we’d recommend to a neighbor kid looking for a decent set of first wheels. Ironically, this Hyundai’s biggest rival is its sibling under the skin, the Kia Rio5, a more enticing package with even more latent talent and personality. ■ MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 59


★ 2006 finalist hyundai azera

IT’S NOT LEXUS

GM SHOULD WORRY ABOUT. IT’S THESE GUYS THIS NEW Hyundai flagship is so much better than its predecessor, the XG350, it can’t even wear the same nameplate. By adding about an inch to that car’s wheelbase, length, and width and almost three to its height, the interior offers true full-size accommodations. A new allaluminum 3.8-liter V-6 replaces the ironblock 3.5, harnessing 265 horses to the reasonably light Hyundai and pulling it to 60 mph in an impressive 6.5 seconds. Underneath, the suspension description reads the same—control arms in front, multilinks in back—but changes to the geometry and tuning serve to improve the ride/handling tradeoff. No longer does Hyundai’s CEO-mobile float along atop whipped-cream dampers and marshmallow springs. It’s no BMW, and hard cornering is answered with loud protests from the tires, but when driving quickly the suspension damps the body motions long before the occupants are tempted to grab the Dramamine. 60 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

The car isn’t intended as a sport sedan, but when pressed, it gets the job done and generates decent figures in the process, besting its two closest rivals here (the Buick Lucerne and Toyota Avalon) in braking (122 feet from 60 mph compared with 132 for both) and slalom (63.6 mph, versus 60.9 and 59.4). Take the badges off, and nobody would guess this is a Hyundai—not by looking at it or by driving it, either. Spare the whip, though, and the Azera spoils the driver with creature features like an electric rear sunshade and power tilt and telescopic steering, pedal adjustment, and mirrors with memory. The interior design, execution, and materials look apropos of a luxury brand, and we guarantee the faux maple trim will fool all but your most gimlet-eyed passengers. The Azera earned points on value, superiority, and significance, thereby wounding the Lucerne and Avalon and earning itself what would’ve been a podium finish, if we reported runners-up. ■

2006 HYUNDAI AZERA BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$24,995-$29,995 est $29,995 est (Limited) Front engine, FWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

ENGINE

3.8L/265-hp/257 lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT

5-speed automatic

EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY

18/27 mpg

3794 lb (61/39%) 109.4 in 192.7 x 72.8 x 58.7 in 6.5 sec 15.0 sec @ 94.9 mph 122 ft 0.78 g avg 63.6 mph avg 28.1 sec @ 0.62 g avg

RATIN GS

ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★

When better Buicks are built, Hyundai will build them


2006 contender ★ hyundai sonata

2006 HYUNDAI SONATA BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$18,495-$23,495 $23,495 (LX V-6) Front engine, FWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

ENGINE

3.3L/235-hp/226 lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

5-speed automatic 3541 lb (63/37%) 107.4 in 188.9 x 72.1 x 58.0 in 7.1 sec 15.5 sec @ 90.8 mph 127 ft 0.78 g avg 62.6 mph avg 27.9 sec @ 0.61 g avg 20/30 mpg ★★★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★

A Camry rival Detroit has yet to match

LOOK OUT, TOYOTA. YES, TOYOTA WITH A COMPLETE restyle for 2006 and Toyota in its crosshairs, Hyundai has brought a faster, betterlooking Sonata to American shores. Powered by a 3.3-liter V-6 and five-speed automatic, with six standard airbags and a ton of standard equipment for its $23,495 as-tested price, the Sonata deserves attention. Hyundai has gotten aggressive, providing a car that’s jam-packed with value and is a decent drive. The smooth engine produced a good amount of thrust for the size and weight of the car, but some felt the transmission was too slow to shift. Steering response was competitive for the midsize marketplace, and on twisty, winding roads, the Sonata proved nimble, though electronic stability-control intervention came too quickly. The sedan’s exterior is attractive, if a bit generic, and makes the Sonata another in a line of good-looking cars to come from this company of late. Even though it’s a midsize car, its interior is huge and spacious enough that the sedan qualifies as a “large

car,” according to the EPA. Fit and finish is nearly as good as in midsize cars like the Camry and Accord, but, unfortunately, interior design is more ordinary than that of the exterior. The leather is soft, and Hyundai paid special attention to the quality of the stitchwork, but the combination of questionable plastic quality and a drab, monotone gray keeps the cabin from looking as elegant as it could. It’s clear that with the Sonata, Hyundai set its sights on the Camry. While this car meets those goals, the Camry isn’t the benchmark it used to be, and it doesn’t incite passion behind the wheel—it would’ve been terrific to see Hyundai go a step further. And with the introduction of Hyundai’s Azera, which is more expensive but may be a better bargain, the new Sonata may get lost in the shuffle. ■ MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 61


★ 2006 contender kia rio

FORGET EVERYTHING

2006 KIA RIO/RIO5

YOU KNOW ABOUT THE OLD ONE

SOMETIMES, THE

best surprises come in small packages. Kia’s recast Rio for 2006 wraps extroverted styling around straightforward yet efficient hardware, showing a marked improvement in packaging and dynamics over the car it replaces. It’s bigger in nearly every linear measure, too, save length. Expanded interior dimensions add up to six more cubic feet of room, though what the raw figures don’t tell you is the figures result in a Dr. Who Tardis-like cabin whose spaciousness exceeds expectations. The front bucket seats are comfortable and supportive, and even the back seat provides ample passenger space for the class. The dash is well dressed, with simple, pleasantly arranged controls in the center stack. Contrasting materials and touches like dual powerpoints convey a more upscale flavor than expected—an impression supported by the tight component fit. The Rio’s diminutive 1.6-liter inline-four provides adequate performance with the manual transmission, 62 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$11,110-$14,040 $14,510 (Rio5 SX) Front engine, FWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan/wagon

though the shifter’s throw is too long and action too loose. We expect it would be a more tepid experience with the four-speed automatic. The DOHC powerplant boasts a significant gain in fuel economy, well timed for today’s stratospheric gasoline pricing, earning a 32/35-mpg EPA rating with the manual. The Rio5 benefits from available four-channel ABS, with vented front discs and rear drums. These binders helped the Rio5 out-brake the Mitsubishi Eclipse GT V-6 by a foot. Even more impressive, it snaked through the slalom quicker than the Eclipse and the Audi A3. However, the Rio exhibits a fair amount of body roll, as experienced on our road course. A soft suspension exacerbates the motions, though its tuning should allow the Rio to be more comfortable on crumbling urban streets than many of its peers. Doing the math with six standard airbags, thrifty fuel economy, and more interior room, the Rio5 adds up to a smart buy. But that doesn’t make it a COTY-winning package. Yet. ■

ENGINE

1.6L/110-hp/107 lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

5-speed manual 2438 lb (60/40%) 98.4 in 158.1 x 66.7 x 57.9 in 9.4 sec 17.0 sec @ 80.0 mph 127 ft 0.78 g avg 64.5 mph avg 28.7 sec @ 0.54 avg 32/35 mpg ★★★ ★★ ★★★ ★★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★

Entry-level, done well. No shame there


2006 finalist ★ infiniti m35/m45

2006 INFINITI M35/M45 BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$41,250-$50,360 $58,860 (M45) Front engine, RWD/AWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

ENGINE

4.5L/335-hp/340 lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-6

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

5-speed automatic 4084 lb (54/46%) 114.2 in 192.6 x 70.8 x 59.4 in 5.4 sec 14.1 sec @ 98.2 mph 118 ft 0.82 g avg 64.1 mph avg 27.0 sec @ 0.64 g avg 17/23 mpg ★★★★ ★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★ ★★★★ ★★★★

Fast, fun, value. But doesn’t look it

CLOSING THE

GAP FAST

TO BMW— FAMILIARITY

(we’ve had one on our a long-term fleet for the past few months) has bred forgetfulness: We’d forgotten how good the M45 really is. One trip down the dragstrip, one lap of the cone course, and one mile up the mountain loop, and suddenly the M45 is, indeed, a standout COTY player. On paper, it may be second only to a BMW 545i as the most competent, most dynamically endowed midsize luxury sport sedan. Even with our non-Sport model, it holds corners well with 0.82 g of grip, its powerful V-8 rips through the quarter mile in just 14.1 seconds, and ample brakes stop from 60 mph in 118 feet. In anybody’s book, those are impressive numbers. We’re also happy to report that Infiniti has the good sense to allow stability and traction control to be turned off to better probe the car’s limits, not those imposed by an electronic nanny. That’s all wonderful stuff—but does the M advance automotive art? Certainly not with its styling. Some have criticized the exterior

as an overinflated version of the otherwise crisply styled G35. Others, though impressed with the Chris Craft-like woodand leather-trimmed interior, felt the counterintuitive controls soured their experience. Still, thoughtful amenities like the best backup camera in the business, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, XM or Sirius satellite radio, Bose Studio Surround audio with 14 speakers, voice recognition, and a (hyperactive) lane-departure warning system ensure its place in the luxury market—for a price. Our tester appeared to have almost every option and totaled $58,860. A better choice for many would be the $41,250 3.5-liter, 280-horsepower V-6 M35 that’s also available with allwheel drive. For all these reasons, the Infiniti M made almost every voter’s short list, but failed to take the prize. ■ MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 63


★ 2006 contender lexus gs

YES. NO.

BMW FIGHTER? THE LEXUS GS

300/430, completely redesigned for 2006, is in pursuit of the BMW 5 Series’s benchmark balance of sport and luxury, but doesn’t quite reach it. Our GS 430 had 300 horsepower and a quick, responsive six-speed sequential-shift automatic, both of which would suggest sport-sedan entertainment. Not so. This is a car that feels like it’s not sure how to properly straddle the sport/ luxury fence. Along with the big power and quick-shifting transmission, the new Lexus has a poised chassis and a well-engineered suspension, yet the car doesn’t allow the driver to utilize them. Default settings in place, it doesn’t take all that much to make the safety systems “correct” enthusiastic driving. A button allows you to turn off the traction control, but the system automatically reengages above 30 to 35 mph. ESP can’t be turned off at all. The odd effect of the electronic limiters is to allow the car to generate impressive performance numbers, including 6.4 seconds to 60 and a 64 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

64.4-mph slalom speed, without being fun to drive. On the luxury side of the equation, the GS is certainly not lacking. Exterior styling gives it a much more streamlined, attractive appearance than its predecessor. Its ride is pleasantly compliant, without feeling too Buick-like. The cabin is well isolated from road noise, materials are soft to the touch, and the seats are a good compromise between comfort and support. Also, the interior contains plenty of high-tech gadgets to keep a new owner’s digits busy. However, the strongest evidence that the GS now leans toward luxury and away from sport is the engine options: There’s either a 245-horse, 3.0-liter six or the aforementioned V-8. The smaller, lighter IS comes with a 306-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 that trumps even the GS 430’s 300 horses. Perhaps this is statement enough of what the GS is—and isn’t—supposed to be. ■

2006 LEXUS GS BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$43,800-$52,025 $58,390 (GS 430 RWD) Front engine, RWD/AWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

ENGINE

4.3L/300-hp/325 lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

6-speed automatic 3862 lb (53/47%) 112.2 in 190.0 x 71.7 x 56.1 in 6.4 sec 14.6 sec @ 97.8 mph 126 ft 0.83 g avg 64.4 mph avg* 27.5 sec @ 0.63 g avg 18/25 mpg ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★

The ice-queen of luxury sport sedans

*electronically limited

LUXURY SEDAN?


2006 finalist ★ lexus is

2006 LEXUS IS BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$30,580-$36,030 $43,715 (IS 350) Front engine, RWD/AWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

ENGINE

3.5L/306-hp/277 lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

6-speed automatic 3583 lb (53/37%) 107.5 in 180.1 x 70.9 x 56.1 in 5.3 sec 13.9 sec @ 102.5 mph 123 ft 0.86 g avg 65.0 mph avg 27.1 sec @ 0.68 g avg 21/28 mpg ★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★

Lexus no longer brings just a knife to a gunfight

JAPANESE WARRIOR

STEPS BACK INTO THE RING

IN 2000,

Lexus introduced the original IS—the 215-horsepower IS 300— as a Japanese alternative to the BMW 3 Series. While it never beat the BMW head to head, the first-generation IS was nonetheless a success for Lexus, establishing a sporty, compact, rear-drive car for the brand, which in turn brought younger customers into the showrooms. Fastforward six years, and Lexus is once again trying to knock the 3 Series off its pedestal. Lexus has come equipped with the right weapons this time around. Case in point: the 306-horse IS 350, which outguns its BMW rival, the 330i, by 51 horsepower. Equipped with a standard six-speed auto-

matic with steering wheel-mounted paddles (a six-speed manual is available only on the 204-horse IS 250) the IS 350 ripped from 0 to 60 in 5.3 seconds and through the quarter mile in 13.9 ticks at 102.5 mph. Those figures place the IS 350 at least a half-second ahead in each category. Fortunately, the IS has a chassis capable of reining in all those horses, evidenced by its 0.86 g on the skidpad and a 65.0 mph average through the slalom. While numbers can’t speak for how the car feels to the driver, the IS 350 did impress on curvy mountain roads, where it was deemed quicker than anything else here. That said, many were less impressed with the IS’s electronic nannies, which occasionally intervened uninvited during aggressive driving, and the overly firm ride that abruptly relayed every road detail. When not being driven hard—a difficult feat in this car—the IS 350 is a posh place to enjoy the latest and greatest in interior accoutrements, which include heated/ ventilated seats, a 14-speaker Mark Levinson DVD-audio setup, and a navigation system with voice activation, Bluetooth technology, and a backup camera. The new IS is maybe the biggest improvement from a previously existing vehicle. But for Car of the Year, maybe just isn’t enough. ■ MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 65


★ 2006 contender lincoln zephyr

HIGH-TECH

2006 LINCOLN ZEPHYR

CINEMA ON WHEELS

BASE PRICE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

ONE OF THE

Blue Oval’s triplets in this year’s competition, the luxury-bent Zephyr is intended to cater to near-luxury shoppers who want the highrent nameplate without having to pay the premium. Starting at just under $30,000, the Zephyr is the price leader in the Lincoln portfolio, yet it’s one of the best equipped, leaving its Hermosillo, Mexico, assembly line with a standard 3.0-liter, 221-horse V-6, a six-speed automatic, 17-inch wheels, electronic throttle control, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and EBD, traction control, real-wood interior trim, electroluminescent gauge lighting, and front, side, and curtain airbags. Like its Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan brethren, the Zephyr is based on a stretched Mazda6 platform and thus boasts more than three feet of rear-passenger legroom, making the cabin an ideal place to enjoy the optional THX II-Certified audio system, an industry first, according to Lincoln. Producing audio “worthy of an upscale cinema,” THX features 10 speakers and

66 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

$29,660 $35,035 Front engine, FWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

ENGINE

3.0L/221-hp/205 lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6

surround sound. Our loaded test vehicle, which stickered for over 35 large, also came with heated/ventilated leathertrimmed front seats and a DVD-based navigation with a 6.5-inch screen. The Zephyr’s long list of standard equipment and appealing options are easy to appreciate, but its price tag is a bit too steep, especially considering less money can get you into an Acura TSX, not to mention the impressive Hyundai Azera from this year’s field. Perhaps what hurt the Zephyr’s Car of the Year chances most were its platformmates. Essentially lessexpensive versions of the Lincoln, both the Fusion and the Milan were quicker from 0 to 60 and in the quarter mile, not to mention more fun to drive. ■

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

Lots of lux for lots of bucks

6-speed automatic 3450 lb (61/39%) 107.4 in 190.5 x 72.2 x 55.9 in 7.6 sec 15.9 sec @ 90.5 mph 137 ft 0.80 g avg 60.9 mph avg 28.3 sec @ 0.58 g avg 20/28 mpg ★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★


2006 finalist ★ mazda 5

2006 MAZDA5 BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$17,995-$19,510 $21,510 (Touring) Front engine, FWD, 6-passenger, 4-door wagon

ENGINE

2.3L/157-hp/148 lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

5-speed manual 3395 lb (56/44%) 108.3 in 181.5 x 69.1 x 64.2 in 8.5 sec 16.6 sec @ 84.6 mph 137 ft 0.78 g avg 60.9 mph avg 28.8 sec @ 0.58 g avg 22/27 mpg ★★★ ★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★

The family car for $3-a-gallon America

mazda5

ARE YOU

READY FOR

THE MINI-MINIVAN?

THE MAZDA5 may be arriving late to the six-seater microvan party in Europe and Japan, but it’s the first one through the door in North America. Sometimes being the first to arrive pegs one as nerdy, and indeed viewed from the back, the Mazda5 does look a bit Poindexter. But check out the standard 17-inch footwear and the rakish Mazda nose, and you’ll get a better sense of what this wagonette is all about. Under the skin lurks all the comparisontest-winning hardware that we love in the Mazda3—the same 2.3-liter DOHC four (tweaked for a broader torque curve at the expense of a few peak horsepower and pound-feet), close-ratio five-speed stick, and a similarly taut front-strut/multilink rear suspension. While the 5 is only 3.2 inches longer than a Mazda3 sedan, raising the roof by 6.5 inches allows the passengers to sit up tall enough to make room for a truly liveable third row of two bucket seats. All that additional space and hardware boosts curb weight by about 500 pounds relative to the Mazda3, but that fatter torque

curve and overall gearing that’s about six percent shorter help spur the Mazda5 to 60 mph just 0.8 second off the 3’s pace, at 8.5 seconds. Expect the four-speed automatic to add about a second to that time. On our mountain-road loop, the 5 impressed our editors with its surprising lack of body roll, high levels of grip, and amazing neutrality when finessed through the tightest bends using all the proper techniques. Of course, we were all driving solo, and each of us wondered how lively it would feel full of people and gear or spinning through the automatic. But the many clever packaging features, like sliding middle-row seats with under-cushion storage, sport-sedan handling, and the promise of 27-mpg highway fuel economy made us feel like Mazda’s starting a party that’ll soon be rockin’. ■ MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 67


★ 2006 finalist mazda mx-5

LET’S STOP

2006 MAZDA MX-5

CALLING IT A CHICK’S CAR

BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

WHEN IT COMES time to

ENGINE

introduce a new version of the best-selling roadster in history, it’s a good idea to ensure that the fresh iteration is a marked improvement over its predecessor. In that regard, Mazda has passed with flying colors with the third-generation MX-5, creating a car that’s better in every way than the one it replaces. For starters, Mazda has kept the MX-5’s weight to a minimum— the new car, at 2476 pounds, weighs roughly the same as the old, turbocharged Mazdaspeed Miata—yet has significantly upped the car’s torsional (47 percent better) and bending (22 percent) rigidity, producing a stiffer drop-top that exhibits nary a quiver over rough pavement. During our week of testing, every editor came away impressed with the MX-5’s sustained sprightliness and newfound solidity. Of course, it never hurts to be quicker, too. Our Grand Touring test car, powered by a 2.0-liter, 170-horse allaluminum four-cylinder and six-speed 68 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

$20,995-$27,260 $25,495 (Grand Touring) Front engine, RWD, 2-passenger, 2-door roadster 2.0L/170-hp/140 lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4

manual, scooted from 0 to 60 in 6.6 seconds and through the quarter mile in 15.1 at 91.3 mph. Compared with the previous turbo model, the new MX-5 feels just as quick yet even more fun, thanks to a slicker, more precise gearbox, telepathic steering response, and communicative four-wheel disc brakes. Behind the wheel, even our tallest pilot was able to find a comfortable driving position, due to an interior with four more cubic feet of room. Moreover, the cockpit is far ritzier than its predecessor’s, replete with premium plastics, piano-black trim, and available leather seats; it even offers four cupholders, side airbags, and a single-release soft-top that requires just one hand to raise or stow. The new MX-5 is a car that envelops you—physically and emotionally— delivering the light, nimble, quick essences of a roadster. ■

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

6-speed manual 2476 lb (52/48%) 91.7 in 157.3 x 67.7 x 49.0 in 6.6 sec 15.1 sec @ 91.3 mph 113 ft 0.91 g avg 66.5 mph avg 26.5 sec @ 0.68 g avg 24/30 mpg ★★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★

It raises and sets the bar in its class


2006 finalist ★ mercedes-benz cls-class

2006 MERCEDES-BENZ CLS BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$66,975-$89,075 $73,245 (CLS 500) Front engine, RWD, 4-passenger, 4-door sedan

ENGINE

5.0L/302-hp/339 lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-8

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

7-speed automatic 4038 lb (52/48%) 112.4 in 193.3 x 73.7 x 55.2 in 5.4 sec 14.0 sec @ 100.2 mph 118 ft 0.84 g avg 63.1 mph avg 26.6 sec @ 0.69 g avg 16/22 mpg ★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★ ★★★★★ ★★

Proves this really is a fashion business

mercedes-benz cls

THE MOST

PERFECTLY EVER BUILT

POINTLESS E-CLASS MERCEDES-BENZ

used to be among the most rational of automakers. For example, the first iteration of the W124 E-Class had different-size rearview mirrors on either side of the car because the engineers figured that’s what you needed. Those guys would have a hard time figuring out an E-Class with a slammed roofline and only enough seats for four passengers. But these days, Mercedes-Benz is marketing driven, not engineering led. The CLS is all about the styling. Drop a swoopy body shell on an E-Class chassis, and, voilà! watch the fashionistas stampede

Mercedes showrooms waving their checkbooks. In the tradition of highly styled cars, you’ll either love or hate the way it looks. But it does command attention from those not fortunate enough to have $73K (gulp! as-tested) to drop on a fairly impractical car. A 2+2 interior complements the zoomy coachwork, with a center console bin and rolltop desk-like cupholder cover for backseat passengers, who may, if they’re the least bit tall, have hit their heads getting in. As you’d expect, the CLS feels like an E-Class with tight bodywork and tighter interior room. Sold only with Mercedes’s 302-horsepower V-8 or the mighty, blown 5.4-liter AMG engine here, the CLS is more autobahnsturmer than autocross-nimble. It felt big, plowing around our short handling course. The CLS 500 prefers to charge hard and fast down big Interstate highways. But it also surprised us on our twisty mountain circuit, where its seven-speed automatic always seemed in the right gear, and the Airmatic suspension’s “sport” setting minimized body roll. Downside is the steering, which feels numb and lifeless. And for daily driving, the triple-mode Airmatic is too fussy. Why can’t Mercedes figure out the right suspension setup the way BMW consistently does? ■ MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 69


★ 2006 contender mercedes-benz r-class

A NICHE

TOO FAR? SOMETIMES you can slice the pie too thin. When the all-new R-Class showed up on our doorstep, we had high hopes. This was supposed to be a new class of vehicle—one with the traction abilities of an SUV, the versatility of a luxury wagon, and the performance of a sport sedan. With an all-new platform (stretched and modified from the M-Class and coming G-Class SUVs), the R-Class is really the first vehicle to explore the uncharted territory of the luxury-minivan segment. The luxury part is easy to see once you sit inside and push the high-tech start button on the dash, touch the electronic shifter stalk to “D,” and paddle through the world’s first sevenspeed Touch Shift automatic. All R-Class models are three-row six-seaters, come with all-wheel drive, and offer the choice of a base 24-valve DOHC 3.5-liter V-6 or the 5.0-liter V-8, producing over 300 horsepower and almost 340 pound-feet of torque. Our tester came with the powerful V-8, gushed over by some judges because of how well it moved the huge and heavy sled (at 5133 pounds, almost 1000 pounds 70 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

heavier than all other contenders). Surprisingly, 0-to-60-mph times were close to the ML500’s at 6.6 seconds. Other highlights include an MP3 player and iPod plug-in, an enormous twin-glass roof option, and enough electronic safety features to keep most people out of trouble. There’s even a bottle opener. But it’s when you push the R-Class that its driving dynamics remind you this is no sport sedan. While still better than most any SUV of comparable size, the big M-B’s electronic stability systems are on highalert to keep cargo and passengers from upset. Also, the low-geared steering provides minimal road feel and little snap back to center. Did we mention the price? Our R500, equipped with everything but a rearseat DVD-player, clocked in at $66,650. Certainly, there’s a lot of money for a car here, but not a lot of Car of the Year. ■

2006 MERCEDES-BENZ R-CLASS BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$48,775-$56,275 $66,650 (R500) Front engine, AWD, 6-passenger, 4-door Wagon

ENGINE

5.0L/302-hp/339 lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-8

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

7-speed automatic 5133 lb (52/48%) 126.6 in 203.0 x 77.5 x 65.2 in 6.6 sec 15.0 sec @ 93.3 mph 131 ft 0.76 g avg 59.1 mph avg 28.54 sec @ 0.60 g avg 13/18 mpg ★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★

Better than a Pacifica and a lot more expensive


2006 contender ★ mercury milan

2006 MERCURY MILAN BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$18,995-$23,495 $25,200 (Premier 3.0) Front engine, FWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

ENGINE

3.0L/221-hp/205 lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE USER FRIENDLY SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

6-speed automatic 3469 lb (61/39%) 107.4 in 191.4 x 72.2 x 57.2 in 7.4 sec 15.7 sec @ 91.0 mph 139 ft 0.80 g avg 62.9 mph avg 28.0 sec @ 0.61 g avg 21/29 mpg ★★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★

An upscale Fusion for the masses

mercury milan

OKAY, SO WHAT’S IN A NAME? YOU’VE GOT to wonder what this car would be if Edsel were still in business as a class-step between Ford and Mercury. Ford Motor Company brought three entries on its CD3 midsize platform to our party (contrast that with Hyundai, which brought three all-new cars): the Fusion, the much fancier Lincoln Zephyr, and, in the middle but close to the Ford, the Milan. The Mercury looks more elegant, grown-up, and urbane than the Fusion, with a neater, better-integrated grille and with clean Euro-style LED taillamps in place of the Fusion’s Focus-like rear lamps. The Milan and Fusion share the same standard

four and optional V-6, similar handling dynamics—kind of fun at the limit, but still midsize-family-car-soft—and similarly poor brakes. Standard 16-inch wheels (optional on Fusion) and optional 17-inch wheels (not available on Fusion) provide the only difference in chassis setup. With a base price $1000 higher than the Fusion’s, you also get a standard power driver’s seat, with higher-quality cloth than the Ford’s, and better trim (the satinaluminum look is optional at no cost), including cloth door inserts in place of plastic, and a standard analog clock. The Milan Premier, available with the I-4 or V-6, includes leather seats of a quality Mercury says isn’t available in the Ford. The differentiation works, at least to the extent that the Fusion has the blue-collar look appropriate for Ford, while the Milan comes off as more white-collar. You can zoot-up the interior with two-tone seats, if you’re secure enough in your office job to wear a loud tie with the white shirt. If you’re a banker, go with the single-tone interior and quietly announce your prosperity. The Fusion got the nod into the group of 10 finalists, and the Milan didn’t because the Ford is a much higher-volume car. Otherwise, the Mercury is a more dapper Fusion, with a more inviting interior. ■ MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 71


★ 2006 contender mitsubishi eclipse gt

PROOF THAT

2006 MITSUBISHI ECLIPSE

STYLE ISN’T EVERYTHING

BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

WE’LL SAY IT up front: The allnew Eclipse GT is a huge improvement over the previous generation, but that’s not the only thing we’re looking for when seeking a winner. Ultimately, we were left wanting more: more control, more room, more visibility. On paper, Mitsubishi’s investment is good: unique styling inside and out, more power, stiffer body, wider track, and more braking. The real-world results, however, are a mixed bag. The new 3.8-liter V-6 producing 263 horsepower motivated our GT as one of only four contestants able to reach 100 mph in the quarter mile. But all that power channeled through a front-drive, six-speed manual transmission makes the driver feel like he’s keeping two mortal enemies from a fight. Several editors noted, during hard takeoffs, the torque steer and front-end lift are so dramatic they thought something might be wrong with the front anti-roll bar. However, we did have high praise for the new frontend geometry for how well it handles through the twisties. At speed, the GT dives into and transitions out of hard cornering 72 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

$19,994-$24,294 $27,694 (GT) Front engine, FWD, 4-passenger, 2-door coupe

ENGINE

3.8L/263-hp/260 lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6

like a pro, as long as you’re smooth on the throttle. As to the change in design and styling, the rounded and flattened shape of the Eclipse seems almost feminine, which may not be a bad thing given the traditional buyer. Inside, though, the sculpted surfaces and conflagration of interior colors (three different interior colors! Huh?) had several testers rubbing their eyes. Likewise, at night, the eerie ice-blue LED lighting throughout the interior gave some of us a headache, while others (our young bucks) didn’t seem to mind. Overall, the general consensus was too much going on in a tight space (note: rear seats are fine for adults, as long as they’re headless). In the end, the Eclipse’s sex appeal promises more than its chassis and driving experience can deliver. ■

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE USER-FRIENDLINESS SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

6-speed manual 3543 lb (62/38%) 101.4 in 179.7 x 72.2 x 53.8 in 5.6 sec 14.2 sec @ 100.2 mph 128 ft 0.83 g avg 64.2 mph avg 26.91 sec @ 0.64 g avg 18/27 mpg ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★ ★★★★ ★★★★

Nice face. Shame about the legs


★ 2006 contender pontiac solstice

EYE CATCHING, BUT

2006 PONTIAC SOLSTICE

ONE STEP SHORT OF THE HYPE

BASE PRICE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

74 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

$23,785 Front engine, RWD, 2-passenger, 2-door convertible

AFTER ALL the industry hype, unabashed television promotions, the promises spoken and unspoken that this is the car that would prove once and for all GM knows where it needs to go to remain competitive, our impression fell somewhat short after living with the little guy for several weeks. At first sight, the Solstice is a stunner. With echoes of the swoopy Jaguar D-Type, the aggressive stance of a Lotus Elise, and the personal involvement of Bob Lutz himself, the Solstice makes big promises. The exterior design and its intended mission are among the most daring to come out of General Motors since Ed Cole’s Corvair shocked the industry in 1959. On paper, the Solstice makes the numbers it should as a two-seat sports car, but isn’t overly rewarding getting there. One run up through the gears presents the sound of an engine lacking the sweetness of its archrival, the Mazda MX-5. Steering, suspension, transmission, and throttle response don’t

$19,995

ENGINE

2.4L/177-hp/166 lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4

meld as well as they do in that car, either. Then there are the haphazard ergonomics in the hard, plasticky interior. GM has more data on biomechanics than almost any other automaker, but rolling down the power windows is as difficult as touching one’s elbow with the fingers of the same arm. The retractable cupholder located on the waterfall between the seats is darn near inaccessible. And then there’s the soft-top that at times took 10 minutes to clip back into place. There’s value here: a solid chassis, big rolling stock, eye appeal, and attractive pricing. But the details fall short, replaced by a wish list. Call this a stand-up double or perhaps a triple—but at least a base short of the promised home run. ■

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

5-speed manual 2878 lb (53/47%) 95.1 in 157.2 x 71.3 x 50.1 in 6.7 sec 15.3 sec @ 89.6 mph 117 ft 0.90 g avg 66.1 mph 26.6 sec @ 0.66 g avg 20/28 mpg ★★★ ★★★★ ★★ ★★★★ ★★ ★★★ ★★★

Proves looks aren’t everything


★ 2006 contender toyota avalon

THE BEST

BUICK GM NEVER BUILT

JAPAN’S

ULTIMATE

geezer pleaser got even better this time around. The third-generation Avalon is more of a performer than it probably needed to be. With the addition of a 3.5-liter, 268-horsepower V-6, do you suppose people interested in this car—those who want a cushy, long-range cruiser, but can’t find a Detroit brand they trust—would ever care that it can run to 60 mph in just over six seconds? This Avalon’s better than it needed to be to maintain its current reputation. Smooth, comfortable, and quiet, the new Avalon is perfect for that 300-mile trip up the coast in the stately, assured manner a Buick used to manage. But unless you live in Palm Beach, it’s probably not what you’d want to take home to impress the neighbors: It’s the stealth fighter in the near-lux segment that most other people will overlook. Outside, the Avalon’s styling is a mix of understated luxury and underthe-radar conservatism. Inside, though, it’s a different story: The clever and attractive interior boasts cool details like milky-white buttons and folding, retracting covers that 76 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

hide nonessential hardware such as the sound-system head unit, and various storage compartments. Risky? Maybe. But it’s what gives this generation Avalon a spark of personality the previous ones sorely lacked. It makes us wonder whether this Toyota is in danger of stealing business away from the Lexus ES 330, the weakest link in Toyota’s otherwise formidable luxury-car franchise. Especially as the Avalon’s starting price is just over $27,000. Having said that, our loaded tester approached $38K by the time all the options had been totaled. Toyota is clearly betting that low-impact, soft-around-themiddle retirees are as well financed as they are in a hurry to get to the coast. ■

2006 TOYOTA AVALON BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$27,165-$34,355 $37,429 (Limited) Front engine, FWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

ENGINE

3.5L/268-hp/248 lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

5-speed automatic 3608 lb (61/39%) 111.0 in 197.2 x 72.8 x 58.5 in 6.1 sec 14.8 sec @ 96.7 mph 132 ft 0.79 g avg 59.4 mph 27.8 sec @ 0.62 g avg 22/31 mpg ★★★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★

Lexus-lite for Toyota money


★ 2006 contender volkswagen jetta

MILD-MANNERED,

2006 VOLKSWAGEN JETTA

MAINSTREAM DRIVERS WANTED

BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

VW’S JETTA has long enjoyed a loyal following among youthful hip urbanites, but that may be changing. A completely redesigned Jetta went on sale last March, and we darned it with faint praise for its comfortable, quiet ride, roomy back seat, and adroit handling, while sharply criticizing its all-new inline-five-cylinder engine for a coarse idle, moaning engine note, and leisurely 8.3-second 0-to-60-mph performance. A turbodiesel variant good for up to 46 mpg and packing 177 poundfeet of torque joined the lineup in May, and a frisky 2.0-liter direct-injected turbo engine shared with the Audi A3 recently went on sale. Either of those engines would undoubtedly have won the Jetta a few more friends among our voting panel than did our 2.5 model. This car struck us as having strayed off of VW’s beaten “Drivers Wanted” path. The steering heft and chassis balance are beyond reproach, but carrying an extra 300plus pounds relative to its predecessor, this new base Jetta simply doesn’t attack a mountain road as enthusiastically as its 78 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

$18,515-$24,405 $20,905 (2.5) Front engine, FWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

ENGINE

2.5L/150-hp/170 lb-ft DOHC 20-valve I-5

forebear did. The larger car is much better suited to transporting four full-size adults, and it’s still finished in high-grade materials, but there’s little innovation to be enjoyed in the interior design or appointments, and the exterior trades bulldog butchness for chrome-nosed dressy formality. It all prompted several editors to bemoan the fact that the new car seems optimized for the German pensioners who constitute the bulk of the home-market audience, which seems sure to alienate the car’s Gen-X/Y base here in North America. Without its formerly perky personality, the Jetta seems a harder sell against the benchmark Asian products in the same size/price category. We still believe the base Jetta models are an attractive buy at below $20,000, but as the options add up, the value equation tilts in favor of Honda or Toyota. ■

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

More Jetta, but no better

5-speed manual 3215 lb (59/41%) 101.5 in 179.3 x 70.1 x 57.4 in 8.3 sec 16.3 sec @ 85.6 mph 126 ft 0.81 g avg 63.5 mph avg 28.3 sec @ 0.59 g avg 22/30 mpg ★★ ★★★ ★★ ★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★


★ 2006 contender volkswagen passat

ROBUST?

2006 VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT

SURE, BUT WHERE’S THE MUSTARD?

BASE PRICE RANGE AS-TESTED PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

THE ALL-NEW Passat entered

ENGINE

this year’s contest with some of the strongest credentials in the field—a 3.6-liter, 280-horse V-6, a six-speed automatic, 0 to 60 in under six seconds, and a quarter-mile trap speed of over 100 mph. For a family sedan, the Passat possesses the goods of a musclecar. Yet despite its robust qualifications, the Passat failed to make it to the second round of 10. So what gives? All of the Passat’s spanking power seems to have supplanted the refinement that made its predecessor such an engaging car. For instance, corralling the new car’s 280 ponies through the front tires, especially during acceleration testing, proved to be a frustrating exercise in moderation. As a result, maybe a Passat 2.0 would have fared better, especially since its seamless and torquey 197-horsepower turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder would’ve lessened the weight without sacrificing much of the off-the-line, aroundtown oomph. Second, the Passat’s front 80 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

$23,565-$32,515 $35,815 (3.6L FWD) Front engine, FWD/AWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan 3.6L/280-hp/265 lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6

strut/rear multilink suspension felt spongy at times, resulting in excessive body roll. And whereas past Passats seemed like Audis with cash on the hood, the new car felt more akin to a scaled-down Phaeton that underwent cost-cutting. Our tester, a loaded V-6 front-driver, possessed an interior that didn’t strike us as richer than its predecessor’s. That said, the new Passat 3.6 does pack a punch when it comes to standard equipment, which includes a power sunroof, 17-inch wheels, an in-dash six-CD changer, six airbags, a tirepressure-monitoring system, and stability control. In the bang-for-the-buck department, the Passat doesn’t disappoint, delivering lofty levels of acceleration and accessories. It simply lacks that Teutonic passion and character that would’ve made a Volkswagen our Car of the Year. ■

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT, F/R DIST WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION 600-FOOT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS ENGINEERING DESIGN INTERIOR PERFORMANCE EASE OF USE SAFETY VALUE TO SUM UP

6-speed automatic 3624 lb (59/41%) 106.7 in 188.2 x 71.7 x 58.0 in 5.9 sec 14.4 sec @ 100.6 mph 126 ft 0.83 g avg 65.0 mph avg 27.2 sec @ 0.64 g avg 19/28 mpg ★★★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★

For $35,815, you’d expect more


2006 car of the year

★★★★★ honda civic

★ FaNTaSTICFOUR A WINDSHIELD MORE RAKISH THAN AN ACURA NSX’S. ONE HAS AN 8000-RPM REDLINE. ANOTHER GETS 50 MPG. AND EVEN WITH VOICE-ACTIVATED NAVIGATION AND XM RADIO, YOU CAN GET ONE FOR ABOUT THE PRICE OF SEAN CONNERY’S TOUPEE. HONDA’S FOUR NEW FOUR-CYLINDER CIVICS SET THE NEW CLASS BENCHMARK

OUR PHOTOGRAPHERS

had zoomed in on our 2006 Motor Trend Car of the Year winner before we’d even voted. “When you drivers passed our photo locations on the test route,” said one, “depending on the car, some of you were visibly pushing harder than others. But every single time the Civic Si came toward us, no matter who was driving it, we’d hear the engine screaming at the redline, the tires yowling for grip, and then the Honda would flash by, the driver grinning like Cameron Diaz on payday. We got it all on film.” It’s true: At the flamboyant wheel of Honda’s brand-new bottle rocket, we dropped our professional poker faces, lost our journalistic composure. An 8000-rpm redline, a light-switch six-speed, and Terrell Owens moves will do that to you. But this new Honda is more than just one great performance bargain.The 2006 Civic lineup encompasses four new models: the sizzling Si, the sleek Coupe, the elegant Sedan, and the 50-mpg Hybrid. Each one is a winner. When we sat down to ■

words arthur st. antoine

photographs jerry garns

82 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

vote, it wasn’t even close: out of 12 judges, 11 voted Civic. Forget what you think you know about this Honda. The outgoing 2005 Civic was a quality automobile—well crafted, capable, a strong value—but it didn’t tingle the fingertips, never moved the “gee!” meter. The new 2006 Civic does. Honda deserves a standing ovation for not playing it safe again, for crafting a compact car that’s edgier and more soulful than it needs to be. The automotive joy that Honda Motor Company was founded on radiates from these new Civics. In picking a winner, we look for significance, superiority, and value. Significance? The Civic has been the best-selling retail compact car in the U.S. for the past nine years. Honda expects sales of the new model to be even stronger—to well over 300,000 units for 2006. Value? A base Civic Coupe DX starts at just $14,910, and even fully loaded Civics hover in the low 20s. Superiority? Read on…


HONDA CIVIC Si

MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 83


2006 car of the year

★★★★★ honda civic WHY WE LOVE THE CIVIC Si ■ IT’S A SCREAMER Indicated redline on the Si’s tach is 8000 rpm. The limiter doesn’t kick in until 8500 rpm. The engine feels like it would happily spin to 10,000. Sure, you could gun a Chevy Cobalt SS or a Ford Focus ZX4 ST to 8500 rpm. Once.

■ LIKE FLOYD MAYWEATHER, LEAN BUT PACKS A PUNCH The Si’s new DOHC, twin-cam, 2.0-liter four produces 197 horsepower (a 23-percent increase over the old Si) at 7800 rpm and 139 pound-feet of torque (up five percent) at 6200. The engine uses Honda’s electronically controlled i-VTEC system with Variable Timing Control, which continuously adjusts valve timing, lift, and duration on the intake and exhaust valves—boosting power and fuel efficiency.

■ DOESN’T WASTE PONIES The Si comes standard with a helical limited-slip differential. Power into a hard turn, and the LSD transmits more torque to the loaded outside front wheel, which has more grip. Translation: The Si doesn’t waste power (or rubber) burning up the inside front tire.

■ THE JOY OF SIX The Si’s one and only transmission is a fabulous short-throw six-speed manual with a low final-drive for improved acceleration. The gear ratios are brilliantly matched to the powerband,

alloy wheels, and a 350-watt, sevenspeaker stereo with subwoofer, CD player, and MP3 capability. The only options are satellite navigation (with XM Radio) and summer tires.

too—upshift at the redline, for instance, and the revs drop to 6000 rpm, right where the i-VTEC system shifts the cams for high-rpm mode.

■ HARD TO CATCH Let the i-VTEC engine rip, and the Si zooms from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds. Handling is even more compelling. Compared with the Coupe, the Si gets higher spring rates, tauter damping, bigger anti-roll bars, and 17-inch wheels and tires. There’s 0.9 g of lateral grip on tap (that’s Corvette territory)—in hard corners, the Si tries to wring your head off your neck. In our slalom test, the Si outran every car in the competition except the BMW 330i Sport. Which costs about $20,000. More.

■ THAT’S NOT A WINDSHIELD— IT’S A FIGHTER-JET CANOPY At an angle of 21.9 degrees, the Si’s front glass rakes back even faster than the windshield in the Acura NSX exotic sports car (23.9 degrees). Rivals look positively blunt by comparison: The Mini Cooper’s windshield stands tall at 40.9 degrees; the Scion tC’s at 49.0.

■ IT’S LOADED The Si comes standard with everything a budget-minded enthusiast would want: four-channel ABS with electronic brake distribution, aluminum pedals with rubber inserts, power moonroof, power windows, keyless entry, a leatherwrapped wheel, aluminum shifter, six airbags, filtered air-conditioning, 17-inch

■ HOLY SPOKES: IT’S A MONSTER Is it just us, or does the Si’s bizarrely contoured steering wheel—with its builtin radio controls and perforated center spoke—somehow remind you of the mask in “Scream”? Just try to name a steering wheel with more character.

■ “SI” IS PRACTICALLY A SYNONYM FOR “VALUE” Though final Si prices hadn’t been set as we went to press, Honda predicts a base sticker of about $20,000 (navigation and XM Radio will add $1750). If that doesn’t seem like a steal, consider this: The toupee Sean Connery wore in “The Hunt for Red October” also cost $20,000.

■ A COCKPIT FROM “STAR TREK”—AND IT WORKS The Si’s spacey dash is such a riot of swoops and curves, it’s momentarily startling—this is a Honda? Get down to the business of spirited driving, though, and the cabin suddenly seems customtailored. The only gauge in the center binnacle is a big analog tachometer. Up above—right where your eyes look for it—is a large, easy-to-read digital speedo, flanked by bar readouts for engine temp and fuel level. The simple audio and climate controls jut out toward your hand. The view over the drop-away

HONDA CIVIC Si 84 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


nose is electrifying. Think Honda has gone too far? Bet you put a priority on sturdy shoes, right?

■ A FEAST FOR TUNERS The Si makes damn near 100 naturally aspirated horsepower per liter straight out of the box. It’s already a tuner car. Can you imagine how hot these things are gonna be once the Fast & Furious crowd starts bolting on performance bits?

■ LOOKS LIKE THE CONCEPT CAR We’ve seen the sketches of future Honda models before. And then we’ve seen the production versions, which often seem so staid in comparison it’s as if the Feds did the finish-work. Not this Si. Look at that wild body. Now look again. Everybody else does.

■ SITS WELL The front seats rock—they’re deeply bolstered, fabric-covered sport jobs with suede side inserts to help hold you in place. They also offer a full two inches of vertical adjustment. For shorter rides a six-footer can comfortably sit in back behind a six-foot driver.

■ IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS The power windows open and close with one touch. So does the moonroof. The rear floor is flat for enhanced foot comfort. An ambient light above the driver casts a soft cabin glow that matches the red of the tachometer. The stereo offers speed-sensitive volume control and CD Text capability; it also can be programmed to display a personalized welcome screen.

■ THE SOUND OF SUZUKA Find a tunnel or a road with a nearby wall. Roll down the Si’s windows. Stand on the gas ’til the tach needle swings past 6000. Listen to that.

WHY WE LOVE THE CIVIC HYBRID ■ CRYING OVER GAS PRICES IS OVER Drive it on the highway, drive it in the city, the Hybrid delivers an estimated EPA fuel economy of 50 mpg. That’s even better than the smaller, less powerful, far less stylish 2005 Civic Hybrid, which delivered 47/48 city/highway mpg. Also, Honda says real-world economy should be far closer to EPA estimates than with rival hybrid cars.

■ IT’S NOT A PENALTY BOX Honda’s fourth-generation “integrated motor assist” hybrid is the company’s most powerful and fuel-efficient ever. Combining an SOHC, 1.3-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder engine with a 15-kilowatt DC brushless motor and a continuously variable transmission, the hybrid powertrain delivers 110 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 123 pound-feet at just 2500.

■ THEY’VE IMPROVED EVERYTHING Compared with the outgoing model, a new internal permanent magnet in the 2006 Hybrid’s DC motor produces 80 percent more torque and 50 percent more power in the same space. The nickelmetal-hydride battery packs are smaller yet store more power (158 volts versus 144). A new cooperative regenerative braking system uses the electric motor as much as possible to help with braking, freeing up the conventional hydraulic brakes to extract 170 percent more of the vehicle’s kinetic energy when stopping.

■ YOU CAN DRIVE IN THE CARPOOL LANE—ALONE Because it’s rated as an Advanced

Technology Partial Zero Emissions vehicle, the Hybrid can legally be driven in California’s High Occupancy Vehicle highway lanes with only the driver on board.

■ LIKE ALL CIVICS, IT CARES In all 2006 Civic models, Honda has reduced use of toxic PVC and Bromine materials. All Civics also feature “pedestrian friendly” collapsible hood and fender areas.

WHY WE LOVE THE CIVIC COUPE & SEDAN ■ THE EYES HAVE IT The Civic has such a well-earned reputation for quality and economy, Honda could’ve produced another relentlessly sensible version and still sold ’em like U2 tickets. But the company aimed much higher. These new Civics are rolling artwork. Look at those rakish rooflines, the luscious flow of metal, the way the tires fill the wheelwells (Honda claims the narrowest tireto-body gaps in the class).

■ THEY’RE DIFFERENT For the first time ever, the Civic Coupe and Sedan ride on unique wheelbases. The Coupe’s is 1.2 inches longer than last year’s wheelbase; the Sedan’s grows by a full 3.2 inches. Both body styles are nearly an inch and a half wider than their predecessors’—the Civic Sedan is now as big as an old Accord. The racy

★ ★ ★

HONDA CIVIC HYBRID MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 85


2006 car of the year

★★★★★ honda civic FROM OUR LOGBOOKS…

FROM OUR LOGBOOKS…

“WOW! THIS

“MAKES YOU

IS THE MOST

THINK MAYBE

HIGHLY STYLED

THE FUEL-

CIVIC I’VE EVER

CRISIS ERA

SEEN. MAYBE

MIGHT BE

THE MOST

TOLERABLE.”

STYLED DASH SINCE THE NSX.”

“HONDA HAS

“FEELS LIKE

MANY NEAR-

BROUGHT

A CAR IN AN

LUXURY

ENTIRELY

TANGIBLES

DIFFERENT

TO THE

CLASS.”

AFFORDABLE COMPACT

“THERE’S A

SEGMENT.”

VELVETY

FLUIDITY TO

“EASIEST

SPEEDO ON

THIS CAR’S

EVERY MOVE

THE MARKET

TO READ.

THAT SETS IT

APART.”

PERFECT FOR

“ON THE Si, I LOVE THE REV-LIMITER

WARNING THAT FLASHES

ALONGSIDE THE DIGITAL SPEEDO.

COOL.”

“Si REDEFINES THE SEGMENT.

QUICK, TONS OF FUN, ROCK-SOLID, AND

WELL EQUIPPED. IMPRESSIVE CAR AT

AN AMAZING PRICE.”

86 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

THE GRAN TURISMO

GENERATION.”


Coupe is actually 0.6 inch shorter in length and 1.4 inches lower in height than the 2005 car.

■ IT’S GOT YOUR BACK Standard equipment includes ABS with electronic brake distribution, active head restraints, front-side and side-curtain airbags, and an energy-absorbing Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure that makes extensive use of high-strength steel.

■ GO AHEAD: DRIVE HARD Don’t be fooled by the Civic’s economycar roots. The 2006s haven’t forgotten enthusiasts. Underneath is an all-new suspension, a revised strut design up front and what Honda calls a “multilink double wishbone” at the rear. The Coupe gets stiffer springs and shocks than the fourdoor, but even the Sedan EX circles the skidpad at 0.82 g. Some sport sedans don’t handle this well.

■ FIRST-CLASS ALL THE WAY The available navigation display—the first in a Civic—isn’t a low-rent unit; it’s a beauteous, 6.5-inch color touchscreen. A tilt and telescoping steering wheel is standard on all models. The available automatic is an electronically controlled fivespeed. The standard ABS is a premium four-channel system. Every Civic gets an electronic “drive-by-wire” throttle to optimize engine response in all driving conditions. And the audio system includes an auxiliary jack for an iPod or other MP3 player.

■ MORE POWER TO YA The Civic Coupe and Sedan get an SOHC, 16-valve, 1.8-liter four that utilizes a new version of Honda’s i-VTEC system to produce 140 horsepower (up 13 from the old EX) and 128 pound-feet of torque (14 more than the 2005 EX), while also improving emissions from ULEV-1 standards to the stricter ULEV-2 in all 50 states. Despite the increases in body size, fuel economy is an impressive 30/40 city/highway mpg with the automatic.

■ THEY EVEN TUNED THE “THUNK” OF THE DOORS Honda says body rigidity is up 35 percent compared with the previous model and claims the 2006 model is the quietest Civic ever. Engineers also created a special “bumping door seal” that transmits an expensive-sounding vibration through the door when it’s closed.

■ YOU CAN AFFORD ONE The base Civic Coupe DX—with ABS, six airbags, tilt/telescoping wheel, 140-horse engine, and power windows—starts at just $14,910. Even a fully loaded Sedan EX, with satellite navigation, XM Radio, and automatic transmission, costs just $21,110. ■

POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT ENGINE TYPE VALVETRAIN DISPLACEMENT COMPRESSION RATIO REDLINE POWER (SAE NET) TORQUE (SAE NET) WEIGHT TO POWER TRANSMISSION AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIOS SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR

2006 HONDA CIVIC EX SEDAN

2006 HONDA CIVIC Si COUPE

Front engine, FWD

Front engine, FWD

I-4, alum block/head

I-4, alum block/head

SOHC, 4 valves/cyl

DOHC, 4 valves/cyl

109.8 cu in/1799cc

121.9 cu in/1998cc

10.5:1

11.0:1

6800 rpm

8000 rpm

140 hp @ 6300 rpm

197 hp @ 7800 rpm

128 lb-ft @ 4300 rpm

139 lb-ft @ 6200 rpm

19.6 lb/hp

14.6 lb/hp

5-speed manual

6-speed manual

4.29:1 / 3.12:1

4.77:1 / 3.14:1

Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar

Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar

STEERING RATIO TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK BRAKES, F;R

13.7:1

13.6:1

2.7

2.7

10.3-in vented disc; 10.2-in disc

11.8-in vented disc; 10.2-in disc; ABS, EBD

WHEELS TIRES

16 x 6.5-in, cast aluminum

17 x 7.0-in, cast aluminum

205/55R16 89H Bridgestone Turanza EL400 02

215/45ZR17 91W Michelin Pilot Exalto

DIMENSIONS WHEELBASE TRACK, F/R LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT TURNING CIRCLE CURB WEIGHT WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION SEATING CAPACITY HEADROOM, F/R LEGROOM, F/R SHOULDER ROOM, F/R CARGO VOLUME TEST DATA ACCELERATION TO MPH 0-30 0-40 0-50 0-60 0-70 0-80 0-90 0-100 PASSING 45-65 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 600-FT SLALOM MT FIGURE EIGHT LATERAL ACCELERATION TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH CONSUMER INFO BASE PRICE PRICE AS TESTED STABILITY/TRACTION CONTROL AIRBAGS BASIC WARRANTY POWERTRAIN WARRANTY ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE FUEL CAPACITY EPA CITY/HWY ECON MT FUEL ECON RECOMMENDED FUEL

106.3 in

104.3 in

59.0 / 60.2 in

59.0 / 60.1 in

176.7 x 69.0 x 56.5 in

174.8 x 68.9 x 53.5 in

35.4 ft

35.6 ft

2740 lb

2871 lb

60/40 %

61/39 %

5

5

38.1 / 36.7 in

37.8 / 34.7 in

42.2 / 34.6 in

42.6 / 30.3 in

53.6 / 52.3 in

53.9 / 52.1 in

12.0 cu ft

11.5 cu ft

2.8 sec

2.4 sec

4.2

3.7

6.0

4.8

8.0

6.7

10.9

8.6

14.3

10.9

18.2

13.7

17.0

4.3 sec

3.2 sec

16.3 sec @ 85.6 mph

15.7 sec @ 93.9 mph

134 ft

122 ft

63.2 mph avg

67.2 mph avg

27.9 sec @ 0.61 g avg

26.5 sec @ 0.65 g avg

0.82 g avg

0.90 g avg

2650 rpm

2650 rpm

$18,110

$20,300 (est)

$20,310

$21,800 (est)

No / no

No / no

Dual front, front-side, f/r curtain

Dual front, front-side, f/r curtain

3 yrs/36,000 miles

3 yrs/36,000 miles

3 yrs/36,000 miles

3 yrs/36,000 miles

3 yrs/36,000 miles

3 yrs/36,000 miles

13.2 gal

13.2 gal

30/38 mpg

22/31 mpg

20.6 mpg

19.6 mpg

Unleaded regular

Unleaded premium

MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 87


(first drive) bugatti veyron 16.4

WaRP DRIVE

>> NOT A RACE CAR FOR THE ROAD— IN SPITE OF ITS 1001 HORSEPOWER AND 250+ MPH TOP SPEED—BUT THE WORLD’S MOST OUTRAGEOUS LUXURY GT. EVER >>

90 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


(first drive) pagani zonda f

●●●

words matt stone >>

●●●

photographs mark bramley >>

MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 91


(first drive) bugatti veyron 16.4

●●●

ORIGINAL European-spec 1001-horsepower estimate translates to 987 SAE net. But Bugatti has revised the Veyron’s production outputs—which means we get all 1001 and a cute gauge to prove it.

EACH HANDBUILT Bugatti Veyron costs $1.25 million. Its extraordinary W-16 engine has as many cylinders and turbochargers as four Subaru WRXs—and more horsepower. The big, bad Bug accelerates quicker than a NASCAR stocker and is faster than a Formula 1 machine, yet it’s as docile as a Lexus. It’s the fastest, quickest, and most expensive production road car ever sold. The Veyron is the vision of one man— retired VW Group chairman Ferdinand Piëch—and Bugatti won’t make a dime on its entire anticipated production run of just 300 cars (50 per year max, with approximately one third of those headed to the United States). Its main mission is the ultimate brand flagship, reintroducing this storied French marque to the marketplace in more-than-fine style. Comparisons with the Ferrari Enzo, Maserati MC12, Mercedes-Benz SLR, and the McLaren F1 of a decade ago are inevitable but irrelevant—they interpret race-car ethos into an exotic street machine. Instead, the Veyron 16.4 was conceived as the world’s ultimate luxury gran turismo, which just happens to

employ considerable race-car technology and performance to get there. A significant difference. We drove the Veyron 16.4, and, indeed, it’s an experience like no other. There isn’t enough room in this magazine to describe all its techno-wizardry, and our test gear has yet to be strapped to this amazing machine. But let’s have a look and taste of the car that’ll be parking in front of the Casino in Monte Carlo, tearing up the autobahns, and starring on the lawns of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance 50 years from now.

VEYRON: ON THE ROAD As I pilot the 16.4 through one of Sicily’s mile-long tunnels, and the speedo swings

past 280 kilometers per hour (about 174 mph), I now know what it feels like to be a hollow-point slug traveling down the barrel of a long-nose 44 Magnum. Potent forces lunge me forward, the tunnel’s lights blur into streaks, and the W-16’s subwoofered rumble is magnified by the rock walls. That tiny white dot way up ahead represents the end of the barrel, and bursting out into the daylight is as bright as any weapon’s muzzle flash. Mashing the gas brings a controlled thousand (and one!) horsepower response that must be felt to be believed. The four turbos and engine-management system serve power as fast as the tires can stand it, and the gravity presses your internal organs together. You slow down to a mere

10 coolest things about the Bugatti Veyron… 1. A SECOND KEY is required to program the car into its top “Speed” mode.

2. HOW MANY OTHER cars are ballsy enough to have a horsepower gauge?

3. THE TOP OF the engine is exposed; there’s no glass or other cover.

4. IT’LL SCORE you the best parking place at any restaurant anywhere in the world.

5. THE AUDIO system costs $30 grand. 6. SWITCH THE stability control off, and it’ll spin all four wheels in third gear.

7. GOING 0-TO-250 mph takes less than a minute.

92 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

WWWW

8. AT FULL THROTTLE

in seventh gear, the Veyron gets less than three mpg.

9. WHAT LOOKS LIKE a secondary rear spoiler is in fact an air brake.

10. BUGATTI REQUIRES a deposit of more than $350,000 just to place an order.


(first drive) bugatti veyron 16.4

100 or so, just so you can spool up the snails and do it all again. Yet, for all its brute force, there’s polish, sophistication, smoothness. The ride is firm while suppler than that of any other exotic. Hit a bump, and there’s none of the body crashing and bashing evident with many stiffly sprung, carbon-fiber intensive machines. Wind noise is commendably low, although the amount of road rumble allowed by the Veyron-specific Michelin PAX tires is dependent upon road surface and condition. The well-weighted steering responds quickly at low speeds, yet even as it heads into hyperspace, the Veyron tracks straight and true. There’s aero management at play: movable diffuser panels in the front end, speed-adjustable ride height, rear undertray diffusers, and a serious rear wing. These are necessities for a car that’ll hit 200 mph with ease. Although we’re not able to drive 250 on public roads, the Bugatti’s high-speed stability—an ongoing problem early in the car’s development—is faultless at sane, and even insane, speeds. The 8.0-liter W-16 engine is unlike anything that’s ever propelled an automobile. Its huge displacement and well-managed quartet of turbos ensure it has power any94 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

where in the rev range. In spite of the big numbers, it’s not a high-strung revver like the V-12 in the Ferrari Enzo or McLaren F1. It rumbles more like a small earthquake, the Richter-scale factor of which can be controlled by your right foot. It starts with a whirr, idles like a Rolex, and thunders out enough power to pin your spine to the seat. As amazing as the powerplant is, it’s the transmission that impresses. VW group’s dual-clutch sequential gearbox technology (Audi TT VR6, A3) has been supersized to handle this mountain of power and given seven ratios to do so. Shifts are instantaneous, with none of the lurching or delay common in other auto-clutch manuals. Downshifts are equally outstanding, accompanied by a proper, rev-matching throttle blip. Ferrari already wants to buy the design. The cabin is awash in beautiful looking/feeling/smelling materials. All the stuff that seems like satin-finished aluminum really is, and the only no-cost option is a choice of “comfort” or “sport” seats; we prefer the latter. If there’s a downer, it’s visibility. There’s a blind spot on the right side, and the left-side mirror placement isn’t ideal, either.The nav screen is embedded in the rearview mirror—good for line of

sight—but it’s way small. And the front trunk is shoebox-size, but it is enough to hold your companion’s cocktail dress and a bottle of Cristal. Bugatti has delivered on every one of the Veyron’s considerable promises. It meets the criteria set forth by Chairman Piëch when it was announced and does so with aplomb. Luxurious, elegant, imposing, exclusive, crazy expensive, and mindbendingly fast, the Veyron sets a new high watermark for grand-touring transport. ■

WW

2006 BUGATTI VEYRON 16.4

BASE PRICE

$1,250,000 (at current exchange rate)

VEHICLE LAYOUT

Mid-engine, AWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe

ENGINE

8.0L/1001-hp/922 lb-ft quad-turbo DOHC 64-valve W-16

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-62 MPH EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON ON SALE IN U.S.

7-speed auto-clutch manual 4150 lb (mfr) 106.7 in 175.7 x 78.7 x 47.4 in 2.5 sec (mfr est) Not yet rated Summer 2006


SPaCE/CRaFT >> ITALYâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S NEXT GREAT

FANTASY CAR IS COMING SOON >> (OR SOMETHING LIKE IT)

96 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


(first drive) pagani zonda f

●●●

words paul horrell >>

●●●

photographs barry hayden >>

MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 97


(first drive) pagani zonda f

>> THE PAGANI

Zonda S always was the best supercar money couldn’t buy. The new Zonda F is even more so: better than ever, more money than ever (more than half a mil, ex-taxes), and even less legal than ever—at least here in the U.S. But it’s worth your attention because it’s so exquisite, so outrageous, and so damn good. And its maker vows that, by 2008, he’ll use his skills to develop a car that complies with federal regulations. Just to help him on his way, Mercedes AMG supplies his V-12 engines. It’s hard to imagine a higher vote of confidence than that. In Europe and most of the rest of the world, Horacio Pagani’s hypercar appeared out of more or less nowhere at the turn of the millennium and from a standing start made the best efforts of Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche look stark. Think Enzo or Carrera GT. That’s where the new Zonda F has pegged its performance. It just happens to be a lot more luxurious and in many ways better to drive—for the everyday dawdle and when it’s deploying the full 594-horsepower mind warp. This car ingests roadway with a hunger that borders on violence. Straights shorten as they cascade into curves, and sequences of curves compress into one 98 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

another like an intestinal tract. Your vision tunnels ahead, your periphery blocked out by a brain working at full bandwidth to process the oncoming rush to extract those stimuli essential to guiding the car though this maelstrom. A deluge of fearsome sound issues from the V-12 and echoes back from every direction, filling the entire valley through which you drive. Your muscles tense against the immense forces

*

bend. Just squeeze ’n’ go. And yet, unlike a turbocharged engine, response is precise, each micro increment of right-foot pressure bringing its exact and rich reward—all accompanied by the sound of an early-1990s Formula 1 warmup lap. So AMG’s V-12 is sensational, but even that isn’t as good as the chassis. You’d expect immense grip, but probably not the exquisite connectedness, road feel, and confidence the Pagani provides. It magnetizes itself into corners, and in the tightest ones you feel the limit at the front tires. Then there’s the option of spooling in more power to make the rear tires work, letting the traction control take the strain. In fast corners, you get that miraculous extra sureness and balance from the downforce. We had no chance to verify it, but Pagani talks 1.3 g plus. The brakes are a match: Their power is shattering. More than that, it’s all about feel and confidence again. You pull up straight and true even if it’s bumpy, your seatbelts stretched, and your lungs involuntarily emptied. The suspension is compliant. That doesn’t just mean the Zonda can handle

THE CAR INGESTS

ROADWAY THAT BORDERS ON VIOLENCE WITH A HUNGER

of acceleration then braking then cornering. This performance is extraordinary, but so is its delivery. The sheer size of the engine allows 561 pound-feet of torque, peaking at 4000 rpm. This hectic abundance of midrange shove means you can shift gears at times when other considerations allow. There’s nothing wrong with the six-speeder’s action (it’s been finessed since the S version’s). But you don’t have to shift down to overtake; you don’t find yourself shifting because you’ve run out of revs in an unfamiliar

pizza-crusted Italian surfaces without hopping about; it means usability over long distances or when constrained by urban running—a light twin-plate clutch and decent all-round visibility helps. Indeed, the Pagani denies few amenities, despite its Le Mans-like performance. Climb across a broad sill into that bowl-like cabin and settle into a carbon bucket seat. You find effective air-conditioning, a fine stereo, and navigation. While we’re inside, check the instruments, an array that, due to their exquisite nature and unhappily tiny diameters, seems to have come from a


(first drive) pagani zonda f

watchmaker. The speedometer reads to 250 mph, so its insignificant needle barely creeps into action before you’re breaking any limit. In any other car, the idea of scarlet, quilted-leather floormats in place of carpet would seem an absurd vulgarity, but the Zonda carries it off thanks to its overall commitment to material richness and the breathtaking quality and craftsmanship. Yet there’s an oddly fragile—or at least dainty—look to it all: The seats are shells, the instruments a glazed pod, the airconditioning ducting, a visible carbonfiber structure, the pedals a set of small jeweled aluminum discs set atop bonelike levers, the glovebox a separate leather case hung below the bonelike cross-car beam. In blood red, carbon black, and polished aluminum, the test car’s interior is overwhelming. There’s something of the night about the Zonda’s exterior design, too. Its proportions are brutal, its detailing exquisite yet intimidating. Its piercing nose is short and to the point. The cockpit perches far forward, like the eye of some mythical monocular creature. Aft, the bodywork broadens into a rear deck stretched over the gigantic engine, transmission, and tires. Like the Enzo, it’s more about purpose than beauty, and some of those details could be considered fussy. But it’ll snare you the world’s best parking spot, anywhere, any time. Don’t make the mistake of believing that Pagani’s tiny production numbers deny it technology. The Zonda has a carbon-fiber tub, with chrome-moly load-bearing frames at each end, all clad in carbon bodywork of considerable lay-up quality. For the F version, much of the carbon uses a new type of mat that’s woven with fibers in three orientations, and the CroMo tubing has been honed thinner. Indeed, most changes for the F have been in pursuit of lightness as well as power. “It’s hard to remove 100 pounds from a car that was already 1000 pounds lighter than a 100 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

Mercedes SLR McLaren,” says Horacio Pagani quietly. Such is the man: as understated as his car is overstated. He hadn’t hitherto been impressed with carbon-ceramic brakes. So Brembo developed a new 380mm set for him. They weigh half as much as iron rotors and stop like a wall; but unlike most, they aren’t noisy. Much of the bodywork is subtly modified for the new F version in pursuit of aerodynamic downforce and stability, plus lightness. The suspension is even lighter now than before; it has special Öhlins adjustable shocks, and its geometry is reworked compared with the Zonda S to make best use of the colossal new, custom Michelins: 255/35R19s at the front and 335/30R20s out back. The engine represents continual development by AMG of a unit now unused by Mercedes, which has switched to forced induction for its ultimate powerhouses. Turbocharging the V-12 goes against the switchblade sharpness Pagani requires, and so AMG keeps working this engine just for Pagani. AMG engineers say they enjoy this work: The results indicate they do, too. The Zonda S already has a 7.3-liter capacity, titanium rods, and valve gear capable of 7000 rpm. For the F version, effort has gone into lightening the overall package and improving induction and exhaust flow. It now makes 594 horsepower, mandating stronger transmission internals and diff gears. So under that Plexiglas porthole, we see the new induction manifold, a set of organ pipes to satisfy the Wagner in you. They’re hydroformed from an aviation alloy to reduce wall thickness to 1 mm and provide an inner surface that doesn’t trouble the howling gale of incoming air. The exhaust manifolds are hydroformed, too, and you have a choice: 1mm-thick stainless steel or 0.7mm-thick Inconel. And that trashcan-size silencer is, as a further option, formed of titanium. As the ounces fall off, the dollars mount. By thousands. Sixty Zondas have now been sold. Some

of them have come to the U.S., albeit— cough—“not for highway use.” But Pagani knows he must serve us rightly and is planning his 2008 model. Unfortunately, to match the power of the current car while making U.S. emissions targets, he’ll likely have to use the twin-turbo AMG engine. It’ll be faster and torquier, but will it have this engine’s narcotic bite? Indeed, the same might be said of the whole car. Can it be repeated? It’s probably only this stunning level of competence that lets this car get away with such visual flamboyance. If the dynamics scorecard had but the hint of a hanging chad, you’d dismiss the looks as overwrought. The Zonda F is a force of nature: It puts you in the very eye of a storm, and it really is as exciting as it looks. More surprising, it’s good enough to justify that stratospheric price. ■ ■ ■

2005 PAGANI ZONDA F BASE PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$500,000 (est) Mid-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe

ENGINE

7.3L/594-hp/561 lb-ft DOHC 48-valve V-12

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-62 MPH ON SALE IN THE U.S.

6-speed manual 2850 lb (mfr est) 107.5 in 174.6 x 80.9 x 44.9 in

3.6 sec (mfr) Promised by 2008


(first spin) ferrari fxx

104 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx specialfxx PIERO LARDI FERRARI, ENZO’S SON, TAKES US ON THE FIRST PUBLIC LAPS OF THE OUTRAGEOUSLY FAST, SHOCKINGLY EXPENSIVE “SUPER ENZO.” AND NEARLY CRASHES IT. ■ ■

words arthur st. antoine >> photographs mark bramley >>

MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 105


(first spin) ferrari fxx

THE WINDSHIELD

is curved like a fishbowl. And we are the fish. Outside, hundreds of fans lining the pit wall of Italy’s Mugello racetrack are elbowing for a better view of the car we’re sitting in, the brand-new FXX, a supercar so rockstar excessive it makes the almighty Enzo look like a teacher’s pet. I’m in the passenger seat, lungs clamped tight by a five-point racing harness, all-too aware that every onlooker is asking in Italian, “Chi? Who the hell is that?” The man on my left, though, is recognized by all: Belted into the driver’s seat is Piero Lardi Ferrari, the 61-year-old son of Enzo Ferrari and current vice chairman (and 10-percent owner) of the automaker his father founded in 1947. Ferrari’s fingers tap the steering wheel; he’s clearly feeling the pressure of giving his company’s 789-horsepower, streetillegal “Super Enzo” its first public workout. “I’m sorry you have to ride with me,” he says with a shy smile, his face a haunting likeness of his father’s iconic profile. “I think I am not so fast.” Whether Ferrari is fast or not, the tifosi are here. Some 30,000 of them have come to Mugello to attend the final day of the annual Ferrari World Finals weekend, a racing-red orgy of speed and wealth that 106 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

includes the championship runoffs of the Ferrari Challenge race series, gala dinners for the company’s best customers, lots of European playboys arm in arm with skinny ladies in Chanel sunglasses, celebrity guests, laps by vintage Ferrari race cars, an F1 demonstration by Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, and—everywhere you look—Ferraris of every shape and description. Suddenly, a mechanic in red Ferrari overalls is signaling us with a furious twirl of his fingers. Time to go. With the press of a button, Ferrari starts Ferrari and the FXX explodes to life, the shattering exhaust note of its unfiltered, 6.3-liter V-12 causing everyone to step back and clamp their hands against their ears. Another aide in a red Ferrari racing jacket waves us out of the garage. The pit-exit light is green. The track is ours. The schedule calls for a series of gentle parade laps. But Piero Ferrari is an Italian— and driving a spectacular new Ferrari in front of a wildly enthusiastic home crowd. He stands on the gas. The FXX charges like an angry rhino onto the circuit, my view blurring into a funnel of waving spectators and onrushing asphalt as Ferrari flicks the right shift paddle again

and again, the transmission hammering up through the gears, the untrimmed carbonfiber cockpit an echo chamber with a 789-horsepower monster screaming inside it. We charge down the front straight, Ferrari leaning into the steering wheel, his right foot mashing the throttle. Ahead, approaching fast, lie the first tight turns of the tricky Mugello circuit…

“THE FXX ISN’T A CAR,” says Amedeo Felisa, Ferrari’s soft-spoken vice general manager and the man largely responsible for the last decade’s worth of Ferrari road cars. “It’s a concept.” What a concept: 29 of Ferrari’s richest, luckiest customers will become, in effect, drivers for Team Ferrari. After buying an FXX, they’ll be trained at Fiorano by Ferrari’s top drivers, test the car over the next two years during at least 12 company-supported track sessions (four each in Europe, Japan, and the United States), and share their downloaded track data with Ferrari technicians. “The FXX will not be raced,” says Felisa. “It’s a test car only. Just as Schumacher helped us develop the Enzo, we intend to use the data we obtain from our 29 FXX clients to help us produce future Ferraris of


(first spin) ferrari fxx

extreme performance. We want to build supercars that are tuned not just for professional racing drivers.” The price for this ultimate Walter Mitty fantasy: 1.6 million Euros—nearly two million U.S. dollars (that sum does include a custom driving suit and helmet, though). And, yes, all 29 FXXs are already sold. Ferrari’s code name for the Enzo was FX, so adding an extra “X” seemed appropriate for a follow-up car with something extra— and then some. The FXX is a track-only car; it has no turn signals or other “civilian” gear, and it’s designed to run on specially made 19-inch Bridgestone slicks. Behind the FXX’s cockpit, the V-12 has been enlarged from 5998 to 6262 cc and features redesigned combustion chambers, a new crankcase, a low-backpressure exhaust, and revised cam profiles—all of which increase output from the Enzo’s 651 horsepower to 800 (which converts to 789 SAE net) at 8500 rpm. Partnering the engine is an updated version of Ferrari’s paddle-shift F1 gearbox, with shift time reduced to less than 100 milliseconds, nearly as quick as Ferrari’s F1 cars. A new active aerodynamics system uses six computer-controlled actuators that, above 150 mph or so, open to redirect underbody airflow—lowering the car’s drag while also increasing downforce by roughly 40 percent compared with the Enzo. Other enhancements include specially developed Brembo compositeceramic brakes and a claimed 220-pound weight reduction (to just 2700 pounds). The result? “Although we don’t have an official acceleration number yet,” says project leader Giuseppe Petrotta, “the FXX can 108 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

reach 60 mph in about 2.8 seconds—nearly as quick as a Ferrari F1.” Then Petrotta grins. “Around Fiorano, it is six seconds per lap faster than the Enzo.”

PIERO LARDI FERRARI is going for it. He brakes hard for Mugello’s 180-degree Turn One, bangs off three rifleshot downshifts, then powers through the apex and up a sharp incline. This is no parade lap. We fly into the left-hand Luco turn, and Ferrari is back on the power. We’re out of control! Quicker than you can say arrivederci, the back end of the FXX lurches around, and we’re spinning off the track and onto the grass. For one long, sickening, sliding second, the question hangs silently but thickly in the air: Will we very publicly, very humiliatingly write off this brand-new Ferrari ultracar against the Armco, or won’t we? We don’t. The FXX twirls to a stop without breaking anything other than our adrenal glands. Ferrari turns us around, powers through the gravel at the edge of the track, and heads toward the next corner. “Cold tires,” I offer. “Sì,” Ferrari nods quietly. “Very cold.” He accelerates again, but he’s lost the fire; we’re moving much more circumspectly now. Which is a shame: Slight over-exuberance aside, Ferrari clearly knows how to drive on a racetrack. He’s smooth on the controls and knows his way into an apex. “My father would not let me go racing,” he remarks when I comment on his educated line around the circuit. “But I am not afraid of the power. I have never driven an F1, but I test every new Ferrari road car.” We stop briefly on the main straight, as

Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello climb into their F1 cars directly in front of us. Then we’re all waved off on another series of laps. I have to pinch myself: I’m not just watching Schumacher and Barrichello drive their Formula 1 Ferraris—I’m following them around a racetrack. It’s a particularly poignant moment: These are Rubens Barrichello’s last laps in a Formula 1 Ferrari. We pull into the pits so the F1 boys can cut loose. After they scream by on the front straight, I shake Piero Lardi Ferrari’s hand and thank him for the drive. “Good,” he says quietly before being surrounded by a throng of Ferrari executives and fans. I take a moment to catch my breath. This ocean of racing red, these fanatical fans, those earsplitting F1 torpedoes, this sublime FXX parked next to me, engine off but still radiating heat and passion and speed. Call Ferrari an automaker if you wish. Personally, I think it’s an opera company. ■

2006 FERRARI FXX BASE PRICE

$1.92 million (incl training/ testing/full factory support)

VEHICLE LAYOUT

Mid-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe

ENGINE

6.3L/789-hp/506 lb-ft DOHC 48-valve V-12

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON ON SALE IN U.S.

6-speed auto-clutch manual 2700 lb (mfr) 104.3 in 190.2 x 80.3 x 48.3 in 2.8 sec (mfr) Not yet rated Currently (all already sold)


(interview) chris bangle

{ THE SHAPE OF } THINGS TO COME Controversial auto designer Chris Bangle has only just begun his quest to change the world }} ■

words gavin green

}} A WILD-EYED revolutionary destroying one of Europe’s blue-chip luxury brands? The most influential automotive designer of the early 21st century? Passions run high whenever BMW’s design chief is the topic of discussion. He might have been born and raised in the Midwest, but with Bangle there is, it seems, no middle ground. Love or loathe his work, Bangle’s impact on auto design has been profound. No other designer, not even legendary GM design chief Harley Earl, has so rapidly become a part of the industry lexicon. To “bangle” a design is now an auto-industry verb for ruining it. Auto writers use “Bangle butt” to describe a tail with an extra layer of metal on the trunk (think new Mercedes S-Class). Bangle, some rivals will remind you, is only one letter away from “bungle.” Web sites petitioning for Bangle’s dismissal continue to attract support, other designers still treat him rather as the grands artistes of the Académie des beaux-arts treated the young Manet, and most auto writers still regard Bangle as the antichrist of car couture. But Bangle BMWs sell. And some critics are starting to wonder whether maybe, just maybe, this intense 47-year-old, who once considered becoming a Methodist minister before studying at the renowned Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, might be onto something. 110 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 111


(interview) chris bangle J Mays, Ford’s global design guru, is no fan, but he admits Bangle has been significant in reshaping modern cars. Martin Smith— former GM Europe design chief and now head of design for Ford of Europe—talks of him as an instigator of the trend toward “surface entertainment” in cars. Take a look at the complex forms and creases on the panels of his Frankfurt show-stopping Iosis concept— said to be the blueprint for Ford’s future European design direction—to see why Smith wholeheartedly buys into that idea. “He’s certainly the most talked about [designer],” says Patrick Le Quement, design boss of Renault and probably the world’s most admired car designer. “His designs have a great deal of presence, and they’re well proportioned. He’s been highly influential. My only concern is his use of concave surfaces: They’re hollow shapes and lack that tightly muscled look I feel helps design.” Before Bangle, premium cars—following the leads of MercedesBenz and more recently Audi—were organic, clean, simple designs. Modern cars are fussier, busier, multi-angled, more

sharply edged. That’s the Bangle influence. Bangle calls it “visual energy.” He’s to automotive visual energy what Picasso was to cubism or Gropius was to Bauhaus. “A car designer is really a sculptor,” says Bangle. “Cars are the sculptures of our everyday lives. We at BMW do not build cars as consumer objects, just to drive from A to B. We build mobile works of art.” He says he draws his influences from the world around him: “From everything. From airplanes, to boats, to cathedrals…but we try not to be too influenced by other cars.” When Christopher Edward Bangle was given the top design job at BMW in 1992, it surprised more than a few autoindustry insiders. After graduating from Art Center in the 1980s, Bangle worked for GM’s Opel division in Germany and headed Fiat’s design facility in Turin, Italy. But he’d only been credited with one complete car, the curiously angular Fiat Coupé, when he moved to Munich. No one knew what to expect. BMW was then an engineering-dominated company, as German

■■■ “ A car designer is really a sculptor…cars are the sculptures of our everyday lives. We build mobile works of art. ” ■■■

bangle influenced... 1. MERCEDES-BENZ S-CLASS

3. AUDI Q7

5. LEXUS LF-SH

Once the epitome of conservative good taste, the S-Class has now gone flashy. There’s visual entertainment galore, but the most BMW-like feature is the Bangle butt—that extra layer of steel on top of the trunk.

Audi was once the bastion of antiBangle: simple, pure, classic, organic forms. But the Q7 sport/utility vehicle has a busy body—a Bangle hallmark. The ravenous front air intakes, including the grille, and slit eyes, also are BMW influenced.

Toyota’s luxury division is a convert to Bangle-ism. Both the new GS and IS sedans have Bangle cues like strong shoulders, sheer surfaces, and a high deck. The LF-Sh concept shows Toyota will keep the faith with the next generation LS, too.

4. CADILLAC BLS

6. TOYOTA AVALON

GM’s angular and flamboyant Saabbased 3 Series rival has the deep body flanks of the 5 Series, the hard-edged high shoulders, and a noticeable angular hood crease that blends with the A-pillar. It’s bold and extroverted: pure Bangle.

The Kentucky-built Toyota is a conservative thing, as its customers demand. But this full-size sedan has unusual curling 5 Series sedan-style taillights and a Bangle butt to give some edge to the otherwise cautious shape.

2. FORD IOSIS CONCEPT This is Ford of Europe’s new design direction—though Ford in Europe changes design direction as regularly as it changes its management, so nothing can be certain. The Iosis is multi-angled, multi-planed, and has more creases than John Kerry’s face. It’s Blue Oval Bangle.

1.

3.

5.

2.

4.

6.

112 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


(interview) chris bangle auto firms invariably were. Design had an insignificant voice. Cars were tasteful, elegant, and similar in style despite size. Bangle was given license to change by managers who knew a bold step was needed—and change he did. Of BMW’s rich design DNA, only three styling genes were preserved: the twinkidney grille, the quad headlamps (although lens shapes have been revolutionized), and the Hofmeister kink—the hook in the side windows at the rear pillars, named after the BMW design director who first drew it in 1961, Wilhelm Hofmeister. The launch of the E65 7 Series in 2001 confirmed the radical change in design direction hinted at in concept cars like the muscular Z9 coupe and the oddly asymmetrical X3 coupe. It was time, insists Bangle, for a change. “The old 7 Series, the E38, was an elegant car, an evolution of the classic BMW look. But it wasn’t penetrating the luxury market as we desired. It just didn’t have the presence to be noticed. At the same time, cars were screaming for change. They were changing—new more powerful motors, way more technology, more speed—they were fundamentally different cars. Put me in one more time, and I ain’t gonna fit, they were almost saying to the designers. Factor in the changing demographics. We knew China and Asia as a whole would be the big growth markets. Our competitors were dominating in these countries in the luxury market. So we needed to do something new. Whenever you move ahead, you leave some people behind.” Did he not feel the smallest frisson of uncertainty before those covers came off the E65 7 Series, revealing the high Bangle butt, those sad, spaniel-eye headlamps, the incomprehensive iDrive (can’t blame Bangle for that, though), and all those convex and concave curves and sweeping lights that melded to give Bangle’s signature flame surfacing? Not for a moment. “We’d done our homework. We were confident. We were never going to go back to the old way.” But has the subsequent criticism—of the 7 Series, the 5 Series, the Z4 (which brilliant industrial designer and car enthusiast Marc Newson once described as having been designed with a machete), the X3, and the 1 Series—hurt? “A lot of criticism came from reactionary elements who weren’t expecting change, especially such a pronounced change, and from such a completely unexpected quarter—BMW. They forgot BMW was once renowned for its design bravery. I think perhaps we at BMW had forgotten that, too. “Yes, the press—or elements of it—were vicious. But the only thing that bothered me was when it reached my family, and it hurt them. I have a 17-year-old son, who was 13 at the time, and he was affected by the criticism. It hurt him. You need to separate the professional from the private; you need to draw the line. In fact, it probably brought us closer as a family.”

Although his name is irrevocably linked to them, Bangle takes little credit for specific Bangle-era vehicles, always citing the name of the chief designer responsible. For the 2001 7 Series, it was one of his protégés, Dutchman Adrian van Hooydonk, who has since been elevated to chief of design for the BMW brand (Bangle continues as head of design for the entire BMW family, including Mini, Rolls-Royce, and motorcycles). Bangle sees his job as “managing the conflict between corporate pragmatism—the clear need to make money—and artistic passion. My role is to inspire people, to work as an editor and a director of the whole thing, to make sure that if there are issues between ourselves and the board they’re resolved as quickly as possible. BMW felt it was time to move, they allowed us to move—we did it together. “So, yeah, I do feel we’ve kick-started this industry. It had slept for a while. Now I look around and see other car companies are waking up and starting to do good.” Now that the fuss is dying down and sales of his designs are growing, does Bangle feel vindicated? “You know, my mind is now somewhere else already. I worry that the industry isn’t looking far enough forward. We’re closing in rapidly at the end of the current paradigm in the evolution of the car, and if this paradigm lasts beyond 2020, I’ll be amazed. After that, cars, as we understand them now, will be different animals. “We as an industry know change is happening, but we don’t seem to be able to deal with it. The design schools— which are way too conservative—aren’t researching this; the relationship between engineering and design is in a stasis. But, man, we’ve got to go so much further. We need engineers to be prepared to go up front and lead!” The key issues, contends Bangle, include urban congestion, pollution, and that the automobile is beyond the economic reach of many people, especially in the developing countries where makers are targeting growth. Cars— or, more accurately, personal-mobility devices—need to be made much cheaper. “Automobiles are now like computers in 1952. We’re a long way from PCs that you go down to Wal-Mart to pick up. We’re miles from where personal mobility could be if it achieves the efficiency and lost-cost dynamic we’ve come to expect from other industries. So come on, guys, let’s roll!” ■

■■■ “ Automobiles are now like computers were in 1952. We’re a long way from PCs that you go down to Wal-Mart to pick up. ” ■■■

114 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


IN THE BEGINNING, there was Eldo versus Mark III and IV, a recurring battle of personal luxobarges referred to as “King of the Hill” by Motor Trend in the 1970s. As the years went by, Lincoln departed Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, and General Motors announced its intention to remake Cadillac the “standard of the world.” Other European brands have more sporting intentions, but none owns the fast German autobahns more than Mercedes’s torquerich AMG machines, the CLS55 being one of its newest—and sexiest. Its AMG-built 5.4-liter V-8 mit kompressor is good for 469 horsepower and a pavement-pounding 516 pound-feet of torque that pushes 4307 pounds of steel, aluminum, plastic, leather, and suede.

yawanwolbblownaway

The king of the hill is dead. Long live the king of the autobahn ■ words todd lassa ■ photographs evan klein

116 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


cadillac sts-v vs. mercedes cls55 amg (head to head)

â&#x153;Ł

BUT CADILLAC is fighting back with its own 469 horses, complements of its new GM Performance Division-engineered Northstar V-8 SC, in one of its most powerful American production cars ever. The blown 4.4-liter makes 439 pound-feet at 3800 rpm in an upright, full four-door sedan. Before you reach for a pen or Blackberry, know we tried to get an E55 AMG to rub against the Caddy, as it more resembles the STS-v in terms of roofline and price. But Mercedes couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t come up with one during our test window and offered this instead. The mechanicals are the same; simply adjust the base MSRP downward by about five grand for the E55.

blownawayyawanwolb MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 117


(head to head) cadillac sts-v vs. mercedes cls55 amg

Seventy mph is legal on most Michigan Interstates, and it’s a quick shot through Northern Indiana and Chicago to Milwaukee, although the last two will seriously slow you down. Milwaukee has a large German-American population, a history of brewing beer, and a cool, avantgarde architecture art museum for photography. So we took I-94. The flog began at a German-sounding American course, the “Lutzring” (a track at GM’s Proving Grounds) for a test of each car’s handling abilities. At this venue,

neither exhibits super quick or communicative steering, but both handle more like sport sedans than full-size luxury cars. On public roads, the CLS55’s heavy steering and wide AMG tires become a deficit at low speeds. At parking-lot pace, it feels like non-assisted steering. On the track, the Mercedes’s five-speed automatic gets confused, not always knowing whether to downshift or upshift when you toe in and back out of the throttle. The Caddy features the first application of GM’s smooth new six-speed automatic,

autobahn abilities

GERMANY’S AUTOBAHNS aren’t like the wilds of Montana were in those reasonable and prudent days. Speeds are regulated to 120 kph (about 72 mph) around many interchanges, and slower traffic frequently blocks the passing lane, so the best ’bahn burners are those that can build and shed big speeds quickly and repeatedly. Mercedes showed its home-court advantage in most of our high-speed tests, though Cadillac boasts slightly quieter cruising. ■ frank markus CADILLAC STS-v MERCEDES-BENZ CLS55 AMG Acceleration 60-120 mph 100-140 mph Braking 120-60 mph 130-0 mph Interior sound level* cruising @ 90 mph

13.3 sec 15.7 sec

9.7 sec 10.4 sec

351 feet 553 feet

346 feet 546 feet

69.8 dBA

70.6 dBA

*As measured by Sneezy, GM’s sound-measuring mannequin (developed in Aachen, Germany) with a human-shaped head to perceive noise as humans do.

118 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

which serves the STS-v well at the Lutzring, whether you tap the gearshift up and down or let its sport mode pick the right gear, usually second or third here. The STS-v is biased toward understeer, while the Cad’s attitude is neutral around the ’ring. It doesn’t rotate until it’s too late and then oversteer whips the tail. The Benz lets you steer with the throttle, progressively wagging its tail out. Things change when reengaging traction and stability controls and taking to public roads. Cadillac’s StabiliTrak will fishtail the STS-v out of power-on turns, while the Benz’s electronic stability program gets jiggy on the throttle and ABS, holding momentum on a tighter leash. Once grip reestablishes itself, the CLS55 becomes a runaway freight train, able to thrust itself past mere mortal V-8s as if they were stuck in neutral. Cadillac’s powerhouse is nearly as impressive, but the torque deficit is obvious through the seat of your pants. After hitting 105.7 mph in the quarter mile, the Caddy struggles to reach 140 mph on our track, while the Merc does 114.5 mph and continues on to 140 as if it’s a day in the park. You won’t legally, sanely drive that fast, but Cadillac will sell the STS-v in Europe in minute numbers (North American volume will be about 2000 per year) as an image builder. On the real autobahn, quick spurts to 250 kph (about 140 mph) aren’t uncommon, so this matters. Braking and lateral grip figures


Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz deliver artful design work: The STS-v chiseled and American, the AMG swoopy and arching

LOCATION COURTESY THE MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM

â&#x153;£

MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 119


(head to head) cadillac sts-v vs. mercedes cls55 amg

This pair is more alike than you think, right down to the horsepower rating reveal the cars to be equally matched. Both have fine, stitched-leather instrument panels. GMPD contracted Drexel Meyer, which also does Maybach’s leather, to handle the leather and suede hides on the STS-v’s dash, seats, and door panels. And it has heated rear seats, while the Benz has them only up front. But the Cadillac driver seat isn’t as comfortable for long hauls, especially compared with the Mercedes’s

well-bolstered perforated leather and suede front seats. The v treatment is added to an STS interior, but falls short of its luxury intentions. This (admittedly good) patch job can’t match an interior designed richly from the carpeting up, especially now that Mercedes is rebounding on interior quality. Among the CLS55’s many interior tricks is its dynamic driver’s seat, in which the

bolsters hold you in turns at the press of a button. Turn left, and the right bolster pumps up, and vice versa. It seems overwrought when gently changing lanes, but it’s good on tight turns. Standard nav systems, monthly-fee satellite radio, and cruise control help eat up a 785-mile round-trip. Neither navigation system is easy to use, sometimes providing incorrect information (note to

supercharging the northstar

BEHOLD CADILLAC’S first production supercharged engine. Its official SAE-certified horsepower rating of 469 is the highest for any factory Cadillac, including all the jumbo-block SAE-gross-rated behemoths of the 1960s and early 1970s. Making power is all about getting air into cylinders. This can be done the Corvette Z06 way, using great big lungs, or by forcing air in with a blower. Cadillac reckoned the latter approach had a better chance of delivering the refinement and smooth idle demanded of a $77,090 car. Air enters through an 80mm throttle body, flows around back of the engine and into the valley, where it’s sucked up 5 into the largest production Roots blower going. Spinning at 2.1 times crank 6 speed, the air is pressurized to 12 psi before flowing up through a Laminova intercooler (water runs through tubes lined with closely spaced fins). The cooling fins drop pressure to 10 psi and quell the blower pulses. Air then U-turns and flows straight down into the intake valves to meet its octane-fueled destiny. Intake and exhaust valve timing are variable. Spent exhaust gases exit via extrude-honed ports, through cast manifolds and out through oversize catalysts and twin 2.5-inch sewer pipes. The 469 horses arrive at 6400 rpm, but at least 395 of the

120 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

439 peak pound-feet of torque are available between 2200 and 6000 rpm. Fuel economy trails the naturally aspirated STS by three mpg city, six highway. And the idle quality is better, thanks to the added rotational inertia. There’s way more to this Northstar than just a bolt-on blower, though. HERE ARE THE HIGHLIGHTS 1. The aluminum block is sand cast instead of die cast, necessitating 2mm smaller bore for better fatigue life. 7 2. Block and head castings undergo 8 special T7 heat treatment and stabilization for strength. 4 3. Intake valve seats are copper infiltrated 3 2 for better heat dissipation and wear. 4. Head gaskets reinforced to withstand 1 9:1 compression plus 10 psi boost. 5. Bigger oil jets cool the pistons with three gallons of oil per minute. 6. Oil pump, filter are higher capacity. 7. Two mufflers quiet intake roar upstream of supercharger. 8. Starter lives below blower in the valley for improved life (no road splash). 9. Low-restriction domino-shaped mass-airflow sensor replaces screen type (not shown). ■ frank markus * Note: XLR-v engine shown


POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT ENGINE TYPE

Cadillac: Milwaukee has more than four hotels). And Cadillac’s GM cruise control doesn’t have a cancel switch. Mercedes’s nav system (which doesn’t have a “lawyer” screen you must acknowledge before using it) is better, but only by virtue of not being as confusing or confused as the Cadillac’s. Mercedes’s Sirius sat radio and Cadillac’s XM have good selections of clear, digital sound. For buyers of either car, the quality of the leather and the nav systems will go far in determining which automaker gets the monthly payment. By this standard, the Mercedes CLS55 would nab the old “King of the Hill” title. V-Series upgrades make the Cadillac a contender in this field, but they’re like a baked-on layer of quality material, while the Benz’s level of quality is deep fried to the bone. To the issue of which owns the autobahn, American or otherwise, the STS-v does such an honest job that one no longer needs to ask whether Cadillac deserves to play in this universe. The STS-v appears the better buy, but with a major caveat. Cadillac is new to this price territory: Can it play at $75K plus, and is it likely to hold its value as well as BMW and MercedesBenz models do? If not, then its up-front price advantage will dwindle. Which is king of the autobahn? The CLS55’s outstanding performance, superb high-speed stability, and impressive cabin make the difference, even for a few dollars more. That Cadillac’s entry is a credible large luxury/ performance sport sedan makes it a winner in its own right. Well done, but the Mercedes still gets the crown. ■

2006 CADILLAC STS-v

2006 MERCEDES-BENZ CLS55 AMG

Front engine, RWD

Front engine, RWD

Supercharged 90° V-8, aluminum block/heads

Supercharged 90° V-8, aluminum block/heads

VALVETRAIN DISPLACEMENT COMPRESSION RATIO REDLINE POWER (SAE NET) TORQUE (SAE NET) WEIGHT TO POWER TRANSMISSION AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIOS SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR

DOHC, 4 valves/cyl

SOHC, 3 valves/cyl

266.7 cu in / 4371cc

331.9 cu in / 5439cc

9.0:1

9.0:1

6600 rpm

6500 rpm

469 hp @ 6400 rpm*

469 hp @ 6100 rpm

439 lb-ft @ 3800 rpm*

516 lb-ft @ 2650 rpm

9.3 lb/hp

9.2 lb/hp

6-speed automatic

5-speed automatic

3.23:1 / 2.16:1

2.65:1 / 2.20:1

Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, self-leveling shocks, anti-roll bar

Multilink, coil and air springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil and air springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar

STEERING RATIO TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK BRAKES, F;R

17.2:1

14.7:1

2.9

2.8

14.0-in vented disc; 14.3-in vented disc, ABS

14.2-in vented, drilled disc; 13.0-in vented, drilled disc, ABS

WHEELS, F;R TIRES, F;R

18 x 8.5-in; 19 x 9.5-in cast alum

19 x 8.5-in; 19 x 9.5-in cast alum

255/45R18 99Y; 275/40R19 101Y Pirelli Euphoria

255/35ZR19 96Y; 285/30ZR19 98Y Bridgestone Potenza REO50A

DIMENSIONS WHEELBASE TRACK, F/R LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT TURNING CIRCLE CURB WEIGHT WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION SEATING CAPACITY HEADROOM, F/R LEGROOM, F/R SHOULDER ROOM, F/R CARGO VOLUME TEST DATA ACCELERATION TO MPH 0-30 0-40 0-50 0-60 0-70 0-80 0-90 0-100 PASSING 45-65 MPH 1⁄4 MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH BRAKING, 100-0 MPH LATERAL ACCELERATION TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH CONSUMER INFO BASE PRICE PRICE AS TESTED STABILITY/TRACTION CONTROL AIRBAGS BASIC WARRANTY POWERTRAIN WARRANTY ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE FUEL CAPACITY EPA CITY/HWY ECON MT FUEL ECON RECOMMENDED FUEL

116.4 in

112.4 in

62.0 / 62.8 in

62.7 / 63.1 in

197.6 x 72.6 x 58.2 in

193.5 x 73.7 x 54.7 in

39.0 ft

36.7 ft

4376 lb

4307 lb

56 / 44 %

52 / 48 %

5

4

38.7 / 37.9 in

36.9 / 36.1 in

42.6 / 38.3 in

42.1 / 35.0 in

58.6 / 57.4 in

56.2 / 56.0 in

13.8 cu ft

15.8 cu ft

1.9 sec

1.8 sec

2.7

2.4

3.7

3.2

4.8

4.3

6.3

5.3

8.0

6.5

9.8

8.1

11.9

9.8

2.3 sec

2.0 sec

13.3 sec @ 105.7 mph

12.5 sec @ 114.5 mph

114 ft

116 ft

317 ft

320 ft

0.90 g avg

0.91 g avg

1650 rpm

1800 rpm

$77,090

$89,075

$77,090

$94,195

Yes/yes

Yes/yes

Dual front, front sides, f/r curtain

Dual front, front sides, f/r curtain

4 yrs / 50,000 miles

4 yrs / 50,000 miles

4 yrs / 50,000 miles

4 yrs / 50,000 miles

4 yrs / 50,000 miles

Unlimited

17.5 gal

21.1 gal

14 / 20 mpg

14 / 20 mpg

17 mpg

18 mpg

Unleaded premium

Unleaded premium

*SAE certified

MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 121


(comparison)

130 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


CADILLAC SRX V8 VS. MERCEDES-BENZ R500 vs. VOLVO XC90 V8

jointheclub ...or buy the club and change the rules ■

words chris walton

photographs john kiewicz

MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 131


(comparison)

132 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


THE MERCEDES-BENZ

IS A DARING EXPERIMENT THAT RESULTS IN A PREMIUM VEHICLE THAT COULD CHANGE THE WAY PEOPLE EXAMINE THEIR NEEDS

THIS IS A CASE

of the Smiths versus the Joneses. For the Joneses, the ideal vehicle carries a ton of groceries, hauls friends to the nearest mountain-bike trail, totes the kid and five of his teammates to weekly practice, and perhaps ushers the boss and his wife to dinner and a show. The Joneses need a modern minivan, the most reasoned, well-conceived, and best allaround family vehicle on the planet. The Smiths, on the other hand, are far more demanding—and better financed. They want the same convenience, plus the all-weather flexibility and confidence of allwheel drive as well as a high-tech V-8 with over 300 horsepower nestled behind a grille emblem that says, “I can afford the best.” A minivan, despite its rationale, just won’t do. The Smiths can afford to drive past the minivan lot and into a premium-marque showroom. In fact, for the price of just one of the following V-8 crossovers, the Smiths could afford two minivans. Case in point: Our Cadillac SRX V8 AWD starts at just under $50,000. The SRX’s architecture is based on the CTS sedan. The glass and sheetmetal on the rear converts it into a large wagon; the third-row seats, and AWD system add about 850 pounds. It takes roughly a minute (even with practice) to raise or lower the poweroperated acrobatic seatbacks once all the preordained criteria are met. In fact, nifty as it sounds, the third-row seating is hardly suitable for adults and requires a nimble preteen to even land a butt back there. Cadillac must have felt it needed poweroperated rear seats, but the aggravation MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 133


(comparison) CADILLAC SRX V8 AWD

factor hardly seems worth the effort or added $1100 cost (including rear air). The SRX doesn’t offer curtain airbags in the third row, as do the Mercedes or Volvo. Couple this with the smallest cargo dimensions of the group, and the SRX feels compromised as a viable crossover/sport tourer/thingy for seven adults. Unfettered by its defeatable electronic safety nannies, however, the SRX is the most nimble of our contenders, posting the best slalom and skidpad figures. Its ride quality, even without the aid of optional magnetic ride control, led the field by a comfortable and quiet margin. Conversely, the vehicle with the most powerful V-8 in the group at 320 horsepower (also with the best weightto-power ratio), finished last in acceleration. Equipped as our tester was, the SRX’s total 134 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

came to $56,590. That’s a bunch of money to feel inconvenienced by the seating and shortchanged by the cargo and accelerative aspects. Think of the SRX as a comfortable, tall wagon with a third-row seat added as an afterthought. Also based, if somewhat loosely, on a sedan, the Volvo XC90 gets stretched three ways, adds an all-wheel-drive system, a third row of seats, and hosts an engine not currently available in any other Volvo. Co-developed with Yamaha, this unusual 60-degree V-8 is mounted transversely, unlike the others’ 90-degree front/back V-8s. The Volvo V-8 was engineered to be a light, compact, powerful yet fuel-efficient engine, and it does the job as advertised. It’s a gem of a motor. At only 4.4 liters, the Volvo V-8 is the smallest here, yet holds its


(comparison) MERCEDES-BENZ R500

own with the American and German mills, earning second-quickest honors. It sounds good doing it, too, though its sometimes befuddled six-speed automatic hunted for gears. The suspension motions are heavyduty SUV in nature, but this makes sense when you realize this is the only one, with 28- and 20-degree approach/departure angles, that can actually go off-road. Where the Volvo outshines the SRX is in interior design and engineering. That the third-row received as much attention as the second-row seating is obvious. Stowing or assembling the third row takes 10 to 15 seconds, without the “convenience” of electric motors. Further, headrests always remain attached and flip up or down as needed. While climbing into the rearmost seats is nearly as difficult as in the Cadillac, 136 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

the reward is an adult-size perch replete with side-curtain airbags. If the Smiths were looking for a true seven-passenger sport/utility, the Volvo doesn’t surrender running shoe comfort at the expense of hiking boot capability. It’s a solid choice for those who’d prefer the look of an SUV, with the flexibility of a minivan and the safety of a Volvo. Coming in at the lowest base- and as-tested price doesn’t hurt, either—a concern for many. On the test track, the Mercedes-Benz R500 took first place in acceleration and narrowly missed (by two feet from 60 mph) in braking, a feat unexpected from a 5200pound vehicle. No doubt aided by its multimode electronic seven-speed automatic, which seems to have the correct ratio for every occasion, it’ll even skip over gears if


(comparison) VOLVO XC90 V8

Left: In the second row, Volvo offers the industry’s only sliding, certified child booster seat. conditions dictate an urgent downshift. Despite a stability system that can’t be fully defeated, the R500 still managed to hold the skidpad with nearly the same tenacity as the less electronically restrained SRX. In 138 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

fact, the R500 nipped out the others in our figure-eight test, transitioning more adeptly between acceleration, braking, and cornering. Our staff is split on the efficacy of the R500’s optional Airmatic suspension. Some appreciate the adjustability between “sport” and “comfort,” while others think it represents a bandage to an underengineered suspension system. We have driven examples with and without it, but it’s still ideal to have the option. The MercedesBenz interior accommodations trump all in this test. It has the expected elegance and options (DVD player, rear air, giant sunroof), plus the inherent configurability of this new platform. It boasts honest-to-six-foot-goodness seating for six adults that’s as accessible as it is spacious. The cargo cavern in the


(comparison)

0.1

R-Class is by far the most useful: Even with all rows of seating occupied, it still has over 15 cubic feet of room behind the third row. Downside? Price—maybe even for a more affluent shopper. At over $56,000 for the base R500, that’s still a lot of money for a family that watches HBO on a big-screen plasma TV. Regardless, a barebones R500 would’ve beaten our loaded SRX for reasons that have nothing to do with its optional equipment. Would the R500 have been $6000 better than the $49,000 Volvo? Yes, because the package itself is farther reaching and more accommodating. Our R500 test model had nearly every available option and totaled almost $71,000, but the V-6 R350 starts at $48,775. The R500 is neither compromised by the limitations of a sedan platform nor stigmatized by the trappings of a minivan. What it is can be defined by what it does— and that’s just about everything. Not only has Mercedes nailed the functional side of this equation, it’s also got the chic look the Smiths are after, and the hardware to make it all work well. The Mercedes-Benz R500, whatever you want to call it, is the winner among this crowd. ■

■ ■ ■ ■ ■ 1ST PLACE MERCEDES-BENZ R500

0.2

Mercedes throws definitions out the window and builds the right vehicle for those with a fat income. It’s a daring experiment that results in a premium vehicle that could change the way people examine their needs.

■ ■ ■ ■ ■ 2ND PLACE VOLVO XC90 V8 Sticking to the program, Volvo has done a terrific job of making a seven-passenger SUV work in more ways than many others have thus far. If you go off-road, your family can do so safely and in comfort. The XC90 also offers the best value message among this trio.

■ ■ ■ ■ ■ 3RD PLACE CADILLAC SRX V8 AWD

0.3 140 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

Cadillac takes the wagon theme to new heights of premium performance but comes up short for seven passengers. Skip the third-row option.


POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT ENGINE TYPE VALVETRAIN DISPLACEMENT COMPRESSION RATIO POWER (SAE NET) TORQUE (SAE NET) WEIGHT TO POWER TRANSMISSION AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIOS SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR

STEERING RATIO TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK BRAKES, F;R WHEELS TIRES, F;R DIMENSIONS WHEELBASE TRACK, F/R LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT GROUND CLEARANCE TURNING CIRCLE CURB WEIGHT WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION, F;R TOWING CAPACITY SEATING CAPACITY HEADROOM, F/M/R LEGROOM, F/M/R SHOULDER ROOM, F/M/R CARGO VOL BEHIND F/M/R MAX CARGO FLOOR LENGTH WIDTH BET WHEELHOUSES CARGO LIFT-OVER HEIGHT TEST DATA ACCELERATION TO MPH 0-30 0-40 0-50 0-60 0-70 0-80 0-90 0-100 PASSING 45-65 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 100-0 MPH BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 600-FT SLALOM LATERAL ACCELERATION MT FIGURE EIGHT TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH CONSUMER INFO BASE PRICE PRICE AS TESTED STABILITY/TRACTION CONTROL AIRBAGS BASIC WARRANTY POWERTRAIN WARRANTY ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE FUEL CAPACITY EPA CITY/HWY ECON MT-OBSERVED FUEL ECON RECOMMENDED FUEL

* Electronically limited.

2006 CADILLAC SRX V8 AWD

2006 MERCEDES-BENZ R500

2006 VOLVO XC90 V8

Front engine, AWD 90° V-8, aluminum block/heads DOHC, 4 valves/cyl 278.6 cu in / 4565cc 10.5:1 320 hp @ 6400 rpm 315 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm 14.7 lb/hp 5-speed automatic 3.23:1 / 2.42:1 Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar 20.0:1 3.4 12.7-in vented disc; 12.6-in vented disc, ABS 18 x 8.0-in, cast aluminum 235/60R18 102V; 255/55R18 104V Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 M+S

Front engine, AWD 90° V-8, aluminum block/heads SOHC, 3 valves/cyl 301.8 cu in / 4945cc 10.0:1 302 hp @ 5600 rpm 339 lb-ft @ 2700 rpm 17.3 lb/hp 7-speed automatic 3.70:1 / 2.70:1 Control arms, adj air springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, adj air springs, anti-roll bar 18.6:1 3.6 13.8-in vented disc; 13.0-in vented disc, ABS 18 x 8.0-in, cast aluminum 255/55R18 105H; 255/55R18 105H Continental 4x4 Contact M+S

Front engine, AWD 60° V-8, aluminum block/heads DOHC, 4 valves/cyl 269.4 cu in / 4414cc 10.4:1 311 hp @ 5850 rpm 325 hp @ 3900 rpm 15.7 lb/hp 6-speed automatic 3.33:1 / 2.23:1 Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar 15.9:1 3.0 13.2-in vented disc; 12.1-in vented disc, ABS 18 x 8.0-in, cast aluminum 235/60R18 102V; 235/60R18 102V Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 M+S

116.4 in 61.9 / 62.2 in 194.9 x 72.6 x 67.8 in 8.2 in 39.7 ft 4719 lb 51 / 49% 4250 lb 7 40.3 / 38.4 / 35.0 in 42.1 / 41.0 / 24.2 in 58.7 / 57.6 / 43.6 in 69.5 / 32.4 / 8.4 cu ft 72.5 in 36.0 in 31.0 in

126.6 in 65.5 / 65.3 in 203.0 x 77.5 x 65.2 in 5.8 in 40.7 ft 5210 lb 52 / 48% Not equipped 6 39.8 / 40.4 / 37.2 in 39.8 / 36.2 / 32.4 in 60.3 / 59.6 / 52.8 in 85.0 / 42.2 / 15.2 cu ft 87.0 in 44.5 in 29.0 in

112.6 in 64.3 / 63.9 in 188.9 x 74.7 x 70.2 in 8.9 in 40.0 ft 4878 lb 54 / 46% 5000 lb 7 39.7 / 38.4 / 35.5 in 41.0 / 34.6 / 30.1 in 58.3 / 57.4 / 54.0 (MT est) in 85.1 / 43.3 / 8.8 cu ft 74.5 in 44.5 in 32.5 in

2.7 sec 4.0 5.5 7.4 9.4 12.1 15.3 18.9 3.7 sec 15.6 sec @ 91.1 mph 352 ft 124 ft 60.9 mph avg 0.80g avg 28.3 sec @ 0.61g avg 1800 rpm

2.1 sec 3.3 4.8 6.5 8.6 11.1 14.2 17.7 3.5 sec 14.9 sec @ 92.0 mph 363 ft 126 ft 57.5 mph avg* 0.78g avg* 28.2 sec @ 0.60g avg* 1900 rpm

2.5 sec 3.8 5.4 7.0 9.1 11.7 14.6 18.1 3.4 sec 15.4 sec @ 92.4 mph 372 ft 129 ft 58.2 mph avg* 0.77g avg* 28.3 sec @ 0.60g avg* 1600 rpm

$49,895 $56,590 Yes/yes Dual front, front-side, f/m curtain 4 yrs/50,000 miles 4 yrs/50,000 miles 4 yrs/50,000 miles 20.0 gal 15/20 mpg 14.2 mpg Premium unleaded

$56,275 $70,770 Yes/yes Dual front, front-side, f/m/r curtain 4 yrs/50,000 miles 4 yrs/50,000 miles Unlimited 25.1 gal 13/18 mpg 14.0 mpg Premium unleaded

$46,535 $49,840 Yes/yes Dual front, front-side, f/m/r curtain 4 yrs/50,000 miles 4 yrs/50,000 miles 4 yrs/50,000 miles 21.1 gal 15/21 mpg 14.8 mpg Premium unleaded

Tested separately, this R500 is equipped differently from the one on page 70.

MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 141


(newcomers) ■ jaguar super v8 portfolio

top floor, please

THE

PENTHOUSE SUITE OF JAGUAR

SEDANS

THE PREMIUM luxury-car buyer is a lucky one, with so many posh and polished models fighting for their annual bonus. For carmakers, though, it’s tough turf: BMW has freshened the 7 Series to solid reviews, the Audi A8 is a topline player, and the soon-to-be-updated Lexus LS 430 remains a strong seller. Add to this an all-new version of this segment’s flagship, the all-important Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Even though Jaguar’s XJ lineup is entering just its third model year, it can’t dawdle on the existing, and hasn’t. The 2006

XJ roster has been updated, and capped with a ne plus ultra model called the Portfolio. You still can choose between short- and long-wheelbase platforms, the latter about five inches longer between the wheels, with all that space ending up in the rear-passenger space. Each available in naturally aspirated (now 300 horsepower) and supercharged (400 horse, up from 390) V-8 powertrains. All get new chrome mesh front grilles, revised wheel designs, improved braking, Bluetooth and optional Sirius radio capability, upgraded auto systems, and numerous enhancements aimed at making the big Jags quieter. The Super V8 Portfolio goes it all a step better. Its most unique design element is the

146 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

aluminum power vents at the trailing edge of the front fenders. The SV8P gets the full performance powertrain/ suspension/brake package, plus larger tailpipes and a special 20-inch wheel using the same logo Jag used on its race cars in the 1950s—way cool. Cabin trim goes way up, in the form of a fixed rear center console and adjustable rear seats, super soft “Conker” leather, suedefabric headliner, satin-finished American black walnut veneers, and, yes, those cute fold-down picnic tables. The Portfolio comes in long-wheelbase form only. Besides all the tactile benefits served up by the Portfolio, the driving experience is sublime. The blown V-8/ZF six-speed combo has always been a happy one, and while not packing the punch or cachet of Mercedes and BMW V-12s, it leaves little else to be desired. Since the chassis is lighter than its steel-bodied rivals, the performance deficit isn’t as large as you may think. The revised braking package yields better feel and more modulation. Much noticed is the sound-deadening benefit courtesy of the new dash insulator and tunnel, hood, and door liners, and revised glass. This car is quiet, exhibiting far

less road rumble and wind noise than the previous XJ. Jags are meant to perform, yes, but with more suppleness than the edgier German brands. By the way, you’re still stuck with the outmoded J-gate shifter quadrant, but most buyers in this class probably select Drive and forget about it anyway. Simply put, the Super V8 Portfolio is the finest Jaguar sedan ever offered. At $115,595, it should be, but it’s gentleman’s-club comfortable, well equipped, and gorgeous. Just 145 will be sold in the U.S., making it something special for those whose tastes don’t favor a German hyper-luxury sedan. ■ matt

stone

2006 JAGUAR SUPER V8 PORTFOLIO BASE PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$115,995

F ront engine, RWD, 4-pass, 4-door sedan

ENGINE

TRANSMISSION WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON ON SALE IN U.S.

4.2L/400-hp/413 lb-ft supercharged DOHC 32-valve V-8

6 -speed automatic 124.4 in 205.3 x 76.5 x 57.3 in 5.3 sec (MT est) 13.6 @ 106 (MT est) 17/24 mpg Currently


■ toyota RAV4 v6 sport (newcomers)

here’s the beef

TOYOTA’S GETS BIG

COMPACT SUV

V-6 POWER FOR

Alan Greenspan, inflation is something to be met with resistance. But for Toyota’s redesigned thirdgeneration RAV4—now available for the first time with a V-6 engine—inflation may be just the ticket. While SUV buyers are shedding mega-’utes at the horror of $120 refuelings, the RAV4’s expanded new size —a whopping 14 inches in length—converts what’s been a compact SUV into a flexible alternative. With the driver seat positioned for this scribe’s six-foot one-inch frame, second-row knee room

is still a leg-crossing 3.5 inches. Surprising too are the split rear seats that can be slid approximately 4.5 inches forward to expand rear cargo room or tilted back 25 degrees. Optionally, there’s also a new hypercompact foldin-the floor third-row seat that’s basically a kid department, though roomier than a few we’ve recently visited. Steeply inclined rear shocks are reason enough for the extra rear interior volume, though it doesn’t detract from rearwheel travel in mild offroading. The RAV’s greater size and V-6 caused murmurs that it might be creeping too far into the Highlander’s market nest. Perhaps, but it takes just one green light to differentiate them.

Where the 230-horse V-6 Highlander is powered by the Camry’s 3.3-liter mill, the RAV4’s thumping 269-horsepower, 3.5-liter six is snitched from the Avalon’s engine cradle—dual variable camshafts and all. The result is the giddy acceleration (Toyota claims sub-seven seconds to 60 mph) only vehicles with inappropriate quantities of power can provide. Coupled to its standard five-speed auto trans, expect mileage of about 20 city/28 highway for frontdrive versions, one fewer highway mpg for the 4x4. The base 2.4-liter fourbanger has been upgraded to 166 horsepower and splined to a four-speed automatic. It provides a steady-as-she-goes tow-rope ride to cruising speeds while delivering 24/31 mpg for the 4x2 version, 23/29 cited for the four-wheel drivers. Three levels of trim are available, regardless of engine—Base, Sport, or Limited. The Sport offers a firmer suspension (a mite too stiff-legged for comfortable off-roading), wider 235/55R18 tires replacing the base 215/70R16s (four-cylinder engine) or 225/65R17s (V-6), smoked-looking headlamp bezels, and a blackout grille and roof rails. The Limited goes the premium-look route

with chrome grille, leather interior details, power seats, and comfortable-riding 225/65R17 tires. Options include a tow package that can haul 3500 pounds with the V-6. The RAV4 is nimbler than ever, due to the steering rack’s direct mounting to the frame, and its reflexes are especially striking in the nimble Sport version, where the RAV4 feels like a sports car in hiking boots. Combined with a firm brake pedal and the sledgehammer V-6, the vehicle that originated the small, carbased SUV segment in this country might represent an inflation approved even by a worrywart like Greenspan. ■ kim

reynolds

2006 TOYOTA RAV4 V6 SPORT BASE PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$22,500 (est)

F ront engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV

ENGINE

TRANSMISSION WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT CURB WEIGHT 0-60 MPH EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON ON SALE IN U.S.

3.5L/269-hp/ 246 lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6

5 -speed automatic 104.7 in 181.1 x 73.0 x66.3 in 3655 lb 6.9 sec (MT est) 20/27 mpg January 2006

MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 147


■ toyota yaris

BRAIN VANCE

(newcomers) ■ pontiac g6 gtp

excitable boy GM’S self-declared Excitement Division has been trying to find its pulse lately. Although the Firebird is gone and the Northstar-powered Bonneville GXP tanked, the new V-8-fortified Grand Prix is interesting, and the 400-horse GTO remains a Motor Trend favorite. For 2006, the G6 has begat a coupe, and it retains the sedan’s 112.3-inch wheel-

base in the name of morethan-occasional rear-seat head and legroom. The G6 is available with the workaday 201-horse, 3.5-liter V-6 or a beefier 3.9-liter version good for 240 horsepower in GTP trim. The latter includes handsome 18-inch rolling stock, sportier suspension tuning, standard StabiliTrak, and the choice of

echo eraser YOU’D think replacing the Echo would be one of the easier roles a new model could be assigned. When it was introduced in 2000, the Toyota’s Roger Rabbit styling pigeonholed it the class clown of the model year, and no amount of affordability could unspill the milk. But the two Yaris models replacing it—a chic three-door liftback and a trendy sedan—still have a tough mission, even at a sub-

$13,000 base price. And that’s to demonstrate that the Japanese automotive powerhouse can compete with South Korea (and soon China) in building blue-light-special entry-level vehicles. Inside, both cars are unusually spacious for their diminutive scale and continue the Echo and Prius’s tradition of the gauge cluster in the middle of the dash. Its symmetrical design certainly

148 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

a boring four-speed automatic or a more involving six-speed manual. Hydraulic power steering replaces the numbish electric steering on standard G6s. It all adds up to an attractive, pleasantly sporty coupe. If you didn’t know this engine’s an overhead valver, you’d think it’s an overhead cammer: It’s smooth, revs nicely, and has a wide powerband and a sweet exhaust note. Its 6.2-second 0-to-60 time isn’t the stuff of legend, but enough to have fun. The six-speed shifter is notchy, but better than on many front drivers. This steering is much—no, way— improved over the electric unit, with adequate feel and virtually no torque steer. There’s plenty of grip (0.83 g on our skidpad), making the GTP an entertaining handler, if not an all-out road racer. And this coupe easily seats four people in comfort.

smells like cost saving, but Toyota claims it creates a more spacious feeling as well as better control of the crush zone ahead of the driver. Under the Yaris’s tiny hood is a diminutive DOHC 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing on the intake cam, producing 106 horsepower at 6000 rpm. Backing it is either a four-speed automatic or an easy-shifting five-speed manual; in your hands is electrically boosted steering that reduces fuel consumption by a sell-your-mother-for two percent. Mileage for both models is preliminarily pegged at 34 city/40 mpg highway for manual transmission cars and 34/39 for automatics. Liftback and sedan are available in base CE and better-trimmed LE grades, while the latter adds a superficial S version (on all, ABS is unfortunately optional).

The G6 GTP is an okay piece, has high equipment levels, and feels like a fair amount of car for the money. One question nags, however: Would you buy this over a 300-horse, V-8-powered, reardrive Mustang GT for the same money ($27,570 as tested)? Didn’t think so. ■ matt

stone

2006 PONTIAC G6 GTP BASE PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$24,610

F ront engine, FWD, 5-pass, 2-door coupe

ENGINE

3.9 L/240-hp/240 lb-ft OHV 12-valve V-6

TRANSMISSION WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON ON SALE IN U.S.

6 -speed manual 112.3 in 189.0 x 70.6 x 57.0 in 6.2 sec 14.4 @ 96.4 18/29 mpg Currently

On the road, each car feels as though you’re dipping your hands in lukewarm water. They’re vanilla commuters (though a quality grade of vanilla) with predictable road noise, a light-construction ride, steering that’s unfortunately vague on center, downshifts at every hint of an incline—and likable personalities, nevertheless. ■ kim

reynolds

2007 TOYOTA YARIS SEDAN BASE PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$12,750 (est)

F ront engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan

ENGINE TRANSMISSION WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT CURB WEIGHT 0-60 MPH EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON ON SALE IN U.S.

1.5 L/106-hp/103 lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4 4 -speed auto 100.4 in 169.3 x 66.5 x 56.7 in 2325 lb 10.0 sec 34/39 mpg April 2006


BRIAN VANCE

(long-term test) update

2005 Porsche 911 Carrera S A superb machine that defies logic and reason IF YOU have to ask why we’d add a new Porsche 911 to our long-term fleet, you’re reading the wrong magazine. The 911 is a true automotive icon, a car that for millions of enthusiasts around the word defines the very essence of Porsche.

Improving an icon isn’t easy. Common sense tells you hanging an engine out behind the rear axle will screw up the chassis balance that’s the hallmark of a great sports car. Yet when Porsche went back to the drawing board to reinvent the

911 with the 996 variant, almost 40 years of history and tradition dictated that’s exactly what it had to do. Even so, with its water-cooled flat six,“fried egg” headlights, and long overhangs front and rear, the 996 was different enough to bother the

True Believers. To them, the car lacked the tautness and drama of the 993, the last—and arguably greatest—of the aircooled 911s. The 997 is designed to win over the True Believers. Back are the hourglass curves, signature

you forget you’re driving a fourdoor family hauler built around front-drive architecture.The adaptive headlight system malfunctioned one evening, but the nav screen allowed us access to a function that verbally described how to fix the problem. The car’s smarter than the dealer, who reported a powerless powerpoint with a sticking lid as “normal.” We replaced a blown fuse ourselves; the lid still sticks.

2005 BMW X3 2.5i

stuff fitted, our worn-from-dayone wiper blades were replaced. It’s the little things that make you smile.

OUR FLEET

2005 ACURA RL Total Mileage 7969

THE RL’S outward imagery is quick, thrusting, BMW-sporty. But with comfy seats, soft-ish ride, and subdued V-6, it feels more like a cruiser. An old man’s car, says one editor’s wife. Ouch. But we like the seamless SHAWD system for almost making

■ Average fuel econ 21.5 mpg ■ Problem areas None ■ Maintenance cost $0 ■ Normal wear cost $0

152 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

Total Mileage 13,233

THE X3’S moonroof is large enough for front and rear-seat passengers to enjoy, but the opposite is true in terms of interior storage space. The only decent-size thingy bin is the deep cupholder in the center console. What’s the point of having a lifestyle vehicle when you can’t carry your life around with you? Still, the dealer’s looking after us. We ordered our X3 with the Sirius Satellite Radio, but the parts weren’t available when it was built. While in the dealer’s shop to have the Sirius

■ Average fuel econ 17.1 mpg ■ Problem areas None ■ Maintenance cost $0 ■ Normal wear cost $0 For vehicle specs, go to motortrend.com


words neil g. chirico introducing 2005 Porsche 911 Carrera S Base price

$79,895

Price as tested

$90,000

Vehicle layout

Rear engine, RWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe

Engine

3.8L/355-hp/ 295 lb-ft 24-valve flat-6

Transmission

6-speed manual

Curb weight (f/r dist)

3298 lb (38/62%)

Wheelbase

92.5 in

Length x Width x Height

175.6 x 71.2 x 51.2 in

0-60 mph, sec

4.3 sec

Quarter mile

12.6 sec @ 112.3

Braking, 60-0 mph 104 ft Lateral acceleration 0.98 g avg

from the logbook

MT figure eight

24.96 sec @ 0.75 g avg

EPA city/hwy econ 19/26 mpg

“Porsche never ceases to amaze me with each new Carrera. Just when you think it’s got it perfect, the next one blows off your lederhosen.” ■ Chris Walton

round headlamp design, and a RWD-version of the higher-performance S model. Porsche gave the Carrera better balance and handling, new rolling stock, and an upgrade in the power department—even the shifter is new and, yes, improved. To us, a new 911 Carrera S hit all the right emotional hot buttons, while bringing worthwhile technical improvements to the party. Of course, we had to have one.

We ordered our S in an optional hue called Atlas Grey Metallic with matching full leather seats. Gray, charcoal, and anthracite are the new black, and ours looks like liquid metal. To the base price of $79,895 we added over $10K in options, including the paint ($825) and seat-material upgrade ($3315) as well as matching floormats ($115), leather steering wheel ($490), the Sport Chrono package ($920), Sport Exhaust

(pricey at $2400, but the sound is amazing), and Bose sound system ($1390) with remote sixdisc changer ($650). Lust never comes cheap. We had to get past the 2000mile recommended break-in procedure, which was torture and tickle. We could tickle the throttle, but only below 4000 rpm. That was the torture. We got through it, for in the 911, even the most mundane drive is an event. For a start, the

illuminated once. The shop foreman found a stored code for an oil-pressure-sensor circuit fault over 100 starts ago. But when he checked the oil-pressure circuit operation, he found no abnormal conditions. Ghosts in the machine? No, if the condition that logged the code ain’t there when your car’s in for service, they just can’t diagnose the fault.

2005 INFINITI M45

Total mileage

5195

Average test mpg

16.5 mpg

Problem areas

None

steering talks to you like no other car’s; the leatherbound wheel squirming in your hands, keeping up a brisk dialogue between you and the road that’s as informative as if you were brushing your fingertips across the asphalt. Then there’s the electric throttle response, rifle-bolt shift action, and unquenchable brakes. This has the makings of a beautiful relationship. ■

BRIAN VANCE/CHEYNE WALLS/EVAN WOLLENBERG

OUR FLEET

2005 CHRYSLER 300C HEMI Total mileage 14,686

SHADES of “The Twilight Zone”: Replacement of the 300C’s cabin pollen filter is listed as part of the 12,000-mile service; it turns out our car wasn’t equipped with this option. We also asked about a “check engine” light that

■ Average fuel econ 16.3 mpg ■ Problem areas None ■ Maintenance cost $52.90 (6K service), $39.95 (12K service) ■ Normal wear cost $0

Total mileage 12,008

WHAT’S that beeping noise? Time check on the radio? Low oil-pressure warning? No, it’s just the M45 telling you to stay in your lane on the freeway. Now, we do a lot of freeway miles every day here in La-la-land, and we think we’ve got this lane thing figured all by ourselves.

We don’t need the damn car beeping at us every time we happen to put a wheel over a white line without the turnsignal flashing. It’s like having an electronic mother-in-law on board. Fortunately, there’s a switch that turns the lanedeparture warning system off. Now, take my mother-in-law. Please. ■ Average fuel econ 19 mpg ■ Problem areas Dead battery (twice) ■ Maintenance cost $0 ■ Normal wear cost $0 For vehicle specs, go to motortrend.com

MOTOR TREND.COM JANUARY 2006 153


BRIAN VANCE

(long-term test) verdict

2004 Toyota Prius It’s first gallon of fuel cost $1.80. No wonder they’re popular WOULDN’T YOU know it? Shortly after our millennium silver Prius was mothballed from the MT long-term fleet and mailed back to Toyota, the fuel-sipping lozenge became eligible for California’s carpool lanes, sans passengers. For the second time, the Prius is the envy of steaming commuters. First was its hummingbirdappetite for petroleum—and now there’s an exemption to prowl our gridlock’s car-pool short cuts without passengers. Would our 50-mile commuters love to see old VIN number JTDKB20U040009448 back in MT’s stable? Yet what originally earned this ultimate case of vehicular anorexia entry into our long-term pool wasn’t just its attractive habit of giving gas stations the finger. It was the car’s breathtaking technology: a perhaps once-in-a-generation leap in powertrain thinking that earned it Motor Trend’s 2004 Car of the Year trophy—as well as significant questions about how well all this underhood razzmatazz was going to hold up. While the Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive hardware has been scrutinized everywhere from these pages to volumes of SAE technical papers, more recently its software has drawn press coverage due to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration receipt of some 68 156 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

our car Base price

$20,510

Package 9:

$5245

(rr wiper, side & curtain airbags, HID headlamps, smart entry/start, alarm, nav, JBL sound six-disc changer, stability ctrl, foglamps Floor & cargo mats

$184

Glass breakage sensor $149 MSRP, as tested

$26,088

complaints of Priuses mysteriously losing power and gliding into a limp-home mode. Consequently, some 75,000 Priuses have been recalled for software fixes, though fortunately ours was never afflicted with the malady. In fact, the only real glitch our Prius suffered was a schizophrenic touch screen whose press locations grew misindexed with their functions, causing all manner of confusion. For a while, the dealer was confused, too, and it was a reader who offered the diagnostic trick that helped everyone figure it out. Charge? $22.50. Annoyance? Priceless. A review of the

service log up to the 20,000-mile point included only one other anomaly, a rattling speaker cover and another buried in the dash. All in all, our total service outlay was a meager $283.47, nothing out of the ordinary for a well-built conventional car and simply remarkable for a device as diabolically complicated as this. Wear and tear were about what you’d expect, though the lightweight dash’s delicate surfacing materials seemed a tad more susceptible to scuffs and scratches than usual. It’s interesting to flip through a long-term vehicle’s notebook. Usually, a driver tends to be positive during a car’s honeymoon, giving the car the benefit of the doubt. But, like any relationship, the atmosphere can get chilly over time. Not so the Prius. On one hand,“There are items in the Prius we’d be less forgiving of if it weren’t so green. The steering is roadus disconnectus, totally numb, and the brakes are nonlinear when stopping transitions between regenerative and mechanical braking. The CVT’s rpm-steady technique gives an uneasy feeling of driving a manual-transmission car with a slipping clutch.” On the other,“The Prius appeals to my inner geek; it’s mentally involving as you drive, like following a wellplayed chess match.” This might explain why our mileage, accrued over 22,278 miles, tabulated an


verdict (long-term test)

2004 Toyota Prius POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS Drivetrain layout

Front engine, FWD

Engine type

I-4, alum block & head/ permanent magnet

Valvetrain

DOHC, 4 valves/cyl

Displacement

91.4 cu in/1497 cc

Compression ratio

13.0:1

Engine power (SAE net)

76 hp @ 5000 rpm

Motor power

67 hp @ 1200 rpm

Combined power

110 hp

BRIAN VANCE

Engine torque (SAE net) 82 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm

underwhelming 41.6 mpg. No surprise that it’s well south of the EPA’s loopy 60-mpg city/55-mpg highway figures (what car ever achieves them?), but even when treading delicately on the throttle, we rarely touched 47 mpg. Are all Priuses soldered together the same? An interesting source of comparison data is available at fueleconomy.gov where 85 presumably less manic drivers have posted an average of 47.9 mpg. Or the Department of Energy, where two examples covered 102,000 miles averaging 44.4 mpg. Another voluntary data-submission Web site, greenhybrid.com, reports a mean of 48.4 mpg. But even if we were to average all this together—45.6 mpg—is the Prius cost premium worth it? It’s a reasonable guesstimate to say the Prius’s hybrid technology adds about $4000 to the car’s tab (Toyota profit margin is beyond our purview) in order to reduce fuel consumption by roughly 30 percent. The car’s current $2000 tax deduction (to be replaced by an undetermined tax credit on December 31, 2005) helps fills the economic hole, but even at our local $2.75per-gallon gasoline prices, you’d have to see approximately 135,000 miles on the odometer to pay-down the sticker price

difference. A competent accountant would tell you to avoid the Prius. But he’d veto a Porsche, too. Any vehicle offering more than minimum transportation is betting you’ll spend more for the allure of higher social status, greater driving pleasure, or even more irresistible sex appeal than you already possess (if that’s possible). Some of the Prius’s attraction is timeworn: The original VW Beetle was gas stingy, too. But its appeal is something never seen before, an automotive choice that affects global issues. Consider, for instance, that during our long-term Prius’s 22,000-mile stint, it conserved 225 gallons of gas relative to what a Corolla automatic would’ve burned—over two tons of CO2 not spewed into the atmosphere. Or consider that $80 from the $619 we saved at the pump didn’t get deposited into Middle Eastern bank accounts, including $16 not contributed to the nuclearambitious government of Iran. So here’s the question again: Is the Prius premium worth it? The hybrid choice can be as complex as your social and environmental thinking cares to take it. But all we simple auto scribes can state for certain is that our example, at least, was fascinating to live with—and unexpectedly reliable. ■

from the logbook

Motor torque

295 lb-ft @ 0 rpm

Transmission

Planetary CVT

Suspension, front; rear

Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; torsion beam, coil springs, antiroll bar

Steering ratio

19.2:1

Turns lock-to-lock

3.7

Brakes, f;r

10.0-in vented disc plus regenerative; 7.9-inch drum, ABS

Wheels

15 x 6.0-in cast alum

Tires

185/65R15 86S M+S Goodyear Integrity

DIMENSIONS Wheelbase

106.3 in

Track, f/r

59.3 / 58.3 in

Length x width x height

175.0 x 67.9 x 58.1 in

Turning circle

34.1 ft

Curb weight

2890 lb

Weight dist, f/r

60 / 40 %

Seating capacity

5

Headroom, f/r

39.1 / 37.1 in

Legroom, f/r

41.9 / 38.6 in

Shoulder room, f/r

55.3 / 53.0 in

Cargo volume

16.1 cu ft

TEST DATA Acceleration to mph 0-30

3.2 sec

0-40

5.1

0-50

7.4

0-60

10.2

0-70

13.8

0-80

18.5

0-90

24.8

Passing, 45-65 mph

5.6 sec

Quarter mile

17.5 sec @ 79.1 mph

Braking, 60-0 mph

128 ft

600-ft slalom

60.3 mph avg

Lateral acceleration

0.71 g avg

CONSUMER INFO

The interior is 1970s/1980s sci-fi. The steering wheel is a marvel of redundancy. You can avoid the center monitor/touch screen and still access most functions. ■ Thomas Voehringer Rolling into the driveway late at night with only the electric motor running prevents disturbance of the family dog—stealthy. ■ Brian Vance The car’s nose reminds me of a duck-billed platypus, but the rear is cool, as is the profile. ■ Matt Stone

158 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

The Prius gives you the feeling you’re doing the right thing (kinda like watching an environmental program on PBS) without those annoying telethons asking for your contribution. Simply add gas from time to time, and you’re doing your thing to save the planet. ■ Cam Benty No eco-weeniemobile this, it’s easy to get the drop on most cars and stray in front of, let alone keep up with, traffic. ■ Ron Sessions

Base price

$20,510

Price as tested

$26,088

Stability/traction control Yes / yes Airbags

Dual front, front side, f/r curtain

Basic warranty

3 yrs/36,000 miles

Powertrain warranty

5 yrs/60,000 miles

Roadside assistance

3 yrs / unlimited miles

Fuel capacity

11.9 gal

EPA city/hwy econ

60 / 51 mpg

MT fuel economy

41.6 mpg

Recommended fuel

Regular unleaded


(archive)

words matt stone

MOTOR TREND Magazine (ISSN 0027-2094) January 2006, Vol. 58, No. 1. Copyright 2005 by Primedia Specialty Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Published monthly by Primedia Specialty Group, Inc., 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515. Periodicals postage paid at Los Angeles, California, and additional mailing offices. Canada Publications Mail Sales Agreement No. 40008153. Return undeliverable Canadian Addresses to DHL Global Mail, 7496 Bath Road, Unit 2, Mississauga, ON L4T 1L2. Subscription rates for one year (12 issues): U.S., APO, FPO, and U.S. possessions $18. Canada $31 (price includes surface mail postage to Canada and GST—reg. no. 872093125RT0001). All other countries $33. Subscription information: Send address changes to Motor Trend, P.O. Box 420235, Palm Coast, FL 321420235. For subscription assistance: Motor Trend, P.O. Box 420235, Palm Coast, FL 32142-0235, 800/800-6848; motortrend@palmcoastd.com. Back-issue orders: January 2003 to present, Client Logic, (toll-free) 866/601-5199; (e-mail) backissues mailorder@primedia.com; 1993 to December 2002, editorial offices, 323/782-2220. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Motor Trend, P.O. Box 420235, Palm Coast, FL 32142-0235. Customer Service e-mail address: motortrend@palmcoastd.com.

coverage december 1965

MOTOR TREND ARCHIVE

FORTY YEARS AGO, Oldsmobile’s revolutionary Toronado took honors as MT’s Car of the Year. It was a popular car and a hot seller then and was already considered a classic by the time the body was restyled for 1971. Our COTY coverage showed cutaways, photos of clays, and other early Toro design studies— even shots of a test car running out of gas. Good thing they weren’t on the Mobile Economy Run. Also featured: the rise and fall of the boattail speedster trend.

High Gas Prices a Bummer? Perhaps this decades-old idea is ready for a comeback 172 JANUARY 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

FROM 1936 through 1967, Mobil Oil held a fuel-efficiency rally, called the Mobile Economy Run. It was largely a publicity tool, but one not without merit. It began as a one-day event covering a route from Los Angeles to Yosemite and ultimately became a week-long cross-country trek. At first, the Run was for American cars only, but a separate Run was later created for foreign brands. This photo, taken at

the finish line of the 1965 Run at Times Square in Manhattan, gives a sense of the ceremony that accompanied participation. The 49 entrants achieved a combined average of 20.3472 mpg over the 3266-mile route, the longest up to that time. We bet that mileage number could be doubled today, but shudder at the cost of blocking off Time Square for the reception—not to mention hiring all those bagpipers. ■


Motor trend 2006 issue 01 january