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BATTLE OF THE HYBRIDS: CAMRY vs. ACCORD; PRIUS vs. CIVIC

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911

PORSCHE’S SPORTS CAR LEGEND ITS DEADLIEST RIVALS

THE WORLD’S BEST VALUE SUPERCAR

THE WORLD’S BEST HANDLING PORSCHE

THE WORLD’S BEST LOOKING COUPE

USA $3.99 CANADA $4.99

PLUS ★ FJ CRUISER vs. XTERRA, H3, LIBERTY ACROSS CHINA IN A FERRARI 612


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68 ■ Cover Story

74 Native Sun Volvo C70 Safe tanning at 75 mph. Allyson Harwood

36 Dial 911 Defending its sports-car icon crown. Frank Markus

38 Corvette Z06 vs. 911 Carrera S

80 Power to the People Volkswagen Eos Don’t call me a ragtop. Chris Walton

Does might finally make right?

42 Aston Martin V8 Vantage vs. 911 Carrera S

86 Ready, Aim, Fire! Dodge Caliber Good enough to take on Japan’s best? Matt Stone

Style über alles?

48 Porsche Cayman S vs. 911 Carrera

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92 Orange Peeled

Baby brother or heir to the throne?

Ford GTX1 Roadster Date with a Sawzall. Scott Mortara

52 Has the King Lost His Crown? How it all comes together.

■ Tests & Drives

110 Snow Dogs Hummer H3 vs. Jeep Liberty Renegade vs. Nissan Xterra OR-V6 vs. Toyota FJ Cruiser 4x4 A city-to-snow expedition to determine the leader of the hard-core pack. Ron Kiino

56 Think Tanks ■ Honda Civic Hybrid vs. Toyota Prius: Two MT Car of the Year winners face off. ■ Honda Accord Hybrid vs. Toyota Camry Hybrid: Weird science goes mainstream. Kim Reynolds

■ Features 68 The Quiet Achiever Interview: Jim Press Angus MacKenzie

98 On the Red Line

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Ferrari 612 Scagliettis Travel Across China. Alistair Weaver ■

Cover photography Jerry Garns MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 3


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140 this month @ motortrend.com ■ High-Performance e-Newsletter Want to read exclusive online features before they go live to the general public? Then sign up for the monthly e-Newsletter at www.motortrend.com/subscribe/ and be in the know ahead of everyone else. New subscribers during the month of March will have a chance to win a beautiful 18x24 framed classic art print from www.motortrend.artehouse.com.

■ Auto Show, Two Ways Both the Geneva Motor Show and the New York Auto Show will be highlights in the month of March, with comprehensive coverage of dozens of cars posted each day, live from the events. Tune in to www.motortrend.com/ autoshows/coverage/ to check out the season’s coverage, featuring new Flash-based slideshows showcasing detailed photos of all the vehicles.

■ Everybody’s Got an Opinion Share yours with fellow community members in our online bulletin boards? Or check out our polls and tell us how you feel about the cars in this issue. What’s the call on the iconic Porsche 911? Who’s the winner in the hybrid battle between Honda and Toyota? Which would you rather take offroad: the FJ Cruiser, XTerra, H3, or Liberty?

■ New-Car Price Quotes You’ve done your research and narrowed down your choices, so why not get the best price? Motortrend.com offers a free, fast service without any obligation. Check it out at http://auto.Motortrend.com/

MOTOR TREND 6 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

168 ■ Departments 8 The Big Picture Wanna buy a car company? Angus MacKenzie

14 Trend News/opinion/gossip/stuff.

26 Your Say When you wish to opine.

30 The Asphalt Jungle Star search. Arthur St. Antoine

32 Technologue Crash course. Frank Markus

121 Newcomers Bristol Fighter Martin Buckley Mitsubishi Exlipse Spyder Scott Mortara Lexus GS 540h Todd Lassa Chevrolet Corvette Matt Stone Kia Sedona Frank Markus

140 Tuners Hasport Honda Civic Si. John Kiewicz

142 Long-Term Test Update 2006 Hyundai Sonata LX 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT 2005 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner 2005 Acura RL 2005 Honda Odyssey Touring

146 Long-Term Test Verdict 2004 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid

168 Archive

Corvette vs. Porsche Matt Stone


(the big picture) angus mackenzie

pssst! wanna buy a car company? Three owners, lots of new parts, just needs a little TLC ONE OF THE wilder rumors buzzing around the auto business late last year suggested embattled Ford was going to sell off Jaguar— and that Renault/Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn was interested. Turns out there was a grain of truth to the story: Sources in Dearborn confirm Bill Ford Jr. was indeed presented with a plan outlining a possible sale of Jaguar. But it was just one of three scenarios put forward in a wideranging strategy document. The others? Investing in the new S-Type replacement, the X250, and a reskin of the XJ sedan. And the nuclear option: closing Jaguar altogether. The reality is Ford’s not selling or closing Jaguar, for one simple reason: Either option would cost a whole lot more money than developing a new S-Type and giving the XJ a more contemporary set of panels. Besides, Carlos Ghosn has now decided that revamping Renault is a much better use of his time and money. There’s no question Jaguar, which just got $2.1 billion of the $5.6 billion Ford banked from the recent sale of Hertz, has been a money pit. Dearborn paid way too much for the company

back in 1989—more than $2 billion—in its haste to beat GM to the prize. And when Ford execs finally got to do more than just kick the tires on their new ride, they found to their horror that Jaguar was far from a fully functioning auto company. Ford thought it had bought a rival for Mercedes and BMW. Instead it found it had to spend a fortune on new machinery and new processes to simply get Jaguar to the point where it could actually build a car with any sort of consistency. Veteran manufacturing exec Bill Hayden, parachuted in by Ford to sort out the mess, once memorably reckoned Jaguar’s factories to be the worst he’d ever seen, apart from a Russian tractor factory. How bad? Not long after the takeover, Jaguar engineers sent the best-built XJ they could find in the factory to Dearborn for a quality audit. It had 10 times the faults of a Taurus. When Ford facelifted the XJS coupe in the early 1990s, it replaced the complex multipiece rear-quarter assembly on the car with a single pressing: Even if the original rear quarters were assembled

what we’ve been up to... MOTORING ’ROUND THE WORLD: (from left) Harwood, in Hawaii during Volvo C70 launch, warms up for vacation; Vance and Kiewicz plot to entomb Voehringer in the frozen wastelands of Mammoth Mt.; Watts wrestles inert policeman in China.

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within tolerance, one side of the car could be as much as a quarter inch longer than the other. There’s no question that without Ford, Jaguar probably wouldn’t be with us today. But the storied British brand has yet to repay its benefactor. Muddled thinking on architecture sharing (the DEW98 platform was too expensive for the Lincoln LS, but too cheap for the S-Type; using a recycled front-drive Ford Mondeo platform for the X-Type was never going to result in a 3 Series-beater) and overly ambitious plans for volume growth have paralyzed the company for almost a decade. It’s a measure of the inner turmoil that it’s taken almost seven years for the first Ian Callum-designed Jaguar, the gorgeous new XK sports car, to reach the market. By contrast, Ford’s experience with Land Rover has almost been a textbook example of acquiring and growing a premium brand. When Ford bought the specialist SUV manufacturer from BMW in 2000 for $3 billion, it inherited some modernized factories, the all-new Range Rover, and a disaster waiting to happen. Although stunning, the Range Rover had cost an absolute fortune to develop—more than $1.5 billion, according to well-placed sources— and was hideously expensive to build. But the Land Rover LR3 and Range Rover Sport, developed on Ford’s watch for far less money, are truly legitimate stablemates to the BMWengineered Range Rover and are selling well. How could the two experiences have turned out so differently? Simple: When Ford bought it, Land Rover’s people understood what a 21stcentury Land Rover needed to be. Back in 1989, Jaguar’s people were struggling to keep up with the 20th century. ■


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MT CONFIDENTIAL ● MIKE CONNOR

TOYOTA WAS SELLING CAMRYS when Ford launched the Taurus to great acclaim more than 20 years ago. The Honda Accord had been on the road for more than seven years. But Ford let the Taurus go to seed, just as it’s letting the Focus become a low-rent, deep-discount car. A key tenet of the Bill Ford/Mark Fields Way Forward plan is that the automaker will innovate with “white-sheet” cars and trucks in the coming years. But are they thinking of how they’ll foster these new cars through several generations, or will Ford’s marketing people have to devise new names for replacement models every eight or 10 years? We’ll see…With its market share tanking, you’d think Ford would be milking the Mustang for all it’s worth. Think again. Word is plans for annual releases of special-edition models like the Bullitt were axed by former product chief Phil Martens. Only one survives: the Boss. This will get the 5.4-liter V-8 from the Shelby GT500, but minus the supercharger. Stripped-down interior and options package will keep weight down and performance up…Meanwhile, Ford productplanning boss Elena Ford has apparently taken exception to suggestions she doesn’t like performance cars. She was quick to point out at a recent high-level meeting at Dearborn that she has a GT500 on order…Never mind, Rick or Bill: Carlos reads us. Sources confirm the hard-nosed Renault/Nissan boss responded to repeated questions from senior financial journalists about job offers from GM and Ford by pulling out the February issue of Motor Trend and telling them to read this from his “Power List” profile:“I believe in what I’m doing, and there’s no reason for me to change the course of things.” Clear enough… Audi boss Martin Winterkorn may have failed to convince VW Group chief Bernd Pischetsrieder that Audi should switch to rear drive so it could better compete with BMW, but his ingenious engineers may have found a way around the problem. The next A4 will maintain the current car’s basic architecture, but a new transmission will allow the front wheels to be pushed forward by as much as four inches relative to the base of the windscreen. Combined with rear-biased torque split on the all-wheel-drive quattro models, the technology will give the next-gen A4 the handling finesse to take on BMW’s iconic 3 Series…The rear-drive revolution is gaining momentum at GM. Even as the Camaro concept stole the Detroit show, insiders confirmed that a rear-drive Chevy sedan was being worked on at GM’s design studios. What’s more, a rear-drive Buick sedan using the same architecture is also now under serious study. They even have a name for it: Invicta… ■ Got gossip? E-mail mike.connor@motortrend.com

14 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

scoop! scoop! scoop! scoop! sc

RETRACTABLE FIRSTS ■ 1937 PEUGEOT ECLIPSE Peugeot built more than 100 examples of this four-seat retractable-roof coupe, based on its 402L model.

■ 1957 FORD SKYLINER The full-size, V-8-powered retractable-roof car was produced for three years.

■ HASTA LA VISTA, SSR It’s official. Chevrolet ends production of the SSR sport truck after a buildout of 700 units on March 17. ASC assembles the SSR for General Motors. Going into the 2006 model year, Chevy and ASC had built about 19,400 since its launch in 2003.

1957 FORD SKYLINER

CHEVROLET SSR MAGNA STEYR’S ASSEMBLY WORK Magna Steyr assembles these cars and trucks at its Graz, Austria, factory: ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

MERCEDES-BENZ E-CLASS MERCEDES-BENZ G-CLASS (Gelaendewagen) JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE (European market) CHRYSLER VOYAGER MINIVAN (European market) CHRYSLER 300C (European market) SAAB 9-3 CONVERTIBLE BMW X3


words motor trend editors

scoop! scoop! scoop! scoop! scoop! scoop! scoop!

2010 Chrysler 300 four-door convertible! Folding steel roof means the best of both worlds WHILE foreign automakers are in a race to catch up with Mercedes-Benz’s CLS “four-door coupe,” Chrysler could become the first automaker to bring a four-door retractable-top sedan to market. Plans are for such a car based on the nextgeneration Chrysler Group LX platform, no earlier than the 2010 model year. Think of the update Chrysler made to its LH full-size front-drive platform in the 1998 model year, and you’ve got an idea of the type of evolution the LX will undergo. The basic architecture will remain unchanged, but updates

will improve refinement. It’s too early for Chrysler to have a locked-in design for the next 300. If the two generations of LH (Chrysler Concorde, Dodge Intrepid) are any guide, the next 300 will be a more mature, refined version of the current car. Trendy design cues like the “gangster”-style roofline and Bentley-like eggcrate grille will be updated. Chrysler launched the LX platform in early 2004 with the 2005 300 and Dodge Magnum and later added Charger. The nextgeneration LX must support more models and create new trends. Both the retractable-top convertible and a new

Dodge Challenger expected in the 2009 calendar year are examples of how Chrysler Group plans to remain hip and competitive. Specialty builder and supplier ASC Incorporated unveiled its Helios concept, based on a 300C fourdoor sedan, at the Detroit show last year. The Helios is a ragtop with a lattice structure to provide expected levels of body rigidity. The structure cut into trunk space and turned the five-seat 300 into a four-seater. ASC said it could be profitable to Chrysler at $4000 above the sticker of a 300 sedan. But Chrysler has rejected the ASC design and chosen Austro-Canadian

specialist manufacturer Magna Steyr instead to build its 300 retractable sedan in North America. Magna Steyr is the combination of Canada’s Magna International and Austria’s Steyr-DaimlerPuch. Magna International’s president is Mark Hogan, a rising corporate star and lifer at General Motors until he left for the supplier in late 2004. A complex folding steel roof covering four doors in a large sedan seems difficult, but Magna Steyr is one of the biggest suppliers in the business. If Chrysler can carry this off, a retractable sedan top will add more prestige to keep it at the forefront of leading-edge design.

STEEL MAGNOLIAS EUROPEANS call them “vario-roof” cars, and although they’ve been around for a long time, they’re not easy to do. The ASC-built Chevy SSR launched in 2003 with a short first-year production run because of development problems. The retractable-roof Pontiac G6 four-seater is about to launch after several delays. But vario-roof cars are clearly the Next Big Thing as automakers strive to deliver the evocative wind-in-the-hair sportscar driving experience without the downsides of noise, leaks, and lack of security. ■

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The LAMBORGHINI FIGHTS BACK

Roadjet equals A5

FERRARI WON’T have it all its own way at Geneva. On the same day as the 599 makes its debut, Lamborghini will unveil a facelifted, powered-up Murciélago. The V-12 is increased from 6.2 to 6.5 liters, taking power to 625 horses, five up on the Ferrari. Performance is 3.7 seconds from 0-to-62 mph, and top speed is about 220 mph. There’s also a redesign, front and rear, for the carbon-skinned AWD supercar. A convertible version will be introduced at this November’s Los Angeles show.

Meet the car/minivan crossover THE FRONT half may be controversial, but Audi is going to build the Roadjet anyway, likely under the name A5, in 2008. It uses the next-gen A4 platform, a flexible component set that’ll also serve the next A6 and the much-rumored BMW X3-fighting Q5. The Roadjet’s H-point is 2.4 inches higher than the A4’s and 2.4 inches lower than the Q7’s. The Roadjet’s mission is flexible space rather than off-roadability, hence its long wheelbase and glassy cabin. In Europe, car/minivan crossovers are ultra-hot, but as yet there’s been no premium entry in a market dominated by General Motors, Volkswagen, and Renault. VW has two entries, the vanlike seven-seat Touran and the Golf Plus, which is an elevated, rebodied Golf equipped with sliding rear seats. The Roadjet was designed at Audi’s California studio, but with an unprecedented level of cooperation with Ingolstadt’s engineers, again a sign of its production intent. The next-gen A4 platform will maintain a four-link front suspension, but new transmissions enable the front wheels to be moved further forward relative to the drivetrain—nearly four inches, say insiders—in an attempt to reduce the old Audi nose-heavy feel and improve handling. The Quattro versions’ torque split is nominally rear-biased to further assist agility. And there’s an optional active steering system like those of BMW and Lexus. ■ paul horrell

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(✱spycam✱)

2007 Audi TT THIS spectacular shot show the next TT coupe (AU355) and convertible (AU354). The good news is that they don’t have the oversize grille from the Shooting Brake concept car (which looks likely for production as a third TT model). But features from the concept, including its 250-horse, 3.2-liter V-6 with DSG and quattro, plus a new touch-screen nav (use your finger to “write” in the destination), sport-mode suspension with tips on how to best take a fast corner, magnetic ride control and LED headlamps could make it to production. The TT is longer and wider, with an aluminum body and will spawn a 280-horse TTS and 300-plus horsepower turbo V-6 TTRS for 2008. The 2007 convertible goes on sale up to six months after the coupe. ■ 16 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

TALKING POINTS

■ BODY: Aluminum panels on aluminum frame structure, like 612 Scaglietti. Designed by Pininfarina. ■ ENGINE: Based on the Enzo powerplant, the 5999cc V-12 develops 620 horsepower at 7600 rpm. ■ PRICE: Though faster and more powerful than the 612 Scaglietti, it’ll also be cheaper because it’s a smaller two-seater.


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Enzo effect New Ferrari 599GTB uses V-12 derived from Maranello’s ultimate supercar FERRARI claims it had no intention of announcing its 575 Maranello replacement, the 599GTB, at the Detroit auto show. The car was meant to be secret for a few more weeks, prior to a public debut at Geneva. But someone hacked into the company’s servers, got the official photos of the 599GTB, and posted them on a Web site. So Ferrari had to go public.

Though Ferrari gave only tidbits on the 599, we got a bit more from Ferrari chief Amadeo Felisa. The name refers to the 5.99-liter capacity of the V-12 engine, which is not, as everyone assumed, an update of the 575 Maranello’s, but a reworked version of the storming Enzo’s engine that develops 620 horsepower. Like the 612 Scaglietti, the 599GTB’s body is

largely aluminum. Weight is said to be about 3550 pounds, approximately 260 pounds less than the 575 Maranello’s, and with at least 112 more horses more under the hood, the 599GTB’s weight-topower ratio of 5.7 pounds per horsepower is almost 25 percent better. “This car has the performance impression of an F40, but it’s easy to drive,” says Felisa.“That

was the challenge, to get the driveability. In fact, it’s impossible to get one [F40] set up for all conditions like rain, dry, track. So [the 599] has the manettino on the steering wheel.” Already seen in the F430, the manettino controls throttle response, damping, transmission strategy, traction-control envelope, and similar parameters. There’s no

electronic differential, though, because the weight distribution of a front-engine car obviates the need, Felisa says. What’s new is the traction-control strategy:“We have a new engine control, so we can reduce the power, but not cut it off completely.” The 599GTB is expected to go on sale in the U.S. this fall. ■ paul horrell

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Yamaha V-8 and new I-6 for Volvo’s flagship

VOLVO’S second-generation S80 will be available with the XC90’s 315-horse Yamaha V-8. Standard engine for the new sedan, which is a major reworking based on the existing platform, is a new 3.2-liter inlinesix, rated 238 horses and 221 pound-feet. It’s

hooked up to a six-speed auto. Volvo says the six-cylinder, six-speed combo takes up less space than the old five-banger, thanks to a new camshaft mechanism and partially integrating the ancillaries in the block. The V-8 version has all-wheel drive, Dynamic

Stability and Traction Control, and the FourC active chassis control included with the engine option. The S80, which Volvo will unveil at Geneva in March, is designed to go head-to-head with Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5 Series, and Audi A6 models. ■

A Ford in our future? Ford brass unveils rescue plan. But is it enough?

SIMON HARSENT

WITH Ford’s market share in the U.S. slip-sliding away, president of the Americas Mark Fields (left) has said the company has to “change or die.” But his long-awaited “Way Forward” plan, announced amid much hype on January 23, fell short of the

radical turnaround plan many analysts expected. Fields said Ford plans to close 14 plants and reduce its workforce by 30,000 over the next six years. The closures are designed to raise Ford’s North American plant utilization to 100 percent by cutting capacity

by 1.2 million units, or 26 percent, by 2008. But not all the plants to be closed were identified, leaving some analysts worried about the effect on the morale on the workforce. The plan was also criticized as soft on detail in other areas, including

product plans (Fields vowed to start making vehicles), cash flow, and earnings guidance. Ford’s North American operations lost $1.6 billion last year, and its share of the U.S. market slumped to 17.4 percent, down from 24.1 percent in 2000.

PRODUCT IS THE KEY FORD’S overreliance on trucks and SUVs (in the five years to 2003, the company launched just one new car in the U.S., the Focus, which was designed in Europe anyway) has backfired badly; sales of the Explorer have almost halved since 2000. The Blue Oval badly

THE WAY FORWARD? ■ FACTORIES: Seven plants,including Wixom assembly (Lincoln LS, ex-T-Bird), St. Louis (Explorer/Mountaineer/Aviator), Atlanta (Taurus, Sable), and seven additional facilities. ■ JOBS: 25,000 to 30,000 plant workers by 2012; 4000 whitecollar workers; 12 percent of company officers. ■ COSTS: Material cost reductions of at least $6 billion by 2010. ■ PRICES: “We’ll bring sticker prices more in line with actual transaction prices and cap ‘cash on the hood’ rebates as we introduce new cars and trucks into the marketplace.”

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needs a new hero vehicle. After a slowish start, Fusion sales are steadily picking up, and the good-looking Edge (above) crossover has hit written all over it. There’s a lot of talk about a new B-segment (smaller than Focus) subcompact in 2008. But might be better off upgrading the current Focus to the higher-quality European version, built on the same platform as the Volvo S40 and available with fuelefficient powertrains, as the market for B-segment cars in North America is unproven. Ford will depend on the component set developed for the new Volvo S80 for key new vehicles, including the Lincoln MKS sedan (right), which will replace the LS. Hybrids will be a headline technology, with 250,000 a year promised by 2010, including Five Hundred and Mercury Montego, plus Edge and its Lincoln clone, the MKX. ■ todd lassa


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Texas Toyota takes the Windy City by storm

THIS IS the truck Detroit has been nervously anticipating for years; the big kahuna of the Chicago Auto Show, the big (finally) Toyota Tundra. It arrives with three engine options, topping out with a 5.7-liter i-Force V-8 and six-speed automatic. Toyota didn’t release power and torque figures at presstime, but we anticipate more than 330 horses and about 375 pound-feet. OTHER FEATURES ■ It’s 10-inches longer than the 2000-2006 Tundra, with a significantly longer wheelbase and increased height and width, making it one of the largest trucks in its segment.

■ Towing capacity is more than 10,000 pounds. ■ Will come in three grades, like the current truck; base, SR5, and Limited—but a total of more than 30 model variants, nearly double the current generation. ■ Wide-screen backup camera, Bluetooth telephone compatibility, JBL Premium audio among the options. ■ Heavy-duty, diesel, and hybrid versions expected. ■ Toyota engineers, designers, and product planners immersed themselves in Texas culture for years leading up to the new Tundra’s intro. ■

we we hear Ferdinand Piëch will step down as chairman of the Volkswagen board in 2007. The grandson of Ferdinand Porsche shepherded Porsche’s late-2005 purchase of about $4.23 billion worth of additional VW AG stock, and his retirement is said to help avoid conflict of interest. Porsche is now VW’s biggest individual shareholder, with 18.5 percent of its stock. Meanwhile, Porsche chief Wendelin Wiedeking has joined VW’s board, but won’t replace Piëch as chairman. Daniel Craig, the new James Bond, will drive a new Aston Martin in “Casino Royale,” due in theaters this November. Bond’s new car is an Aston DBS, undoubtedly with more than a few nonspec aftermarket accessories. Bond’s first Aston was a DB5 with a special sunroof in the 1964 007 film,“Goldfinger.” China’s Geely Auto, which had a stand and a press conference for the media days of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, plans to enter the market here with about 5000 cars per year in 2008, priced at $10,000. The independent automaker faces an uphill battle, though, as its $1000 motor scooters, already on sale in the U.S., have a poor quality reputation. Geely Auto’s plans are to sell U.S.-spec cars in Puerto Rico first, to make sure quality and reliability are up to snuff. Formula 1 insiders are convinced Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen will leave McLaren at the end of the 2006 season, when his contract expires, to join Ferrari. A number of well-placed sources say that a deal has already been done for Raikkonen to replace seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, who is tipped to be heading for retirement.

2007 Ford Expedition EL THIS Excursion replacement accompanies a new standard Expedition this fall. It has the Expedition’s independent rear suspension and a 300-horsepower, 5.4-liter Triton V-8 mated to a six-speed automatic, but is 14.8 inches longer than an Expedition, with a 12-inch longer wheelbase and 24 more cubic feet of cargo space. It has dedicated sheetmetal aft of the B-pillar and a 9100-pound towing capacity. ■ 20 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

BMW is abandoning its long-running “E” codenames (the current 3 Series is known internally as E90, for example) in favor of a new “F” series. The nextgeneration 7 Series, which features radically different sheetmetal from the current car and is due 2009, will be called F01. The long-wheelbase version will be called F02, and the next 5 Series is already down as the F10. ■


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CRUNCHING

31 Born from Jets

GM emphasizes the point with Aero-X concept TALKING POINTS ■ INTERIOR FEATURES GLASS-LIKE“CLEAR ZONES.” ■ BETTER THAN SPORTS-CAR CARGO SPACE WITH “TWIN-FLOOR” REAR STOWAGE. ■ FIRST PROJECT FROM THE NEW SAAB BRAND CENTER IN SWEDEN.

(✱spycam✱)

SAAB’S

Swedish jet aircraft heritage is the theme of the Aero-X, a concept that bows at the Geneva show in March. The two-seat sport coupe features a cockpit canopy in place of conventional doors. A 400-horsepower twin-turbo V-6 powers all four wheels and operates

WE NEVER USED TO DO THIS MUCH THE AERO-X is the third Saab concept car in five years, but only the fourth in the company’s history. Which says a lot about GM’s uncertainty over the future direction of the Swedish brand. 1985: EV-1 wasn’t an electric vehicle, but a Saab 900 Turbo-based concept. EV-1 stood for Experimental Vehicle 1 and represented Saab’s first venture into the world of show cars.

BRENDA PRIDDY & CO. x2

on 100-percent ethanol biofuel. GM has been struggling to keep its Swedish automaker distinctive, despite increased platform sharing. Saab says the Aero-X is inspired by aviation (Saab has built aircraft using Volvo engines) and Scandinavian brand heritage. ■

2001: 9X was Michael Mauer’s first Saab concept. It had a 300-horse V-6 and AWD. The long hood and rear-set two-door wagontype cabin made it look like a Swedish Chevy Nomad. 2003: 9-3X was a threedoor hatchback crossover with a 280-horse turbo version of GM’s 2.8-liter high-feature V-6 and allwheel drive. Some design detail filtered through to the 9-3 wagon.

2008 Chrysler minivan THE NEXT Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan will have much more expressive sheetmetal and will spawn a Volkswagen minivan in an unusual jointventure agreement. The Chrysler minivan will probably be revealed at the 2007 Detroit auto show. ■ 22 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

SAAB 9X

PERCENTAGE OF AMERICANS WHO’VE PURCHASED A NEW CAR IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS, ACCORDING TO A SURVEY BY DIRECTIONS RESEARCH, INC.

39 PERCENTAGE OF SURVEY RESPONDENTS WHO RANKED “GAS PRICES” AS A PRIMARY FACTOR IN THEIR NEXT NEW-VEHICLE PURCHASE.

20 PERCENTAGE OF SURVEY RESPONDENTS WHO SAID THEY’VE OWNED A CONVERTIBLE; 46 PERCENT HAVE OWNED A TRUCK, WHILE 38 PERCENT HAVE OWNED A SPORTS CAR.


(your say) (your say) kick the tires

letter of the month

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

e-mail us from motortrend.com

■ letter of the month wins! Hey, Mike, now you can turn your filthy beast into a flashy beauty with this swell eight-piece car-detailing kit. It includes a 10-inch orbital waxer/polisher, courtesy Motor Trend.

We live in an era where much of top management believes that cost cutting, plant closings, supplier squeezing, etc. are what it’s all about. They forget the first order of business is to make a product that someone will purchase.That’s how Ford and GM end up having little product that’s selling. Cost cutting will not solve this problem; it may make it worse. John Shoemaker Lexington, North Carolina

people pleaser GM boss Rick Wagoner’s statement about GM’s problems is ridiculous (“Trend”). He claims that labor, pensions, and health care are bigger issues than product. How can a car company deal with those issues if they don’t sell cars people want? How hard is this? Cadillac is doing great. Chevy needs to make rear-drive

NIVEA FOR MEN MORE EVOLVED SKINCARE

Never before has a car so utterly hideous attracted my attention like the Pagani Zonda F (“Space/Craft”). The proportions are brutal, and the nose and rear look like unfinished pieces put on as camouflage. I love this car! Finally, someone has created a machine exclusively for drivers, not just for hip-hop artists. The luxurious interior and reasonable ride prove this car isn’t just for show, nor is it a track-only onetrick pony. Congratulations to Horacio Pagani for creating a true supercar, one that’s a pleasure to drive, whether out for a cruise or tearing Ferraris a new one— not enjoying a car like this is a mortal sin in the automotive world. Michael S. Springfield, Illinois

What are automotive executives smoking? Modern consumers are well aware that a new car costs far too much these days. ABS, LSD, independent suspension, airbags: These things are old tech, but you still have to check the option box and pay through the nose—allwheel drive can add thousands. A $1200 sunroof? Forget it! Middle-class folks make $50,000 to $70,000 a year. None of them can find a well-equipped car at $30,000 (Canadian) outside of the sport (ha-ha) compact niche. These days, an affordable (right) rear-drive family sedan costs $40,000, with a radio. Add $1200 to $1500 for a PDI (the dealer starts the car and does 20 minutes of paperwork), add the levies and taxes, floormats (disgusting)—and you have a $52,000 car, with a radio. And don’t forget the 5.5-percent financing over four years. Now you have a 5 Series BMW cost and a bone-stock Chrysler 300, with a radio. Who in his right mind would buy a new car (Lutz and the rich aside)? Jason Horn Gibsons, British Columbia, Canada

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WHEN THE SIX-BLADED RAZOR COMES, YOU’LL BE READY.

What about this rumor that GM thinks those of us who drive Subarus don’t know or care what’s under the hood (“Big Picture”)? I put well over 100,000 miles on a 1997 Legacy wagon and am now driving a 2005 Outback. My nephew is the proud second owner of a 1997, and it’s running strong. Several friends in Colorado have driven Subies for years and boast of their reliability. I do know what’s under the hood, and it matters. Perhaps I’m not representative of Middle America, but I do indeed pay attention to the function and functionality of my cars. Thanks for your column; it’s great to get a concise and somewhat sarcastic commentary on what’s really going on in the auto business. Donn McLaughlin Via the Internet


(your say) 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.

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A sure blast of excitement: (left) Ken Wheelock of Newark, California, at the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii; (right) Phil Dlouhy from Riverwoods, Illinois, in Catania, Sicily, at the base of Mount Etna.

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In the same boat: (left) Bryan Gustin, from Cincinnati, Ohio, keeps warm reading about hot new models as he sails the Antarctica; (right) Tor Gavem installing pipes for hydrocarbon transport in Gulf of Mexico.

Impalas, Monte Carlos, and a new Camaro and drop the Cobalt an inch closer to the ground. Pontiac needs a GTO that looks like one, alongside the Solstice, and to never market a new model on “Oprah” again. Buick and Saturn need to disappear, and Saab and Hummer need to go somewhere else. If everyone reading this magazine already knows this, why doesn’t GM? Joe Bernard Vallejo, California

say what? In recent letter titled “Bite the Bullitt,” the writer from Brooklyn (do I detect some bias here?) says the “Seven-Ups” chase scene through New York beats Steve McQueen’s San Francisco chase by a mile. I was shocked to see that Ed says,“The car chase in “Seven-Ups” should be at the top of the list.” Say what? Let me remind you of the sequence of events from these two movies in case you haven’t seen them in a while. The chase scene in “Seven-Ups” starts after detective Roy Scheider discovers a fellow cop wounded in a car trunk. At that point, there’s no buildup, no indication that a car chase is about to ensue. When the chase does begin, we are treated to two smog-deviceladen early 1970s Pontiacs. The exhausts are quiet; the cars are boring. The chase scene is

well staged, but I have read many comments (by New Yorkers) on a movie Web site, stating things like:“They could not have gotten there from here, because they crossed the wrong bridge, etc.”Those details don’t matter for an exciting chase scene, but not being a New Yorker, I will say that the jumps in “Seven-Ups,” where they were obviously attempting to match the jumps in “Bullitt,” were lame. The cars got off the ground maybe a couple of feet. Yawn. The actual chase in “Seven-Ups” was longer, if you don’t include the exciting build up in “Bullitt.”When does the chase scene start in “Bullitt”? Is it when bad guy Bill Hickman (also the Pontiac four-door-sedan driver in “SevenUps”) hooks up his seatbelt and makes a tiresquealing left? Or does the chase scene start when McQueen’s police character comes out of the hotel and, upon climbing into his Mustang parked under the Embarcadero Freeway, spots the Dodge Charger sitting and watching him? From there, with an excellent soundtrack by Lalo Schrifin, we see McQueen being followed down Lombard Street and then turning back to climb a hill. We hear his pipes, the wonderful rumble of the 390 Mustang exhaust, then we hear the Dodge Charger follow, and the knockout rumble of their exhaust. The bad guys reach an intersection halfway up the hill. They look left; they look right. No Mustang. They do the

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(your say)

messing with the big dogs

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obvious and go straight on up the hill. Then, in one of the best shots ever, the Mustang appears in Bill Hickman’s rear-view mirror. He does a double-take and looks again. Shock! They’ve been made. The seatbelts get hooked up, and at the next intersection, with the timing of a true professional getaway-car driver, Hickman turns left from the far right lane and across traffic, leaving McQueen temporarily in the dust. Is that when the chase scene starts or was it back at the Embarcadero? You see, “Seven-Ups” comes nowhere near matching that buildup and the chase over the San Francisco hills that follows. John Hand Helena, Alabama

messing with the big dogs Bravo! I was ecstatic to see the Honda Civic win Car of the Year (“Fantastic Four”). The comparison between the 2006 contenders was excellent, with hilarious remarks added in here and there. It’s productive to point out that the Ford Fusion, Lincoln Zephyr, and Mercury Milan are all (generally) the same car. Ford Motor Company obviously needs to realize it’s running with the big boys now, and it needs to kick it up a notch if it wants to compete for Car

of the Year, not to mention run against Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes. Let’s be honest: Foreign carmakers are leading the way, and American carmakers are falling behind. Honda has become the omnipotent automaker and deserves the well-earned respect and success with its new Civics. You couldn’t have chosen a finer automobile. Ryan Snitil Broadview Heights, Ohio You’re kidding, right? I mean, c’mon: 28 contenders in a price range up to $75,000, and the Porsche Boxster isn’t among them? You know, the roadster from heaven, 85 percent redesigned for 2005, that for the past year has been called the “best luxury sports car on the planet” and “as close to perfect as possible” by all major car mags (except you folks) here and in Europe. Even Consumer Reports ranked it a Best Buy, describing it, in essence, as an awesome car. And using your own stated criteria of “superiority,”“significance,” and “value,” how could any auto mag worth its salt compile such a list and leave off the Ford Mustang GT and Chevrolet Corvette, both powerhouse vehicles with pages of hoopla and kudos from all those same publications? Your

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future magazine editor “Car of the Year” list strikes this longtime reader as nothing more than an arbitrary crapshoot attempting to just throw together a sampling of vehicles across the price and model spectrum, rather than an honest—and earnest—assessment of what’s really out there. Dennis Hall Cypress, California All our “of the Year” contests involve only the new players in any given year. The revised Boxster, new-gen Mustang, and C6 Corvette weren’t eligible to compete for the 2006 awards.—Ed. I agree all the way with your choice of the Honda Civic as the Car of the Year—which is why I bought one. Henry Bohleke Perrysburg, Ohio Honda gets credit for not being overly conservative with the Civic’s design, but it also shows that taking risks isn’t always a good thing. The Civic is ugly! Just imagine all the tricked-out ones with two-story wings and pavementscraping body kits that’ll soon be on the streets. A Honda Civic as Car of the Year? Good one, guys. You can tell us the real winner now. Joel Damole South Surrey, British Columbia, Canada

shifty business You call the Jaguar’s J-gate shifter outmoded (“Top Floor, Please”). Like Jaguar’s styling, there’s no need to scrap a timeless and superior design. The lightweight Jag is just plain more fun to drive than those German-brand computers on wheels. The J-gate makes driving an automatic a blast, not a bore. Your assumption that most buyers just “select drive and forget about it anyway” reminds me of my 7 Series days. Do you guys really drive these cars? Keith Adams Santa Cruz, California Yes. Yes, we do.—Ed.

future enthusiast magazine editor Perhaps following the report on Bangle’s Butt, you will now expose the man (or woman) behind the now ubiquitous “Audi Schnozzle” and how the Toyota Avalon was separated at birth from the Nissan Maxima (“The Shape of Things To Come”). After all, you’ve declared how brilliant the new Hyundai models are and

you’ve broken the invincibility spell on the Pontiac Solstice. Though the motoring press wills the Solstice to be a success for GM’s sake, the Solstice just doesn’t cut the mustard for carrying luggage, dropping/raising the roof, and expecting it to be cheaper than an MX-5 once specs are on a par. Finally, as a resident familiar with your Car of the Year on-road loop, maybe you could take Westlake Boulevard South (23) all the way to PCH. Not only can you view the amazingly situated Malibu Canyon golf course (looks like it was deposited there from a SIMS game), but the last few miles down to PCH involve a series of hairpins that looks like you’re transcending an Alpine pass—and it can make you feel queasy at the same time. Chris Thomas Thousand Oaks, California

blown away I received your “COTY” issue and read with interest the STS-v versus CLS55 comparison. Good article, but while you discuss the STS-v Meyer-sourced interior, you include just one photo of that interior, and a tiny one at that. Instead, there are seven pictures of the exterior. I’d like a few more interior shots and less artsy exterior shots. B. Anderson Minneapolis, Minnesota

the game is doom A more appropriate name for your magazine should be Doom Motor City Trend. I’ve noticed a deliberate attempt over the past few months by your staff to ruin GM. Your comments are laced with harsh bitterness towards any GM product. You have now attempted to decide a GM car/trucks fate even before it comes out. Furthermore, it’s become your newest trend to bash GM products when testing other vehicles. Please hide all of your preconceived fondness for a non-domestic-made vehicle and test a vehicle with an open mind. This means that when reporting, you must remove the I Love Imports glasses you’re looking through. Russ Hoekstra Grandville, Michigan ■ All correspondence must include an address and a 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

star search Where are the dream cars of the 21st century? ■ illustration atomos ■ photograph lionel deluy

NOW THAT the big 2006 Los Angeles and Detroit car shows are over, I have to confess I’m disappointed. Almost every vehicle on display looked like an automobile. I was hoping to see, well, rockets. Perhaps a few scramjet-powered hovercraft. Maybe even a flying saucer or two. At the very least, I wanted to be jolted into giddy anticipation by a display that proclaimed The Future! with all the breathless optimism of a 1950s Disneyland attraction. Make no mistake: L.A. and Detroit were loaded with stunning concept models—the Aston Martin Rapide, the Chrysler Firepower, the Ford Reflex, to name just three. But, really,

30 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

they’re all just cars. Indeed, you may well see versions of them on the road within the next few years. So where were the “dream cars”—the vehicles we’ll all be driving 10, 20, even 30 years from now? “The investment in a concept car is so high, they [almost] have to be used as the base for a production model,” said Audi’s chief designer, Walter Maria de’Silva, in a recent issue of BusinessWeek. So, okay, the ugly realities of today’s ultratight budgets are partly to blame. But I think there’s another factor at work: People are afraid. Look at the awful stuff that dominates today’s headlines: war, terrorism, dwindling petroleum supplies, avian flu,

another “Rocky” sequel in the works. Faced with such relentless dread, perhaps it’s no wonder that for the most part automakers are placating the public with practical, comforting dreams like highly efficient hybrid and fuel-cell powertrains and infotainment systems that can read your e-mail to you while you drive. Well, I don’t want e-mail in my automobile. I want a car I can drive at 600 miles per hour, fly into outer space, rinse off in the ocean while I’m exploring the Titanic, and then fold up and carry to the office in my briefcase. Never mind if it’s feasible or not. Just tell me that it’s made entirely of some material that hasn’t even been invented yet—say, CosmiNex—and I’ll believe it’s all possible. Harley Earl understood the value of over-thetop optimism. One look at the bubble-topped, missile-shaped dream cars he designed for GM in the 1950s, and you just knew that behind its gates General Motors was hard at work cooking up the spacey wonder-chariots that would soon zoom us away into our rightful Jetsons future. It was showmanship, sure, but it also fueled a dynamism that rubbed off on the General’s entire production-car lineup. Wideeyed boys and rival automakers the world over got the message: Don’t mess with GM. It’s got rockets. Nobody is shooting for the moon any more. Instead, Detroit is attempting reentry. The Challenger and Camaro musclecar concepts are nice—as is the production Mustang—but is Motown really so spooked that, like the big Hollywood studios, it’s afraid to serve up anything radically new? Nor is the dearth of audacity confined to the Big Three. From the two recent shows, only VW’s open-cockpit, three-wheeled GX3 seemed to say,“Hey! Never mind that I don’t look like a car and could easily be crushed by a careless Hummer. Aren’t I cool?” I mean, if GM had displayed one of Harley Earl’s most flamboyant creations—the razor-finned Firebird III concept—in L.A. or Detroit, it would’ve blown the airbags off everything else on the floor. And it’s a halfcentury old. I’m waiting for the automaker that’s bold enough to let its Harley Earls aim for the stars. Wouldn’t you like to see not just the cars of tomorrow, but the cars of Tomorrowland? ■


(technologue) frank markus

crash course Risking life and limb boils down to a numbers game ■ illustration glenn lumsden ■ photograph lionel deluy

HOW MANY of you researched crash safety ratings before you bought your last car? Did you find the information useful? I see Nader and Claybrook waving their hands furiously, but most of your heads are swiveling. Can’t blame you. The information is simply too scarce, scattered, and conflicting. To wit: The Saturn Vue and Honda Element both earn five-star side-impact crash ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates them “Poor” in its sidecrash test. The Jeep Liberty gets five NHTSA stars for driver frontal protection, but a “Marginal” rating from the IIHS. And even if you find a car with unanimous crash kudos, the fatality statistics down the road often fail to correlate with the safety ratings. So are all these tests totally bogus?

32 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

Not exactly. Results differ because the tests are different—NHTSA frontal crashes hit a hard, full-width barrier at 35 mph, while the IIHS impacts an offset, deformable barrier at 40 mph. NHTSA ignores head trauma in its side-impact tests, IIHS doesn’t. Death rates don’t track any one test’s ratings that closely because in the real world people die in all types of crashes. And both agencies warn against comparing ratings for vehicles of different weights, meaning that a big three-star vehicle might protect you better than a small one earning five stars. Frustrated by this hodgepodge of safety babblespeak, retired Pratt & Whitney mechanical engineer Michael Dulberger devised a better, more holistic approach to presenting safety data: a single rating that predicts a vehicle’s overall likelihood of keeping its occupants alive. His basic approach is

forehead-smackingly simple: combine all the test results, weighting each according to accident fatality statistics; 43 percent of deaths occur in front impacts, 28 in rollovers, 26 in side impacts, and three in rear-enders. Dulberger’s SCORE (Statistical Combination Of Risk Elements) is refined by tweaking the frontal results to reflect the statistical effect that vehicle weight has on fatality rates, and by altering the rollover ratings to reflect the type of vehicle (SUVs and pickups are 2.3 times as likely as a car to roll over) and the fitment of a stability-control system. Most cars haven’t been subjected to every type of crash test, so the risk calculator inserts figures representing the fleet average in place of missing data. Vehicle weight, the availability of stability control and side airbags, and static rollover ratings (based on vehicle measurements) are available on most vehicles, so that even before any crash tests are performed, buyers can get some idea as to whether a vehicle will likely rank above or below average. A car with no data rates a 100 by default. Ratings significantly above or below 100 reflect progressively higher or lower risk of serious injury or death. To see how his system stacks up, Dulberger computed Risk scores for 200 1999 to 2002 model vehicles for which meaningful crash-test data was available, and plotted them against actual IIHS fatality statistics by model. His Risk scores tracked the death rate far more faithfully than either IIHS or NHTSA ratings alone do (to compare all the graphs, visit informedforlife.org). Dulberger asserts that driving one of the 28 vehicles on his list scoring 70 or below dramatically lowers risk, and he believes that if every car and truck earned a two-digit score (there are 120 vehicles to choose from) we could save 110,000 lives per year.The good news is that most of the vehicles we like best rank above average. Our of-the-year winning Nissan Xterra SUV, Honda Civic, and Honda Ridgeline pickup rank 99, 83, and 81, respectively. And while the list is not yet complete for 2006, none of the 77 vehicles ranked worse than average seems cool enough to warrant the added risk. Now, let’s see those heads bobbing: Who’s going to research the safety SCORE of his next vehicle? ■


(cover story) PORSCHE CAYMAN S//CORVETTE Z06//PORSCHE 911 CARRERA & S//ASTON MARTIN V8 VANTAGE

WHAT IS IT ABOUT PORSCHE’S 911? Any wet-behind-the-ears automotive engineer can fill a blackboard with figures and equations proving the venerable Porsche is, by design, an inferior sports car. Just look where the engine is, ferpetesake. It’s hanging way out behind the rear axle, which makes for a disadvantageous polar-moment of inertia. That’s geekspeak meaning the car inherently wants to handle like a lopsided barbell, swinging all pendulum-like in corners. Furthermore, the engine’s mass actually teeter-totters weight off the front wheels, and any C-average enginerd can remember that the maximum grip a tire can deliver is the product of its coefficient of friction and the weight pushing down on it. Less weight equals less grip—another critical strike against the 911’s cornering capability. Slavish devotion to a 43-year-old profile leaves no room out back for any36 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

thing bigger than a flat-six, and unless you lay out six figures and order the X51 power package or wait for next year’s Turbo, the water-boxer six only makes between 325 and 355 horsepower—far less than competitors costing a fraction of the 911’s $72,095 opening price. Clearly the continuing popularity of the 911 can only be explained by the iconic image it enjoys and projects. But there’s a helluva lot more to Porsche’s icon than raw numbers and blackboard scribblings can illuminate. Four decades of advances in chassis tuning, tire technology, and electronic stability aids have apparently succeeded in overturning the laws of physics, rendering the 911 remarkably safe and simple to operate within its admirably high limits of adhesion. The rear-engine location magnifies the weight pressing down on the rear tires at launch, allowing the engine to convert more of its power and torque to


words frank markus

photographs evan klein

LET THE BATTLES BEGIN

DIAL911

acceleration off the line and less to tire smoke, improving sprint times accordingly. The light front-end loading endows the 911 with benchmark steering feel. The amount of data transmitted to the 911 driver’s hands via tiny twitches and changes in weighting is virtually unmatched outside of an open-wheeled formula car. Package all the above in a cockpit where every pedal, switch, and lever has been uncompromisingly placed in the ideal spot— remember, there’s no powertrain bulging into the cockpit jockeying for position with the controls—and you end up with a car that earns its icon status fair and square. This hasn’t stopped seasoned automotive engineers from trying to outdo the 911, however, and these days Porsche’s masterpiece seems to be under attack from all directions. America’s Sports Car, the even longer-lived Corvette, has upped its game by an order of

magnitude with the 2006 Z06 model. Does the new Chevy have what it takes to lure avid Porschephiles? Porsche alumnus Ulrich Bez is now commanding Aston Martin’s slide-rule soldiers and CAD cadets, and his latest masterpiece—the new “entry-level” V8 Vantage is aimed squarely at the high end of the 911 Carrera S. Has Herr Bez transformed the stolid, tweedy British brand sufficiently to draw the attention of 911 customers? And as if the British and American competition weren’t daunting enough, there’s a nasty sibling rivalry brewing right there in Zuffenhausen. Porsche’s slick new mid-engine Cayman provides most of what people love about a 911 at a better price, in a sleeker package, and without the inherent weight imbalance. So will the 911 be able to defend its crown as the world’s sportscar icon? Let’s load up our geek gear and consider the rivals... MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 37


(cover story) dial 911

THIS CONTEST

probably happens a lot more in American car magazines than it ever does in the hearts and minds of sports-car shoppers. And despite whatever hype and hyperbole magazine scribblers expend building suspense in the opening paragraphs of their stories, the wrap-up generally comes down to this: Corvette—amazing straight-line punch, exceptional value; 911—stupendous handling and exquisite refinement. Every editor weighs the virtues differently, but the 38 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

balance most often tips in Porsche’s favor. But this time is different, right? This time the Chevy folks are through messing around. They’ve pushed The Button. Gone Nukyaler. This year’s SuperVette smites the top Carrera with 42 percent more power and 59 percent more torque, producing an almost funny-car-like 505 horses and 470 poundfeet. And for a change the good news isn’t all concentrated in the engine room. An allaluminum chassis and new magnesium and carbon-fiber components help give the Z06

a 124-pound weight advantage over the 911 Carrera S, while improving the Corvette’s front-to-rear distribution by a percentage point (from 52/48 to 51/49). The new chassis is stiffer than the old steel one, too. Trimming weight from the structure allowed the chassis hardware to get bigger and stronger. Race-rated brake rotors are over an inch larger than the last Z06’s, measuring 14.0 inches in front, 13.4 in back—the largest in this test. They’re grabbed by impressive monobloc calipers


// ROUND 1 // CORVETTE Z06 VS PORSCHE 911 CARRERA S //

DOES MIGHT FINALLY MAKE RIGHT? boasting six pistons in front, four in back. The heavier Carrera S makes do with 13.0-inch rotors and four-piston calipers at each corner. The Z06’s footwear also has grown several sizes to 275/35ZR18s in front, 325/30ZR19s out back, making Chevy the undisputed Big Foot of this outing. All that go-fast gear pays off with a top speed over 190 mph, and the Z06 enjoys extensive aero tweaks like a front chin splitter and rear “Gurney-lip” spoiler to ensure stability by reducing and balancing

the front and rear lift. No free-breathing factory 911 can keep up with the new Z06. Athleticism isn’t the end of the story. The Z06 attended the same finishing school the basic C6 did, albeit for an abbreviated course. Dash and door-panel materials are now soft to the touch, and the cockpit has been given a light makeover with improved materials, sheens, and fits. This added performance and panache have eroded the Corvette’s traditional price advantage—the Z06 starts at $65,690, but a loaded one now

tiptoes past the 911’s $72,095 base price. See, it really is different this time. Of course, attempting to match Corvette performance when ordering a 911 requires upgrading to the $82,195 S model, if not ordering the 380-horsepower X51 power package for another $16,900. We pitted the Z06 against a mainstream S model and started out by running both cars through our full battery of performance tests at California Speedway. At the dragstrip, the 911’s 62-percent rear-weight MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 39


(cover story) dial 911

bias loads the rear tires with well over 2000 pounds, allowing the driver to dial up 3500 rpm and transmit some 1480 pounds of force to the pavement, generating a rather violent hop-hop-hop launch that propels the Porsche to 30 mph in 1.6 seconds. By contrast, with about 1550 pounds pressing on the Z06’s rear end, a gingerly launch at just above idle (1500 rpm) manages to transmit just over 1200 pounds of force to the contact patches (the best ratio of traction to rear-axle weight in this test, suggesting that the Z06 wears the stickiest tires in this group). Launch with any more power, and the tires smoke all the way through first gear. This costs the Corvette a tenth in the dash to 30 mph, but by 50 mph all 505 horses are hooked up and galloping away, hitting 100 mph 2.7 seconds sooner

and crossing the quarter mile at 124.0 mph—14.5 mph faster than the Carrera S. There’s just no real contest in a drag race. Braking is another story. Throw out the anchor in a 911, and enough weight shifts forward to approach an even 50/50 distribution (hence the identical front and rear rotor diameters); the heavier Carrera S stops three feet shorter from 60 mph (107 versus 110 feet). From 100 mph, the Corvette stopped in 308 feet, outbraking our S by 14 feet, but our base Carrera, equipped with the same wheels and tires as the S and smaller brakes (but showing 8000 fewer miles on the odometer) stopped two feet shorter at 306. Advantage Porsche. Combine acceleration and braking with curves, and the results vary with the distance between the curves. Spaced at

the handling corner CARRERA S To compare the handling of our cars, we focused on one turn of our ever-useful figure-eight course. Here, the Porsche raggedly understeered.

CORVETTE Z06 On the other hand, the Z06's tail drifted more, but at a more consistent angle. Understeer is mild and needs few corrections.

40 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

100 feet, as in our slalom maneuver, the Z06 and 911 are virtually tied at 70.8 and 71.0 mph, respectively. The 911’s 4.7-inchnarrower body and 13.2-inch-shorter wheelbase are simply easier to thread through the cones. The cars are also in a virtual dead-heat in our figure-eight test, with the Corvette running a tenth of a second quicker. The traces are quite different, though. Power has to be applied gently when exiting the skidpad curves in the Z06, after which a much higher speed can be reached on the straights. The 911 charges hard out of the turns but hits the top of its (21-percent-shorter) third gear too close to the end of the straight to warrant upshifting to fourth, costing a precious tenth or two. Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca separates its curves with much longer straights and a couple hillclimbs, all of which clearly favor big Bow-Tie horsepower. Not surprisingly, our Z06 rounded this 2.2-mile circuit a good 2.7 seconds quicker than the Carrera S. Uh huh, this Corvette has what it takes to shut out Germany’s finest on one of the trickiest tracks in the U.S. That’s not to say it was the easiest to drive. “I’ve got one word for this car: ‘Respect,’ ” says our chief shoe, Neil Chirico. “You really have to be patient with the throttle. There are places you can hammer it, but most of the time you have to just squeeze.” And that was running with the stability control in its “competition mode.” By contrast, the 911s were both so well behaved that Chirico ran them with their stability systems off. With less power and more weight pressing that power onto the pavement, the car built confidence quickly, with each of Chirico’s hot laps building


speed gradually. (Our S-tired base 911 circled Laguna just 1.8 seconds slower than the Carrera S.) It was a different story in the Corvette. Midway through Chirico’s six-lap session, the cabin had become so hot that his sunglasses were fogging up. He lost time on the middle lap removing them, switching on the air-conditioning, and aiming the vents, but with 505 horses, five or six of them can be spared to turn the compressor, and the fastest lap was logged with the A/C on. In the quest for low weight, the Z06 lost 15 pounds of sound and heat insulation out of the center-console area, through which the exhaust and driveshaft are routed. Run the car hard, and the console becomes searing hot. There’s no such heat-source in the 911. The Corvette’s shifter requires a much more deliberate hand than the 911’s, and its action feels less precise. The Z06’s pedals are well placed, but higher brake boost or a different pedal ratio makes the Corvette’s effort feel unnaturally light and a bit less confident. Our impressions on deserted winecountry roads were similar. The Z06 was demanding but amazingly quick, and the soundtrack accompanying the performance was soul-stirring. For those who relate to the old saying “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” one drive in this Z06 is likely to overrule any right-brain protestations over inadequate interior trim poshness or insufficient badge cachet. There’s simply nothing quite like the roar and rush of 505 small-block horses at full gallop available at a five-figure sticker price. It’s an incomparable blend of biginch torque and cammy high-rev power that few engines can match. Our panel of drivers found the 911 easier to acclimate to on unfamiliar twisty roads, though, owing mostly to the fact that the rear-heavy Porsche felt less apt to wag its tail, and partly because of its more natural driving position (the Corvette’s wheel is not adjustable for reach and sits too close to shorter-legged drivers). And when slogging along on the freeway, the heat and road-roar entering the Corvette’s cabin do little to enhance a Sunday drive. But at the end of the day, the Z06 is a much faster, quicker, and higher-performing car— a rocket-propelled grenade to Porsche’s HK416 assault rifle. The ultimate Corvette outperforms the 911 Carrera S in enough contests—and decisively enough—that it cannot be dismissed on the basis of its lower-rent interior and its hot, loud ride. When performance matters most, as it surely must for anyone considering a Z06, the 911 simply falls short. Advantage Corvette.

POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT ENGINE TYPE VALVETRAIN DISPLACEMENT COMPRESSION RATIO POWER (SAE NET) TORQUE (SAE NET) REDLINE WEIGHT TO POWER TRANSMISSION AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIOS SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR STEERING RATIO TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK BRAKES, F;R WHEELS, F;R TIRES, F;R DIMENSIONS WHEELBASE TRACK, F/R LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT TURNING CIRCLE CURB WEIGHT WEIGHT DIST, F/R 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 BRAKING, 100-0 MPH 600-FT SLALOM LATERAL ACCELERATION MT FIGURE EIGHT 2.2-MI ROAD COURSE LAP 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 ECONOMY RECOMMENDED FUEL

2006 CHEVROLET CORVETTE Z06

2005 PORSCHE 911 CARRERA S

Front engine, RWD 90° V-8, alum block/heads OHV, 2 valves/cyl 427.6 cu in/7008cc 11.0:1 505 hp @ 6300 rpm* 470 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm* 7000 rpm 6.2 lb/hp 6-speed manual 3.42:1 / 1.71:1 Control arms, transverse leaf spring anti-roll bar; leaf spring, anti-roll bar, control arms, transverse 16.1:1 2.9 14.0-in vented, drilled disc; 13.4-in vented, drilled disc, ABS 18 x 8.5 in; 19 x 12.0 in, cast aluminum 275/35ZR18 87Y; 325/30ZR19 94Y, Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar EMT

Rear engine, RWD Flat-6, alum block/heads DOHC, 4 valves/cyl 233.4 cu in/3824cc 11.8:1 355 hp @ 6600 rpm 295 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm 7200 rpm 9.2 lb/hp 6-speed manual 3.44:1 / 3.03:1 Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar 13.8-17.1:1 2.6 13.0-in vented, drilled disc; 13.0-in vented, drilled disc, ABS 19 x 8.0 in; 19 x 11.0 in, cast aluminum 235/35R19 87Y; 295/30R19 100Y, Michelin Pilot Sport PS2

105.7 in 63.5 / 62.1 in 175.6 x 75.9 x 49.0 in 39.0 ft 3151 lb 51 / 49 % 2 37.9 / - in 43.0 / - in 55.0 / - in 22.4 cu ft

92.5 in 58.5 / 59.7 in 175.6 x 71.2 x 51.2 in 35.8 ft 3275 lb 38 / 62 % 2+2 38.0 / 26.0 in 44.0 / 26.0 in (est) 051.5 / 47.3 in 4.8 cu ft

1.7 sec 2.0 3.0 4.0 4.9 5.8 7.0 8.2 1.7 12.0 sec @ 124.0 mph 110 ft 308 ft 70.8 mph avg 0.95 g avg 24.9 sec @ 0.79 g avg 107.3 sec @ 75.1 mph avg 1350 rpm

1.6 sec 2.3 3.4 4.4 5.9 7.4 9.0 10.9 2.1 13.0 sec @ 109.5 mph 107 ft 322 ft 71.0 mph avg 0.95 g avg 25.8 sec @ 0.75 g avg 110.0 sec @ 73.2 mph avg 2400 rpm

$65,690 $70,185 Yes/yes Dual front 3 yrs/36,000 miles 3 yrs/36,000 miles 3 yrs/36,000 miles 18.0 gal 16 / 26 mpg 20.3 mpg Premium unleaded

$82,195 $90,000 Yes/yes Dual front, front side, f/r head 4 yrs/50,000 miles 4 yrs/50,000 miles 4 yrs/50,000 miles 16.9 gal 18 / 26 mpg 21.5 mpg Premium unleaded

* SAE certified MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 41


(cover story) dial 911 NOBODY NEEDS

STYLE ¨ UBER ALLES?

42 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

needs a hyperpowerful two-seat sexmobile. As transportation, these cars fall miserably short of a Toyota Camry or Honda Odyssey in any objective category Consumer Reports would bother to measure. Buyers in this class base their purchase decisions on emotional, not rational grounds. They want their cars to make them look and feel rich, powerful, and gorgeous, and they’d like them to shout “look at me,” or more accurately, “envy me.” And it may be on this count—the car as the ultimate haute couture accessory—that the Porsche 911 is most vulnerable. Oh, it’s plenty good looking, but it’s just so very, very familiar. Through 2005, 618,401


// ROUND 2 // ASTON MARTIN V8 VANTAGE VS PORSCHE 911 CARRERA S //

examples of this iconic shape have been minted in Zuffenhausen. 911s can be found everywhere, in big towns and small, across every populated continent. If you want your $70,000-plus to swivel heads, this Porsche is likely to disappoint. This is precisely the chink in the 911’s armor through which Aston Martin aims to drive its stunning new V8 Vantage. The name Aston Martin has brand recognition and cachet all out of proportion with the historical excellence of its cars, many of which perform like high-powered, temperamental trucks. But so many millions of moviegoers and late-night TV addicts have watched Aston Martins perform amazing feats of derring-do with James Bond at the helm

twiddling his Q-branch gizmos that enthusiasts around the world revere the name. Boutique production rates mean that sighting an Aston is a rare treat, even on Rodeo Drive, and Aston Martins will always be scarcer than Porsches, even if the company manages to move 4000 of these “entry-level” V8s ($110K is the price of entry) per year. Of course, the V8 Vantage is so kneeweakeningly beautiful that it might not matter at all what people think of the name nor how well the car performs. Henrik Fisker’s design lifts the hallmark Aston styling cues off the comfortably curvaceous DB9 with which it shares its basic VH aluminum chassis architecture and pulls them tight over the V8’s short-

overhang, wheels-at-the-corners design, giving the end product a more menacing, purposeful, and masculine look. And despite its ostensibly more affordable price tag, the V8 Vantage is every inch an exotic. From doors that open upward at a 12-degree angle (and hold themselves open anywhere along their arc), to the hand-sewn quarter-inch white stitching outlining the black seats, dash, and door panels, to the peculiar glass needles that swing in opposite directions up the tach and speedometer, there’s virtually nothing in the interior that’s recognizable from any of Aston’s Ford corporate cousins. Plenty of “creative ergonomics” heighten the exotic effect. The window

MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 43


(cover story) dial 911

switches are placed so that you press away from you at a 45-degree angle for down, pull toward you for up; the navigation, trip computer, and radio buttons are about the size of Chiclets placed on edge; when you adjust the steering wheel fully forward, it’s impossible to insert or remove the ignition key; and the windshield defroster consists of a zillion little wire squiggles that are quite visible and a bit distracting. Ah, but that’s all part of the charm and character of an exotic, right? Cruise control is a $450 stand-alone option, which our test car didn’t have. Who wouldn’t want cruise in a vehicle this adept at eating up highway miles? The styling and Bond-cool factor alone

could probably entice 4000 V8 Vantage customers per year, but just in case buyers demand performance as well, the company went to considerable trouble to engineer the car for 911-grade ride and handling, about which company CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez knows more than a little, having stamped his résumé at Porsche three jobs ago. For starters, he shoved the V-8 well back in the nose of the car and mounted the slick-shifting Graziano six-speed tranny back at the rear axle to achieve a curb weight distribution of 49/51 percent front/rear. The shortened DB9 chassis, composed of aluminum extrusions and castings, forms a rigid platform for the control-arm front, multilink

the handling corner VANTAGE V8 By far the most spectacular to drive was the Aston Martin, which slid a lot and needed plenty of opposite lock at the exit.

CARRERA S The Carrera S understeered more than the Vantage and needed lots of little steering inputs to remain on line. Tires love precision.

44 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

rear suspension. Relative to the Carrera S, the Aston’s wheelbase is almost 10 inches longer while the bodywork is over three inches shorter. The track is wider by 3.2 inches in front and 1.8 inch in back, giving the V8 Vantage a stable, sure-footed stance, especially on our tester’s optional 19-inch wheels and tires ($1595). That stability was evident on the twisted, hilly roads outside Paso Robles, where the Aston always remained well planted and never put a wheel wrong. The slight rearweight bias (heightened with a driver and luggage aboard) contributes to the feeling of improved grip during braking, and there’s no sensation of big weight transfers happening under acceleration. We could feel the hand of Dr. Bez in the Aston’s ride quality, which faithfully matches the Carrera S’s (with the adjustable suspension in comfort mode). Sharp impacts are cushioned, while body motions remain controlled. There is, however, a bit more body roll permitted in the Aston, and the steering is heavier off-center, not quite as linear as the 911’s. It works okay and doesn’t require mid-corner correction, but it never feels anywhere near as natural or communicative as the Porsche’s. In our objective handling tests, the V8 Vantage performed similarly to the base Porsche 911, matching its 0.91g lateral grip and circling the figure-eight course at a nearly identical 25.7 seconds and 0.72g average. The Aston’s 7300-rpm rev-limiter may have contributed slightly to that


result—the 911s both ran out of third gear just before the end of the straights, while the Aston was able to keep pulling (overall gearing in third is almost identical). The cone spacing in our slalom course favored the wheelbase and natural frequency of the Aston, which slipped through at an average 71.4 mph—a shade quicker than the Carrera S and Z06, though from the helm, test-driver Chirico was hard-pressed to explain the improvement, noting, “Sometimes a car manages to score a number it didn’t deserve on paper.” There was nothing spurious about the results on the big track at Laguna Seca, where the 3566-pound Aston finished last, 2.2 seconds slower than the Carrera S (0.4 second behind the base 911) at a 71.8-mph average. It could carry similar speeds into most turns, but it struggled to accelerate as hard at the exits and while climbing the big uphill stretch leading to the famous corkscrew. Chirico also noted the brakepedal feel inspired less confidence than the 911’s and that he noticed a bit of fade toward the end of the session. If we were to encourage Dr. Bez to make one improvement, it would be to Aston’s Jaguar-derived 4.3-liter engine. The power output is respectable—with 380 horses, the heavier Aston boasts nearly the same weight-to-power ratio as the Carrera S (9.4 versus 9.2 pounds/horsepower)—but the Aston’s 301 pound-feet of torque are overwhelmed by the 291 extra pounds it carries relative to the Carrera S. That puts its weightto-torque rating just above that of the base Carrera and Cayman. Is there room to bore that baby out a couple mils, Dr. B? Just be sure you don’t alter the exhaust note—it’s glorious above 4000 rpm. Another 30 pound-feet, or 300 fewer pounds of the vehicle weight, would’ve closed the performance gap at the dragstrip, where the Aston trailed the pack in every measure of acceleration. The launch was especially slow, owing mostly to the fact that first gear is 12 percent taller than in the 911s. Given the Vantage’s torque deficiency and fat rear tires, the driver has to launch with big revs (and attendant clutch trauma) to make a quick getaway. Clearly this car is less about launching in a cloud of tire or clutch smoke and more about arriving in unsurpassed style. Aston’s V8 Vantage delivers about 90 percent of the 911’s raw performance with double the style and an infinitely greater wow-factor. The choice here is Savile Row bespoke tailoring versus Hugo Boss off the rack. If style matters enough for you to have tried them both on, and if you can afford either, you’ll be happier in the Aston Martin.

POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT ENGINE TYPE VALVETRAIN DISPLACEMENT COMPRESSION RATIO POWER (SAE NET) TORQUE (SAE NET) REDLINE WEIGHT TO POWER TRANSMISSION AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIOS SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR STEERING RATIO TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK BRAKES, F;R WHEELS, F;R TIRES, F;R DIMENSIONS WHEELBASE TRACK, F/R LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT TURNING CIRCLE CURB WEIGHT WEIGHT DIST., F/R 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 BRAKING, 100-0 MPH 600-FT SLALOM LATERAL ACCELERATION MT FIGURE EIGHT 2.2-MI ROAD COURSE LAP 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 ECONOMY RECOMMENDED FUEL

2006 ASTON MARTIN V8 VANTAGE

2005 PORSCHE 911 CARRERA S

Front engine, RWD 90° V-8, alum block/heads DOHC, 4 valves/cyl 261.2 cu in/4280cc 11.3:1 380 hp @ 7000 rpm 302 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm 7300 rpm 9.4 lb/hp 6-speed manual 3.91:1 / 3.03:1 Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar 17.0:1 3.0 14.0-in vented, slotted disc; 13.0-in vented, slotted disc, ABS 19 x 8.5 in; 19 x 9.5 in, cast aluminum 235/40R19 92Y; 275/35R19 96Y, Bridgestone Potenza RE050A

Rear engine, RWD Flat-6, alum block/heads DOHC, 4 valves/cyl 233.4 cu in/3824cc 11.8:1 355 hp @ 6600 rpm 295 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm 7200 rpm 9.2 lb/hp 6-speed manual 3.44:1 / 3.03:1 Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar 13.8-17.1:1 2.6 13.0-in vented, drilled disc; 13.0-in vented, drilled disc, ABS 19 x 8.0 in; 19 x 11.0 in, cast aluminum 235/35R19 87Y; 295/30R19 100Y, Michelin Pilot Sport PS2

102.4 in 61.7 / 61.5 in 172.5 x 73.5 x 49.4 in 36.4 ft 3566 lb 49 / 51 % 2 38.5 / - in 42.8 / - in 54.8 / - in 10.6 cu ft

92.5 in 58.5 / 59.7 in 175.6 x 71.2 x 51.2 in 35.8 ft 3275 lb 38 / 62 % 2+2 38.0 / 26.0 in 44.0 / 26.0 in (est) 051.5 / 47.3 in 4.4 cu ft

2.0 sec 2.9 4.0 5.2 6.4 8.3 10.0 12.2 2.5 13.6 sec @ 105.8 mph 109 ft 310 ft 71.4 mph avg 0.91 g avg 25.7 sec @ 0.72 g avg 112.2 sec @ 71.8 mph avg 2375 rpm

1.6 sec 2.3 3.4 4.4 5.9 7.4 9.0 10.9 2.1 13.0 sec @ 109.5 mph 107 ft 322 ft 71.0 mph avg 0.95 g avg 25.8 sec @ 0.75 g avg 110.0 sec @ 73.2 mph avg 2400 rpm

$110,000 $118,290 Yes/yes Dual front, front side 3 yrs/unlimited miles 3 yrs/unlimited miles 3 yrs/unlimited miles 20.2 gal 14 / 22 mpg 16.7 mpg Premium unleaded

$82,195 $90,000 Yes/yes Dual front, front side, f/r head 4 yrs/50,000 miles 4 yrs/50,000 miles 4 yrs/50,000 miles 16.9 gal 18 / 26 mpg 21.5 mpg Premium unleaded

MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 45


(cover story) dial 911

BABY BROTHER OR HEIR TO THE THRONE?

48 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


// ROUND 3 // PORSCHE CAYMAN S VS PORSCHE 911 CARRERA //

THERE’S BEEN

a rear-engine Porsche sports car for as long as most of us have been alive. Will there always be one? Should there always be one? No Porsche in our lifetime has asked that question as convincingly as this new Cayman S (below right) does. No 914/914-6, no 924-968, not even the big bruising 928 ever contended to replace the venerable 911. The new Boxster-derived Cayman S does. For starters, while the previous lower-priced Porsches were designed in joint-ventures with VW and Audi, this mid-engine coupe is all Porsche. It shares some 30 percent of its parts with the 911, including the front suspension, front chassis structure, the cooling system, the doors, seats, and more. The body is essentially a hardtopped Boxster. Adding the lid doubles the roadster’s bending stiffness and improves torsional rigidity to 911 levels. This solid platform allowed the suspension to be stiffened

relative to that of the Boxster S, with a bigger front anti-roll bar, stiffer rear springs, and firmer rear shocks. The Cayman’s unique 3.4-liter flatsix is similar to the one used in the last 911 from 1999 to 2001, but it utilizes the current 911’s VarioCam Plus valve-timing and lift system to produce 295 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque. It’s the first non-911 Porsche to use this sophisticated system, and it helps deliver 15 horsepower more than the 3.2-liter does in the top Boxster S roadster, which sells for $4200 less. Starting off $12,400 less than a base 911, the Cayman offers practically everything drivers love about Porsche’s icon—the ideal control locations, the tidy dimensions, even the milledfrom-billet structural integrity and build quality. And the things that are different about it make the Cayman S feel more exotic than a 911. The roof seems to have been pulled down tight over the greenhouse, trading fishbowl visibility for

MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 49


(cover story) dial 911

gun-slit cool. Wide C-pillars leave bigger blind spots, just like in a mid-engine Ferrari or Lambo. The seats even feel slightly lower to the ground. All the cool handling options are offered, too, including Porsche Active Suspension Management (which, for $1990, continuously alters shock valving to suit driving conditions) and upgraded Carrera S style 19-inch wheels and tires ($1550, but the rears are slightly smaller on the Cayman S to reflect the different weight distribution). Our test car had both. From the outside it’s unmistakable as a Porsche, and yet the proportions and detailing are all just different enough to delight the eye. The wheelbase is 2.6 inches longer

than the 911’s, the tail is bobbed 3.5 inches, and the roofline appears to slope down continuously from the A-pillar to the rear bumper, giving the Cayman S a profile that suggests a runner crouched in the blocks awaiting the starter’s pistol. A rear-threequarter view of the hips and the hatch’s subtle flying buttresses is a feast for the eyes. As in the Boxster, flipping the engine around displaces the 911’s vestigial rear toddler seats, but the Cayman’s hatch closes on twice the Boxster’s rear luggage capacity—9.2-cubic-feet of it, in addition to the 4.9 cubes in the front luggage well. One potential downside to the new coupe’s sleek shape—our tallest tester reported not

the handling corner CARRERA The standard Carrera both understeered and slid all its tires more than the S or Cayman. Note how steady its slide angle could be held.

CAYMAN S The Cayman is certainly a different kind of Porsche. Its drift angle was small, only slewing out at the end. Easy and stable.

50 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

being able to slide the seat back far enough and feeling more cramped than in the 911s. Dynamically, the most important difference between the Porsche siblings is that the Cayman carries eight percent more of its weight on the nose, for a 46/54 percent front/rear distribution. This results in a more neutral, natural feel in transient handling maneuvers, as evidenced by the Cayman’s searing 72.2-mph performance in the 600-foot slalom test. That’s 2.3 mph faster than our base 911 and 1.2 mph better than the Carrera S’s best run. Straight-line braking performance is virtually on top of the 911’s, with stops from 60 mph requiring 109 feet. Improved transitional handling and equivalent braking also helped the Cayman narrowly outperform the base 911 in the figure-eight test, despite the fact that its 30-horse deficit relative to the Carrera cost it precious acceleration on the straight sections of the course. As tester Chirico notes, “I can definitely feel that the weight of the engine is more centrally located and that there’s more grip on the front tires.” The mid-engine coupe completed the course a half-second quicker and with 0.02 g more average grip. Its 25.3-second, 0.74g performance was just 0.3 second and 0.01 g off the Carrera S’s. That thin margin on our figure eight was disappearing completely on Laguna Seca’s long straights and big hillclimb, but before we could quantify the difference, a minor off-track excursion through an unanticipated rain-eroded canyon next to the apex curb-


ing ended the Cayman’s day. Most agreed that except in terms of raw power, the Cayman provided the better overall driving experience. Straight-line acceleration is the performance parameter by which Porsche has chosen to separate these siblings, with the Cayman forbidden from outsprinting its big brother. In addition to docking the Cayman 10 percent in the power and torque departments, the transmission was also hobbled with gearing that’s six percent taller in first and second gears. The result is a launch to 30 mph that’s 20 percent slower than the 911’s—a difference even the least astute customers should notice during a dealer demo drive. That gap closes to seven percent by 60 mph (4.8 versus 4.5 seconds) and to two percent by the quarter mile (13.3 seconds at 104.6 mph versus 13.0 at 106.5 mph). Retrofitting the Boxster’s first two cogs would provide a ratio shorter than the 911’s in first and nearly equivalent in second, greatly improving the Cayman’s response off the line. What Porsche withholds from the Cayman in terms of engine output, the aftermarket stands more than ready to supply. AutoThority and TechArt are each preparing packages that include a low-restriction coldair intake, exhaust headers (plus a high-flow 200-cell catalyst at TechArt) and a new engine controller. These kits promise to add 20 horsepower or so, for between $3000 and $7000. In the lighter Cayman that should be enough to close the performance gap with the 911. For a bit more, each is working on an engine swap for the Carrera S’s 3.8-liter motor, tuned to yield 380 horses, providing they can get the engine controller to speak to the body computers (which are quite different from the 911’s). Pricing isn’t available yet, but figure on at least $30K. If that’s still not enough go, AutoThority is working on a kit to bolt on two low-boost turbochargers capable of huffing up 420 horses, and Ruf now sells a Boxster upgrade with a supercharger that also makes around 420 horsepower. (TechArt warns that boosting these midmounted motors can result in excessive heat buildup, so beware of sustained highoutput running.) How long after this genie gets out of the bottle will Porsche wait before offering bigger power from the factory? Being the only competitor the 911’s creators have anything to say about, it should surprise nobody that the Cayman takes second in this round by a photo-finish, owing to the 911’s superior overall performance. But it’s only by the slimmest of margins, and as we’ve shown, that margin can easily be erased with bucks.

POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT ENGINE TYPE VALVETRAIN DISPLACEMENT COMPRESSION RATIO POWER (SAE NET) TORQUE (SAE NET) REDLINE WEIGHT TO POWER TRANSMISSION AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIOS SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR STEERING RATIO TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK BRAKES, F;R WHEELS, F;R TIRES, F;R DIMENSIONS WHEELBASE TRACK, F/R LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT TURNING CIRCLE CURB WEIGHT WEIGHT DIST., F/R 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 BRAKING, 100-0 MPH 600-FT SLALOM LATERAL ACCELERATION MT FIGURE EIGHT 2.2-MI ROAD COURSE LAP TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH

2006 PORSCHE 911 CARRERA

2006 PORSCHE CAYMAN S

Rear engine, RWD Flat-6, alum block/heads DOHC, 4 valves/cyl 219.4 cu in/3596cc 11.3:1 325 hp @ 6800 rpm 273 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm 7200 rpm 10.0 lb/hp 6-speed manual 3.44:1 / 3.03:1 Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar 13.8-17.1:1 2.6 12.5-in vented, drilled disc; 11.8-in vented, drilled disc, ABS 19 x 8.0 in; 19 x 11.0 in, cast aluminum 235/35R19 91Y; 295/30R19 100Y, Michelin Pilot Sport PS2

Mid-engine, RWD Flat-6, alum block/heads DOHC, 4 valves/cyl 206.8 cu in/3387cc 11.1:1 295 hp @ 6250 rpm 251 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm 7200 rpm 10.5 lb/hp 6-speed manual 3.88:1 / 3.18:1 Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar 13.8-17.1:1 2.6 12.5-in vented, drilled disc; 11.8-in vented, drilled disc, ABS 19 x 8.0 in; 19 x 9.5 in, cast aluminum 235/35R19 87Y; 265/35R19 94Y, Michelin Pilot Sport PS2

92.5 in 58.5 / 59.7 in 175.6 x 71.2 x 51.6 in 35.8 ft 3264 lb 38 / 62 % 2+2 38.0/ 26.0 in 44.0 / 26.0 in (est) 51.5 / 47.3 in 4.4 cu ft

95.1 in 58.5 / 60.2 in 172.1 x 70.9 x 51.4 in 36.4 ft 3088 lb 46 / 54 % 2 37.8 / - in 44.0 / - in (est) 51.5 / - in 14.1 cu ft

1.5 sec 2.2 3.4 4.5 6.0 7.6 9.3 11.6 2.2 13.0 sec @ 106.5 mph 107 ft 306 ft 69.9 mph avg 0.91 g avg 25.8 sec @ 0.72 g avg 111.8 sec @ 72.1 mph avg 2400 rpm

1.8 sec 2.5 3.7 4.8 6.1 8.0 9.8 11.9 2.4 13.3 sec @ 104.6 mph 109 ft 312 ft 72.2 mph avg 0.94 g avg 25.3 sec @ 0.74 g avg NA 2525 rpm

$72,095 $79,295 Yes/yes Dual front, front side, f/r head 4 yrs/50,000 miles 4 yrs/50,000 miles 4 yrs/50,000 miles 16.9 gal 18 / 26 mpg 21.2 mpg Premium unleaded

$59,695 $70,785 Yes/yes Dual front, front side, f/r head 4 yrs/50,000 miles 4 yrs/50,000 miles 4 yrs/50,000 miles 16.9 gal 20 / 28 mpg 22.4 mpg Premium unleaded

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 ECONOMY RECOMMENDED FUEL

MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 51


(cover story) dial 911

HAS THE KING LOST HIS CROWN? THE 911 HAS

come up short in two rounds and barely squeaked ahead in the third, but we’re hardly ready to crown either the racer’s Corvette Z06 or the bon-vivant’s Aston Martin V8 Vantage as the ultimate sports-car icon of the 21st century. Those cars are both too extreme to earn the broad customer base the Renaissance man’s 911 enjoys as an exotic car that

52 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


(cover story) dial 911 can be driven as comfortably in traffic as on a race circuit. And thousands of 911 owners do just that, flogging their cars at Porsche Club track days on the weekend and commuting in them from Monday through Friday. The Z06 is the ultimate affordable race car, but it’s too loud and harsh for everyday use. The Aston is comfortable and quick and agile, but it almost feels too special to operate on clogged highways alongside weaving SUVs and minivans piloted by drivers distracted by cell-phones and morning coffee. You just know that repairing battle scars on an Aston will be painful, time-consuming, and expensive. While certain elements of the 911 driving experience take some getting used to, like the left-side ignition switch and the overbuttoned center stack, this remains among the most accessible exoticars on the planet. It’s an unintimidating car. The big airy greenhouse affords visibility unmatched by any other quasi-exotic. Its compact dimensions make it a breeze to park. A reasonably high roofline and narrow, low sills make getting in and out a snap. The driveline is tractable, and the clutch is easy to operate in traffic. With a choice of two body styles, two engines, two drivelines, and a dizzying array of color and trim choices, a 911 can be tailormade to suit any taste. It’s also a car that appeals equally to the yin and yang. Emotionally, it’s fun to drive, good looking, and widely recognized by the hoi-polloi as an expensive toy—all of which can be said of the Z06, V8 Vantage, and Cayman. The rational side of the brain can build the strongest case for the 911. Those back seats help talk the left brain (and the reluctant spouse) into the 911; it enjoys strong

[

resale value (40 percent after six years, according to the Automotive Lease Guide); it’s fastidiously assembled to exacting German standards (repeat that phrase substituting “British” or “Italian” and see how it sounds); it’s backed by a reassuring fouryear/50,000-mile warranty and serviced by Porsche’s comparatively broad dealer network. Clearly the most serious threat to the 911’s supremacy would appear to be the one from within. Could that be on purpose? Is Porsche grooming the Cayman to become the 911’s successor? Or will the market make that decision? Thirty horsepower, available all-wheel drive, and that vestigial back seat are the 911’s only real trump cards in this game. The new Cayman is that good. If the 911 and Cayman are to thrive and grow together within the Porsche family, the 911 will need to up its performance to make room for the added power Cayman buyers are going to demand in this scintillating chassis. In the near term, we envision 911s adopting the 3.8-liter across the board, offering 355 and 380 horsepower, leaving room for a 3.4-liter Cayman and a 3.6-liter Cayman S. Farther out, if the 998-series 911 is to remain ahead of the Cayman, it’ll probably need to find even more power, by adding displacement, incorporating direct injection, or perhaps by incorporating hybridization (though this would likely kill what little luggage space remains). We’ll know that Porsche is ready to let the Cayman become its new icon car when the factory sends it racing, as it logically should. When that happens, we’ll attend the coronation, shouting, “The 911 is dead, long live the Cayman!” But not before. ■

]

THE 911 REMAINS AMONG THE MOST ACCESSIBLE EXOTIC CARS ON THE PLANET

54 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


(comparison)

56 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


HONDA CIVIC HYBRID VS. TOYOTA PRIUS // HONDA ACCORD HYBRID VS. TOYOTA CAMRY HYBRID

[think tanks] YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY —BUT IS ANYONE REALLY GOING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT 47.6 MPG? ■

■ words kim reynolds photographs brian vance

MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 57


(comparison) HONDA CIVIC HYBRID

SIXTY MPG

from the Toyota Prius during city driving? Sounds good, doesn’t it—especially when you motor past a gas station and see the price of regular unleaded starting with a 3. Trouble is, Toyota’s little eco-hellion hasn’t quite been able to back up this braggery—a fact even the federal government now concurs with. We’re not talking about the EPA here, but fueleconomy.gov, where 77 2005 Prius drivers have posted their personal gas use, the average being 47.6 (see below).

So what’s the EPA proposing to do to temper its hallucinatory mileage claims? What about those rumored changes coming to the federal tax credits available for 2006? We’ll get to those questions. But first, let’s greet the two newest players in the hybrid game, the 2006 Honda Civic and 2007 Toyota Camry, as we compare them to their familiar nemesi—the Prius and Accord Hybrid.

CIVIC HYBRID VS. PRIUS Fancy this: two Motor Trend Car of the Year winners, face to face. The Prius captured the calipers two years ago; the Civic (its entire lineup) for 2006. However, don’t presume Toyota’s mad scientist of family sedans is suddenly working from a technological deficit. Catching the Prius would be a Manhattan Project undertaking.

58 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

Beneath the hood of Honda’s resurgent compact is the latest refinement of its Integrated Motor Assist (IMA), an elegant engineering idea if ever there was one. The crux of the system is a disc-like electric motor that’s thin (but now more powerful due to compact square-section windings) and substitutes for the standard flywheel disc. It rotates rigidly with the crankshaft, offering some power (20 horses) but mostly torque (76 pound-feet; recall that large diameter) to its efficient but gruntless 1.3-liter four-cylinder companion engine. It’s also a starter motor to instantly get things going again after the engine’s shut down at a stop (just release the brake), and a generator to recapture kinetic energy while slowing. Simplicity often carries constraints, though, and one of IMA’s is that the car doesn’t go without its engine


TOYOTA PRIUS

turning, meaning neither the engine nor motor can independently propel the Civic (well almost). Nor can either be optimized. Honda’s been whittling away at its system’s limitations, however. In fact, we’re startled at how close the Civic Hybrid’s mileage numbers now come to those of the cuckoo-clock-complex Prius. This Prius— spiffed up with a few new-for-2006 upgrades itself—returned 44 mpg in our paws; the Civic, 40. Cruising on the highway, the Honda frequently registered 45 mpg. Geez. There are three technical explanations for this splendid showing: the motor’s greater power (up 54 percent), the engine’s new three-mode VTEC valvetrain, and the car’s smarter means of recapturing energy while braking (a 170 percent efficiency gain, claims Honda). The previous IMA Civic’s VTEC offered two induction modes: normal

or with three of its four cylinders deactivated. The 2006’s three-stage i-VTEC adds to the normal mode, both a higher-performance induction setting and, when the occasion arises, deactivation of all four cylinders. The last situation mostly occurs while decelerating, whereupon all the valves close as the pistons just spring off their cylinders’ repeatedly compressed air. While not as efficient as Toyota’s complete halting of the crankshaft, it’s considerably better than becoming a purposeless air pump. It’s also a condition that allows the Civic to be propelled by its electric motor alone—that is, when the speed is low enough, the batteries replenished enough, and several planets are in alignment. Under these rather limited circumstances, at least, it can kinda, sorta claim to be a full hybrid just like Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD).

Which brings us to the Prius’s magical powertrain. Don’t feel badly if you don’t get it. Shortly after the first-generation Prius was introduced to the U.S. market, the government asked Argonne National Laboratory to dissect the thing, and from reading its report, even the big foreheads in New Mexico were wrinkled. Think of it as an open differential, but working in reverse—that is, the driveshaft is now the output. Into one axle goes the engine’s power while the electric motor’s contributes directly to the driveshaft. How about the other axle? It’s fed by a second, small electric motor that sometimes acts as the engine’s starter, sometimes as a generator, plus offering up whatever forces are needed to make the planetary gearset do double duty as a CVT. Conducting this rabble is software of Toscaninian virtuosity. MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 59


(comparison) HONDA ACCORD HYBRID

In operation, the Civic and Prius offer distinct high-mileage experiences. Whereas the Prius frequently whispers around at low speeds in George Jetson golfcart mode—undetectably lighting off its engine whenever load demands—the Civic’s auto-start is apparent but quick (the engine’s running before your right foot gets from the brake to the throttle). More relevant is the Civic’s comparative slowness. On paper, 0-to-60 times of 11.3 seconds for the Civic and 10.5 for the Prius read like the 100-meter results at an MIT/Caltech track meet. Nevertheless, the Toyota feels like the bullet of the two off the line, owing to the torque of a much bigger electric motor. It should be mentioned that the Honda’s steel-belt-type CVT offers a higherperformance mode, accessed by knocking the lever back to S (raising the revs by 60 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

about 700). But mostly this serves as an audible demonstration of your good intentions in traffic, rather than a source of additional acceleration. But stay in the Zen of 40-mpg motoring, and what you’ve got left is a nifty little Civic. Meaning flatter handling and crisper brakes than the Prius’s and snazzed-up styling owed to the hybrid version’s aero wheels, trunk lipspoiler, roof-mounted antenna, clear front turn signals, and engine and front floor airsmoothing undercovers. The Civic and Prius’s interior designs could serve as textbook extremes of their respective taste: the Honda looking like an explosion at a plastics factory; the Prius, office furniture from Pluto. The idea of an updated Prius sounds absurd given the continued otherworldly modernness of the car, but updated this one is, with revised headlight and taillight

appearances, a bright chromelike horizontal grille bar, variable-force front airbags, and an optional rearview camera with the navigation system. There’s an appealing new rhino-hide texture to the soft plastic dash and door trims, too. Better acceleration, chart-topping sedan mileage, and handling that’s better than its typical owners expect make the Prius a rare intersection of petrol miserliness and Tomorrowland fun. And in the welterweight division of our comparison, the winner by a technological knockout.

ACCORD HYBRID VS. CAMRY HYBRID We’ve already opined that when Honda cooked the Accord Hybrid’s ingredients, the oven’s performance knob was twisted too high and the fuel-economy dial set too


TOYOTA CAMRY HYBRID

low. With a paltry 16-horsepower electric motor (less than the Civic’s), the Accord Hybrid is all about acceleration, its motorassist here playing the part of an electric nitrous bottle. Sure its mileage is incrementally better than it might otherwise be via engine shut-down at stop and deactivation of the firewall bank’s three cylinders while cruising, but don’t be fooled by the badge on the trunk. It should read Hyper instead of Hybrid. Why not just bore out the cylinders a millimeter and save the complexity, cost, and weight? Or just engineer it around a more fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine with a bigger electric motor? That said, the Accord Hybrid is silly fun in a straight line, delivering 60 mph in 6.9 seconds if you crank up the gas and volts. But its athletic reaction to brake application is way more important. “Bless you, Honda

brakes,” we’ve whispered more than once after the traffic ahead has unexpectedly jolted to an ABS halt. However, during normal stopping, you can sometimes feel that deceleration momentarily sag as the V-6 engine switches off and the electric motor (generator) takes up the slack. It’s also odd that the Accord rides as if its suspenders are cinched a notch to support its battery weight—strange, because the suppleriding Camry outweighs it by 131 pounds. “That’s one helluva car,” drivers muttered after climbing out of the Camry Hybrid. And they’re right—meaning Toyota may be wrong in scheduling only seven percent of Camry production to be fitted with HSD. Too low, we reckon, particularly given its positioning below the premium 268-horse Avalon-engined XLE and a price that’s four grand cheaper than the Honda’s (the

Accord Hybrid being the model’s flagship). Two experiences bracket the Camry Hybrid’s versatile personality. One was while photographer Brian Vance was returning from the cars’ shoot: “I exited the 101 freeway at Highland and drove on electric power alone all the way to the intersection of Sunset and La Brea. That’s over a mile at 25 to 35 mph with the engine off.” On the other hand, a member of our road-test team sheepishly admitted that, while on his way to our California Speedway test site, he saw 100 mph on the speedo. “Caught in a traffic pincer entering the freeway, I had to nail it,” he explained with a shrug. This may be the only car on earth able to satisfy performance junkies and ecoconservatives. It’s a uniter, not a divider. Technically, it’s also based on the Prius’s HSD architecture, but there are differences. MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 61


(comparison)

CIVIC HYBRID/PRIUS One is that its high-efficiency 2.4-liter Atkinson cycle inline-four is bigger by roughly the displacement of a small Fiat’s engine. Meanwhile its electric motor is smaller—45 horsepower versus the Prius’s 67—as well as being joined to the powertrain through its own planetary reduction gears. This, we’re told, is to reduce the hybrid package’s size and to multiply the motor’s torque, what with the Camry being 21 percent porkier than the Prius. Among the Camry hybrid’s curiosities is an “Eco” button beneath the dash that (among other things) electrically toasts the heater core so the engine isn’t required to run for light-duty cockpit warming. But you’ll cool back down at the sight of the trunk, 30 percent of which has been commandeered by the batteries and sundry electrics. Our nonscientific observations of the Accord and Camry’s fuel consumption found the Toyota delivering an honest 40 mpg at a steady 70 mph and a squeak above 30 mpg in L.A. urban driving. The Honda, limited by its much smaller motor/generator and a less efficient fivespeed automatic, indicated 34.5 mpg at 70 mph and mid-20s around town. What gives the Camry our nod is its consistent 30-mpg-plus mileage without the Accord’s $30,000-plus asking price. Toyota’s extraction of true V-6 performance from a 62 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

ACCORD HYBRID/CAMRY HYBRID

pedestrian-size inline-four simply upstages Honda’s transformation of a sweet 3.0-liter V-6 into an admittedly swaggering one.

LAST CLICKS OF THE PUMP Our Camry’s mileage also will eventually be correlating a lot better with the EPA’s projections. According to the agency’s “Revisions to Improve Calculation of Fuel Economy Estimates,” future city and highway numbers are going to be computed from a complex new formula that melds the results of the two present city and highway mileage cycles with those of three current emissions tests. Moreover, each of these will be tweaked to better reflect driving realities (taking into account wind, grade, higher speeds, and temperature). Most vehicles (including hybrids) will see five to 15 percent lower highway mileage. Hybrids will be taking it on the chin in the city numbers, though, dropping 20 to 30 percent. But are any of these cars “worth” it? We’re not going to hammer you with calculations showing how many years (several) or miles (many tens of thousands) it takes to recoup their initial cost at today’s gas prices. At the moment, they begin to make dollar sense only if you keep them for most of their serviceable lives. That’s even taking into account the federal government’s revised financial incentives, namely the new

mileage-dependent Alternative Energy Vehicles Tax Credit ($400 to $2400) and the Conservation Credit ($250 to $1000) for cars placed in service after December 31, 2005. Notably, these begin phasing out three to six months after July 2006 if, by then, a manufacturer has sold 60,000 hybrids since the start of the year. Earlier we said the economics of hybrids don’t add up at the moment. But recently, Kuwait admitted that oil production from its Burgan Greater field, the world’s second largest, is now in decline. And speculation is rife that Saudi Arabia’s giant Ghawar field, the planet’s granddaddy oil well, could be next (experts have noticed the Saudis are pumping extraordinary amounts of water into it to force out the remaining crude). In fact, the limitations of existing production, coupled with the world’s escalating thirst for the black elixir, has led to the prediction that, by 2030, human enterprise will require additional sources equaling 10 brand-new Saudi Arabias—and that’s according to Sadad Al-Husseini, former vice director of largest oil company in the world, Saudi Aramco. In other words, saying hybrids are uneconomic “at the moment” could be a bit more accurate than we realize. Because the moment could be changing, which will alter the rules of hybrids and cents. ■


(comparison)

■■■■■ 1ST PLACE TOYOTA PRIUS The car of tomorrow today— and probably tomorrow, too

■■■■■ 2ND PLACE HONDA CIVIC HYBRID Slow but sassy, 40 mpg has never looked so good

■■■■■ 1ST PLACE TOYOTA CAMRY HYBRID The breakthrough hybrid that may eclipse Toyota’s breakthrough hybrid

■■■■■ 2ND PLACE HONDA ACCORD HYBRID The more power/less mileage recipe

64 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT ENGINE /MOTOR TYPES VALVETRAIN DISPLACEMENT COMPRESSION RATIO ENGINE POWER (SAE NET) MOTOR POWER COMBINED POWER ENGINE TORQUE (SAE NET) MOTOR TORQUE TRANSMISSION SUSPENSION, FRONT:REAR

STEERING RATIO TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK BRAKES, F:R WHEELS TIRES DIMENSIONS WHEELBASE TRACK, F/R LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT TURNING CIRCLE CURB WEIGHT WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION, F/R 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 PASSING 45-65 MPH QUARTER MILE BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 600-FT SLALOM LATERAL ACCELERATION MT FIGURE EIGHT CONSUMER INFO BASE PRICE PRICE AS TESTED STABILITY/TRACTION CONTROL AIRBAGS

2005 HONDA ACCORD HYBRID*

2006 HONDA CIVIC HYBRID

2007 TOYOTA CAMRY HYBRID

2006 TOYOTA PRIUS

Front engine, FWD

Front engine, FWD

Front engine, FWD

Front engine, FWD

V-6, alum block & heads/

I-4, alum block & head/

I-4, alum block & head/

I-4, alum block & head/

permanent magnet

permanent magnet

permanent magnet

permanent magnet

SOHC, 4 valves/cyl

SOHC, 2 valves/cyl

DOHC, 4 valves/cyl

DOHC, 4 valves/cyl

182.9 cu in / 2997cc

81.7 cu in / 1339cc

144.1 cu in/ 2362cc

91.4 cu in / 1497cc

10.5:1

10.8:1

12.5:1

13.0:1 76 hp @ 5000 rpm

240 hp @ 6000 rpm

93 hp @ 6000 rpm

147 hp @ 6000 rpm

16 hp @ 840 rpm

20 hp @ 2000 rpm

45 hp @ 4500 rpm

67 hp @ 1200 rpm

253 hp

110 hp

192 hp

110 hp

208 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm

89 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm

138 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm

82 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm

100 lb-ft @ 800 rpm

76 lb-ft @ 0 rpm

203 lb-ft @ 0 rpm

295 lb-ft @ 0 rpm

5-speed automatic

Belt CVT

Planetary CVT

Planetary CVT

Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll

Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar;

Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar,

Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar;

bar: multilink, coil springs,

multilink, coil springs, anti-roll

struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar

torsion beam, coil springs,

15.6:1

16.4-18.3:1

anti-roll bar

bar

16.3:1

13.5:1

integral anti-roll bar

3.2

2.7

3.1

3.6

11.1-in vented disc & regen;

10.3-in vented disc & regen;

11.7-in vented disc & regen;

10.0-in vented disc & regen;

10.2-in disc, ABS

10.2-in disc, ABS

11.1-in disc, ABS

7.9-in drum, ABS

16 x 6.5-in cast alum

15 x 6.0-in cast alum

16 x 6.5-in cast alum

15 x 6.0-in cast alum

P215/60R16 94V M+S

P195/65R15 89S M+S

P215/60R16 94V M+S

P185/65R15 86S M+S

Michelin Energy MXV4 S8

Dunlop SP 31 A/S

Michelin Energy MXV4 S8

Goodyear Integrity

107.9 in

106.3 in

109.3 in

106.3 in

61.1 / 61.2 in

59.0 / 60.2 in

62.0 / 61.6 in

59.3 / 58.3 in

189.5 x 71.5 x 57.1 in

176.7 x 69.0 x 56.3 in

189.2 x 71.7 x 57.5 in

175.0 x 67.9 x 58.1 in

36.1 ft

34.8 ft

36.1 ft

34.1 ft

3486 lb

2880 lb

3617 lb

2986 lb

62 / 38 %

58 / 42 %

57 / 43 %

59 / 41 %

5

5

5

5

40.4 / 38.5 in

39.4 / 37.4 in

38.8 / 37.8 in

39.1 / 37.1 in

42.6 / 36.8 in

42.2 / 34.6 in

41.6 / 38.3 in

41.9 / 38.6 in

56.9 / 56.1 in

53.6 / 52.4 in

57.8 / 56.7 in

55.3 / 53.0 in

11.2 cu ft

10.4 cu ft

10.6 cu ft

16.1 cu ft

2.6 sec

3.8 sec

3.0 sec

3.4 sec

3.7

5.9

4.4

5.3

5.3

8.3

6.0

7.6

6.9

11.3

7.9

10.5

9.3

15.4

10.2

14.1

12.0

21.0

12.9

19.0

14.8

na

16.3

25.3

3.4 sec

6.1 sec

3.8 sec

5.8 sec

15.4 sec @ 92.0 mph

18.3 sec @ 75.9 mph

16.1 sec @ 89.7 mph

17.8 sec @ 77.9 mph

129 ft

124 ft

126 ft

124 ft

61.5 mph avg

62.4 mph avg

61.7 mph avg

60.5 mph avg

0.72 g (avg)

0.75 g (avg)

0.72 g (avg)

0.72 g (avg)

29.19 sec @ 0.55 g (avg)

29.91 sec @ 0.51 g (avg)

29.71 sec @ 0.55 g (avg)

30.0 sec @ 0.51 g (avg)

$30,690

$22,400

$26,000 (est)

$22,305

$32,690

$23,900

$29,500 (est)

$28,280

No/yes

No/no

Yes/yes

Yes/yes

Dual front, front side, f/r curtain

Dual front, front side, f/r curtain

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

5 yrs / 60,000 miles

5 yrs / 60,000 miles

dvr knee

BASIC WARRANTY POWERTRAIN WARRANTY BATTERY WARRANTY FUEL CAPACITY EPA CITY/HWY ECON MT OBSERVED FUEL ECON RECOMMENDED FUEL

10 yrs / 150,000 miles

10 yrs / 150,000 miles

10 yrs / 150,000 miles

10 yrs / 150,000 miles

17.1 gal

12.3 gal

17.1 gal

11.9 gal

29 / 37 mpg

49 / 51 mpg

43 / 37 mpg

60 / 51 mpg

27.0 mpg

39.9 mpg

31.4 mpg

43.8 mpg

Regular unleaded

Regular unleaded

Regular unleaded

Regular unleaded

* mechanically identical to the 2006 model. MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 65


68 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


jim press (interview)

THE QUIET ACHIEVER IF ANY AMERICAN AUTO EXEC TRULY UNDERSTANDS HOW TOYOTA WORKS, IT’S JIM PRESS ■

■ words angus mackenzie photographs dan macmedan/contourphotos

}} EVEN THE MOST

{

}

hardened GM lifer will admit it’s now only a question of time, and Bill Ford has already waved the white flag: Toyota will be the world’s number-one automaker. The mechanics of Toyota’s inexorable rise to the top are well understood in corporate America: The highly efficient Toyota Production System was based in part on the work of Iowa-born statistician W. Edwards Deming; and the brilliant analysis on the differences among American, European, and Japanese auto manufacturing, “The Machine That Changed the World,” written by James Womack, Daniel Jones, and Daniel Roos, has been in the nation’s bookshops since 1990. But the real reason for Toyota’s success runs deeper than mere mechanics. Just ask the man who probably knows more about what makes this company tick than any other American: Jim Press. James E. Press is now in his 36th year as a Toyota employee. He’s president and COO of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. and a member of the company’s board of directors, the first non-Japanese in Toyota’s history to hold these positions. He spends as much of his time at Toyota’s global HQ in Nagoya, Japan, as he does at the company’s U.S. base in Torrance, California, and unwinds from the long hours of air travel by pounding up and down a swimming pool most mornings and competing in grueling triathlons when he can. Press began his automotive career with Ford in the late 1960s. But he’s left the traditional Detroit mindset a long way behind.

MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 69


(interview) jim press

{ {{ TOYOTA WILL BE THE WORLD’S NUMBER-ONE AUTOMAKER }}

}

“We’re on a mission for a higher purpose.” Avuncular and softly spoken, Press leans forward as he speaks, sounding more like a cross between an old-school family physician and a folksy smalltown pastor on the church steps after a Sunday service than the man running the American operation of the world’s most relentlessly successful auto business. When asked to explain what he means, he launches into a brief homily: “You go to a construction site, and there are three guys running jackhammers,” he says. “You ask the first guy what he’s doing and he says: ‘What does it look like I’m doing? I’m digging a hole in the cement. Get outta the way.’ You ask the second guy and he says: ‘I’m putting food on the table for my family. I’ve gotta have a job, you know.’ You ask the third guy and he says: ‘I’m building a temple for God.’ If you can move your organization to that level, you can accomplish things beyond what you might think.” This sure ain’t the sort of stuff they teach in MBA courses. But the more you talk with Jim Press, the more you understand just how radically different Toyota’s view of the automotive business world is from that of a Detroit still populated by managers and unions that grew up in an industry riding on easy street, a Detroit now hostage to the sharp-suited money men on Wall St. who see building cars and trucks as nothing more than an inefficient use of capital. For example, Press tells of attending a global convention for Toyota distributors from around the world where senior executives laid out the company’s plans for the future: “In three days of those discussions, the word profit was never mentioned,” he says. And while Detroit executives frequently obsess over something they call “shareholder value,” that’s not a concept that drives the Toyoda family, as Press recalls after once congratulating Dr. Shoichiro Toyoda, now honorary chairman of the company, on the strength of Toyota’s stock price: “He basically said, ‘You know, I don’t watch that. I’m not going to sell my stock. And if I worried about that, the decisions I make wouldn’t reflect the fact that my name is on the back of every car.’ ”

70 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

Then there’s the issue of executive compensation. Press says senior Toyota execs earn far less than their counterparts at Nissan in Japan, let alone Ford or GM. “We’re in it for the good of society,” he says with a straight face, before delivering the punch line: “Because that’s the way you make money in the long term.” Analyze that, Gordon Gekko. From the outside looking in, Toyota seems to make money almost without conscious effort these days. But the company is like a swan: The apparently serene progress is only because there’s lots of furious paddling going on under the water. “When a company is doing well, it’s rarely as good as what people say,” says Press candidly. “And a company that’s struggling is rarely as bad as people say.” So what keeps Toyota focused? “We may be number four in America, but we think like we’re number eight.” Toyota is conservative: “We react to more favorable economic conditions by panicking at how bad it’s going to be,” says Press with a laugh, though he’s only half joking. Rather than ride out the boom-and-bust cycle that Detroit has long assumed to be the norm in the auto business, Press says Toyota takes the view that it would like to grow a little every year—in good years as well as bad. Toyota also is paranoid: “You’ve gotta work a lot harder when the target is on your back,” says Press. He describes the Korean automakers as “focused, capable, aggressive, hungry” and calls the appearance of three Chinese manufacturers at last year’s Frankfurt auto show “the long shot that’s going to be heard around the world.” Toyota isn’t perfect: “We’re criticized by our stockholders in terms of the distribution of our funds and our cash,” Press admits. And he believes it’s critically important Toyota quickly becomes a true multinational company rather than a Japanese company that operates globally. “The size of the company requires self-reliance in geographic markets,” he says. “Look at our full-size truck: If you use the thinking in Japan to develop a full-size truck, you get the


(interview) jim press

} {{ YOU’VE GOT TO WORK HARDER WHEN A TARGET’S ON YOUR BACK }} T100. If you have half Japanese mindset and half American, you get the current Tundra. But if you’re 100-percent American, you get the next Tundra.” To be built in a brand-new factory in San Antonio, Texas, right in the very heartland of the single-largest full-size pickup truck market in the world, the next-generation Tundra, which goes on sale late this year, is a defining vehicle for Toyota in North America, right up there with the original Corona and Corolla, the Camry, and the Avalon. Press believes the new Tundra will complete Toyota’s transformation from pure importer to bona-fide American manufacturer, designing, engineering, and making uniquely American products for the American market. “The Camry was the first,” says Press. “We kind of made that America’s car. Then we recognized Camry buyers were moving into larger cars and that there was an opportunity for growth with the Avalon. A large car like that is purely American. It’s the Buick alternative. We’ve figured out how to do that, but the truck is a whole different culture.” The key to making it work, says Press, is not to take the values of Japan and impress them on a truck, but to distill the essence of the Toyota DNA and inject it into a new life form. Toyota has ambitious sales targets for the new Tundra, but these aren’t driven by an overt desire for domination, Press insists. “The reason we’re doing it isn’t to see how many trucks we can sell or to make sure somebody else doesn’t sell trucks,” he says. After 30 years of building smaller pickups, Toyota estimates 38 percent of those buyers move on to buy a full-size pickup that’s not a Toyota. What’s more, there are a lot of Camrys sharing garage space with a full-size pickup that’s not a Toyota. “It’s an opportunity to retain our customers,” he says. Even if Toyota absolutely nails this new Tundra, it’s not about to usurp the Ford F-150 or Chevy Silverado or even the Dodge Ram in terms of outright sales. The San Antonio plant’s maximum capacity is 200,000 units, well shy of the 400,543 Rams, 705,980 72 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

Silverados, and 901,463 F-150s sold last year. But any growth of Toyota sales in the full-size sector will eat into the juicy profits Detroit has enjoyed for decades as a result of the so-called “chicken tax,” the 25-percent duty imposed back in 1963 to prevent imports of a Volkswagen truck and so named because it originated in a dispute with Europe over exports of frozen chicken. With GM and Ford hurting, that’s not good news for Motown, and Jim Press knows it. “We don’t want them to have trouble,” he insists. “We don’t want to score runs on errors.” Press believes a stable and healthy GM and Ford are vital to the health of the U.S. economy and that, while the U.S. industry is going through an unavoidable—and painful— consolidation process, part of that process will mean Toyota becoming even more deeply enmeshed in the North American automotive landscape. So while GM and Ford race to downsize their manufacturing operations, Toyota is already talking of building more new manufacturing plants on American soil, including one in Michigan. “If other companies are going to be getting smaller, we want somewhere for those folks to go,” says Press. “We’re not bringing cars and components in from China. We’re building in America.” In his quiet way, Jim Press manages to make the auto business sound like a noble calling, rather than some grubby commercial enterprise. The key virtue of building a dependable, reliable, durable car like Camry? “People don’t have to worry about their car; they can worry about the really important things like their kids’ education.” And while other auto industry execs often like to point to sexy new products, bulging corporate bank balances, or gleaming new facilities as their legacy, Press’s ambitions are, at first glance, astonishingly modest: “That the company is better off than it would’ve been if I hadn’t been here. And that the people who replace me will kick my ass.” In the world of Toyota, that would be some achievement indeed. ■

{


NATIVESUN SAFE TANNING AT 75 MPH ■

words allyson harwood

photographs kirk saylin

74 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


(first drive) volvo c70

MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 75


(first drive) volvo c70

IT’S HARD to look fabulous, let alone dignified, wrestling with hooks, levers, and Velcro while lowering or raising a tricky soft-top. Not only can dealing with roof issues ruin your day; in many cases, convertibles just don’t look right with the top up. The body’s curves don’t translate— you just can’t make a flat piece of canvas look rounded. Enter the retractable roof. Once too expensive and too unreliable to be a mainstream element of the automotive market76 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

place, costs have gone down and reliability way up. And the all-new C70, which dons one for 2006, is among the first four-seaters sold in America to have one; another is the VW Eos (covered elsewhere in this issue). Less than 30 seconds after pushing a small black button below the shift lever (foot on brake, please), an electric motor and hydraulic pump work together to raise the three pieces of steel bodywork, rearrange them, and bring them to rest under a hard tonneau. After the roof takes

its place in the back (the tonneau, part of the trunk lid, hinges in the opposite direction), the driver is alerted when the process is done. There is 12.8 cubic feet of cargo volume when the top is up. However, when the steel panels are stowed, pressing a yellow button on the right side of the trunk will lift them about eight inches while you load gear in the 6.0-cubic-foot space. Another touch of the button brings the roof bits back down. Top up or hidden away, the C70, created in partnership with Pininfarina, looks smoother, fresher, and more graceful than the first-generation. As a coupe, it’s elegant and more attractive than the old model (discontinued in 2004). Inside, the layout is clean and tasteful, with nicely bolstered seats in front. It’s easy to bring the front seats forward to sit in back, but it’s a bit tight—its best-in-class legroom is a snug 33.9 inches—those of smaller stature will be more comfortable there. The new C70 rides on the P1 platform, the basis for the S40 as well as other models throughout global Ford. The wheelbase is shorter by an inch than the previous C70’s and overall length shrank by over five inches, but the track is considerably wider in the front and rear (by 1.1 and 1.6 inches, respectively). It uses a MacPherson-strut suspension up front and a multilink setup and coils in the rear; both have stabilizer bars. With numerous reinforcements throughout, the chassis has twice the structural rigidity of the first-generation convertible, improving stability. And, under steel or exposed to sky, the cabin stays quiet and squeak-free.


(first drive) volvo c70

Even though it’s a capable cruiser, this Volvo can hold its own on twisty two-lanes: While it doesn’t handle like a 3 Series, it’s sportier than most four-seat-convertible buyers would expect. The smooth electrohydraulic steering provides good feel through the substantial wheel and is responsive without being twitchy. Four-wheel discs, ABS with EBD, and traction control are standard and do a fine job of bringing the 3800-pound two-door to a stop. Seventeeninch aluminum wheels and V-rated 225/35 tires are standard; 18-inchers with Y-rated 235/40 tires cost an extra $995. While the previous model came with a choice of two engines, the new C is available with just one: a 218-horsepower, 2.5-liter turbo inline-five. That’s beefier 78 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

than the prior 197-horse light-pressure turbo five, but doesn’t match the old car’s 242-horse high-pressure turbo. We wouldn’t be surprised if there were more options in the future—an R model would be nice. There are two transmissions: a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic with a manual-shift function. There’s plenty of power; despite the presence of turbo lag, acceleration and passing power come easily. Top in place, the engine offers no more than a muted purr; retracted, the turbo whine becomes more apparent. The automatic, the transmission most will choose, shifts with a fair amount of precision and is well matched to the inline-five. The manual, though, allows better turbocharger management, and feels precise and smooth at the same time—it’s as if the shifter is on guided rails running through syrup. As is the norm with Volvo, safety is a high priority. In addition to paying careful attention to the front structure, which uses four different grades of steel, the company’s Side Impact Protection System was reengineered to accommodate the lack of a full-time roof. In a side collision, the

reinforced B-pillars channel forces forward, backward, and down, helping keep the passenger area intact. The doors, side members, and sills also were strengthened, the sills having been raised to offer better protection against taller vehicles. There are dual front and side impact airbags as well as inflatable curtains—mounted in the doors. The A-pillars are designed to withstand a rollover, and the now stronger Rollover Protection System includes metal bars that rise behind the rear passengers if the C70 becomes inverted. The new C70 improves on the philosophy of the first generation: great for a Sunday drive, but corners with aplomb. Yet this retractable hardtop comes off as a lot more than the model it replaces. It’s two cars in one: a capable, attractive coupe, and a luxury drop-top that makes it easy to soak up the sun in style. ■

2006 VOLVO C70 BASE PRICE

$39,405

VEHICLE LAYOUT

Front engine, FWD, 4-pass, 2-door convertible

ENGINE

2.5L/218-hp/236 lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 20-valve I-5

TRANSMISSIONS

6-speed man; 5-speed auto

CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)

3800 lb (mfr est)

WHEELBASE

103.9 in

LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT

180.4 x 71.7 x 55.1 in

0-60 MPH

7.6-8.0 (mfr est)

EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON

20-21/29 mpg (est)

ON SALE IN U.S.

Spring 2006


POWER TO THE PEOPLE THE TERM

VW RAGTOP

NO LONGER APPLIES ■ ■

words chris walton photographs brian vance

80 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


volkswagen eos (first drive)

MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 81


(first drive) volkswagen eos

OPEN-AIR

motoring usually means compromise: Two seats. Scant trunk space. A frumpy-looking softtop that does little more than keep the interior mostly dry for periodic car washes. An unkempt look when the top is down. At best. People wanting a high-end hardtop convertible, a la Mercedes, Lexus, or Cadillac, have found those cars’ cool-butcomplex folding systems financially out of reach. This is why it’s so striking for Volkswagen to introduce the world’s first four-seater with a folding hardtop containing a sliding glass moonroof in a car costing what VW says will be “under $30,000.” Called the CSC (coupe/sunroof/ convertible) roof, the structure consists of five sections and takes about 25 seconds to transform from coupe to convertible. While we’ve grown accustomed to witnessing the operation of such systems, the Eos’s onetouch mechanical gymnastics are particularly dramatic. All four windows roll down, the trunklid tilts, the rear window section glides over the roof, and the whole apparatus goes into the trunk. Even with metal and glass sandwiched in the trunk,

82 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

luggage space is ample enough for four carry-on roller bags. Extracting larger bags with the top stowed (and the requisite luggage shield is in place) will sometimes require putting the top back up—as we needed to do. The glass sunroof with its separate shade spans the entire width of the roof and slides back to reveal a generous opening. Because the two-door 101.5-inch-wheelbase Eos is somewhat based on the fourdoor 106.7-inch-wheelbase Passat, rearseat legroom is genuinely adult friendly, and the seat bottoms don’t meet the front seatbacks as in a 2+2 convertible. Shoulder room, however, is a bit tight in the

back due to the top’s packaging requirements. Fixing the hard-framed fabric-covered wind blocker over the rear seats proved simple and effective, allowing casual conversation and our test car’s optional 600-watt 10-speaker audio system to perform with ease. Nothing can change the laws of physics, so an open-top Eos does exhibit some dashboard wobble and door-frame flex. However, these convertible characteristics are so minimal as to be nearly undetectable under most conditions. When the rigid top and all its buttresses are in place, the car feels and sounds like a proper coupe. Top-up sightlines are better than in a softtop convertible because the rear window is full-size. The car’s structure is built to withstand a worst-case open-air rollover with an exceptionally strong Apillar and pop-up rollbars behind the fixed rear headrest. Stability and traction control are standard. Two engines will be available when the Eos goes on sale in late 2006: the stout 2.0-liter direct-injection turbo-four rated at 200 horsepower and a new version of the


(first drive) volkswagen eos

company’s sonorous narrow-angle 3.2-liter V-6 producing 250 horses. A six-speed manual will be standard on the 2.0-liter with the automated double-clutch manual DSG as an option. The V-6 will be paired only with the DSG when it arrives a short time later. The Eos’s dashboard structure is lifted directly from the new Jetta; the surfaces are reworked and would look at home in an Audi. There are few, if any, cheap-feeling parts, and the overall effect is one of a car in a higher-priced category. Our test car was a lightly disguised European model fitted with the fourcylinder turbo and the manual gearbox (you might notice a piece of tape here and there in these photos, but this is as close to an entry-level U.S.-spec Eos as currently exists). A base-priced combination like this will be anything but a consolation prize when it arrives in late 2006. We’ve already been impressed by the 2.0-liter turbo FSI engine in everything from an Audi A3 to a VW Jetta GLI, and it does an admirable job even in the heavier Eos. The broad torque characteristics of this engine make it feel much more powerful than its

84 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

200-horse rating. An Eos like ours will likely run to 60 mph in a little over six seconds. The 250-horse V-6 will, of course, be quicker. Suspension tuning is similar to that of a Passat, on which the suspension is based, and offers a controlled, if decidedly casual ride. The steering is somewhat numb and showed some reluctance to transmit either our desires or the car’s intentions, but this isn’t intended to be a hard-edged sports car. The Eos is best described as a smallmidsize or a large-compact four-seat coupe that happens to showcase one of the best-folding hardtops and slickest drivelines in the industry. It has no direct competitor at the moment, although two are coming: the Pontiac G6 and Volvo’s C70, both of which accommodate four with a folding hardtop. We’re still not sold on VW’s new gaping-maw grille and droopyeyed styling; the rear is the more attractive and well balanced angle for sure. And viewed in direct profile, the Eos looks a bit 1990 with a decidedly cab-forward stance and bubbly proportions. A full road test is in order to verify our

estimates, but the Eos takes an enormous step ahead of the Golf-based Cabriolet of years past and even threatens some current Audi products with its quality and packaging. For those who feel they’ve outgrown their cute New Beetle convertibles, the Eos is just the tanning machine you’ve been waiting for—and can now afford. ■

2007 VOLKSWAGEN EOS BASE PRICE RANGE

$29,000-$32,000 (est)

DRIVETRAIN

Front engine, FWD

ENGINES

2.0L/200-hp/207 lb-ft turbocharged DOHC I-4; 3.2L/250-hp/240 lb-ft (est) DOHC V-6

TRANSMISSIONS

6-speed man; 6-speed auto-clutch man

CURB WEIGHT

3400-3500 lb (est)

WHEELBASE

101.5 in

LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT

173.6 x 70.5 x 56.8 in

0-60 MPH

6.0-6.5 (est)

EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON

19-22/25-30 mpg (est)

ON SALE

Fall 2006


ready, aim, fire! DODGE SETS ITS SIGHTS ON THE WORLD’S SMALL-CAR MARKETPLACE ■

86 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

■ words matt stone photographs wesley allison


2006 dodge caliber (first drive) FACE

IT:

American brands haven’t been competitive in the compact-car segment. The Ford Focus raised the bar when it was new in 2000, but has stagnated since. Chevrolet’s Cobalt is a better car than the prehistoric Cavalier it replaced, but sets no particular standards. And the previous Neon had become little more than a rental-car favorite. In the meantime, the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla have captured buyers by the tankerload. Dealers are whining they can’t get enough Mazda3s. And how about those Korean carmakers, at whom no one is laughing any more? Something had to be done. So Dodge threw out the Neon with the bathwater and replaced it with the Caliber. Its platform architecture is new from scratch, as are its three powertrains; the same underpinnings form the basis of the upcoming Jeep Compass. As DaimlerChrysler plans to sell the Caliber in nearly 100 world markets, a hatchback body style was necessary. Fivedoors are famous for selling poorly in the U.S., but Americans’ recent hunger for compact crossovers and sport/utilities may indicate we’re getting past that bias. The Caliber is about a half-inch shorter in length, an inch and a half wider, and almost four and a half inches taller than the Neon it replaces, and no conventional sedan or other body style will be offered, at least for now. The Caliber is a nice-looking piece. Its muscular fender lines give it surface detail and an air of substance. The black plastic molding that runs along the roofline hides the drip rails, and the head- and taillight clusters have the expected jewellike detailing. Parked next to a Neon, it has much more visual mass that translates into interior space. The tailgate aperture opens high for access to the 18.5-cubic-foot cargo area, which expands to 48.0 cubic feet with the second-row seats folded flat. The beveled exterior surface themes continue inside, with a straightforward, three-dial instrument panel and large, easy-to-operate audio and HVAC controls. Some surfaces are of the soft-touch variety, others are hard plastic, but all are nicely finished and employ a variety of grains and tech-style looks. Base and uplevel seat materials are attractive and appear durable. Like a Toyota Prius, the Caliber offers near midsize-car interior volumes in a MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 87


(first drive) 2006 dodge caliber

package classed as a compact. Shoulder room is acceptable, leg/knee room is better than expected, and anyone shorter than the NBA’s first-round draft pick will be happy with the headroom. Higher-than-average ground clearance means the seat cushions have a raised hip point, which facilitates easy entry and exit. For all its room, the cabin evidences a few curious flaws. Dodge points out that the rear cargo floor is made of washable plastic, so the area can handle wet and dirty stuff. The backs of the front seats are finished in the same. Why, then, are the back surfaces of the rear seats upholstered in a mouse-fur-like carpet that’ll soil easily? There are several reararea tiedowns, but not a single grocery hook. A cargo net would seem a good idea, too. The rear seat also is about as flat as a park bench, offering little to no bolstering to keep occupants from slam-

ming about during cornering. We like the 60/40 seat’s rake adjustment, however, and the fact that all Calibers are equipped not only with the expected dual front airbags, but also standard side-curtain airbags counts for a bunch. Caliber buyers can choose from three all-new four-cylinder engines codeveloped with Hyundai and Mitsubishi. The base 1.8-liter four is standard on SE and SXT models and is rated at 148 horsepower. The volume powerplant is a 2.0-liter

coming soon SRT4 larger-caliber weapon THE NEON-BASED SRT4 had become an autocross cult favorite: cool, fast, cheap. It didn’t pack the punch of an Evo or STI, but didn’t cost as much, either. The nextgeneration SRT4 ups the power ante with a 300-horse turbocharged, intercooled version of the Caliber’s 2.4-liter four backed by a six-speed manual transmission. Curiously, the Caliber SRT4 won’t have all-wheel drive, which is what helps the

88 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

Japanese rally twins eradicate lethal torque steer. The rest of the SRT treatment is what you’d expect: racier fascias, big hood scoop, foglights, sporty seats and interior trim, a more handling-oriented suspension, and aggressive, 255/45ZR19 rubber on fat, 19-inch alloys. Dodge says the Caliber SRT4 will hit 60 mph in under six seconds. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but we estimate the tariff at about $25,000. ■

version good for 10 more. It also gets balance shafts that cancel out secondorder vibrations for smoother running. This engine, which will power about 60 percent of all Calibers sold, is optional on SEs and SXTs. The top banana is a 2.4-liter, 172-horsepower variant, which is standard and available only on the R/T model. Another optional feature exclusive to the R/T is available all-wheel drive, something unavailable in any Neon (or Focus or Cobalt, for that matter). This, along with the Caliber’s design and packaging, makes it an interesting bridge between hatchback sedan and crossover. Dodge has made most of the transmission choices for you. The 1.8-liter model gets a five-speed manual, period. All 2.0-liter versions are equipped with a JATCO continuously variable transmission. Dodge claims it boosts performance and mileage. When tied to the 2.4-liter engine, the CVT boasts an AutoStick mode, with six different manual ratios, allowing an additional measure of driver control. The 2.4 also will be offered with a five-speed stick beginning this summer. SEs and SXTs get front disc/rear drum brakes, while the R/T has four-wheel discs. All Calibers have power rack-and-pinion steering, a MacPhersonstrut front suspension, and a multilink setup out back. First up was an R/T AWD, and the overall driving experience proved a pleasant one. Visibility is good, and many drivers will welcome the higher-than-average driving position. We’ve already bagged on the rear seats, but the fronts are comfortable and supportive. The engine is strong, as is


(first drive) 2006 dodge caliber

expected from 172 horses. It isn’t as smooth or as sweet as the best from, say, Honda, but feels polished and capable enough. The CVT is a joy. Although the sensation of not feeling conventional gear “shifts” takes getting used to, the transmission’s calibration is spot on and keeps the engine working in its useful powerband (3000 to 5000 revs). It doesn’t hunt around as much as many CVTs do, and there’s a handy throttle detent that alters the CVT

Thoughtful features abound: A two-tier glovebox incorporates a beverage cooler. Optional Boston Acoustics audio package includes flipdown MusicGate speakers that negate the need to bring the boom box to tailgate parties.

90 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

programming, too. Drive moderately, and it modulates engine rpm up and down the tach. Floor it past the detent, and the motor revs straight to six grand, while the CVT feeds in the power for maximum performance. And, unlike many sequential automatics, the trans snaps up and down the “gears” without hesitation when in the AutoStick mode. As the Caliber is tall and rides higher than most conventional compact sedans do, you’d expect it to have a higher center of gravity, and it feels like it does. There’s adequate grip from the big 18-inch tires, and the steering is light but feels numbish, especially when the car begins to understeer near its handling limit. Wind ruffling is minimal, although there’s more tire noise than expected. No complaints from the brakes: plenty of stopping, with just enough pedal pulse to let you know when the ABS cuts in. Body motions are reasonably well controlled, although this machine still says “sporty sedan” more than “sport sedan.” Next up was the 2.0-liter equipped SXT, and it surprised us in a positive way. Although down 14 horses to the R/T, it was smoother, revvier, faster, and sweeter sounding than the R/T AWD’s 2.4. The steering offered more feedback and felt quicker—perhaps because it wasn’t saddled with the all-wheel-drive hardware. The less-aggressive, 17-inch rolling stock rode better and was quieter, too. Nice, since this is the model that approximately two out of three Caliber owners will end up with. The Caliber is a huge step forward for Chrysler. It moves well ahead of Americanbranded compacts and will be competitive

with the best Japanese nameplates as well. It’s roomy, aggressively priced, and current from a technological standpoint (save for the lack of that much-in-demand hybrid version). The packaging offers several unique aspects and includes some fun creature features. A job well, if not perfectly, done, as this market segment and its buyers don’t tolerate excuses. ■

2006 DODGE CALIBER BASE PRICE

$13,985 (SE); 15,985 (SXT); $19,985 (R/T)

VEHICLE LAYOUT

Front engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback

ENGINES

1.8L/148-hp/125 lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4; 2.0L/158-hp/141 lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4; 2.4L/172-hp/165 lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4

TRANSMISSIONS

5-speed manual; continuously variable auto

CURB WEIGHT

2950-3300 lb (mfr)

WHEELBASE

103.7 in

LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT

173.8 x 68.8 x 60.4 in

0-60 MPH

10.9 sec (2.0L, mfr est)

EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON

23-28 / 26-32 mpg (est)

ON SALE IN U.S.

Currently


92 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


ford gtx1 (first drive)

>> words scott mortara >> photographs evan klein

FORDâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S GT GETS A DATE WITH A SAWZALL

ORANGEPEELED ORANGEPEELED ORANGEPEELED ORANGEPEELED ORANGEPEELED ORANGEPEELED

MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 93


(first drive) ford gtx1

>>EVERYONE KNOWS the original Ford GT40 is one of the prettiest race cars ever builtâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;but most have forgotten about the just-as-pretty roadster version, which was a cool car 40 years ago. So why not now? Taking on the task of chopping the GT40â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s top was Mark Gerisch of Genaddi Design Group (www.vgdauto.com), a veteran coachbuilder known for scalping expensive exoticars without so much as batting an eye. The unique roof of the GTX1 Roadster consists of four interlocking pieces, which are stowed inside the car when not in use. Two form the top panel, while the other pair replaces the somewhat guillotine-like door intrusions of the standard GT. 94 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


vital dna

1966 WAS a magic year for Ford’s now-legendary racing prototype. Henry Ford II, after watching the GT40 endure numerous early teething problems (aerodynamics, engine and transaxle reliability) confidently declared it would win Le Mans in 1966. Progress had already been made by the end of the 1965 season, so it seemed doable. Shelby American teammates Lloyd Ruby and Ken Miles drove a red, roadster-bodied GT in the Sebring 12-hour race in 1966 and won handily. It’s not so difficult to envision that car as a forebear of Genaddi’s GTX1. Miles and Ruby also took the 24-hour race in Daytona that year, and, of course Le Mans, was the site of Ford’s noted 1-2-3 photo-finish victory. Ford had pulled off a difficult endurance-racing hat trick, and Hank the Deuce’s ballsy prediction turned out to be correct after all. ■ MATT STONE

With all four pieces in place, the left and right panels pop up at the rear to serve as vents. There’s no getting around it: The loss of its top does diminish the GT’s structural rigidity. Efforts to stem any shakes include side rails that reinforce the chassis, and the new B-pillar aids in rollover protection. Engine modifications, so far, are minimal (and hardly required): Borla headers and mufflers and a smaller supercharger pulley boost claimed horsepower from Ford’s ultra-conservative 550 to 618, says Genaddi (Gerisch, by the way, purchased the GT for this conversion for the modest price of just one dollar). The GTX1’s aggressive stance comes via a revised suspension that lowers the car

just over an inch. The multipiece, one-off 19-and 20-inch aluminum wheels (an inch larger in diameter than the stock GT’s) echo 1960s Halibrand mag styling. The dazzling orange paint was drawn from the 1970 SCCA Trans-Am championshipwinning Mustang Boss 302 racers. The new look has a few drawbacks: The lowered ride height makes it even more difficult to negotiate driveways. Speed bumps? Stay away from them—or it could get expensive. Interior modifications are subtle but effective: Brushed silver grommets and French seams added to the Sparco seats set them apart from a standard GT’s. A woven carbon-fiber-like fabric on several interior pieces accents the carbon-fiber

shifter and other composite body bits. Want to let the sun shine in your GT? Just bring your car, along with $38,000, to Genaddi Design Group and say, “Fire up the saw.” If you also want this prototype’s Brembo brakes and custom paint, bring an additional $23,900. Engine performance options will run more; contact Genaddi for those costs. In this age of excess, it’s all about being seen. Not much else can shout “Look at me!” louder than this hot-orange road monster. You’ll look great on the Pacific Coast Highway, wind blowing through your hair, with everyone looking to see which movie idol is at the wheel—if they can catch you. ■ MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 95


ONTHEREDLINE 15,000 MILES ACROSS CHINA’S SILK ROAD IN MARANELLO’S FINEST ■

words alistair weaver

98 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

photographs anton watts

sign below reads “safe road”


ferrari 612 scaglietti across china

MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 99


★ ★ ★ ★

THIS IS NOT

a good start. Night has fallen in Kashi and our old Volkswagen taxi has broken down. We stand by the roadside and watch our driver stare at the engine in a fit of desperation. I can’t remember the Chinese words for “alternator broken,” so we hail another cab as he waits for a tow. Kashi lies on the western tip of China, about 2000 miles due west of Beijing and less than 200 miles from the border with Afghanistan. Officially, this area is called the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, and it’s a world away from my perceived image of China. Islam, not communism, is the dominant belief system here, and you’re more likely to be served a mutton kebab than Beijing Duck. The people don’t look or sound Chinese, and few have ever heard the word Ferrari. Even a bicycle is beyond the means of most residents, which makes the presence outside our hotel of two 100 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM


612 Scagliettis seem even more incongruous. Unlikely though it might sound, these cars will be my friends and guides for the next five days as I drive 1800 miles along the Silk Road, the old trading route between East and West. In other words, I will pilot a $247,850 supercar where Marco Polo once rode. For me, this is a mighty step into the unknown, but for the cars and their support staff, this is just another leg in an epic journey than began in Beijing on August 29. By the time they reach the finish line in Shanghai on October 29, the cars will have covered more than 15,000 miles. Part P.R. stunt and part durability test, the 15,000 Red Miles is the most ambitious trip ever undertaken by the folks from Maranello. Todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s stage starts at 8:30 a.m., when itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s still dark. Despite being geographically closer to Europe than it is to the Chinese MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 101


capital, Xinjiang still adheres to Beijing time. Its residents therefore live in a bizarre world wherein it doesn’t get light until midmorning and then stays light late into the evening. We tack southeast, picking a route along the edge of the Tarim Basin and in the shadow of the Kunlun Shan mountains. Dusty desert wastelands are interspersed by tiny oases of paddy and cotton fields. China is home to 1.3 billion people, but few of them live out here. The view beyond the Ferrari’s fluted hood is far removed from the high-rise, first-world extravagance of contemporary Shanghai, but there are still signs of China’s rapid economic growth. Mobilephone towers are dotted across the horizon, and the buzz of my cell-phone provides a link, literally and metaphorically, to the developed world. The roads are surprisingly good, and we settle to an easy, 80-mph cruise. The 612 is billed as the consummate GT, with enough room in back for a couple of slimline adults and a refined, relaxed gait. In sixth gear, with the big V-12 barely ticking over, the Ferrari is as quiet as an executive sedan, and the suspension revisions (see sidebar) have done little to compromise its comfortable ride. The 612 is a subtle, sophisticated tool—it’s happy to leave the porn-star antics to the F430. Ferrari’s 15,000 Red Miles is the brainchild of aftersales director Luigino “Gigi” Barp. “This is the first time any manufacturer has attempted such a feat in China,” he says. “By describing the tour as a sporting event, we gained the permission of Chinese authorities, without which it would’ve been impossible.” A government official has joined the team for the duration, doubling as a tour guide.

The logistical challenge shouldn’t be underestimated. Just to secure a temporary driving permit for China, I had to submit a copy of my résumé and eight photographs to the highest authorities. There could be no flexibility; an Italianate laissez-faire attitude wasn’t going to work. The Ferrari caravan consists of seven full-time support staff, which includes two engineers and a truckful of spares. “We are the red squadron,” says Barp, a former member of the Italian air force. 102 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

IN THE TARIM BASIN, THERE’S NO EMERGENCY ROOM. NO ONE WILL HEAR YOU SCREAM


★ ★ ★ ★

MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 103


“We have clear rules and strict discipline. People must know and trust the boss—me.” A Fiat hatchback performs a reconnaissance role, relaying information about the road ahead. Its importance is demonstrated on day one, when the newly laid highway momentarily ceases to be. We’re diverted off-road onto a rough gravel track that would trouble an SUV. The closest most Ferrari drivers come to such conditions is a pebble-driveway. The quality of the roads isn’t nearly as bad as the quality of the driving. The highways aren’t so much roads as tarmac strips upon which the locals see fit to travel. Officially, you drive on the right in China, but no one seems to care. It’s not unusual to find a horse and cart trundling toward you on the wrong side of the road; motorbikes scurry every which way, and no one stops at an intersection. At first, it looks like organized chaos, but it’s not long before I pass a truck that’s rolled off the road. With car sales rising 30 percent in 2005 to 3.2 million, road safety is becoming a major concern for the Chinese government. In the Tarim Basin, there’s no emergency room, and no one will hear you scream. By the end of the second day, we’ve arrived in the small town of Minfeng, on the edge of the Taklimakan Desert. The town has a main street, which is

littered with tiny cafes and stalls. In the center of the street, a local butcher wheels a still-warm carcass of mutton past busy shoppers; there’s no refrigeration, so the meat must be sold fresh. I park the Ferrari, and it immediately draws a crowd. The locals peer through the windows and grab aggressively at the door handles. Through a translator, I snatch a word with a bystander named Uquili. He claims to have seen a Grand Prix on television, but has no knowledge of Ferrari’s road cars. “I have no money,” he says, “but I am confident that in the future I will afford a car.” His words appease concerns about the ethics of driving such a conspicuous symbol of wealth through such a poor area. Although Ferrari expects to sell around 140 cars in China this year, they’ll be sold to Shanghai entrepreneurs, not cotton farmers from Minfeng. Ferrari’s P.R. guru, Antonio Ghini, is dismissive of such criticism: “Italy was poor in the postwar period,” he says, “but a Ferrari was a stimulating message, an inspiration. I believe it can play the same role in China today.” Next morning, we leave Minfeng and head due north, bisecting the desert. Covering an area of more than 127,000 square miles, 104 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

EVEN A BICYCLE IS BEYOND THE MEANS OF MOST, WHICH MAKES THE PRESENCE OF OUR 612 SCAGLIETTI EVEN MORE INCONGRUOUS


★ ★ ★ ★

MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 105


the rat patrol

THE FERRARIS used in the expedition were

★ ★ ★ ★

modified, but only slightly. Spacers in the suspension raised the ride height by 100 mm to allow the car straddle the rocky, desert terrain. A larger fuel tank filled most of the trunk, the underbody had been fitted with protective cladding, and the headlights wore a protective mesh grille. Snow tires were used to provide extra grip in the soft sand. Ferrari’s technicians also were carrying an alternative engine control unit. This contained revised engine mapping software in case we were forced to use poorquality fuel. In the event, the standard ECU coped admirably with the 93-octane gas found throughout western China. A support truck carried a huge variety of spare parts, but over the 1800 miles of our leg, the two cars proved all but faultless. An air filter became clogged with dust in the Taklimakan Desert, and a stone destroyed a wheel rim on the silver car, but that was the extent of our troubles. At the risk of sounding like a P.R. stooge, Ferrari’s build quality really has improved dramatically in the past decade.

the Taklimakan is the second largest desert in the world. The locals call it the “sea of death,” and it’s easy to see why. While the natural beauty of the dunes is undeniable, it’s difficult to think of a more inhospitable environment. The anonymity of the sand is broken only by the occasional camel train and a sprinkling of homes that derive their subsistence from God knows where. Only after 120 miles are we afforded some relief in the form of the desert’s only fuel station. Its name, appropriately, is Midpoint. This is a strange sort of a day. I’m cruising through a Chinese desert in a Ferrari at near three-figure speeds, with my iPod singing sweet tunes and the air-conditioning maintaining a steady 70 degrees. I’ve been on fairground rides that felt less surreal. Our speeds are relatively modest, but there are still times when I can’t resist slipping down a couple of cogs and asking the 5.7-liter V-12 to draw breath. On this fuel, the engine is delivering significantly less than the claimed 540 horsepower and 434 poundfeet of torque, but the 612 should still be described as pleasingly rapid. The V-12 is so quiet—too quiet for my liking—and so unerringly smooth that this car gathers speed by stealth. I’ve spent time over the past couple of days swapping between the silver car, which boasts a manual trans, and the red car, which has a semi-automatic F1 gearbox. By day three, I’ve surprised 106 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

myself by preferring the F1. These systems have improved dramatically in recent years, and on long journeys such as this, it’s ultimately the more relaxing and fulfilling companion. There’s much to like about Ferrari’s most grownup car, but it’s not without fault. The faux-aluminum switchgear, aftermarket stereo, and tacky CD holders, for example, compromise what’s otherwise a beautifully finished cabin. To these eyes, at least, the 612’s styling also continues to frustrate; the “Scaglietti scallops” look especially contrived. It’s mid-afternoon by the time we reach the northern edge of the desert, where we discover its hidden treasure. A Sinopec installation sucks oil from the desert floor, driving China’s economic renaissance. A makeshift village has sprung up to service the workforce, and as we head east toward my final destination of Jiayuguan, we encounter more nomadic communities, serving the railroad or highway construction. Groups of workers labor around the clock to transform the arid landscape, and the pace of change is extraordinary. This route, which in medieval times witnessed the trade of iron, silk, china, fruit, and gems, will once again buzz with the sound of commerce. In a few months’ time, the main highway will be complete, but for now we’re forced to drive for more than 120 miles on rutted dirt roads that cause the whole car to shake in anger.


In near zero visibility, we push on, relying on our reflexes and the strength of the 612’s suspension. The Prancing Horse on the steering wheel bucks uneasily in my hands as we play chicken with the overloaded trucks that prowl the highway. There’s little time for reflection; the clock is ticking and the thought of tackling such terrain in the dark is nothing short of terrifying. The road finally improves as the city of Jiayuguan looms large on the horizon. We’re now in the Gansu province, beyond the Tarim Basin and in a much more affluent area. Historically referred to as the mouth of China, it holds a symbolic location at the end of the Great Wall. On our final morning, the Ferrari and I pay homage to one of man’s greatest feats. The Great Wall is arguably the most potent symbol of ancient China, but with its manicured car parks and garish tourists, it’s also an emblem of the new China. It seems as good a place as any to wave goodbye to the red squadron. The cynics will dismiss Ferrari’s 15,000 Red Miles as nothing more than a P.R. stunt from a company that doesn’t advertise. But while they’re correct about the motive, they underestimate the triumph of the execution. Anyone who dodged the Beijing traffic, scaled the Tibetan peaks, or crossed the Taklimakan Desert will have been left in no doubt that this was an epic journey. ■

CYNICS WILL DISMISS FERRARI’S 15,000 RED MILES AS NOTHING MORE THAN A P.R. STUNT. THEY COULDN’T BE MORE WRONG MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 107


(comparison)

SN❄WDOGS A CITY-TO-SNOW EXPEDITION TO DETERMINE THE LEADER OF THE PACK ■

110 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

words ron kiino

photographs john kiewicz


HUMMER H3 VS. JEEP LIBERTY RENEGADE vs. NISSAN XTERRA OR-V6 vs. TOYOTA FJ CRUISER

MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 111


(comparison)

IF A DOG

is man’s best friend, then it’s conceivable the sport/utility vehicle is man’s best tool. And when we say “sport/utility vehicle,” we’re talking a truckbased, ladder-frame SUV here, not a carbased crossover that’s as soft and common as UGG boots. In its proper guise— equipped with four-wheel drive, low-range gearing, a live rear axle, plentiful ground clearance, and suitable tires—the basic, midsize SUV can take man to destinations otherwise unattainable if left to the wimpy car-based ’ute. And what about hauling all of a man’s gear, food, and friends? The good old best tool once again rises to the occasion, pulling double-duty as a fivepassenger transporter and a 30-cubic-foot locker. And, as is often the case these days,

112 MARCH 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

the off-road-bent SUV doesn’t beat up its buyer with a hefty price tag or a lack of amenities. Rather, it dips shallowly into one’s bank account—prices generally open at well under $30,000—and coddles passengers with such conveniences as a CD changer, cruise control, and heated seats. Scanning the current crop of SUVs revealed four such truck-based midsize machines. The all-new 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser is a retro-inspired rock-hopper that harks back to the cult-classic FJ40 of the 1960s. Based on a modified 4Runner platform, the FJ is touted by Toyota as the most competent 4x4 in its U.S. lineup. When talking about competent 4x4s, one can’t ignore Jeep and Hummer. Stalwarts in the

off-road world—be it military, racing, or recreation—each offers an entry-level sport/ute designed for precarious excursions. The Liberty receives Jeep’s “Trail Rated” stamp of approval, which, according to the brand, translates to an SUV “designed to perform in a variety of challenging off-road conditions.” The H3, the baby of the hulking Hummer family, appears the most promising off-road, what with its enormous 33-inch tires and ornately visible tow hooks and skidplates. Last but certainly not least, there’s our 2006 Sport/Utility of the Year, the Nissan Xterra. The Xterra is the type of vehicle that quietly goes about its business while garnering nearly all the praise and respect. We set out for the snowy peaks of the


THE OFF-ROAD-BENT SUV DOESN’T BEAT UP ITS BUYER WITH A HEFTY PRICE TAG OR LACK OF AMENITIES

Eastern Sierras and its two-layer off-road cake of hard-pack and powder to test each vehicle’s adeptness in the white stuff. We followed it up with a visit to Southern California’s off-road Mecca, Hungry Valley, to assess the vehicles’ abilities to climb hills, overcome boulders, and traverse deep piles of river wash. And, of course, between destinations, we trudged along stretches of highway to discover which vehicle offered the best ride, handling, and everyday liveability. Which brute/ute would finish at the front of the pack?

THE RUNT It doesn’t take a measuring tape to see that the Liberty is physically overshadowed by the other three SUVs, each

of which is longer, wider, and taller. The Jeep’s cute, bug-eyed façade tells that story, especially parked next to the Hummer. Nor does it take a book on modernism to understand that the Jeep is older than its competitors. Indeed, its twovalve engine and poor ergonomics (c’mon, power window controls on the center console? And why is the driver’s seat cushion positioned high enough for toddlers?) reveal the Liberty’s age. And it shows. With 210 horses stirring underhood, all spurred by a four-speed automatic, the Liberty was the second slowest from 0 to 60 (9.4 seconds) and through the quarter mile (16.9 at 79.3 mph), outpaced by everything except the behemoth H3. In the snow, the Liberty did a commendable

NISSAN XTERRA OR-V6

TOYOTA FJ CRUISER

job holding its own, its skinny Goodyears akin to warm pizza wheels in ice cream. But in Hungry Valley, the Liberty didn’t fare so well. With 6.4 inches of running ground clearance, the Jeep was the only vehicle to continuously pound rocks with its underside, prompting more grimaces than an Ashlee Simpson concert. Attempting to climb a steep, undulating hill in 4Low, the Liberty could only attempt, not conquer, the feat, thanks in part to the lack of a locking rear differential and a second-worst Ramp Travel Index (see sidebar). Through the dry riverbed, the Jeep felt the frailest and the jitteriest, its structure and suspension creaking and rattling over the washboard, its steering column transmitting every

HUMMER H3

JEEP LIBERTY RENEGADE

MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 113


(comparison) NISSAN XTERRA OR-V6

THE BEAST moan. On-road, the Liberty provided a decent ride bested only by the Toyota’s, but its slow, sloppy steering sapped the fun out of city navigating. Carrying an as-tested price tag of $27,550, the Jeep was the least expensive of the bunch. But, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. 114 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

Just as the Jeep’s diminutiveness is obvious, so is the Hummer’s enormity. Not only is the H3 longer and wider than the FJ, the second biggest of the group, it’s also the heaviest— 434 pounds porkier than the next-plumpest Xterra. At the track and on the highway, that bulk becomes evident. The sprint to 60 requires 11.1 seconds, nearly two ticks more than the Jeep, and the quarter mile takes 17.9 at just 76.9 mph. The question

arises: Does the word “slow” do the H3 justice or injustice? The H3’s beefed-up Chevy Colorado chassis is arguably overengineered and thus obscenely heavy, but it’s the borrowed Colorado powertrain—a 220-horsepower I-5 and a fourspeed automatic—that really chops off the H3 at the knees. Passing on the highway? Best to pass on that idea. Moreover, the Hummer offered the bounciest, most punishing ride of the group; its gargantuan rubber was more apt to wobble on uneven freeway surfaces; and its pure two-box shell was the most susceptible to wind buffeting. Taking the H3 off-road, however, now that’s a great idea. Although the Hummer didn’t rise above the others in the snow—its heft and 285mm-wide Bridgestones made it the elephant of the pack—it did excel in Hungry Valley, where its ultralow 4.03:1 reduction ratio, 33-inch tires, and rear locker flattened hills and squished boulders with-


JEEP LIBERTY RENEGADE

out a drop of sweat. Coming in at $29,500 to start—more than the as-tested costs of the others—and $37,920 with options such as the $3230 Luxury Package and the $925 Off Road Suspension Package, the H3 was the priciest. Carrying that kind of premium, the Hummer’s off-road prowess becomes expected, almost overlooked, while its onroad incompetence turns infamous.

THE ATHLETE An excerpt from the driver’s log sums up the Xterra’s eminence: “Definitely the sports car of this group.” Not only is the Nissan objectively the sportiest of the foursome—it recorded the best 0-to-60, quarter-mile, and slalom numbers—but it’s subjectively a Z-car among type-A trucks. The steering, although tuned with a languid 20.4:1 ratio, felt the most linear, delivering quick turn-in and excellent feedback. The suspension, despite delivering a firm,

sometimes jerky ride, rewarded drivers with the flattest cornering feel, evidenced by the best-in-test 0.72 skidpad grip. Tip into the throttle, which is tweaked within an inch of being too sensitive, and it talks back with instant, easy-to-modulate engine response as well as the raspiest exhaust note. The sound and feel of the Xterra substantiate its claim as the most powerful SUV here. In the soft and slushy stuff, the Xterra shined, effortlessly mowing

BFGoodrich tracks through the deepest snow. In fact, after our romp in Mammoth Lakes’ winter wonderland, the Xterra was deemed the odds-on favorite to take home the trophy. A few hours into our visit at MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 115


(comparison) HUMMER H3

2006 Sport/Utility of the Year from nudging the first-place finisher. That said, the Xterra’s $29,325 as-tested sticker (thriftier than the H3 and FJ’s), superb track performance, and sporty feel secure it a title all its own—the sportiest of these sport/utilities.

THE ALL-ROUNDER

Hungry Valley proved more challenging for this impressive contender, however. Saddled with the lowest Ramp Travel Index (RTI), the Xterra was unable to overcome our test hill, even with its “Rugged Trail” tires and the rear differential locked. It was mostly this off-road deficiency that kept our 116 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

Before you get on your computer and begin keyboarding a nasty letter that derides us for picking this new Toyota over our recently anointed SUV of the Year, rest assured we have legitimate reasons. First, the 2007 FJ was neither eligible nor available during our SUOTY testing, which, uhm, puts it at a slight disadvantage. And, second, it nips at the sporty Xterra’s heels at the track, betters it in the ride department, and surpasses it off-road. Oh, and it looks way cooler. As we mentioned earlier, the Xterra is the sports car of the group, which makes


TOYOTA FJ CRUISER

this FJ the sport sedan, providing acceleration numbers similar to the Nissan’s (0-to-60 in 7.6 seconds and the quarter mile in 16.0 flat at 86.4), yet delivering a ride—on- and offroad—that feels downright cushy in comparison. Furthermore, the FJ’s compliant suspenders don’t hamper handling, serving up a respectable 0.69 g on the skidpad and an Xterra-matching 29.3-second run in the figure-eight test. The steering feels communicative, if a tad more numb than the Nissan’s, and the four-wheel vented disc brakes (the others feature solid rear discs) are vicelike, halting the FJ from 60 mph in best-in-test 127 feet. The FJ made easy work of the snow, its Active Traction Control (A-TRAC) system living up to its promise of minimizing wheelspin and functioning like a limited-slip differential. A-TRAC also proved its merits in Hungry Valley, where, complemented by 32-inch tires and the

second-widest track, it assisted the FJ up and over the hill test, and through the sand wash sans any drama. And while the FJ lacks genuine forward-hinged rear doors like the others, its “Access Doors,” which open 90 degrees, nonetheless make ingress and egress a snap. Inside, the FJ

ergonomics are first-rate, right there with the Xterra’s, and head and shoulders above the Jeep’s and Hummer’s. With a starting price of $23,905 for a 4x4 with an automatic— not to mention $29,360 for our loaded tester—the FJ is not only a steal, but also an easy choice as the leader of this pack. ■ MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 117


(comparison) ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ 1ST PLACE TOYOTA FJ CRUISER Great on- and off-road, striking styling, and a base price in the basement.

■ ■ ■ ■ ■ 2ND PLACE NISSAN XTERRA OR-V6 Quick and agile, our Sport/Utility of the Year is still running up that hill.

■ ■ ■ ■ ■ 3RD PLACE HUMMER H3 Rugged looks can’t save this expensive yet anemic off-roader.

■ ■ ■ ■ ■ 4TH PLACE JEEP LIBERTY RENEGADE Too cute, too old, and not macho enough to contend in this group.

HOW THEY (TRAIL) RATE ALTHOUGH SOME manufacturers want you to believe their SUVs are the only vehicles capable of navigating a difficult trail, the truth is all four of our test units do well—but not all SUVs are created equal. To gauge suspension flexibility, we utilized a device called “The Ramp” to measure the limits of suspension twist a vehicle can absorb while keeping the three remaining tires on the ground. The higher up the ramp before a tire lifts, the better the vehicle should be able to flex over rough terrain. Although a good predictor, RTI isn’t the only factor in determining 4x4 aptitude. Some manufacturers are beginning to use ultralow-range gearing to give their 4x4s extra pulling power. In addition, push-button locking rear differentials and smarter traction-control systems are becoming more popular. And, of course, the type of tire an automaker offers says a lot about how it expects its vehicle to be used. Here’s what we found after a day of rock bashing and sand-wash blasting. FOURTH PLACE: Our “Trail Rated” Liberty had a nottoo-shabby 450 RTI result, but had the smallest tires of the group (225/75R16) with the least aggressive tread. Gearing is adequate, but the clumsy slot-machine 4WD lever puts up a fight when going into and out of 4Low.

118 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

THIRD PLACE: The Xterra scored a 384 RTI (lowest of the four), but did offer a big tire (265/75R16) and an electronic locking rear differential (some called it the “Save Me!” button). The 4.0-liter V-6 is powerful and responsive, making the Nissan a favorite in the highspeed sand washes. SECOND PLACE: The Toyota FJ’s suspension uses coil springs in front and back and scored a solid 491 RTI. The “A-TRAC” traction-control system calculates the right amount of traction needed in high and low range. And, although it’s loud and vibrates like crazy when engaged, several testers appreciated the A-TRAC’s feedback. In addition, the FJ offers a push-button rear locker (which disconnects traction control), and runs the dry-wash trails like a Baja pre-runner. FIRST PLACE: With the most compliant suspension, the H3 scored a 521 RTI and has a transfer-case low-range gear almost two times lower than do the others. In addition, the Hummer had the biggest, most aggressive tires (285/75R16) and a smart traction-control system that works in combination with a rear locker. If there’s a weakness, not surprisingly, it’s the anemic I-5 that had trouble pushing our 2.5-ton H3 through the desert sand washes. ■ mark williams


2006 HUMMER H3 POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT ENGINE TYPE VALVETRAIN DISPLACEMENT COMPRESSION RATIO POWER (SAE NET) TORQUE (SAE NET) WEIGHT TO POWER TRANSMISSION AXLE/FINAL/LOW RATIO SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR STEERING RATIO TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK BRAKES, F;R WHEELS TIRES DIMENSIONS WHEELBASE TRACK, F/R LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT GROUND CLEARANCE APPROACH/DEPART ANGLE TURNING CIRCLE CURB WEIGHT WEIGHT DIST, F/R TOWING CAPACITY SEATING CAPACITY HEADROOM, F/R LEGROOM, F/R SHOULDER ROOM, F/R CARGO VOL BEHIND F/R TEST DATA ACCELERATION TO MPH 0-30 0-40 0-50 0-60 0-70 0-80 0-90 PASSING, 45-65 MPH QUARTER-MILE 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 RECOMMENDED FUEL

2006 JEEP LIBERTY RENEGADE 2006 NISSAN XTERRA OR-V6 2007 TOYOTA FJ CRUISER

Front engine, 4WD

Front engine, 4WD

Front engine, 4WD

Front engine, 4WD

I-5, alum block/head

90° V-6, iron block/alum heads

60° V-6, alum block/heads

60° V-6, alum block/heads

DOHC, 4 valves/cyl

SOHC, 2 valves/cyl

DOHC, 4 valves/cyl

DOHC, 4 valves/cyl

211.1 cu in / 3460cc

226.3 cu in / 3709cc

241.3 cu in / 3954cc

241.4 cu in / 3956cc

10.0:1

9.1:1

9.7:1

10.0:1

220 hp @ 5600 rpm

210 hp @ 5200 rpm

265 hp @ 5600 rpm

239 hp @ 5200 rpm

225 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm

235 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm

284 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm

278 lb-ft @ 3700 rpm

22.2 lb/hp

19.6 lb/hp

16.8 lb/hp

18.2 lb/hp

4-speed automatic

4-speed automatic

5-speed automatic

5-speed automatic

4.56:1 / 3.19:1 / 4.03:1

3.73:1 / 2.57:1 / 2.72:1

3.13:1 / 2.63:1 / 2.63:1

3.73:1 / 2.67:1 / 2.57:1

Control arms, torsion bar, anti-roll

Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar;

Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar;

Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar;

bar; live axle, leaf springs, anti-roll bar

live axle, coil springs, anti-roll bar

live axle, leaf springs

live axle, coil springs, anti-roll bar

17.0:1

18.2:1

20.4:1

17.1:1

3.3

3.6

3.5

3.1

12.4-in vented disc; 12.3-in disc, ABS

11.3-in vented disc; 11.2-in disc, ABS

11.7-in vented disc; 11.3-in disc, ABS

12.6-in vented disc; 12.3-in vented disc, ABS

16 x 7.5-in cast aluminum

16 x 7.0-in cast aluminum

16 x 7.0-in cast aluminum

17 x 7.5-in cast aluminum

285/75R16 113Q, Bridgestone

225/75R16 104S,

265/75R16 114T, BFGoodrich

265/70R17 113S,

Dueler A/T RH-S

Goodyear Wrangler ST

Rugged Trail T/A

Bridgestone Dueler H/T

111.9 in

104.3 in

106.3 in

105.9 in

65.0 / 65.5 in

60.0 / 59.7 in

61.8 / 61.8 in

63.2 / 63.2 in

186.7 x 74.7 x 74.5 in

174.4 x 71.6 x 70.2 in

178.7 x 72.8 x 74.9 in

183.9 x 74.6 x 71.6 in

9.1 in

6.4 in

9.5 in

9.6 in

40.0 / 37.0 deg

36.0 / 31.5 deg

33.2 / 29.4 deg

34.0 / 30.0 deg

37.0 ft

35.9 ft

37.3 ft

41.8 ft

4885 lb

4111 lb

4451 lb

4339 lb

51 / 49 %

53 / 47 %

52 / 48 %

54 / 46 %

4500 lb

5000 lb

5000 lb

5000 lb

5

5

5

5

39.9 / 37.9 in

40.7 / 42.1 in

39.9 / 39.3 in

41.3 / 40.3 in

41.9 / 35.0 in

40.8 / 37.2 in

42.4 / 34.4 in

41.9 / 31.3 in

54.4 / 53.5 in

56.5 / 56.5 in

58.3 / 58.3 in

58.4 / 53.9 in

55.7 / 29.5 cu ft

69.0 / 29.0 cu ft

65.7 / 35.2 cu ft

66.8 / 27.9 cu ft

3.4 sec

2.7 sec

2.5 sec

2.5 sec

5.2

4.3

3.8

4.0

7.9

6.6

5.5

5.7

11.1

9.4

7.4

7.6

14.7

12.6

10.0

10.3

21.3

17.4

13.6

13.6

17.7

17.5

6.4

5.5

3.8

4.0

17.9 sec @ 76.9 mph

16.9 sec @ 79.3 mph

15.8 sec @ 85.7 mph

16.0 sec @ 86.4 mph

133 ft

132 ft

131 ft

127 ft

56.5 mph avg

56.6 mph avg

59.5 mph avg

55.9 mph avg

0.69 g avg

0.68 g avg

0.72 g avg

0.69 g avg

31.4 sec @ 0.45 g avg

31.0 sec @ 0.58 g avg

29.3 sec @ 0.56 g avg

29.3 sec @ 0.55 g avg

2000 rpm

1800 rpm

1800 rpm

1750 rpm $23,905

$29,500

$25,100

$27,755

$37,920

$27,550

$29,325

$29,360

Yes/yes

Yes/yes

Yes/yes

Yes/yes

Dual front

Dual front

Dual front

Dual front, front side, f/r curtain

4 yrs/50,000 miles

3 yrs/36,000 miles

3 yrs/36,000 miles

3 yrs/36,000 miles

4 yrs/50,000 miles

7 yrs/70,000 miles

5 yrs/60,000 miles

5 yrs/60,000 miles

4 yrs/50,000 miles

3 yrs/30,000 miles

None

None

23.0 gal

20.5 gal

21.1 gal

19.0 gal

16 / 19 mpg

17 / 22 mpg

16 / 21 mpg

17 / 21 mpg

Regular unleaded

Regular unleaded

Regular unleaded

Premium unleaded

MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 119


SIMON FOX

bristol fighter (newcomers)

fighting mad ONE OF THE COOLEST CARS THAT’LL NEVER BE SOLD IN AMERICA ALMOST unknown to American buyers, Bristol Cars is one of Britain’s last independent manufacturers. Based in the city of Bristol, 100 miles west of London, it’s also one of the smallest and most secretive car builders; nobody outside of the firm is ever allowed into the factory at Filton Airport. Bristol has been building much the same car for more than 50 years with occasional changes of body style, model name, and engines that, since 1961, have been supplied by Chrysler. Although the styling has become

increasingly odd, customers are loyal and buy into the mystique of the current Blenheim and its undoubted appeal as a dignified, luxurious, well-crafted, yet practical four-seater coupe. The Fighter, however, is something new from Bristol, a two-seater gullwing-door coupe that’s good, says the company, for 210 mph; at 200 mph it claims a “supercharge” effect, thanks to a carefully designed front grille that boosts the power output and gives you the last 10 mph. Power still comes from Chrysler but now

in the form of the Viper’s V-10 engine rather than a V-8. Although the platform chassis and wishbone/coil-spring suspension are all new, certain

Bristol traditions are maintained. The body is mostly aluminum, and the car is relatively narrow with a commanding driving position. By supercar standards, it’s perhaps

MOTOR TREND.COM APRIL 2006 121


SIMON FOX

(newcomers) bristol fighter

THE STRAIGHT-LINE URGE OF THE FIGHTER IS EPIC

uniquely easy to see out of, with a large glass area and a small panel in the tail for reversing. Combine this with a nifty turning circle, and you have a 200-mph car that’s easy to park. There’s decent luggage space also, despite the fact that Bristol insists on having a full-size spare rather than a space saver. The gullwing doors work well, swinging up out of the way to leave a deep sill but a large aperture; so it’s easy to get in and

out.The seats are substantial, and there’s ample head and shoulder room; Bristol says the cabin will accommodate people up to six feet seven inches tall. An engine-hours gauge in the roof alludes to Bristol’s beginnings in aircraft manufacture, as do the opening sections in the door windows.The ambience inside is luxurious and pleasing with a steering wheel that’s an updated version of Bristol’s 1950s style with serrated spokes. The straight-line urge of the

122 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

Fighter is epic. The V-10 revs to 6000 rpm, but 5000 rpm is usually more than enough and feels smoother. In fact, you can caress the car along carrying huge speed using no more than 3000 rpm, flashing up to three-figure speeds on colossal torque. Four seconds is claimed for 0-to-60, and 100 mph is a mere 2450 rpm in top gear. The steering requires more attention than you might expect, as it follows bumps in a pronounced way.You learn to let it do its thing and enjoy the flat neutrality of the cornering. Bristol was obsessed with 50/50 weight distribution when creating the Fighter. There’s been no attempt to give the Fighter a macho exhaust note. It merely sounds powerfully gruff and rumbly. The drivetrain feels a bit rambunctious at low speed, but Bristol has improved the Viper gearshift with shorter throws via an inclined gear lever, matching it to a surprisingly light clutch. The Fighter is light at 3300 pounds for this kind of car, high

geared (it does 60 mph in first!), and has been styled more for aerodynamics (it claims a 0.28 Cd) than pure musclecar appeal. Sides and floorpan are smooth (the exhausts are in the sills), the roof canopy teardrop shaped for reduced lift and drag. It’s better looking in the flesh than in pictures—not beautiful, but intriguingly different and well balanced. It couldn’t be mistaken for anything else. At nearly $350,000 (at current exchange rates), you wouldn’t want it to be. ■

martin buckley

2005 BRISTOL FIGHTER/FIGHTER S BASE PRICE DRIVETRAIN ENGINE

$344,950 Front engine, RWD 8.0L/518-hp/525 lb-ft OHV V-10

TRANSMISSIONS

6-speed manual; 4-speed automatic

CURB WEIGHT 3300 lb WHEELBASE 108.3 in LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 174.0 x 70.7 x 53.0 in


(newcomers) mitsubishi eclipse spyder

solar eclipse MITSU’S SPORT COUPE WELCOMES IN THE RAYS THE NEW-GEN Eclipse was conceived with coupe and convertible versions in mind from the get-go. Reinforced front and rear subframes and floorpan, along with strategically placed support members, return much of the structural rigidity lost with the removal of its hardtop. The Spyder’s power three-layer cloth top folds flat under a flushfitting power tonneau cover in about 19 seconds. With a manual header release, the top is easy to use and doesn’t inhibit visibility too seriously when up. The fulllength headliner helps quiet the cabin and adds the more finished feel of a coupe when raised. Available in black or gray, both tops have a glass rear windshield with defroster. Two trim levels are available.The GS is powered by a 2.4-liter fourcylinder engine, producing 162 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque; it can be coupled to a fivespeed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic.The GT gets a 3.8-liter V-6 producing 260 horses and 258 pound-feet backed by a six-speed manual trans or optional five-speed auto. Due to dif-

easy to break them loose at just the wrong time. Add a somewhat touchy tip-in, along with a measure of torque steer, and your hands will be full keeping the car pointed straight if you overdrive the engine. The Eclipse Spyder delivers a smooth yet sporty ride, power on demand, amazing looks, a premium interior, and now, the wind in your hair—all at an attractive price. ■

ferent exhaust routing, the 3.8 loses three horses and two pound-feet of torque compared with the coupe. Two optional packages are offered. The Leather Package (GS only) includes heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors, leather seating surfaces, and an outside temperature and compass display. The Premium Sports Package (GT only) adds 18-inch wheels and tires, aluminum pedals, automatic climate-control system, six-way power driver seat, removable wind deflector, and everything from the Leather Package. The GT receives electronic traction control standard along with 11.2-inch ventilated rear disc brakes in place of the 10.3-inch

126 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

solid discs standard on the GS. Three interior color schemes are available for both models: TechnoSport (dark charcoal), Hi-Q Sport (medium gray), and Avante Garde (terra cotta). Both models have a standard, 650-watt Rockford Fosgate premium sound system with AM/FM/CD/MP3 capability and a six-disc in-dash CD changer, featuring an eight-inch subwoofer integrated into the rear seat. Overall, the Spyder feels solid and appears to suffer little from its top-surgery. Cowl shake is minimal, and top down at cruising speed, you can still converse with your passenger. It’s unfortunate that a sporty car with this much power has all-season tires, as it’s

scott mortara

2007 MITSUBISHI ECLIPSE SPYDER BASE PRICE BASE PRICE RANGE VEHICLE LAYOUT ENGINES

$26,265 $25,984-$28,864 Front engine, FWD 4-pass, 2-door conv 2.4L/162-hp/162 lb-ft SOHC I-4; 3.8L/ 260-hp/258 lb-ft SOHC V-6

TRANSMISSIONS

5- or 6-speed manual; 4-, or 5-speed automatic

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

3500-3750 lb (mfr) 101.4 in 179.7 x 72.2 x 54.4 in 5.8-8.8 sec 18-19/27-28 mpg (est) Currently


(newcomers) lexus gs 450h

feel the green DOES LEXUS NEED AN AMG DIVISION? WHILE TOYOTA hybrids are all about gas mileage, Lexus hybrids are all about performance, although it’s a warm, responsible kind of performance rather than the head-banging AMG variety. Lexus claims it has the first reardrive hybrid (note the designation “h” in GS 450h for the company’s growing line of hybrids), combining the port- and direct-fuel-injected 2GR FSE 3.5-liter V-6 with two motor generators and a hybrid battery pack for a combined 339 peak horsepower. It runs 0-to-60 mph in 5.2 seconds. Okay, that’s

not quite CLS55 territory, but it’s V-8 power at 28 mpg, plus SULEV/ Tier 2/Bin 3 tailpipe emissions. The GS 450h features a twospeed torque-reduction system and a longitudinal hybrid transmission, a 291-pound techno-wonder as compact as the Prius’s transmission. Motor Generator 1, rated at 180 horsepower, is the primary generator and engine starter and controls the engine speed; Motor Generator 2, rated at 197 horsepower, drives the rear wheels and manages regenerative braking. The GS 450h can accelerate to 40 mph without the engine, making

128 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

it a combo sport sedan/golf cart. Transitions are seamless, with none of the driveline jerk that often happens when the engine kicks in on other hybrid cars. A battery-power meter replaces the tachometer, so you’ll aim for optimum recharge instead of the redline. But draining the battery is satisfying. Passing from 50 to 100 mph (when you meant to level at 80) is the car’s strong suit, with the exhaust sounding like an engine growl meeting an upshifting Waring blender. An alphabet soup of stability controls prevents smoky burnout launches and

nine-tenths cornering, but the battery pack changes the car’s weight distribution to 51/49, so it corners flat even without optional electronically adjusting anti-roll bars. This is the essence of Lexus performance: a well-equipped sedan with high-tech power instead of big-bore muscle. Lexus will sell just 2000 a year in the U.S.—AMG-model numbers, but the desire for quality performance could push demand much higher. ■

todd lassa

2007 LEXUS GS 450h BASE PRICE VEHICLE LAYOUT

$56,000 (est) Front engine, RWD 5-pass, 4-door sedan

ENGINE

3.5L/292-hp/267 lb-ft (est) DOHC V-6 plus 180-hp fr & 197-hp rr elec motors

TRANSMISSION

Continuously variable auto

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

4150 lb (mfr) 112.2 in 190.0 x 71.7 x 56.1 in 5.2 sec (mfr est) 27/28 mpg (est) Currently


JOHN KIEWICZ

(newcomers) 2006 chevrolet corvette

better—automatically SIX SPEEDS FORWARD PROVES A GREAT WAY TO GO WHEN CHEVROLET introduced the current Corvette, now-retired Corvette vehicle line executive and chief engineer Dave Hill had his excuse prepared. We asked,“Dave, there’s so much technology in this car—why no five- or six-speed automatic trans with shifter paddles or driver-

selectable shift modes?” Hill replied,“Well, guys, our customers haven’t expressed an interest in that technology.”Translation from corporate-speak to English:“Well, guys, our new trans isn’t ready yet.” So first-year C6 buyers got the same old—and we mean old—four-speed 4L65-E autobox. It worked well enough, and it did have driver-selectable shift modes. Unfortunately, they were limited to forward, reverse, and neutral. General Motors’s new HydraMatic 6L80 six-speed automatic is a fresh piece of hardware and makes its production debut in this year’s Corvette, plus the Cadillac STS-v and XLR-v. As in all Vettes, it’s mounted transaxle-style at the rear of the car in the name of ideal weight distribution. Over time, this close-ratio box will find its way into all manner of cars and trucks and employ the latest electronics, technology, and metallurgy. As configured for Corvette detail, it offers a standard Drive mode, a Sport Drive mode, and a manual mode via steering-wheel-mounted shifter paddles. No longer is driving an automaticequipped Corvette a shiftless exercise in boredom. Even though the LS2 V-8 has loads of torque, there was a large rpm and power fall-off during upshifts with the old tranny. As the gear spacing is so much closer in the 6L80, the engine

130 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

now always runs in its sweet spot. The transmission’s first gear is lower than before, so the car launches harder and stays on boil through the ratios. And this sucker is smart: Drive gently, and gear changes go all but unnoticed. Let it know you’re late for a date, and the shifts are firm, with a satisfying boot to the backside. Same for downshifts: Tip the throttle gently, and you get one gear. Boot it on the freeway, and it’ll snap from sixth to third.The Sport setting reads aggressive driver inputs and adjusts shift points and firmness levels accordingly. Remember how much slower automatic-equipped cars used to be than clutch-and-stick types? The 6L80-equipped Vette is just twotenths of a second slower to 60 mph than a six-speed manual example. Impressive. The only frustrating part is the shifter paddles. Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, and every Formula 1 team set up their paddles so they can be flicked by pulling backwards with your fingertips; the right paddle for upshifts and the left one for downshifts. Chevrolet insists that you punch the levers with your thumb for upshifts. GM product types swear they have research proving this way is better. But it feels counterintuitive at best and causes the driver’s grip on the wheel to change each time he

needs to shift. Dumb. This ergonomic booboo aside, the Vette’s new tranny is a jewel. It’s a modern piece of engineering and performs as well as the rest of the car. Attention, enthusiast drivers: You are now free to order up a clutchless Corvette, if you so choose. ■ matt stone

2006 CHEVROLET CORVETTE BASE/TESTED PRICE DRIVETRAIN ENGINE

$44,490/$56,570 Front engine, RWD, 6.0L/400-hp/ 400 lb-ft OHV V-8

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT (dist f/r) LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH QUARTER MILE EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON

6-speed automatic 3284 lb (51/49 %) 174.6 x 72.6 x 49.0 in 4.6 sec 13.0 sec @ 112.2 mph 17 / 27 mpg


(newcomers) kia sedona

major league player KOREA’S SECOND AT-BAT CONNECTS WITH A LINE DRIVE SOME VEHICLES are so revered by their customers that replacing them presents a daunting task. Mazda’s Miata, the original Chrysler minivans, and Ford’s F-150 spring to mind—the Kia Sedona does not. Korea’s first minivan was a lackluster, inexpensive small van designed to compete abroad, and converting it for U.S. duty left it grossly overweight. Some 50,000 customers per year have been lured by its low price, not its innovation nor excellence. Improving that van would’ve been child’s play, but Kia assigned the job to savvy adults, just the same. While it took Toyota four swings at the minivan market before connecting with the current Sienna (its first real success), this second-generation Sedona arrives with the form, function, and mechanical aptitude to go toe-to-

toe with the big sellers from Chrysler, Honda, and Toyota. The new Kia’s exterior measures within tenths of an inch of all three vans, and this summer a shortwheelbase model sized like the little Chryslers will arrive. Inside, the Sedona trails the name-brand vans in most dimensions, but not by much. Maximum cargo space is 141.5 cubic feet versus 147.4 at Honda and 148.9 at Toyota. The 60/40-split rear bench folds into the floor, but the standard middlerow captain’s chairs must be removed. (They weigh 60 pounds, but ride on rollers.) The slidingdoor windows roll down, and the optional power third-row vent windows can be controlled from the back seat (Kia’s sole minivan innovation). Front-seat side airbags and curtain bags for all three rows are standard, as are stability control, a tire-pressure-monitoring system, three-zone climate control, and keyless entry. Power for the sliding doors and tailgate is optional. A new all-aluminum 3.8-liter DOHC V-6 matches the benchmark Honda’s 244 horses and trumps it on torque, with 253 pound-feet

132 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

(those figures drop to 242 and 251 running on the recommended regular unleaded). It even rivals the Japanese engines on refinement. A five-speed auto with Sportmatic shifting sends power to the front wheels; all-wheel drive isn’t offered. The bigger Sedona is 30 percent stiffer in torsion, yet weighs 400 pounds less than the outgoing model, starting at 4400 pounds—about the same as a base Odyssey. Credit the all-aluminum engine, lighter transmission, multilink rear suspension, and more astute CAD engineering. From all angles, the new Sedona looks, feels, and drives like a discounted Toyota Sienna. It’s quiet inside, and it corners respectably (0.73g grip, compared with the Sienna’s 0.71), with minimal fuss from the 17-inch Michelins. Acceleration to 60 mph takes 8.5 seconds. The Odyssey and Sienna need between 8.6 and 8.8; the Grand Caravan and former Sedona take 10. New four-wheel discs arrest 60-mph progress in 121 feet; Hondas and Toyotas need between 123 and 134. Kia hasn’t invented anything new here, but it rolls market-

leading features and technology into a package that can sell on merits other than a bargainbasement price ($23,665 for an LX). Add in the fact that Sedona resale value roughly matches that of the Chrysler vans, and Kia should have no trouble moving its target 60,000 vans per year. This may be a tougher act to follow. ■

frank markus

2006 SEDONA EX BASE PRICE PRICE AS TESTED VEHICLE LAYOUT

$26,265 $31,365 Front engine, FWD, 7-pass, 4-door van

ENGINE

3.8L/244-hp/253 lb-ft DOHC 4-valve V-6

TRANSMISSION CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) WHEELBASE LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 0-60 MPH BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 600-FOOT SLALOM LATERAL ACCELERATION MT FIGURE EIGHT EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON ON SALE IN U.S.

5-speed automatic 4692 lb (57 / 43%) 118.9 in 202.0 x 78.1 x 69.3 in 8.5 sec 121 ft 58.9 mpg (avg) 0.73 g (avg) 29.4 sec @ 0.55 g (avg) 17 / 25 mpg Currently


(tuners)

words & photographs john kiewicz

2006

Hasport Honda Civic Si THE 2006

Honda Civic ran away with this year’s Motor Trend Car of the Year award, due in large measure to the fun-driving Si edition. Sporting Honda’s i-VTEC system and an 8000-rpm redline, the Si’s 2.0-liter inline-four churns out a stout 197 horsepower, copious tire spin, and plenty of grins. If you crave even wider smiles, though, consider an upgrade by Hasport Performance. Although Phoenix-based Hasport, renowned for its custom engine conversions, has loads of horsepower hardware to fortify the new Si’s 2.0-liter four, we opted to test one of its more popular conversions: the clever underhood

shoehorning of the Acura TSX’s DOHC, 2.4-liter four-banger. This is no ordinary TSX engine. Included is a Jackson Racing Roots-type supercharger, an AEM cold-air intake system, a DC Sports exhaust header, and special engine calibration via a Hondata K-Pro ECU. Power is rated at an even 300 (103 more than the stock 2.0-liter), but more important is the massive increase in mid-rpm torque (so much, in fact, that as the 10-psi boost hits, front-tire spin—despite larger, stickier tires—is downright comical). But with careful throttle tip-in, the Hasport Si is quick indeed, running 5.4-second 0-to-60-mph sprints

and shaving an impressive 1.4 seconds off the standard car’s quarter-mile time. The price for such performance: about $7000. Or, if you have deeper pockets, try Hasport’s full-commando turbo/intercooled TSX-based I-4 swap (about $12,200), which delivers a reported 550 horsepower. Impressive as the engine is, it’s almost overshadowed by the Hasport Si’s phenomenal handling. The Si’s new front-strut, rearmultilink suspension has been further upgraded with Progress competition-series coil-over shocks/springs (1.5-inch-lower ride height, $1250) that team with a Progress oversize rear anti-roll bar ($175). Lightweight Enkei RPF1 17x7.5-inch one-piece wheels wrapped in Falken 225/45R17 tires combine to deliver a 70.3-mph slalom speed—the Hasport Si is

Power 0-60 mph Quarter mile Braking, 60-0 mph 600-ft slalom Figure eight

140 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

only the second front-drive car ever to best 70 mph in MT testing (the new 505-horse Corvette Z06 does it at 69.2 mph). Reining in the Si is a set of Wilwood/Fastbrakes front binders ($710) that employ 12.2-inch diameter cross-drilled rotors clamped by four-piston billet calipers. An HFP body kit ($1290), including a carbon-fiber front-lip spoiler, stylish side sills, and a rear bumper extension, adds flash and function to the Hasport Si. The factory Si trunk spoiler remains, but it’s lifted and widened by custom carbon-fiber standoffs and a splitter ($850). About 15 pounds have been removed from the Si’s nose, thanks to a Seibon carbonfiber hood ($650). One suggestion: Ditch the bodywork stickers to increase on-highway sucker punches. Why give away your game with racer-boy decals? ■

2006 Civic Si

Hasport Civic Si

197 hp 6.7 sec 15.1 sec @ 93.9 mph 122 ft 67.2 mph 26.5 sec

300 hp 5.4 sec 13.7 sec @ 107.6 mph 118 ft 70.3 mph 25.2 sec

SOURCE: HASPORT PERFORMANCE; 602/470-0065; WWW.HASPORT.COM

A Si of Relief for Civic Fans


JULIA LAPALME

(long-term test) arrival

words neil g. chirico

2006 Hyundai Sonata LX A boost of confidence HYUNDAI HAS never before provided test vehicles to magazine geeks like us for longterm evaluation. That we’ve been offered one now speaks well to the company’s confidence in its

product line and how far the brand has come, from a quality standpoint, in a relatively short period of time. The Sonata is built on all-new chassis architecture and is aimed at cars like the

Camry, Accord, Malibu, G6, and Fusion, offering slightly more interior space than all of them. Our Bright Silver EX stickered at $23,495, with no additional options. Standard items include

front, front-seat side, and full sidecurtain airbags, front active headrest restraints, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control with traction control on all trimlevel Sonatas. Our long-termer has

2005 TOYOTA TACOMA PRERUNNER

Tacoma is more at home on a trail than on the freeway, no bad thing when you’re called a PreRunner. And even more impressive when considering it’s a 2WD vehicle.

BRIAN VANCE x2

OUR FLEET UPDATE

2006 MITSUBISHI ECLIPSE GT Total mileage 4954

MITSUBISHI’S advertising/ marketing and exterior style stirred little personal interest for some, but the V-6 has plenty of useable torque between 2000 and 3000 rpm that allows spirited urban driving without having to drive it like you stole it.

You need to be a bit careful with the throttle tip-in, or it’ll squeal its all-season tires at launch. Come on, guys, all-season tires on a 270horsepower front-drive car? How can we put the power down when all the tires do is break free? Either give us grippier tires or AWD as options. The windshield also tried to eat a rock—and lost. We’ll look into a replacement at the first service interval, which is coming up soon. ■ Average fuel econ 17.9 mpg ■ Unresolved problems None ■ Maintenance cost $0 ■ Normal-wear cost $0

142 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

Total mileage 15,630

THIS TRUCK never sits. Another update, another service; this time, the 15K regimen. In addition to the Tacoma’s scheduled maintenance, the service department checked out a persistent clunk from the driver-side front window. Previously, the dealer replaced the window regulator assembly. This time, they lubed the run channel to prevent it from binding or sticking. They also replaced a dirty air filter, a testament to all the off-road driving this truck has seen so far. One editor commented that our

■ Average fuel econ 17.8 mpg ■ Unresolved problems None ■ Maintenance cost $47.73 (5K service); $45.85 (10K); $138.45 (15K) ■ Normal wear cost $0


(long-term test) arrival arrival 2006 Hyundai Sonata LX Base price

$23,495

Price as tested

$23,495

Vehicle layout

Front engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan

Engine

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

Transmission

5-speed automatic

Curb weight (dist f/r)

3553 lb (63/37%)

Wheelbase

107.4 in

Length x Width x Height

188.9 x 72.1 x 58.0 in

0-60 mph

7.3 sec

Quarter mile

15.6 sec @ 91.1 mph

Braking, 60-0 mph 125 ft Lateral acceleration 0.78 g MT figure eight

from the logbook “At $23K, the Hyundai represents a solid value. Good looks, pleasant interior, and a nice sound system team for the prefect work-mobile.” ■ John Kiewicz

a 235-horsepower, 3.3-liter VG aluminum engine with continuous variable-valve timing mated to a five-speed automatic with Shiftronic. Also included are 17inch wheels, an audio system that plays MP3 compact discs, leathertrimmed heated power front seats, auto climate control, and even a keyless entry alarm system. Several of these items would be optional on many of Hyundai’s competitors.

28.2 sec @ 0.59 g

EPA city/hwy econ 20/30 mpg

Also standard is the much heralded 10-year/10,000-mile powertrain warranty and a fiveyear/60,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty, all of which adds to the perceived quality. Break-in for our new Sonata has been a no-brainer, and there are no problems thus far to report. However, the dash lights went out on one editor, requiring him to drive in the dark. A few

Total mileage

4717 mi

Average test mpg

19.2 mpg

Unresolved problem areas

None

miles down the road, the lights came back on and continued to flicker for the rest of his drive. This issue has not returned, but if it does, we’ll let you know what we find out. Just about everyone on our staff has commented on the quality of the Sonata’s interior; high-end plastics, including the soft-touch dash, along with large, easy-tooperate controls for both the

HVAC and radio. That the auto lights are standard is yet another plus for the Sonata; they’re an optional feature on our $90,000 Porsche Carrera S. Average test mileage has been down around the EPA city rating, but that’s the norm for fleet players in the Motor Trend garage. A oneyear test should help us translate the question of quality into realworld answers. ■

2005 HONDA ODYSSEY TOURING

that. We’re the professionals after all. The Odyssey got no time off over the holidays, serving as people- and gift-hauler. One editor noted,“With luggage and presents stacked on the fold-flat third-row seat, it still allowed comfortable seating for five as the three-way climate control kept everyone toasty and warm.” We’ll hate to see this one go.

BRIAN VANCE x2

OUR FLEET UPDATE

2005 ACURA RL Total mileage 23,056

OUR ACURA RL made a trip across the country and back, which doubled the odometer reading from 9000 to over 18,000 miles in one month. We had service “B6” done on the road at the 13K mark in Troy, Michigan. This service is more extensive and even involved a different

fluid change. We then had the “A” service done for the second time at 21K. During that visit, the dealer rechecked and ultimately replaced a sticking lighter lid. We inspected a brand-new model on the showroom floor to verify it’s not supposed to stick. It’s not, and our new one is also stuck. ■ Average fuel econ 20.3 mpg ■ Unresolved problems Sticking lighter lid ■ Maintenance cost $53 (“A” service); $196.33 (“B” service); $84.16 (“A” service) ■ Normal-wear cost $0

144 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

Total mileage 23,334

EVERY TIME we go on the road, the Honda Odyssey is first choice as a support vehicle. It’s popular not only for its load-carrying capacity, but the photographers and MTOL video crew love shooting out of those power sliding doors. But we don’t recommend doing

■ Average fuel econ 18.5 mpg ■ Unresolved problems None ■ Maintenance cost $71.07 (“A” service); $71.46 (“B” service) ■ Normal-wear cost $0 For vehicle specs, go to motortrend.com


motor trend (classic)

sinatra sizzle

three legendary high-rollers, we’ll open the electric gates of one of Palm Springs’ most celebrated addresses: Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms estate—complete with piano-shaped swimming pool and memories of Ava Gardner drying her hair by the fire. Our Rat Pack rides are only the beginning. We’ll also get hands-on with such classics as Chrysler’s futuristic Turbine car, the weird and wonderful “Ferrari-Bird,” and a quaint, early Volvo sports car. And if you think there aren’t any “hidden” auto gems left, wait until you hear about the Lambo found in a barn… So get ready to Rat Pack and roll. The next Motor Trend Classic hits newsstands March 21. ■

NIVEA FOR MEN MORE EVOLVED SKINCARE

Palm Springs was the place to swing, baby. Frank, Dino, Sammy, Peter Lawford—they were all there, splashing in pools by day and carousing over icy cocktails and hot tunes by dusk. Sure sounded like the makings of a great story to us. In the March/April issue of our new sister magazine, Motor Trend Classic, we ride into SoCal’s super-cool desert oasis to soak up the city’s everlasting Rat Pack vibe. And we do it in three of the era’s coolest, most over-the-top cars: the Continental Mark II, the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, and the Ghia L6.4. We’ll not only take you into the cockpits of these

Deep clean away built-up dirt and grime for a clean, invigorated face.

IN THE 1950S and early 1960s,

YOUR FACE GETS DIRTY. WE HAVE A DEEP CLEANING SCRUB. ABRA-CA-FRICKIN-DABRA.

Living large, Rat Pack style


BRIAN VANCE

(long-term test) verdict

2004 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid A misnamed proposition FROM THE beginning, inviting the Silverado Hybrid into our long-term-test fleet was a roll of the dice. In 2003, the word “hybrid” was just beginning to take shape—it was simply understood as the blending of two technologies or designs. Three short years later, hybrid has come to mean something more specific: a combination of electric and gasoline motors working in tandem to offer significantly better fuel economy, lower emissions, and an environmentally friendly persona, all with relatively invisible (to the driver) technology. This particular definition left our long-term Silverado Hybrid somewhat misnamed, as many of our drivers noted when the vehicle didn’t deliver on the expected hybrid promise. To begin, some tech explanation is necessary. The Silverado Hybrid system uses a 14-kilowatt integrated flywheel starter-generator, replacing the alternator and traditional starter to take over shutoff, startup, and charging duties. The system allows the engine to turn off when running downhill, coasting, or braking to a stop, saving fuel and limiting emissions. Releasing your foot from the brake or touching the throttle will restart the engine. Unlike in other hybrids (Toyota, Honda, Ford), the Silverado’s 42-volt battery system (stored underneath the extended cab’s rear seats) supplies little power assist to the driveline while accelerating (it applies torque to smooth 146 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

our truck Base price

$31,045

Hybrid system

$2500

OnStar & Power packages

$2160

HD trailering pkg & wiring

$835

AutoTrac transfer case

$375

Electric/heated mirrors Aluminum wheels

$213 $200

Dual-zone A/C

$195

Redundant radio controls

$125

HD suspension MSRP, as tested

$95 $37,743

early converter lockup); however, it can convert its power into four (two in the cab and two in the bed) 110-volt, 20-amp outlets, able to run power tools, lighting fixtures, appliances, and anything else with a plug. Power comes from the same 5.3-liter V-8 offered in other half-ton Silverados, so the Hybrid can tow or carry anything a regular 5.3-liter pickup can. But as good as it sounds on paper, the Silverado Hybrid’s daily-driving characteristics presented a few problems. Logbook comments during the Hybrid’s 15,000-mile run questioned the value of the $2500 hybrid-system option for a mere 1.0- to 1.5-mpg benefit. In real-world driving, the best improvements, not surprisingly, came during

heavy stop-and-go traffic (here on L.A. freeways)—the Silverado averaged 15.5 mpg. Certainly not stellar when compared with EPA ratings of 17 city and 19 highway, but our longterm 2004 4x4 5.4-liter V-8 F-150 averaged 12.8 mpg (MT, February 2006). The Silverado Hybrid was serviced once at 8700 miles, after its information display panel indicated less than 10-percent oil life remaining. Perhaps GM buyers love to keep track of every volt, degree, and remaining percentage of fluid life; depending on how deeply one wants to scroll, the information display features reams of such details. A recurring low-oil-pressure light came on intermittently, even though all fluid levels measured within the appropriate parameters. A complete diagnostic found no problems. The light never came on again. The service center replaced the weather seal around the passenger-side door panel to fix a worsening wind noise. A loose brake pad further made a funny sound during hard stops. Total price for repairs: $41.76, and we were on our way. Thanks to its ability to carry tons of camera gear and power laptop computers on big roadtest shoots, the Silverado was called into support-vehicle service on many occasions. On some of these shoots, walkie-talkie battery usage can be prolific. During a lunch stop (we’d been up since long before sunrise), the


(long-term test) verdict

2004 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid

JOHN KIEWICZ/BRIAN VANCE

POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS

Silverado’s 110-volt outlets recharged all our walkie-talkie batteries. When outlet power falls below a prescribed level, the engine will automatically start up to recharge the 42-volt batteries—this is a cool feature. Unfortunate, though, is how the truck reacts after a stop, when the Hybrid’s engine shuts off—the delay between startup and acceleration is unnerving. Because the engine must start up before it can accelerate, if you happen to be too quick from brake to throttle, you’ll be gifted with a hard slam into gear and a jerky takeoff.The Hybrid forced us to relearn how to drive in traffic, making sure not to execute any fast takeoffs or quick starts.The smoothest drivers made sure to release the brake early and feather the throttle the instant before power was necessary. Nonetheless, the Hybrid’s acceleration felt clumsy and dangerous at times, especially on hills (imagine driving an automatic that reacts like a vehicle with a clutch) when the truck wants to roll back before first gear engages. One editor spent hours packing up the

Silverado Hybrid with his Honda CR250, which, ultimately, after roughing the Silverado through the backcountry, revealed a weakness with the motorcycle strapped to the tiedowns behind the cab, front tire against the cargo bed’s front rail: That tire bent the bed’s front bed rail. Further, during hot-weather driving (meaning A/C on max), the engine stays running at stop signs because of the power draw. On milder days with the A/C on, expect to feel a drop in cool air when the engine shuts off at stop signs. GM claims this has been corrected on newer models. After a mostly trouble-free year in our longterm Silverado Hybrid, we’re still struck by the bipolar aspect of the package. Its strengths are obvious—carrying, hauling, working. But as a hybrid, are the trade-offs worthwhile? The Hybrid is GM’s attempt at crawling before it can tap dance, which Honda and Toyota have just about mastered. The Silverado Hybrid is a good first shot in the hybrid market—but it’s still just a truck that gets about 1.5-mpg-better fuel economy than its competitors. ■

from the logbook Chevy is cramming too many features into one vehicle. Difficult to call this a “hybrid” when Toyota and Honda are defining the terms. The power flow seems to surge and wobble. This is, in reality, a stop/start feature and should not be badged a hybrid. ■ Matt Stone Are we really supposed to relearn how to drive a vehicle at stop signs or on hills? The rollback is unnerving, not to mention what it must look like if you’re in the car behind it. I pay $38K and I have to drive this truck differently from every other one sold? ■ John Matthius

148 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

So many cool benefits, but not sure it’s enough. Can’t help but think if this option package were more about practical solutions, running power tools, blenders, and camping lights, it would be more interesting to truck guys. As it is, not invisible enough and not “Green” enough to be called a hybrid. ■ Mark Williams I like the engine shutoff at lights—makes me feel like I’m not contributing to the L.A. smog problem. Plus, the test team has a place to run their laptops at the track and the photogs can charge batteries. ■ Brian Vance

Drivetrain layout

Front engine, 4WD

Engine type

90° V-8, cast-iron block, alum heads

Valvetrain

OHV, 2 valves/cyl

Displacement

325.2 cu in/5328 cc

Compression ratio

9.5:1

Power (SAE net)

295 hp @ 5200 rpm

Torque (SAE net)

330 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm

Weight to power

17.8 lb/hp

Transmission

4-speed automatic

Axle/final/low ratios

3.73:1 / 2.61:1 / 2.72:1

Suspension, front; rear

Control arms, torsion bars, anti-roll bar; live axle, leaf springs

Steering ratio

14.2:1

Turns lock-to-lock

3.0

Brakes, f;r

12.0-in vented discs; 12.8-in disc, ABS

Wheels

16 x 7.0-in cast alum

Tires

245/75R16 109S M+S, Goodyear Wrangler ST

DIMENSIONS Wheelbase

143.5 in

Track, f/r

65.0 / 66.0 in

Length x width x height

227.6 x 78.5 x 73.9 in

Turning circle

47.3 ft

Curb weight

5250 lb (mfr)

Weight dist, f/r

59 / 41 %

Payload capacity

1400 lb

Towing capacity

8400 lb

Seating capacity

5

Headroom, f/r

41.0 / 38.4 in

Legroom, f/r

41.3 / 33.7 in

Shoulder room, f/r

65.2 / 66.3 in

Pickup box, L x W x H

78.7 x 64.8 x 19.5 in

Width bet. wheelhouses 50.0 in TEST DATA Acceleration to mph 0-30

2.6 sec

0-40

3.9

0-50

5.9

0-60

8.2

0-70

10.6

0-80

14.8

0-90

20.1

Quarter mile

15.8 sec @ 84.2 mph

Braking, 60-0 mph

138 ft

600-ft slalom

56.7 mph avg

Lateral acceleration

0.69 g avg

Top gear revs @ 60 mph 1800 rpm CONSUMER INFO Base price

$31,045

Price as tested

$37,743

Stability/traction control No / no Airbags

Dual front

Basic warranty

3 yrs/36,000 miles

Powertrain warranty

3 yrs/36,000 miles

Roadside assistance

3 yrs/36,000 miles

Fuel capacity

26.0 gal

EPA city/hwy econ

17 / 19 mpg

MT fuel economy

15.5 mpg

Recommended fuel

Regular unleaded


(archive)

FRED ENKE, MT ARCHIVE PHOTOGRAPH

words matt stone

Corvette/Porsche Controversy It was then as it is now THREE AND a half decades ago, the Corvette crowd decided the Porsche 911 was nothing more than a chrome-plated Volkswagen, while Porschephiles made fun of Chevy’s crude, plastic sports-car pretender. So what’s changed? Fortunately, not much. The results of this 1970 matchup were just about what you’d expect: The Corvette was quicker in a straight line and had the lower sticker price, while the Porsche handled with greater precision and offered much higher build quality. The LT-1 Corvette packed 370 horsepower and cost $6330; the 911E offered 175 horsepower and ran $8360. Associate editor Chuck Koch summarized it well: “No matter what we say, though, there will always be Corvette and Porsche owners. Neither will acknowledge the other’s presence. Both will think they have the better car. The rivalry will continue.” ■ 168 APRIL 2006 MOTOR TREND.COM

coverage may 1984 WE TOOK A look inside (or perhaps it was through) the new-for-1984 Porsche Carrera, a substantial update of the previous 911 SC. Today’s scene is the same, as the 997 series represented an update of the previous 996-generation of Carrera. While Porsche’s 911 is everlasting, there are several other cars mentioned on this cover that have long since gone: the Ford EXP, Bertone (nee Fiat) X1/9, and Pontiac Fiero among them. What was our sneak preview this month? The next Corvette, of course.

MOTOR TREND Magazine (ISSN 0027-2094) April 2006, Vol. 58, No. 4. Copyright 2006 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.

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