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Chevrolet Avalanche 2500 4×4 – Wins Motorist's Choice Full-Size Pickup 4×4 3/4 Ton

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AutoPacific Take on the Win by the Chevrolet Avalanche 2500 4×4 – The transformer of pickup trucks, the Chevrolet Avalanche, scoops up a Motorist’s Choice award in the 3/4 Ton 4X4 segment. Owners rate the tough truck at the top of its class. Its Vortec® engines and versatility keep this full size pickup at the front of the pack.
IntelliChoice Analysis – IntelliChoice rates the Avalanche 2500 4X4 Cost of Ownership at just $48,906 over 5 years. Owners of the four-wheel-drive multi-tool keep factoring in the benefits, which more than outweigh the costs.


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Motorist's Choice Awards – a New Benchmark Rating Automotive Excellence

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INTELLICHOICE.COM AND AUTOPACIFIC TEAM UP TO ANNOUNCE FIRST ANNUAL MOTORIST’S CHOICE AWARDS
– Awards Recognize Vehicles with Highest Driver Satisfaction and Lowest Cost of Ownership –
– Infiniti QX56 Wins Highest Rating Among All Classes/Vehicle Models –
AutoPacific, the industry source for automotive owner satisfaction ratings and IntelliChoice.com, the online source for automotive ownership cost and value analysis, today announced the results of the newly established Motorist’s Choice Awards for the 2006 vehicle model year.
IntelliChoice.com and AutoPacific created the Motorist’s Choice Awards to determine the vehicles that delivered both the highest satisfaction and lowest cost of ownership. The collaboration between the two respected firms, who have each been authorities on the U.S. car market for the last 20 years, takes selected owner satisfaction data from AutoPacific’s surveys of new car and light truck buyers and combines it with IntelliChoice.com’s rating methodology to create a new measurement that speaks to both the hearts and minds of car buyers.
“While the economic analysis of car ownership remains very important—it can save or cost you thousands of dollars over the life of the vehicle—it is also important to recognize owner satisfaction as another significant influencer in vehicle purchases,” said James Bell, publisher of IntelliChoice.com. “These are the two key benchmarks we think car buyers should be most attuned to.”
“Ratings of owners’ satisfaction with their new car and truck illustrates how well the vehicle is satisfying the emotional and practical needs of the driver. Satisfaction is more than simply how well a product is screwed together and there are many more dimensions to the equation. Combining AutoPacific’s satisfaction results with the value analysis from IntelliChoice provides the car buyer with an outstanding benchmark to use when selecting a new vehicle,” said George Peterson, President of AutoPacific.
WINNERS
For the inaugural awards, IntelliChoice.com and AutoPacific identified 29 winning models by segment and class. The top-ranked vehicles in their respective categories are:
o Cars: Lexus LS430
o Trucks: Chevrolet Avalanche 1500 (2WD)
o SUV/Crossover: Infiniti QX56
o Minivans/Wagons: Audi A6 4.2 Quattro
In terms of overall rankings, the Infiniti QX56 SUV scored highest in both driver satisfaction and lowest cost of ownership, followed closely by the Lexus LS430 sedan.


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It's Official: Chevrolet Camaro Returns

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As had been widely anticipated, today at a series of annual management briefings in Traverse City, Michigan, GM head Rick Wagoner announced that the Camaro returns to Chevrolet dealerships in late 2008. He also promised that it will look nearly identical to the concept, which wowed Camaro enthusiasts at its reveal at the 2006 Detroit auto show this past January. Of course the Camaro enthusiasts were strategically planted by Chevrolet at the auto show stand… but that’s alright. It was a hoot!

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Camaro sales will start the first quarter of 2009, with production in late 2008. That should give plenty of time for all you Camaro enthusiasts to start saving and preparing for your next car.
The Camaro will retain its rear-wheel-drive traditional configuration and be offered with V6 and V8 engines, with both manual and automatic transmissions on hand. The “fuel economy” engine will be the V6 – with 275-horsepower no less.
Dodge Challenger – Low Investment Coupe from Chrysler’s RWD Platform
The other pony car concept from this year’s Detroit show, the Dodge Challenger, was confirmed forproduction in June. (Click here for our story.) Dodge will beat Chevy to market by a few months, having promised sales in late 2008.
Market May Be Thinner Than Expected if Mustang Can Keep on the Pressure
Timing of Challenger and Camaro give the latest version of the Mustang four to five years’ head start. Given the freshening of the Mustang at about the same time as the Challenger and Camaro introductions, plus the plethora of Mustang special models over the years, Ford may have done a pretty good job siphoning off prospective buyers for the General Motors and Chrysler pony cars.


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GM's New Trucks

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We Catch the Summer Reveal of All-New Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra
GM’s leader Rick Wagoner took some time from his work on the turnaround project and the ongoing Renault-Nissan tie-up evaluation to introduce new products critical to GM’s future profitability and success. VehicleVoice contributors Jim Hossack and Stephanie Brinley, from AutoPacific‘s Market Research and Industry Analysis offices, were on hand for a first look. Brinley helps with the overview, while long-time full-size truck owner Hossack tells us what’s missing.

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The current full-size Chevrolet Silverado (image here) and GMC Sierra, developed under GM’s GMT800 program and first introduced for 1999MY, launched to strong reviews and well-deserved praise. Sales increased throughout the lifecycle and combined they outsold their rivals. Even in 2005, GM outsold the Ford F-series by about 80,000 units, according to AutoPacific’s Sales Forecast Service.
The GMT900 pickups offer significant improvements to body, chassis, and powertrain. GM developed them with the eye to improving on every level an already successful truck. We saw them in pre-production form, but didn’t get the chance to drive them. Based on our first look, the trucks will arrive boasting a best-in-class standing. The 1500 series gets to showrooms in November 2006. Heavy-duty (2500 and 3500) models arrive during the first quarter of 2007. Unlike the previous generation, which rolled out over two years, all versions of the GMT900 trucks roll out in five months.
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The Good Stuff
On a bright, hot August morning, dozens of Silverado and Sierras drove up in front of us at the GM Milford, Michigan, proving grounds. Showing off their versatility and working natures, the display trucks towed boats and equipment, hauled hay and horse trailers. The message was clear: Choice and capability. Whatever you need these trucks to do, they can do it. Whatever form you need, they have it. Short beds, medium beds, long beds, crew cabs, regular cabs, extended cabs with a cool new 170-degree opening rear door, all are available from the GM trucks. It was a dizzying array, but all these options keep loyal buyers happy and to prove that GM is dedicated to full-size pickups.
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Let's Talk Cars: Test Drives – Chevy HHR, Nissan Pathfinder, and 6-speed Volkswagen Passat

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Welcome to Let’s Talk Cars

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This week on Let’s Talk Cars, more from our slew of new car reviews, walk arounds and test drives – Chevrolet HHR, Nissan Pathfinder, and a base-model Volkswagen Passat with a peppy 6-speed manual transmission.

First, VehicleVoice correspondent David Barrett climbs inside Chevy’s take on the PT Cruiser. The HHR has a lot of great things going for it, including its fun, retro looks, but a lack of horsepower and some styling issues come up in our review.

Next, host Cameron Barrett brings you this week’s Rev It Up – with 90-seconds on the Nissan Pathfinder. This medium-sized SUV isn’t afraid to get its wheels dirty or its tow ring used.

And finally, we drive a base model Volkswagen Passat, one of the best values out there for your money. But the excellent 6-speed transmission causes some heartache because of its lack of availability in higher end models. The Passat won AutoPacific’s coveted 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Premium Mid-Size Cars.

Show Rundown
00:47 Chevrolet HHR: David Barrett, VehicleVoice contributor
10:05 Rev it Up: Nissan Pathfinder: Cameron Barrett, Let’s Talk Cars’ Host
11:22 Volkswagen Passat: David Barrett, VehicleVoice contributor


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2006 Chevrolet Impala SS – Delivers on its Name

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The 2006 Chevrolet Impala is a complete reskin from its dorky looking predecessor. It now looks very purposeful and almost modern. We have read many criticisms of its freshened styling, but, while not head-turning, the Impala is a huge improvement. The interior is ergonomically friendly and everything falls to hand easily.
So, what are the gripes. In an obvious cost-reduction, the bezel surrounding the console-mounted shifter in the Impala SS does not have P-R-N-D-L or anything else to tell you what gear you are in. The only indicator is on the instrument cluster where there is a LED read out. I don’t remember any car not having the gears shown near the shift lever. Probably saved a buck.

Excitement Reigns Under Full Throttle

In another obvious goof that many buff books have identified and I can confirm, torque steer is wild. Punch the 303-horsepower small-block V8 and things get exciting fast. It’s like you can’t figure out which way the car is going. Unlike many cars having fearsome torque steer (they usually turn hard right), the steering in the Impala SS under power seems almost omni-directional. If it consistently pulled right, you could anticipate it, but the SS seems to be everywhere.
Apparently, this is fixed on the Pontiac Grand Prix GXP with the same powertrain and platform but with larger tires up front. Chevy should spring for this fix. The Impala is a premium priced model and such obvious cost cuts should not be tolerated.
Impala Best Chevy Sedan since the old Impala SS
But, enough nit-picking. The Impala SS is truly the best non-Corvette car we have driven in a long time.


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Dodge Approves Challenger

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As if There Would Have Been Any Other Answer…
In the biggest non-surprise of the year, Dodge made it official: The Challenger concept will spawn a Challenger production coupe. The Challenger will go on sale in 2008, within two years of the concept’s introduction, as a 2008 model-year vehicle. The announcement was made in conjunction with the Pepsi 400 NASCAR race in Daytona, where the Dodge Charger is a competitor.

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Though the name was used a few times on non-muscle cars, the Challenger that is being revived had a five-year run (1970-1974) and saw sales about 188,600 units, coupe and convertible. Which begs the question: When is the convertible coming?
Chevrolet is expected to also follow its 2006 North American International Auto Show concept Camaro with a production version as well. But Dodge looks to be in position to get Challenger to market before Camaro, which could be huge in the image game. No one wants to be last.
All in all, Challenger has a solid platform to launch from and a nice set of powertrains to choose from, being based on Dodge Charger/Magnum and Chrysler 300, though a 500HP SRT Challenger would be helpful. Response to the concept car has been strong enough to get the green light. In 2008, we’ll find out if the enthusiasm translates to real-world purchases.
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(VehicleVoice and AutoPacific brought you news of the Challenger and Camaro back at auto show time; click here and here to revisit those stories.)


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Buick Announces LaCrosse Super

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Buick announced today that it will launch a V8-powered version of the LaCrosse mid-size sedan in mid-2007 as a 2008 model. Powered by a 5.3L small block General Motors V8, the LaCrosse promises to be an excellent performer.
Shown to analysts for the first time at General Motors North Hollywood Design Studio, Buick resurrects the Super name for the higher performance LaCrosse. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondants were on hand for the announcement as well as driving opportunities in Buick Lucerne V8s and the new Pontiac G6 Retractable Hardtop Convertible. Unfortunately, no photos of the LaCrosse Super were allowed at this event, but think of a tougher, beefier LaCrosse with all the bells and whistles.
With Pontiac having the Grand Prix GXP and Chevrolet having the Impala SS powered by the same engine, it was only a matter of time before Buick added a V8-powered Mid-Size model to its lineup.
Promising to be a relatively low-volume proposition, the Super will provide a halo for the LaCrosse and enhance Buick’s image for performance on demand.


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AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Results – Japanese Brands On Top

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The AutoPacific 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards honor products in nineteen categories or segments. Nine categories are cars and ten are trucks.
Overwhelming Win by Japanese Brands in Satisfaction by Vehicle Type
Overall, owners of Japanese brand vehicles rate their cars or trucks at the top of their category in ten of the nineteen categories. Owners of European brand vehicles rated their vehicle tops in two categories – Volkwagen Passat in the Premium Mid-Size Car Category and the MINI Cooper in the Image Compact Car class. The American Big Three had five wins… Lincoln Navigator won it all with the highest rating of any vehicle – car or truck; Cadillac CTS, Mercury Milan, Chevrolet Corvette, Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty. OK, that leaves two winners unaccounted for… those are from Hyundai.
The Hyundai Azera is the top rated car, even beating top class luxury cars like the Lexus LS430, jaguar XJ, BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The Hyundai Santa Fe is the top rated Mid-Size SUV for the fifth time in its six year history… this win comes just months before it is replaced by an all new Santa Fe to be produced in America.
So…
Japanese Brands – 10 with Suzuki having its first ever win
American Brands – 5 with Chrysler Group having zero wins
European Brands – 2
Korean Brands – 2
Check http:/.vehiclevoice.com for the complete listings.


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Chevrolet Corvette Wins AutoPacific 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Sports Cars:

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Owners of the new C6 return the Chevrolet Corvette sports car to the top of the Sports Car category in the AutoPacific 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Award with a decisive class-winning performance for 2006. The new Corvette is perhaps the best value in the entire Sports Car arena. The C6 Corvette is a more satisfying car than any previous Corvette – great styling, more finesse, super performance, great handling and a more supple ride. Still immediately identifiable as a Corvette, the C6 is clearly new across the board.


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