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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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Dodge Ram 3500 Mega Cab 2WD – Wins Motorist's Choice Full-Size Pickup 2WD One Ton

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AutoPacific Take on Win by Dodge Ram 3500 Mega Cab 4×2 – The torque delivered from the Cummins diesel pulls the massive Mega Cab ahead of the one ton 4×2 competition. Owners cannot say enough about the driveline in their tough truck as they tout its dependability. The Mega Cab provides the power to get the job done. From a palatial and quiet interior coupled with great handling and traction, owners love this One Ton truck.
IntelliChoice Analysis – Dodge decided to ‘super-size’ the Dodge Quad Cab (2006 Best Overall Value Winner) and built the Ram Mega Cab. This Ram that’s big on styling and performance is also big on delivering a good value at a 5 year Cost of Ownership of 46,602 compared to the competitions $50,692.


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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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Dodge Avenger Gets European Reveal

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At this year’s Paris Motor Show (public days are early October 2006, after a press preview in late September), Dodge will reveal the direction for its next-generation Stratus, a sedan sized for the European D-segment and North American mid-size market. Ahead of the official launch, Dodge released teaser information and photos, and VehicleVoice and AutoPacific are here to share them with you. (Since publication, we’ve added photos we took at the Paris reveal to the stock pictures initially posted.)

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When the production version arrives, which is expected in spring 2007 in the States and summer or fall in Europe, it will continue the North American Dodge Stratus’ relationship to the Chrysler Sebring. This means production continues in Sterling Heights, Michigan, and the platform is the Chrysler Group’s new D platform, which borrows much from the Dodge Caliber and Jeep Patriot and Compass.
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Avenger Name Replaces Stratus
Naming this concept Avenger all but confirms that long-standing rumors about dropping the Stratus name in favor of Avenger are true. This 2006 near-production model has little to do with the 2003 Avenger concept (remember this?), but picks up cues from all over the current Dodge car lineup (Magnum, Charger, Caliber). The result we hope looks better in person than in these initial photos, which are not particularly flattering. But it does look very much like its Charger sedan stablemate.
Chrysler’s new Sebring goes on sale in October 2006 and shares a platform, powertrains, and assembly space with the new mid-size Dodge, no matter what the name. The Sebring offers the new global 152HP 2.0L and 172HP 2.4L I4s, an updated 182HP 2.7L V6, a 235HP 3.5L V6, and a 2.0L diesel, depending on market. The diesel and 2.0L gasoline I4 are offered in international markets only. North America gets the 2.4L I4 and both V6 units. Dodge is likely to offer the same lineup. Dodge is working to create a space for themselves in Europe, and whether called Avenger or Stratus, this D-segment sedan is part of the mix.
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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: Dodge Caliber Test Drive, the Nissan Quest and the Mitsubishi "I"

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Welcome to Let’s Talk Cars

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This week on Let’s Talk Cars, it’s all about the test drive. Which is how we’ve been spending our summer vacations. We’ve compiled a slew of new car reviews and walk arounds and test drives, and we’ve got the first three for you this week – the new Dodge Caliber, the controversial Nissan Quest and the not-ready-for-the-American-marketplace Mitsubishi “i”.

First, VehicleVoice correspondent David Barrett takes a bright orange Caliber for a spin, and finds some surprising goodies on the inside.

Next, host Cameron Barrett introduces you to our new review segment, Rev It Up – with 90-seconds on the Nissan Quest, perhaps the most controversial a minivan can get. We review the 2006 Quest just prior to its replacement by the 2007 model with a less controversial interior design.

And finally, the Let’s Talk Cars’ crew got a peek at a car that isn’t even for sale here in the U.S., and will never be. They say big things come in small packages, and if that’s true, the Mitsubishi “i” is defintely the next big thing!

Show Rundown
00:52 The new Dodge Caliber: David Barrett, VehicleVoice contributor
12:01 Nissan Quest: Cameron Barrett, Let’s Talk Cars’ Host
13:57 Mitsubishi “i”: Cameron Barrett, Let’s Talk Cars’ Host


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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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Chevrolet Silverado Wins AutoPacific 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Heavy-Duty Pickup Trucks

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The Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty wins the AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award among Heavy Duty Large Pickups.

A workhorse near the end of its run, the Silverado HD nosed out Dodge Ram Heavy Duty and Ford F-Series Super Duty entries. Much of its win has to be credited to its up-graded Duramax diesel for the 2006 model year.


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Dodge Durango to Getty Villa on Day Without an Immigrant

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You might have known that months ago we had picked the “Day Without an Immigrant” – May 1 – to visit the Getty Villa in Malibu. The visit required a trek from central Orange County through Los Angeles to get to the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica and then up to the Villa. Those familiar with getting from here to there can imagine the stairstep of freeways – 57-91-605-105-405-10-PCH.

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We gave ourselves two hours for the trip, piled in a 2006 Dodge Durango and set out to brave a day that promised two massive demonstrations in Los Angeles and others in surrounding cities. The Durango was perfect for the trip quickly carrying four from The OC to Malibu. The HEMI gives the power to point and shoot the big SUV into openings in the traffic, but we didn’t need it. There was no traffic… didn’t have to slow down once. Within 45 minutes we have made a trip that usually would be well over an hour. No traffic. Folks were avoiding the freeway and all eyes were on the demonstrations. Whew. The nice folks at the Getty were kind enough to let us in more than an hour early.
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Apparently, the 11 o’clock demonstrations in downtown drew 250,000 people and the 4PM demonstrations along the Wilshire corridor drew 400,000 marchers. This was enough to nicely empty the freeways away from the march routes. As we drove along, we wondered how our friends at r/comnetworks were doing. They were invited to video the earlier march from the venue of a Los Angeles Fire Department hook and ladder staged to respond to the scene.


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