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Mercury Montego Wins AutoPacific 2006 Ideal Vehicle Award for Large Car/Luxury Car – Also Top-Ranked Ideal Vehicle:

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Wow! What a showing in AutoPacific’s inaugural Ideal Vehicle Awards! The 2006 Mercury Montego is thte top ranked vehicle, top ranked car and top ranked Large Car/Luxury Car. In addition to Montego’s top place finish, Ford Motor Company swept the first three places in the awards with the Ford Crown Victoria finishing second and the Ford Five Hundred finishing third. Since all three are in the same product category, only top-rated Montego could win its category award.
Introduced in 2005 as Mercury’s version of the Ford Five Hundred, the 2006 Mercury Montego wins the Ideal Large Car/Luxury Car. Montego owners did not want to change much about their Montego. Owners of the Mercury Montego rated their cargo space and how easily they could get in and out as near ideal. These are attributes big car owners value. The Mercury Montego is the highest ranked individual vehicle with a score of 967 out of 1100, proving that Mercury understands the Montego’s priorities and preferences.


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AutoPacific's 2006 Ideal Vehicle Awards Announced

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An “ideal” is defined as an excellent or perfect example. In the first Ideal Vehicle Awards, announced today by automotive research and consulting firm AutoPacific, owners rate their new 2006 model year cars and trucks by how closely they come to their ideal. The cars or trucks that owners would change the least are the most ideal.
Those carmakers that best understand their customers and create the vehicle their core buyer group desires has come closest to the ideal.
The top-rated vehicle and top-rated car is the Mercury Montego in the Large Car/Luxury Car category. In fact, Ford Motor Company sweeps the first three positions overall with the Ford Crown Victoria and Ford Five Hundred in second and third place. The top-rated truck is the Honda Odyssey Minivan.
The top-rated brand overall is Hyundai out-pointing Mercury and Lincoln for the most ideal vehicle honors.
Ford Motor Company and American Honda have three segment winners apiece. BMW and Hyundai have two each.
Of the sixteen Ideal Vehicle Award (IVA) categories, Japanese brands have seven segment winners, American brands have four, European brands have three and Korean brands have two winners.
The top-rated product segment is Large Car/Luxury Car confirming that Americans continue to value large, comfortable cars suitable for suburban and highway cruising.
Top-rated 2006 Ideal Vehicle brand: Hyundai
Top-rated 2006 Ideal Product Segment: Large Car/Luxury Car
Top rated 2006 Ideal Vehicles by segment:
PASSENGER CARS:
Premium Luxury Car: Lexus LS
Entry Luxury Car: BMW 3-Series
Large Car/Luxury Car: Mercury Montego
Premium Mid-Size Car: Hyundai Sonata
Mid-Size Car: Mercury Milan
Image Compact Car: Toyota Prius
Compact Car: Ford Focus
Sports Car: Porsche 911
Sporty Car: Acura RSX
SUT, SUV, and MINIVAN:
Sport Utility Truck: Honda Ridgeline
Luxury Sport Utility: BMW X5
Large Sport Utility: GMC Yukon
Premium Mid-Size Sport Utility: Nissan Murano
Mid-Size Sport Utility: Hyundai Santa Fe
Compact Sport Utility: Subaru Forester
Minivan: Honda Odyssey
In addition to identifying segment winners, IVA also establishes numerical ideal vehicle ratings for virtually every passenger car and light truck (except pickups) in the United States market. This results from calculating owner input across 11 specific areas related to a vehicle’s exterior size, passenger roominess, cargo space, driver’s seat comfort, drivers seat visibility, interior technology, power, ease of getting in and out, interior storage compartments and tires and wheels. The 2006 ratings reflect input from buyers and lessees of new vehicles acquired September 2005 through January 2006. Pickup trucks are not incorporated because of numerous body styles included within each pickup line.


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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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500HP for Ford Shelby GT500

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Ford Announces Official Certification
Though when the 2007 Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang was introduced at the 2006 Detroit auto show, Ford only promised 475HP from the supercharged V8. Now that final certification testing is complete, the announcement has been made: 500HP and 480 lb-ft of torque for the 2007 GT500, which easily makes it the fastest factory-built Mustang ever. If you’re a Mustang fan, this is the car you want.

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The 500HP comes from a 5.4L DOHC 32v V8 that borrows from the Ford GT supercar engine. The V8 has an iron block and aluminum heads, with a cast iron exhaust manifold and forged steel crankshaft. GT borrowed parts include four-valve cylinder heads, piston rings, and bearings. The power is boosted with a Roots-type supercharger with 9 psi boost. The engine is being built at Ford’s Romeo, Michigan, plant. The full 500HP peaks at 6000 rpm, with the full torque available at 4500 rpm.
“With 500HP and the Shelby name, this car is an instant legend,” noted Hau Thai-Tang, director, Advanced Product Creation & SVT programs. “This is the most powerful, most capable Mustang ever.”
Given that someone already paid $600,000 for the rights to buy the first unit at a charity auction, this car is certainly launching to lofty expectations. (That is $600,000 for the chance to buy the first car, which does not indicate it actually includes the cost of the car.) Pricing will be announced closer to launch. The charity? Carroll Shelby’s Children’s Foundation, of course.
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Let's Talk Cars: Bridgestone's Drive and Learn (and spin!) plus the 2006 Ford Mustang Test Drive

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This week, we take you to a Bridgestone Drive and Learn clinic at the California Speedway in Ontario, CA. Why? Because we like to spin out on wet slalom courses and knock over orange traffic cones. Why else? And while we were doing the kind of things we get ticketed for on public roadways, we learned a little bit about tire technology. Bridgestone uses its Drive and Learn events to acquaint drivers with safe wet and dry driving techniques while comparing its new tires with that of its competitors.
PROGRAM NOTE: After watching the tire test, don’t forget you can share your opinions regarding tires and brand recognition – it’s on your home page at VehicleVoice.
Also on tap, we take you on another Test Drive. David Barrett is behind the wheel again, but this time he’s taking a brand new 2006 Ford Mustang around the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Yeah, we know. David’s got a tough job. ED NOTE: Barrett gives the Mustang an unexpected upgrade by mentioning the six-disc in-dash DVD player. In reality, the mustang has an in-dash CD-player. Must have been the effects of “island life.”
Show Rundown
00:28 Bridgestone’s Drive and Learn: David Barrett, VehicleVoice Contributor and Cameron Barrett, Let’s Talk Cars Host
06:08 2006 Ford Mustang Test Drive: David Barrett, VehicleVoice Contributor


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Ford's New 3.5L V6 Finally Puts Out

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When Ford announced its new 3.5L DOHC 24-valve V6 engine, many were underwhelmed by its 250-horsepower output. After all, similar displacement modern V6s from Ford’s Japanese competitors have achieved that level of output for years. Gads, even Japanese Minivans were approaching 250-horsepower with the Honda Odyssey at 244-horsepower. The Acura MDX gets 253HP from 3.5L. The Nissan Altima gets 265 from 3.5L.
Those of us at AutoPacific and VehicleVoice were wondering if Ford just didn’t get it. Couldn’t they read competitive specifications?
Ford’s New 3.5L V6 Gets 265-Horsepower
Well, Ford finally has let the “official horsepower” number slip and it’s good news. The 3.5L V6 gets 265-horsepower on regular grade fuel. That means the first vehicles to get it should feel pretty darn nice. Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX and Lincoln MKZ all get the new powerplant. And, Ford says that the 3.5L will be its high volume powerplant of the future.
Hope it feels as good as it sounds.


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Mustang Racer for Rent at Hertz

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Special Editions and Hertz Rentals
Part of Ford’s strategy to keep Mustang fresh involves special editions rather than a specific facelift or minor change. Implementing the strategy included Ford’s introduction at the 2006 New York auto show of a Mustang being built specifically for the Hertz rental fleet, with the help of Carroll Shelby. About 500 examples of the Shelby Mustang GT-H will be built and put in service through Hertz‘s Fun Collection in rental fleets across the nation. Just to make sure they are easily to spot, they are painted black with gold stripes, the colors of Hertz. This is a partner project between Ford, Shelby Automobiles, and the Hertz Corporation. Ford supplies the V8 Mustang to Shelby Automobiles, where the Shelby and Ford Racing Performance Parts are installed, and then Hertz rents the cars. AutoPacific and VehicleVoice contributors were in New York for the show, and here are some pictures and information we found.

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2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac

The First Sport-Utility with a Truck Bed is New for 2007
With the new-for-2001 Sport Trac, Ford was the first to put a short pickup bed on the back of an SUV passenger cabin, then based on the Ranger just as prior Explorers were. The shape has not taken off like gangbusters, but Sport Trac has managed to sell between 48,500 units and 83,600 units most years, with little marketing support behind it. And its owners are enthusiastic enough to have created a fan-based web site (www.mysporttrac.com) and an annual two-day rally in June (Ford will support one of the two days this year). Along with the annual Louisville meet, centered around the truck’s production location, there have been regional meets all over the country. Since its launch, sales have dropped below 40,000 units only twice, and in 2005 this was in part due to a short production year.

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Not only are there enough buyers who appreciate this combination and enough opportunity for sharing components for Ford to keep it alive and bring us the second generation Explorer Sport Trac for 2007, some in the competition have borrowed from the playbook. GM takes on this configuration compete amongst full-size crew-cab pickups, and include the Chevrolet Avalanche/Cadillac Escalade EXT and Hummer H2 SUT, though GM adds a mid-gate for hauling even longer loads. Honda’s Ridgeline goes most directly up against the latest Explorer Sport Trac. If Dodge’s Rampage concept (Chicago, 2006) is any indication, they are at least considering playing in this group. The GM products are based on full-size SUVs and Honda looked to the Pilot for a base, though the platform was substantially modified. For now, there aren’t many like the Sport Trac in the automotive landscape, and it competes most directly with four-door crew cab pickups, as do Avalanche, Escalade EXT, and Ridgeline.
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In late March 2006, AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents got the opportunity to climb behind the wheel of the latest Explorer Sport Trac, reaching dealers as these words are being written. Here are our first thoughts.


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SUV Jihad Continues as SUV Segment Atomizes

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Back in November 2005, a VehicleVoice Blog commented on the existence of a periodic jihad on sport utility vehicles in the USA and worldwide. The introduction of General Motors’ GMT900 SUVs – the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, plus the Cadillac Escalade and Escalade ESV have set the earth-is-flat crowd wailing again.

Audi Q7 Latest Target of SUV Jihad… This Time From British – Austrian Axis

But June 2006 intro of the Audi Q7 in the USA following its earlier introduction in Europe also will be watched closely. As Audi is about the last major brand to add an SUV to its lineup, it is a fresh target for the anti-SUV crowd. The March 2006 issue of CAR Magazine is a case in point. Georg Kacher, a 6-foot, 13-inch Austrian based in Germany, writes, “Big, heavy, chunky, aggressive, unwieldy – SUVs deplete our resources, tear up the countryside and flatten whatever they hit.

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So why does a company like Audi, renowned for advanced engineering enter this bad karma segment?”
Because the market is allegedly craving a mud-crawler made in Ingolstadt, and because Audi firmly believes it can add a new dimension to the SUV game.”
As with many non-USA automotive journalists and even American buff book scribes, Kacher’s loathing of SUVs is mis-directed.
SUVs respond more to customer pull than manufacturer push. After the demise of station wagons (or estates as the Europeans so lovingly call them) and the image black hole called Minivans, came sport utility vehicles. These jack-of-all-trades vehicles carry people and stuff with aplomb. Well… more aplomb today than at any time in the past when they were admittedly crude trucks with a closed in cargo area. They go anywhere, anytime, with anyone, carrying anything within reason. They come in all flavors from the late and not particularly lamented Ford Excursion to the Suzuki Vitara. Populated between the Excursion and Vitara are SUVs of every ilk. Some are suited for suburban streets only. Some are rock crawlers. Some are designed to tow horse trailers and boats.
The beauty of SUVs is the breadth of choice within the segment. The SUV buyer has the luxury of choosing between more brands and more models than ever before. Like the overall auto industry, the larger SUV segment is atomizing into smaller and smaller niche entries.
Choice is good and Audi is welcomed.


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Motorweek 2006 Driver's Choice Awards

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Motorweek, the PBS-oriented car show, announced the winners of its 2006 Driver’s Choice Awards at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show. It will be interesting to see how these winners correspond to the owner awards from VehicleVoice and AutoPacific. The surveys for the annual AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award are in the field during the 1st Quarter 2006 and winners will be announced in early May.
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Their winners include:
Best of the Year: Honda Civic
Best Small Car: Honda Civic
Best Family Sedan: Hyundai Sonata
Best Minivan: Honda Odyssey
Best Convertible: Pontiac Solstice
Best Luxury Sedan: Infiniti M-Series
Best Sports Sedan: BMW 3-Series
Best Performance Car: Ford Mustang
Best Small Sport Utility Vehicle: Toyota RAV4 (guess they didn’t measure it… Mid-Size SUV now)
Best Family Sport Utility Vehicle: Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer
Best Pickup Truck: Ford F-150
Best Eco-Friendly: Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Best Dream Machine: Chevrolet Corvette ZO6, Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe, Ferrari F430
Special Category: Most Jane Car: BMW 3-Series


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