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Mercury Milan* Wins AutoPacific 2006 Ideal Vehicle Award for Mid-Size Cars:


06 Mercury Milan IVA.jpg

The all-new Mercury Milan is a clear winner among Mid-Size Car competition. Milan, the Ideal Mid-Size Car, achieves its category leading performance with near ideal ratings for exterior size, interior storage, power and acceleration, right down to the ideal size of the wheels and tires. *The Mercury Milan also topped its category in AutoPacific’s 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards.
The Milan is a suburban cruiser and commuter car. Not a sport sedan, Milan is best suited for tooling around town in quiet comfort. Milan shows good attention to detail especially in package-related areas like ingress/egress, ergonomics and visibility. While Milan’s owners give its powertrain near ideal ratings, I’d love to drive one with the 50 extra horsepower the 2007 Lincoln MKZ (nee Lincoln Zephyr) is going to get from its new 3.5L V6 engine.

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Let's Talk Cars: The Lincoln Navigator and the Hyundai Azera, Winners of the 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards!


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This week on Let’s Talk Cars, exclusive, in depth looks at the Top Rated SUV and Top Rated Car in the 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards..

Yeah, we know. You’ve read all about AutoPacific’s coveted Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. But have you seen the award winners, inside and out? This is your chance. Let’s Talk Cars Host Cameron Barrett takes the Lincoln Navigator out for a spin and nearly gives up her card carrying status in the “Small Car Lovers Club.” And AutoPacific President and Founder George Peterson along with Analyst Dan Hall put the Hyundai Azera through its paces.

After all that fun, because we can’t get enough of cars and know you’re just like us, we sit down inside the 2006 Ford Fushion, get blinded with a little bling bling, and ask the question, What Were They Thinking?!

Show Rundown
01:15 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards Best SUV – the Lincoln Navigator: Cameron Barrett, Let’s Talk Cars Host
9:20 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards Best Car – the Hyundai Azera: George Peterson, founder and President of AutoPacific, and Dan Hall, AutoPacific Analyst
16:19 Ford Fusion Interior: George Peterson, founder and President of AutoPacific

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AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Results – Japanese Brands On Top


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.
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:/ for the complete listings.

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Volvo XC90 Gets Updated Look for 2007

New York Show is Backdrop for Reveal
Volvo‘s current XC90 was introduced for the 2003 model year, and is due for a bit of a refresh. As the U.S. accounts for about 50 percent of all XC90s sold, it is no surprise that the minor change for 2007 model year was introduced at the 2006 New York auto show. Brought to you by AutoPacific and VehicleVoice, below is a first review of the changes, complete with before and after photos.


Among the most significant aspects of the update, which include some new safety features as well, is an all-new 232HP 3.2L in-line six-cylinder engine to slot between the 208HP 2.5L turbocharged I5 and the 315HP V8. The new six launches in the S80, though quickly followed by installation in the XC90, and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The new engine will figure prominently in Volvo’s range over the next several years.

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SUV Jihad Continues as SUV Segment Atomizes


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.

Audi Q7 SV Blog.jpg

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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Forget the Zephyr, Here Comes the Lincoln MKZ


New Naming System Gives Zephyr a Short Life
At the 2006 Detroit auto show, a mere month ago, Lincoln announced they would call the Aviator replacement (on sale in Fall 2006) the MKX. They also showed an expected direction for an LS replacement called the MKS, and indicated their intent to change to an alphanumeric naming strategy. At the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, Lincoln discreetly unveiled the 2007 model year Zephyr, except that it is now renamed MKZ. AutoPacific Vice President and VehicleVoice correspondent Jim Hall has commented elsewhere in this blog on Lincoln’s strategy twists and turns, so we’ll leave that to him and stick with an overview of the vehicle changes for you here. By the way, pronunciation has been settled. These should be referred to as Mark X, Mark S, and, now, Mark Z.
Though the Zephyr can be called brand-new, having been on sale for less than six months, it is renamed MKZ for the 2007 model year. Along with the name change comes a 3.5L V6, AWD, and some minor exterior tweaks. Suspension, safety features, and interior continue unchanged. The MKZ was introduced with comparatively little fanfare at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, with the new-for-2007 Navigator clearly taking center stage.

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Lincoln Naming – Cat Food By Any Other Name Would Still Smell As Sweet


The Madness at Lincoln Continues.
Over that last two and a half months, Ford Motor Company has been misrepresenting its new naming strategy for future Lincolns. At an early reveal of the Lincoln MKS, Ford’s North American Supremo Peter Horbury called the car the “Mark Ess.” Yet at the Detroit autoshow a couple of weeks later, the model was verbally referred to as the “Em-kay-ess” by Ford management and P.R. types. Concurrently the Aviator replacing crossover utility was called the “Em-kay-ecks.” That’s MKX in badgespeak.
At the Chicago show this week, Lincoln unveiled a lightly restyled and reengineered Zephyr that will be called the MKZ. In the press release materials for the successor to the Zephyr, the car is identified as the “Mark Zee.” C’mon guys, make up you minds.

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Lincoln Naming – And Speaking Of Names, Don't Throw Out The Baby With The Bathwater


Lincoln has devised a new nomenclature system for all future models. The company that originally brought us Continental, Capri, Premier, Lido and Zephyr has decided to move to a new, apparently consultant savant-based, alphanumeric naming standard. So the just released new Lincolns like the Lincoln Mark LT luxury pickup and Lincoln Zephyr already violate the new strategy.
VehicleVoice correspondent and head of AutoPacific’s Industry Analysis operations weighs in with his opinion on Lincoln’s new naming scheme.Jim Hall
Lincoln Goes Alphanumeric Crazy – MKX, MKS
The first production vehicle to use the new methodology is the crossover successor to the unappreciated Aviator. It will be called the MKX. As in “em-kay-ecks.” Some folks are calling it the “Mark Ecks.” Which is right?
A new all-wheel-drive sedan near-flagship to debut late in 2007 will be called the MKS (em-kay-ess). As I’ve previously said, there’s no such thing as a bad name for a good vehicle as long as you stop short of calling a product the Monkey Pus V100.
Will the Zephyr Be Renamed MKZ?
The MKn theme will continue to be rolled out when the recently introduced Zephyr receives some major revisions for the 2008 model including a more powerful 3.5L engine, all-wheel-drive and significant sheetmetal changes up front. When this happens, you can expect the Zephyr nameplate to be once again filed away in the dead badge cabinet for another decade or two and the entry model to wear some manner of MK moniker (MKZ?) on its trunklid. With the Zephyr on sale for a scant two model years, the rebadging is unlikely to cause any significant hiccoughs beyond some incremental marketing costs to establish the car’s new handle.

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Lincoln MKS Concept – Japanese Flavor for American Luxury


The Lincoln MKS Concept shown at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in Detroit will likely be added to the Lincoln lineup in 2007 as a 2008 model year vehicle. Attending an early December 2005 review of Ford auto show concept cars in Dearborn, VehicleVoice and AutoPacific analysts were struck by the Japanese and European ambiance of the car. The MKS has the presence of an Acura TL with some styling cues from Chris Bangle’s BMWs.
The MK S is another derivative of the Volvo S80 platform which is also shared with the Ford Five Hundred, Mercury Montego and Ford Freestyle. The MK S is all wheel drive and uses the Yamaha-Volvo 315HP 4.4L V8 engine found in the Volvo XC90 luxury sport utility vehicle. The MK S is deceivingly large with an 114-inch wheelbase and 204-inch overall length making it slightly larger than the Ford Five Hundred and substantially larger than the Acura range-topper, the RL. It is about the same overall length as the long wheelbase BMW 7-Series, but with a much shorter wheelbase.
While some of our staff would prefer for Lincoln to go the route of Cadillac with rear wheel drive platforms, the MK S appears to have the presence and credibilty to replace the Lincoln LS Executive Luxury Entry.
Now, the next question… what will the replacement for the venerable Lincoln Town Car look like and how large will it be? Will the next Town Car be the MK T?
Ford’s press release for the MK S is shown below

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Crossover SUVs to Outsell Traditional SUVs in 2006


Crossover SUVs will outsell Traditional truck-based SUVs beginning in 2006. This forecast comes from George Pipas, Ford’s Manager of Sales Analysis and Reporting in a presentation in Long Beach, CA on December 12, 2005. Refer to the VehicleVoice Blog on December 8 citing a USA Today article on similar observations.

A Few Comments on What a Crossover SUV Is

Pipas’ analysis charts the meteoric rise of Traditional SUVs during the 1990s and the similarly meteoric rise of Crossover SUVs since 1996 when the first crossovers – the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 – were introduced. Of course, defining SUV categories is getting murkier and murkier. VehicleVoice ( and AutoPacific ( have used the “at-a-glance” rule to define SUVs. If you can, at-a-glance, tell that a vehicle is an SUV, then by golly it is an SUV. In this way you are not confused about whether it is car-based or truck-based. (Pipas contends that only about 70% of Crossover SUVs meet this at-a-glance requirement with 30% easily confused as cars, hatchbacks, or wagons.)
Escalade Blog.jpg Traditional SUV 2007 Cadillac Escalade – Category Expected to Decline as a Percentage of Overall SUV Universe
The auto industry thinks differently and often gets caught up in definition problems. They have variously called car-based SUVs “hybrids” (a term since adopted by gasoline-electric ‘hybrid’ powerplants) or “crossovers”. In our research, we have found that folks really have not yet adopted the crossover term and still like to refer to SUVs as SUVs. But enough about splitting hairs about what is a crossover and what is not.

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