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Automobile Magazine All-Star Awards

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Automobile Magazine, hot on the heels of Autobytel, has just released their “2007 All-Stars Awards.” Just as with the Autobytel Editors’ Choice Awards, this is an award that you wonder what the validity is. Unlike the AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Awards and Ideal Vehicle Awards released each summer, Automobile‘s award does not factor consumer input into the equation. In fact, AutoPacific’s awards are purely based on consumer ratings. Automobile‘s award reflects their own opinion. Not all bad, but when reviewing the results, it is wise to remember that these folks are enthusiast-biased to the max.
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Automobile Magazine Announces Its 2007 All-Star Awards
November 29, 2006
Each year, the editors and bureau chiefs of Automobile Magazine convene to test, evaluate, and debate the performance, significance, and pure enthusiast appeal of the cars that have made the biggest impact.
“This year, we increased the number of All-Stars from six to 10, which reflects just how brilliantly the industry is doing at providing enthusiasts with even more choice,” said Gavin Conway, editor-in-chief of Automobile Magazine. “As always, the hard part was deciding what to leave out of our constellation of All-Stars. In the end, these cars are what any connoisseur would have in their ‘dream garage.”
The 2007 Automobile Magazine All-Stars are:
* All-Star: Aston Martin V8 Vantage—This car could just about make the cut for its sensational looks alone, but it also offers a sublime driving experience and a truly inspirational engine.
* All-Star: BMW 3-Series—Remains one of the most complete cars on sale today, from its driving dynamics, quality of build, and the sheer pleasure of ownership it offers.
* All-Star: Chevrolet Corvette Z06—A friendly daily-driver that’ll leave Ferraris and Lamborghinis for dead, the Vette is an all-American hero.
* All-Star: Chrysler 300C—This one is a classic American: big V-8, rear-wheel drive, and a unique style that absolutely charms. Practical to own, too.
* All-Star: Honda Ridgeline—A clear winner with its unibody construction that gives a tight, rattle-free ride; Honda quality; and its very clever underbed trunk. [VehicleVoice note: Ridgeline had a sweep of all three AutoPacific awards for 2006… Vehicle Satisfaction Award, Ideal Vehicle Award and Motorist’s Choice Award]
* All-Star: Infiniti G35—Thanks to its superbly balanced chassis, terrific grip, and a punchy powertrain, this car challenges the dominance of BMW’s 3-series.
* All-Star: Lotus Elise—An undiluted driving machine that deftly combines light weight, electrifying performance, and near-telepathic chassis response.
* All-Star: Mazda3—Terrific to drive, stylish, spacious, and capable of 155 mph in turbo guise, this proves that small cars can aspire to greatness.
* All-Star: Mercedes-Benz S-Class—One of the best-built luxury cars on sale at any price, its features technology that truly makes life easier and safer.
* All-Star: Porsche Cayman—With an extra-stiff structure, Porsche engineers were able to deliver stability, grip, ride, and composure that are just about unmatched.
Criteria and Evaluation
The Automobile Magazine All-Stars are chosen by its staff, its worldwide bureau chiefs, and its contributors, following an intensive test drive of the year’s most innovative and important new cars. Vehicles considered for the All-Stars awards combine the following traits:
* Redefines an existing category or creates a new market segment
* Provides excellent value and performance for the money
* Exhibits an exceptional design
* Offers pure driving enjoyment


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Blowing Off the Lot – the Hot Sellers

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Since we have identified the vehicles that have the longest days supply, we have been asked to show which vehicles have the shortest days supply. Which vehicles are so hot they just blow off the dealer’s lot? As with the slower moving vehicles where we arbitrarily cut off the days supply at 150 days, here we are using 50 days as the cut off point. The details are shown “below the fold”


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Stuck to the Dealer's Floor – Inventory Numbers Tell the Story

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Which cars and trucks are planted to the dealer’s floor? In other words, which vehicles take the longest to sell? Who cars? Why does it matter, anyway?
Well, while it may not seem that important to you, it’s critically important to the industry s a whole… from the manufacturese, component suppliers, dealers and quite a few financial institutions. First, if you know the time it takes to sell a vehicle, you know how much it is dragging on the dealer’s floorplanning costs. Floorplanning is the term for the amount it costs the dealer to finance the a vehicle in inventory waiting to be sold. If a vehicle has been hanging around for weeks, he’ll be more likely to deal aggressively to get rid of it. Also, vehicles that have high days supply may be less popular. From that perspective, they may be the ones you want to stay away from.


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VehicleVoice#41 – Reviews of the Ford Five Hundred and the MazdaSpeed3

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There are very few things the 2007 MazdaSpeed3 and the 2006 Ford Five Hundred have in common, but here’s a comprehensive list. They’re both made by Ford. They both have four wheels. And they’re both up for review this week on VehicleVoice.

VehicleVoice contributor David Barrett starts things off with a look at Mazda’s brand new hot rod, the MazdaSpeed3, and finds out the operative word in the name is SPEED. There’s very little not to like about this racy little 5-door, from the breakthrough motor to it’s "Arrest Me" red paint job. But a word to the wise, all that horsepower can get you in torque trouble, and David can get you out with a few simple driving tips.

AutoPacific President George Peterson takes a look at the Ford Five Hundred this week. Decidedly different than the MazdaSpeed3, this comfortable, easy-driving sedan won the AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award and targets a very different audience than the Speed3 – an audience that just loves this car. Find our what George thinks in his review.

Show Runtime – 17:23

Show Rundown
00:27 David Barrett , VehicleVoice contributor reviews the 2007 MazdaSpeed3
07:12 George Peterson , President of AutoPacific reviews the 2006 Ford Five Hundred


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2007 Nissan Sentra – Sentra in the City

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AutoPacific and VehicleVoice had the opportunity to evaluate the all new 2007 Nissan Sentra on the roads East of San Francisco Bay. The all new Sentra competes with the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cobalt. For 2007, every major dimension has been expanded to meet American tastes.

Sentra 2007 SV Blog.jpg

For the Record
Global development effort between Nissan and Renault. Delayed by about a year after bombing in USA product clinics. Went back to the drawing board to get it right.
Built at Nissan’s Aguascalientes Plant in Mexico: Plant underwent a $800 million upgrade to accommodate all new Sentra and all new Versa. 350,000 units per year capacity.
On sale October 12, 2006.
Target Customer: Echo Boomers – Generation Y between the ages of 18 and 29. Sentra needs to serve many purposes – going out with friends, carrying a bike, taking road trips, buying furniture at IKEA.
Strives to be Compact Class Benchmark
No longer a compact car aimed at the lowest common denominator customer, the new Sentra strives to be the benchmark of its class when it goes on sale October 12, 2006. While the Sentra slots into the Nissan car lineup above the all new Versa (which actually is larger in some dimensions) and below the all new Altima, the Sentra has grown over its predecessor in wheelbase (+5.9-inches), overall length (+2.3-inches), overall width (+3.2-inches) and overall height (+4.0-inches). Now the “compact” Sentra nudges the Mainstream Mid-Size Car in basic dimensions.
The Sentra has substantially more passenger volume than Civic, Corolla, Mazda3 and Cobalt. Similarly, it has a large cargo volume only slightly topped by Corolla and Cobalt.
Sentra 2007 FV Blog.jpg


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Mazda Steps Up the Two-Seat Convertible Wars

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Optional Power Retractable Hard Top to Join MX-5’s Options List
Though the news has not found its way to Mazda’s U.S. web site, the home-market branch announced today that the MX-5 convertible gets a new power retractable hard top option that will be offered in North America, Europe, and Japan. More details will be available after its formal introduction at the London auto show in mid-July, but we at VehicleVoice couldn’t wait to bring you the first pictures. Shown here is the European spec model.

Maz_07_RoadsterCoupe_EU_bl.jpg

In Japan, the hardtop model will be called Mazda Roadster Power Retractable Hard Top, in Europe the Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe, and in North America the Mazda MX-5 (Miata) Power Retractable Hard Top.
With the new hard top, Mazda is raising the stakes against newcomers from Pontiac and Saturn in the affordable, two-seat convertible market. Will Mazda sell lots of hard-top-equipped MX-5s in the States? Probably not. While experts at AutoPacific do not expect that the model will dramatically increase sales or account for a large percent of the overall mix, Mazda may see a small increase with the new option. More important, it puts General Motors on notice that Mazda will not be giving up their share of this market without a fight. It is also not the only trick up Mazda’s sleeve, as a MazdaSpeed MX-5 is also in the works.
Check back next month, when we expect to have more details about the U.S. on-sale date and equipment for the U.S.-specification models.
Maz_07_RoadsterCoupe_EU_bl_a.jpg


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Driving the Mazda CX-7 – Driving Zooms, Package Compromises

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Metropolitan Hawk
We’ve reported on the CX-7 several times previously. In fact Mazda’s Jeremy Barnes was featured in a walkaround of the CX-7 in our second-ever video cast. Now AutoPacific has driven it in the rolling Virginia countryside outside Washington DC.
Mazda compares the CX-7 with the likes of the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4. They also mention vehicles like the Nissan Murano. Certainly, CX-7 may have some similarities, but it is a very different type of vehicle.

Mazda_CX-7_F34 Blog.jpg

On the plus side, CX-7 has very distinctive styling. Mazda describes it as a combination of sports car and SUV. They say it has the image and driving performance of a sports car – or maybe a sports coupe – and the utilty and capability of an SUV. CX-7 certainly looks different from SUVs and sedans. And it is a useful piece – functional.
Shinsuke Kawasaki, head of the Mazda product development team for CX-7 used the descriptive term “Metropolitan Hawk” to convey the sense of what he wanted to his colleagues. Yes, CX-7 is an SUV, but an SUV for the city. CX-7’s targets were to 1) have advanced emotional styling, 2) have exceptional driving performance, and 3) to suport a user’s urban lifestyle. It is an SUV for a person wanting individualistic transportation, not necessarily a joiner.
Its off-road pretentions are mild (using essentially the same AWD system as on the MazdaSpeed6) and Mazda did not provide any opportunity for off-roading. Darn.
CX-7 Powered by Turbo 4-cylinder
Mazda’s conclusion going into development of the CX-7 is that SUVs over-deliver on family and under-deliver on performance. Matching Mazda’s Zoom-Zoom image, Mazda set out to make the CX-7 a different type of performer. Surprisingly, it is powered by a turbocharged 2.3L 4-cylinder with 244-horsepower. Now, a turbo four is not what is expected in an SUV (except that Acura is launching the RDX SUV with a turbo 4 at about the same time), but this engine does pretty well. Little turbo lag, spritely performance, little torque steer. At high RPMs it gets a bit raucous – does not have the sophistication and finesse of a Volkswagen 2.0L Turbo 4-cylinder for instance. We would have opted for a V6, but Mazda’s 2007 CX-9 7-passenger SUV gets Ford’s 3.5L DOHC V6 with 265-horsepower. The CX-7’s turbo four is a clear differentiator. Not bad, but unexpected.
But there are negatives. These are not killing points, but if Mazda had really heeded the input from folks who want a more useful sporty car and might consider an SUV, they wouldn’t have missed on some important points.


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Mazda CX-9 – When Room for Five is Not Enough

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Mazda’s Five-Passenger CX-7 Gets Seven-Passenger Sibling, CX-9
Mazda has floundered with its MPV never being quite right for a minivan and the Tribute a decent, but undermarketed, SUV offering. The brand may be in a better position for 2007MY, with two new crossover SUV products that seem to be just what customers want these days. The Tribute goes on a break, scheduled to return as a 2008 model year vehicle.
Mazda’s CX-7 spring 2006 launch provides a glimpse of what Mazda’s SUV lineup will look like over the next year, but the CX-7 isn’t the only new thing for 2007MY. Mazda is adding a second, larger SUV product for its 2007 model year lineup.
The CX-9 is being prepped quickly, with an introduction at the 2006 New York auto show in April and a sales launch in early 2007. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents were on hand for the introduction. Mazda is pitching its two new SUVs as offering an alternative for those looking for SUV attributes, like more space and all-weather capability, but also insistent on keeping a zoom-zoom sporting driver. As the launch release says, the CX-9 intends to “blend sporty driving spirit with seven-passenger SUV practicality.”
In discussions with Mazda North American Operations design management, the CX-9 is the attitudinal successor to the old Mazda 929 and Milenia four-door sedans. As those products withered away over the years, Mazda wondered what types of vehicles they really wanted to buy. Well, the CX-7 and CX-9 are the result of that navel gazing, and are much better choices today than me-too sedans.

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According to Mazda, the CX-9 is on its own platform. It is its own product, and most certainly not a long version of the CX-7. And the CX-7 is certainly not a shorter version of the CX-9. In any case, the two do share styling cues, with the larger CX-9 taking on a more grown-up and sophisticated look, with its longer proportions and wider stance. Mazda is building both CX-7 and CX-9 in Japan and making a big deal about these vehicles being designed primarily for North America.
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Mazda Adds a New Post-Modern SUV: Mazda CX-7

Mazda expands its lineup with a car-based SUV in spring 2006 called the CX-7. While the entry was previewed by the 2005 MX-Cross Sport concept, the production car was unveiled at Los Angeles and Detroit auto shows in January 2006. As with other car-based, post-modern SUVs, or crossovers, the five-seater CX-7 comes standard in front-drive form with an optional AWD system available. The CX-7 will be built in Japan, and is not directly related to the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX new-for-2007MY entries also being introduced to at the Detroit auto show.
VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) will showcase the CX-7 at the Los Angeles Auto Show in an upcoming videocast.


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Automotive Lease Guide Releases Residual Value Awards

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Automotive Lease Guide is an influential and closely watched barometer of the value of brands and vehicles in the USA. ALG’s data are used by leasing companies to set the values for vehicles two and three years in the future and are critical in determining what lease rates a lessee will pay.
While ALG’s Residual Value Awards are not of the ilk of Motor Trend, Automobile, Car & Driver enthusiast awards, they provide an interesting counterpoint to awards based test track measurements, zero to 60 times and seat of the pants opinions. Here is the text of the ALG release…

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ALG’s annual Residual Value Awards honor those vehicles in each automotive segment predicted to retain the highest percentage of their original price. For the third consecutive year, American Honda Motor Company, Inc. heads the list with the Honda Brand winning the Industry Brand Residual Value Award. Honda also received two individual segment awards: the Odyssey for the Minivan Segment and the Accord for the Midsize Car Segment. This is the fifth consecutive win for the Honda Odyssey and the second win for the Accord.
Acura, a division of American Honda Motor Company, Inc., is the winner of the Near Luxury Car Segment for the TL.
BMW of North America, LLC has once again made a strong showing by winning the Luxury Brand Residual Value Award for the third consecutive year. MINI USA, a division of BMW of North America, has won the Compact Car Segment for the MINI Cooper for the fourth time.
Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. took home the most Residual Value Awards this year by winning six individual segment awards: the Avalon for the Fullsize Car Segment, Tacoma Pick-up for the Compact Truck Segment, Tundra for the Fullsize Truck Segment, RAV4 for the Compact SUV Segment, 4Runner for the Midsize SUV Segment, and the Sequoia for the Fullsize SUV Segment. This is the fifth consecutive win for the Toyota Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia; and the third consecutive win for the 4Runner.
Mercedes-Benz USA LLC is the winner of this year’s Luxury Car Segment award for the CLS Class.
The Sports Car Segment award this year goes to Porsche Cars North America, Inc. for the 911 Carrera.
And last but not least, the CUV (Crossover Utility Vehicle) award goes to Land Rover North America, Inc. for the Range Rover Sport.
“In an era of negative pricing and overcapacity, Residual Value excellence is increasingly difficult to achieve,” said Raj Sundaram, President of Automotive Lease Guide. “Both the segment and brand winners clearly demonstrate that quality products combined with effective pricing strategies will rise to the top.” Sundaram added that, “While the top rankings did not change, several brands have shown significant improvement over last year, highlighting the importance manufacturers are placing on residual value as a long-term objective.”
This year’s awards are based on 2006 model year vehicles. For the fourth year, ALG has also included awards for the brand with the highest predicted resale value of all industry and luxury vehicles. The awards are derived after careful study of segment competition, historical vehicle performance and
industry trends. Award winners are featured on http://www.alg.com, The Wall Street Journal, Automotive News, and other automotive publications and websites dedicated to bringing the industry’s best performing models into the
public eye.


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