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Ford Edge Expands Ford SUV Range to Five

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Introducing the Ford Edge
The hot buzzword in early 2006 is CUV, or crossover utility vehicle. Loosely defined as car-based product in the shape of an SUV, these types of vehicles have been around for about ten years. But as the domestic brands, specifically GM and Ford, are in the midst of expanding their offerings of this type of vehicle, they are fueling use of the term. Vehiclevoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) analysts believe that these vehicles are not really crosses between anything, but rather the evolution of the SUV. Or what we like to call Post-Modern SUVs.

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Whatever the name, these are clearly the vehicles that the majority of SUV buyers in the mid 1990s really wanted. Truck-based SUVs provided more off-road ability, that wasn’t used in many cases, and more towing capacity, also not used by the majority of SUV buyers. For those that actually use the expanded capability, there will continue to be truck-based options. For the rest of us, why not put the best attributes of an SUV onto a predominantly front-drive platform with a smaller and more fuel-efficient engine? The result of this evolution is vehicle ranging from the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V that started the trend (back in the days when they were called Cute Utes and knocked for their lack of truck-toughness) to the Chrysler Pacifica to Mercedes-Benz R- and ML-Class to Pontiac’s Torrent to Ford’s Escape and including Ford’s new-for-2007MY Edge.
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Just like the Lincoln MKX, the Edge uses the platform introduced with Ford’s latest trio of mid-size sedans, the Fusion, Mercury Milan, and Lincoln Zephyr. Edge will broaden Ford’s SUV lineup to five when it arrives in late 2006, similar to Toyota’s lineup. Ford dealers will offer Edge, Explorer, Escape, Freestyle, and Expedition for 2007MY. Edge is sized and powered above Escape, but smaller than the Explorer or Freestyle. It brings Ford’s car-based SUV total to three (Escape, Edge, Freestyle), with the Explorer and Expedition continuing their truck-based personalities.
If the Edge is as good on the road as it sounds on paper, it should find a sweet spot in the market. Styling is more modern and attractive than the boxy and aging Escape. The current Escape was developed when manufacturers were first realizing that some customers want the utility of an SUV but the drive, handling, and fuel economy nearer their cars and the talk of crossovers was nil. Ford designed the Escape to look as much like a truck-based SUV as possible, but since then the market has been snapping up softer-looking utility vehicles. In the world of post-modern SUVs, the utility vehicle is taking a shape much more like that of a tall wagon than borrowing truck cues. The Edge is set to be the right product at the right time, and Ford may find more success with it than they did with the Escape.


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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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Saturn Sky Quietly Introduced in Los Angeles

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Spring 2006 Sales for Saturn’s First Convertible
The wait is nearly over. After the 2002 Saturn Sky concept sparked speculation about when and if Saturn would add a convertible and was followed by a concept version only twelve months ago, the production vehicle arrives at showrooms in spring 2006. The concept introduced at the Detroit auto show and the production car on display at the 2006 Los Angeles auto show are nearly identical, though the two-seat, rear-wheel-drive roadster is basically the opposite of the front-wheel-drive 2002 concept.


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2006 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S

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What a way to start the year and get the folks at VehicleVoice salivating! At the 2006 Los Angeles auto show, an appropriate venue given both Southern California’s obsession with cars as status symbols and the proportion of customers who might be able to afford the $111,600 price tag, Porsche unveiled a 520HP version of its Cayenne, using the same 4.5L V8 as the Cayenne Turbo. Torque also gets a similar boost to 530 lb.-ft., with at least 510 of that available from 2500 past 5000 rpm. Porsche claims a 0-to-60-mph time of 4.8 seconds. Among the specific engine updates are larger intercoolers that increased cooling efficiency enough to increase turbo boost pressure.
The extra power comes with a modified suspension, revised Porsche Active Suspension Management software, more substantial braking power, and an optional exterior body kit. The Turbo S gets twenty-inch wheels, though there are two wheel designs to choose from.
We can’t wait to drive one!


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BMW M6 Finally Arrives

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500HP, 11 Shift Programs, and a Carbon Fiber Roof.
BMW’s M6 high performance coupe started with borrowing the 500HP 5.5L V10 and seven-speed sequential manual gearbox found in the latest M5. Though launched in 2005 in Europe, North American sales do not begin until spring 2006. The M6 was introduced in the States at the 2006 Los Angeles auto show in January, where its nearly $97,000 price tag was also revealed.

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Subtle Styling Cues Signal Special Model
Consistent with European understated high performers, M6 specific exterior cues are subtle and include a larger front air intake, the unique nineteen-inch wheels, a new rear diffuser surrounding the four exhaust pipes, sculpted side sills, M-style mirrors, and the M logo in the ornamental side slats. There are seven colors available for the M6 in its first year, with four of them exclusive to BMW M cars.


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New Mercedes-Benz Flagship – 2007 S-Slass

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Latest S-Class Introduced to North America in Los Angeles
Though Mercedes has been making more news Stateside with its new SUV entries, the R-Class, the M-Class and G-Class, their top sedan is all new for the 2007 model year. While the S65 AMG introduced in Detroit can get lead-footers interested, Mercedes launched the U.S. S-Class with the 382HP 5.5L V8 in the form of the S550. The S65 and a S600 (with a 510HP 5.5L V12) both arrive later in 2006. Within the next couple of years, the S-Class will also likely get a hybrid powertrain option as indicated by a show version at the 2005 Frankfurt auto show alongside the world premier of the S-Class.
The newest S-Class, as its previous iterations have done, raises the stakes in terms of technology and style. Among them are an update to the Pre-Safe anti-crash system as well as Distronic radar-based cruise control that can assist in stop-and-go traffic and works with the brake assist system to help avoid rear-end collisions. Also on the table is an infra-red night vision system.
AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) research shared with VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) indicates that Mercedes-Benz reliability with newly introduced high technology features has been spotty. At the same time, AutoPacific research shows that Mercedes’ image in the USA has deteriorated substantially over the past five years as the images of archrivals BMW and Lexus have continued to soar. The new S-Class has to be bulletproof for Mercedes to begin regaining its reputation as the highest quality, most prestigious automobiles available. View an upcoming VehicleVoice videocast in which Robert Cumberford, renowned styling critic for Automobile Magazine, gives a critique of the new styling of the S-Class.


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Maybach 57 S: 604HP for The Ultra-Luxury Class

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North American Introduction of Maybach 57 S in Los Angeles, January 2006
Though the 57 S model was available in fall 2005 in Europe after a 2005 Geneva auto show introduction, it was introduced to U.S. buyers at the 2006 Los Angeles auto show in January. Along with a bump to twenty-inch wheels, this model boasts an AMG-modified 604HP 6.0L V12, compared with the standard model’s 550HP. The S in this case stands for Special. With the power boost are also some interior tweaks and a firmer suspension. Other changes for 2006MY included making the parking assist system standard and the addition of the Business Package for making the Maybach an office on wheels.
VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) analysts note that the minor facelift to the front end of the Maybach 57 S is very reminiscent of the now out-of-production Hyundai XG350.
The suspension tweaks for 57 S include a firmer setting for the air suspension and shock absorbers, a lower ride height by 15 mm, and thicker stabilizer bars. Electronic driving aids including the stability and traction control programs have been revised for maximum enjoyment of the extra power. Maybach reports that these changes provide “even more impressive handling without unduly compromising the car’s whisper-smooth ride.”

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Volkswagen Passat Range Expands With New Wagon

Passat Wagon Introduced at 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show
The all new Passat sedan went on sale in in the USA in Fall 2005, with the launch of the wagon in January 2006, about the time that the range also added 4Motion models just in time for Winter in the Snow Belt. The Passat wagon has been available in Europe since late 2005 with the USA launch at the 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show clearly overshadowed by the reveal of the Volkswagen GX3 concept 3-wheel motorcycle.
The wagon benefits from all of the updates the sedan received for 2006 model year, including all-new sheetmetal bearing the latest design direction of the brand and a switch from longitudinal to transverse engine placement. The Passat continues with a choice of in-line four or V6 powerplants. The previous-generation offered a W8 engine that did not sell well has been dropped with the transverse powertrain Golf-based Passat.
The Passat sedan and wagon are offered in similar trim and engine packages, including the 2.0T Value Edition, the 2.0T, the 3.6L and the 3.6L 4Motion. There are two engines available with the latest North American Passat, an in-line four-cylinder and a V6, with no diesel yet offered. A direct-injection 200HP 2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16v I4 replaced the prior generation’s 1.8L four-cylinder. The V6 engine is also a direct-injection unit that replaced the 2.8L of the prior generation. While several VAG products offer this latest VR6 in 3.2L displacement, the Passat (and Touareg) gets a 280HP 3.6L version. Volkswagen only offers its 4Motion system when the V6 is selected, whether sedan or wagon. The sedan and the wagon offer the same powertrain lineup, the same basic trim level setup, and the same optional equipment. Models taking the 200HP I4 are badged 2.0T, with the V6-equipped models badged 3.6L or 3.6L 4Motion. Only a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic is offered; no manual transmission is planned for this family-oriented entry.


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Hummer H3x: Appearance Package for 2007MY

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SEMA’s H3 Street Concept Becomes New-for-2007MY H3x.
At the 2005 SEMA show, Hummer displayed a special H3 called the Street. This has translated into a production model due on showroom floors in mid-2006. Though an off-the-shelf package, the H3x works to attract buyers who want a custom look without the extra effort. H3x takes the H3 Luxury package and adds chrome tube steps, the chrome appearance package, and a chrome fuel door. H3x also wears a body-color grille and spare tire cover, a brush guard, and unique tires, wheels, and center cap. The interior is the same as other H3 trim levels, but adds embroidered headrests. Buyers can customize their H3x by their interior and exterior color choices, which include the whole eight exterior and three interior color palette on the H3.


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Pontiac Solstice GXP – Hot Rod Roadster

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What makes a hot convertible hotter? More power, of course
Pontiac follows up the launch of the 177HP Solstice roadster with the introduction of the 2007 Solstice GXP at January’s 2006 Los Angeles auto show. Not content with the 177HP in the standard car, but also looking to keep the balance in the overall package that the four-cylinder engine contributes to, Pontiac decided to turbocharge a four-cylinder engine to create the go-fast version rather than shoehorning a larger (and much heavier) engine into the bay. The Solstice and Solstice GXP will be featured in an upcoming VehicleVoice videocast.
The turbocharged GXP engine delivers 260HP from only 2.0 liters, and Pontiac promises a 0-to-60mph time of 5.5 seconds, slightly faster than the Honda S2000. Pontiac’s Ecotec 2.0L DOHC 16v I4 looks to several tricks to get the power up that high. Among them, this engine is fed with direct injection (fuel is injected directly into the combustion chamber), a first for General Motors in North America. A dual-scroll turbocharger is used, with a lightweight turbine and air-to-air intercooling. As is true of the base car, standard transmission will be a five-speed manual with an optional five-speed automatic available.


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