As anyone reading this VehicleVoice news section knows, GMC has an all-new crossover SUV. With Acadia, and its Saturn Outlook sibling, GM’s approach for innovative people-moving solutions still relies on a large basic vehicle. The package is well done, but the extra length GM had to work with versus true mid-size competitors helped make it possible. Acadia has the overall length of a Yukon or a long-wheelbase Chrysler Town & Country, about ten inches longer than the Envoy. With Acadia, GMC is targeting mid-size and crossover SUVs. In reality, they will pull buyers from the minivan set and full-size SUVs right along with buyers of the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, or Toyota Highlander.
GMC invited VehicleVoice and AutoPacific along as they showed off their new baby to journalists along a four-hour drive from Palo Alto to Hollister, California, with a stop at Leal Vineyards
(minus a wine tasting), and back again. The weather was spectacular, the roads varied and challenging, and the Acadia a comfortable and willing steed. We’ve also had the opportunity to drive the Saturn Outlook
around our town, where it performed about the same as the Acadia around Palo Alto, but roads more challenging were added to the Acadia experience.
The Acadia and Outlook are powered by the same 275HP 3.6L DOHC 24v V6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, with a self-shift feature operated by an up/down switch on the gearlever. There isn’t much difference between Acadia and Outlook suspensions. The engine was tuned for optimum torque and power response geared toward stronger low-end acceleration, enabling the 4720-pound front-drive (4925-pound AWD) Acadia the power to satisfy in its primarily urban jungle environment.
General Motors is rolling out three new crossover SUVs that share an all-new, purpose-built platform. GM has called this platform Lambda for internal purposes. The Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia are on sale now and the Buick Enclave arrives in summer 2007 as a 2008MY vehicle. These crossover SUVs are taking on not only traditional and crossover mid-size SUVs but also full-size SUVs and minivans due to their large size and dimensions (they are nearly as large as the Chevrolet Tahoe). They do not have the towing capability of truck-based SUVs, but do have the other attributes for which buyers go to SUVs, or minivans. They have high seating positions, available AWD, and interiors big enough to hold seven passengers or lots of stuff.
Following the roll-out of the Lambda crossover SUVs, General Motors will kill their conventional minivans (similar to Ford’s strategy of killing the Monterey and Freestar minivans). The Pontiac Montana SV6 is already history and its demise will be followed by the Chevrolet Uplander, Saturn Relay and Buick Terraza. Oh, yeah, Chevrolet will get a Lambda Crossover SUV in the next year or so as well.
AutoPacific and VehicleVoice analysts have been included in the reviews of these critically important General Motors vehicles.
General Motors describes their current state as an interior renaissance, and these products are examples of smart interior thinking. They include a level of interior detail not before seen from the General. As these products were developed with a clean slate, new platform, new interiors, new powertrain, GM took the opportunity to make sure they will be easy to live with.
The second- and third-row folding operations are simple and easy to use and the overall package is terrific. One could buy any one of these vehicles and spend the life of the vehicle discovering all the little things that will add up to a product that enhances and eases daily life. It’s taken GM a very long time to get to such a solid package design, but they have finally succeeded.
For a dyed-in-the-wool cynic, it’d be easy to dismiss the Lincoln MKX as little more than a tarted up Ford Edge. MKX could be another case of a redressed everyman’s car devised by sinister marketing types to pick the pockets of the gullible wealthy. Sure it uses the same platform, drivetrain, chassis bits and much of the sheetmetal with the more affordably priced, er, Ford. But this kind of misanthropic thinking sells the premium-badged vehicle short in many ways. Frankly, AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents were suitably impressed by the MKX and how different it was from the Edge.
For starters, Lincolns spun off high-volume Ford products have been the norm rather than the exception over the luxury nameplate’s 85 years of Ford ownership. After a calamitous attempt at building overweight Mercury and Lincoln vehicles off a common platform in 1949, both brands pretty much fell into lockstep with the lowly Ford. Other than a couple of other unsuccessful tries to build stand-alone Lincolns in mid-fifties for a decade or so, common sense (and rising development costs) meant Lincolns would have to be derived from higher volume platforms.
For 2006 Lincoln got its own version of Ford’s latest mid-size sedan the Fusion. With specific sheetmetal at both ends and a unique interior the shortest car to ever carry a Lincoln badge was dubbed the Zephyr. A name for Lincoln’s illustrious past, the original Zephyrs were more modern than the KB-Series the company had been offering. They were also far more affordable carrying sticker prices a fraction of the essentially hand-built KBs.
While the latest Zephyr didn’t carry quite the same type of pricing relative to a Town Car, it did share the original Zephyr’s mission of bringing new customers to Lincoln. And while the new Zephyr sold beyond many people’s (and Lincoln’s own) expectations, a bit of Town Car style old-think found its way into the 2006 model… specifically its chassis setup. Timing constraints meant the Zephyr would have to carry over the entire drivetrain from the Fusion. This meant a modern but workmanlike 221HP 3.0L V6 and a pleasant Aisin-sourced 6-speed automatic gearbox. The Fusion’s front drive chassis was employed and received some minor, but as it turned out, rather unsettling tuning. Somebody decided that since the Zephyr was going to be a Lincoln it should ride like one. But apparently this was interpreted to mean Town Car rather than “Lincoln.” Compared to the original donor vehicle the Zephyr was softer with a far more “floaty” ride than the Fusion. The Zephyr was also shod with a V-rated “ride tire.” Biased for comfort and low-tread noise over adhesion, the Zephyr turned out to be a car better suited to riding in the passenger seat than sitting behind the steering wheel.
The Hyundai Elantra is one of a string of all new Compact Cars introduced recently (September 2006): 2007 Nissan Sentra, 2006 Honda Civic, Kia Spectra… and smaller entries: 2007 Hyundai Accent, 2007 Nissan Versa, 2007 Toyota Yaris, 2007 Honda Fit. So, the competitive set for Elantra is very busy with better and better cars. AutoPacific was on hand for the media launch of the Elantra that included a drive from Santa Monica to Ojai.
More Expressive Styling
The Elantra meets its competition head on. Wider (+2.0-inches) and taller (+2.2-inches), Elantra is much larger than before with its interior volume rating now in the Mid-Size Class. Among its facing competitors, only Sentra also is rated as a Mid-Size Car in interior volume. Hyundai brags that Elantra has a larger interior than the Acura TL.
While Elantra’s size may be its major distinguishing attribute, its style is more expressive than before, but Elantra is still not a head-turner. Side surfacing is more distinctive using rising contours reminiscent of the first generation Santa Fe crossover SUV, but not so contrived. The hood has a slight power bulge flowing into an evolutionary Elantra grille. While its stance is more purposeful than before, the standard P195/65TR15 tires are too anemic looking. The P205/55HR16s on the SE and Limited models look better, but still don’t give the car the beefier appearance we prefer.
The 2007 Hyundai Tiburon, launched in November 2006 improves Hyundai’s entry into the sporty car category. Hyundai expects to sell about 18,000 Tiburon coupes per year in the dwindling sporty coupe market. Its primary competitors are the more expensive Mitsubishi Eclipse and the less expensive, but much less fully-equipped, Scion tC. You can also throw the Honda Civic coupe and coupe Si in the competitive set.
Distinctive Touch – Shades of Aston Martin Gills
At a Glance – No Change – But Styling Details Improve
Basically a minor facelift with interior upgrades, the 2007 Tiburon gets what the industry calls a new “front and rear six (inches)”. The front fascia and hood are new. The hood has longitudinal strakes that are becoming somewhat of a Hyundai signature – if only they would be consistent and put them on everything. The front fascia is stronger looking than previous with the car now getting projector headlamps. The taillamps are new – adopting a projector-like design that is all the rage.
Not to be left out of the gill wars, Hyundai added gills to the conveniently styled bodyside strakes of the Tiburon. Nice touch that moves the Tiburon a bit away from its competition.
As luck would have it, VehicleVoice and AutoPacific staff had the chance to drive the Audi S6 and S8 this October, after spending time in the RS4 in spring and summer (click for our RS4 driving impressions and general overview). Audi’s high-performance sedans have provided some of our happiest driving hours this year.
Hierarchy Weakens S6
Seemingly as an effort to carve out a niche for the S6, Audi has given it a middle of the road personality; it is sporting, but not as involving as the RS4. It is nearly as powerful as the S8, but doesn’t offer as much luxury or presence. The S6 is a nice, powerful sedan. But the more involving driving experience of the RS4 is worth the loss in interior room compared with S6. And the S6 doesn’t fill power and luxury shoes nearly as well as the S8, even keeping in mind the S8′s $92,000 base price.
The 450HP S8 and the 435HP S6 share a 5.2L V10. The S6′s exhaust is tuned for a higher, sportier note, but the S8 gets a throatier and more pleasing rumble. The S8′s deeper tenor supports its powerful personality. Both are tuned to deliver 90 percent of their 398 pound-feet peak torque starting at 2500 rpm, so putting your foot in the throttle always brings the immediate rewards of acceleration and the pleasing exhaust notes.
The V10 gets a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission that is smooth and quiet in both applications, and the S6′s Sport button can liven up the experience. All in all, I’d rather have a manual for the smaller S6. Its mix of a stiff chassis, superb sport seats, and power is let down by the lack of a manual and, by extension, a lack of driver involvement. The automatic is at home in the S8, with its more remote and powerful personality.
Selecting an Audi S car, understated as they are, can bring the admiration of those who know what to look for and keep those who don’t away. One of the coolest elements of the S6 is the daytime running lights under each headlight; each bank has five white LEDs to honor the V10 under the hood.
The S6 offers a usual Audi quality interior and uplevel equipment, with wonderful sport seats (the S8 seats tip to the comfortable side of the scale) wrapped in silk nappa leather. The S6 does not offer as many features as the S8, including the ultra-special Bang & Olufsen stereo, but does come with more stuff than the RS4.
The introduction of the all new Ford Edge crossover SUV is arguably the most significant launch in the United States for the 2007 model year. It certainly is for Ford Motor Company. And, Edge brings the knowledge of Ford’s decades of SUV dominance into the equation. One Ford competitor has described the Edge as the “Mustang of Crossovers” meaning that Edge could have Mustang-like impact on the crossover SUV world.
Ford’s Mark Fields Introduces the Edge in San Francisco
Ford invited VehicleVoice
correspondents to review the Edge in San Francisco. They had a reveal in an Embarcadero-side park where Mark Fields, Ford’s North American Chief gave a brief synopsis of the importance of this new crossover SUV in Ford’s lineup. Fields turned over the duty of describing the details of the Edge to Geri Ward, Ford’s Edge Brand Marketing Manager. A former powertrain engineer, Ward brought technical knowledge with a marketing spin to her pitch.
Ford’s Geri Ward – Edge Brand Marketing Manager
Walking over to a Subaru Legacy doesn’t usually get my blood pumping or adrenaline going. The Subaru marqué typically conjures up visions of moving to Oregon, growing a beard or taking hikes through the redwood forest in my Birkenstocks. So, when asked to test-drive the Legacy sedan over the weekend I didn’t exactly burst into the parking lot skipping with glee. However, my experience with this sedan over the weekend would prove to be unbelievable. It has changed the way I look at Subarus… and Subaru owners…
In fact, as VehicleVoice and AutoPacific staff members drove the Legacy, opinions shifted.
The Subaru Legacy GT Spec.B
lives at the top of the Subaru food chain and does for the Legacy what the WRX STI did for the Impreza. It gives consumers a performance option and turns this four-door sedan into the ultimate Legacy. Relatively the same size as a Mazda6
the Legacy Spec.B is a fairly refined sport sedan with an edge.
Dodge showed concept and production versions of Nitro at the Chicago Auto Show, in 2005 and 2006 respectively (click for our coverage of the 2006 reveal). In September, VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents had our first opportunity to drive it. Starting at Broadway Pier in the San Diego Harbor, we drove the Nitro on a long, winding route to Palm Springs.
Related to the Jeep Liberty
and built in the same facility, Nitro is bigger, has an all-new suspension, and is optimized for the on-road side of life. Entering this segment late, Dodge’s best opportunity for creating a buzz was exterior styling or innovative new interior features. Dodge saw an opportunity for an in-your-face look with a decidedly male-oriented bias and went for it; the brand’s established in-your-face attitude would be best supported by an aggressive, in-your-face mid-size SUV and there aren’t many of those out there already. Nitro competes with soft-road or crossover SUV entries including Toyota RAV4
, Saturn VUE
, and latest Mitsubishi Outlander
as well as with more traditional SUVs Nissan Xterra
, Kia Sorento
, and Jeep’s own Liberty. In this arena, only the Xterra wears strongly masculine styling.