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2006 Kia Sedona

The second iteration of Kia’s Sedona minivan arrives at dealers in late 2005 for the 2006 model year. Using a platform shared with the new-for-2006MY Hyundai Sonata (NF) and next-generation Kia Optima, the latest Sedona meets the competition nearly feature for feature. Larger and more upscale, this Sedona will go head to head with the new larger, more contemporary minivans from Honda, Toyota, and Nissan and likely do it at a lower price point.
The Sedona gains size, features, utility, and a bigger engine. Replacing the existing unit will be a 240+HP 3.8L V6 being introduced to the Hyundai/Kia product range in the minivan. In the Sedona, the V6 is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. This will put Sedona in the middle of the pack from a power standpoint, giving more than the General Motors minivans (200HP, Chevrolet Uplander, Pontiac Montana SV6, Saturn Relay, and Buick Terraza), Toyota Sienna (230HP), and perhaps the Nissan Quest (240HP), but likely less than the Honda Odyssey (255HP).
With the change, the third row now flips and folds into the floor and the second-row seats are also a one-touch fold setup, features which Kia could not have left out and still been competitive. Among the premium convenience features that will be optional on the Sedona are power sliding doors and liftgate, rear-parking sensor, power adjustable pedals, power sunroof, premium sound system with DVD player, and leather seating with heat for the front seats.
Expect aggressive pricing, as well as a high level of standard features, including six airbags (the curtain airbags extending to all three rows), ABS, triple-zone air conditioning, cruise control, and captain’s chairs in the second row. Stepping up to the next trim level adds items including a chrome grille, heated power mirrors, and the power sliding doors.

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2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser

Toyota plans to add yet another SUV to its lineup with the FJ Cruiser, which launches in early 2006 as a 2007MY vehicle. The FJ Cruiser introduced in Chicago is a development of a 2003 NAIAS concept bearing the same name. In fact, differences between the concept and production model are minimal. The FJ Cruiser unveiled at the 2005 Chicago auto show was a prototype of the production exterior; the interior has not yet been shown. The new Toyota will be an entry-level unit with pricing promised to stay within the realm of affordability for the younger buyers it is aimed at. It offers a much more rugged, outgoing, and aggressive personality than the RAV4, or any other Toyota SUV.
The FJ Cruiser takes styling cues from the FJ 40, otherwise known as the first Toyota Land Cruiser, but puts them into a completely modern package. Among the FJ 40 cues are the upright windshield, wraparound rear windows, and white cap. The five-passenger, stwo-door FJ is aimed at young male buyers with athletic, adventurous lifestyles, and includes rear access doors. Along with the rugged look exterior and on- and off-road capability, its pricing is promised to be aggressive and affordable. Toyota’s initial sales target is 40,000 units annually, though the company expects they could sell more.
The 2003 FJ Cruiser concept got show-car power from a 250HP 3.4L V6 massaged by Toyota Racing Development (TRD) and rode on twenty-inch wheels, but the production car will offer Toyota’s 245HP 4.0L V6. The V6 will get a five-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission. An automatic limited-slip differential will be standard with the 4×2 models, and a fully locking differential will be optional. The FJ will launch with standard vehicle stability control, traction control, and ABS. For a platform, Toyota has looked to its successful 4Runner, though the FJ Cruiser is nearly eleven inches shorter in overall length.
When the FJ Cruiser reaches showrooms in early 2006 as a 2007 model-year vehicle, standard convenience features are planned to include CD player with MP3 capability, air conditioning, and tilt steering wheel. The fairly long options will include items like seventeen-inch alloy wheels, running boards, rear sonar backup assist, front-seat-mounted side airbags as well as side curtain airbags for front and rear passengers, rear-parking assist, an upgraded stereo system, and interior accents in the exterior color.

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2006 Mercury Milan

Mercury is getting much needed new-product investment as part of Ford’s more new products, faster campaign and had several announcements at the 2005 Chicago auto show. As well as the Milan, Mercury announced it is bringing a hybrid to the Mariner for 2006, a year earlier than initially planned, and introduced a redesign of the Mountaineer. Though the platform supporting Milan is found under Lincoln Zephyr as well as Ford Fusion, the Milan shares more with the Fusion than the Zephyr.
Milan targets buyers in the 26-to-35 age bracket with a stylish, contemporary entry. Mercury family cues include satin aluminum accents inside and out as well as the signature waterfall grille. The interior can be had in black or two-tone, with either satin accents or wood. While as many as six airbags can be ordered on Milan, they are not standard. The standard equipment list does, however, include a power six-way drivers seat, remote keyless entry, and power heated sideview mirrors.
The architecure used for the Milan, Fusion, and Zephyr began as the Mazda6, but is wider and longer and is not the same platform per se. It uses different suspension components, geometry, and different stampings. Though derived from the Mazda 6, the Milan gains about two inches in wheelbase and width. This translates into exterior dimensions and interior room that will be vital for success in this segment.
This four-door, five-passenger unitbody sedan offers a fully independent suspension. The front is a short and long-arm arrangement, with a multi-link setup in the rear. Power is from the oft-used Ford 210HP Duratec 3.0L DOHC 24v V6, though the Mazda 160HP 2.3L DOHC 16v I4 serves as the base engine. A five-speed manual is the standard transmission, with a six-speed automatic mated to the V6 engine.


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2006 Cadillac DTS

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Though heavily revised for the 2006 model year, Cadillac’s largest and best-selling sedan remains as the only front-wheel-drive Cadillac. With the 2006MY, however, the entry falls in line with the current Cadillac naming strategy to wear the name DTS instead of DeVille. Sales are set to begin in fall 2005.
For 2006, styling is freshened and brought in line with the Cadillac’s Art & Science design philosophy. Specifically, new sheetmetal includes the front end, the decklid, and the rear quarter. The grille, front and rear fascias, headlights (standard xenon), and taillights and CHMSL (both LED style) are also new. There are larger wheels and tires for DTS, with standard seventeen- or optional eighteen-inch sets available.
DTS will be offered in only one exterior and interior trim level, though there are a variety of option packages. The 4.6L Northstar V8 continues as the sole powerplant, offered in 275HP and 290HP versions and mated to the four-speed automatic transmission. Though the platform carries over for the DTS, it was refined and retuned and the front cradle design is new. Buick updated its entry on this platform for 2006MY as well, also implementing a name change from LeSabre to Lucerne. The DTS and Lucerne shared an introduction at the 2005 Chicago auto show.
GM is introducing its latest advancement in front passenger airbags with the DTS (and Lucerne). These dual-depth airbags use vehicle sensors to deploy the airbag in one of two sizes and speeds, depending on passenger size, seat location, and other factors. DTS also offers standard seat-mounted side-impact and roof-rail mounted airbags. IntelliBeam automatic high-beam headlamps are also standard.
DTS gets a long list of available convenience features, befitting its place in the Cadillac lineup. These include heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, three-zone climate control, heated windshield washer fluid, power folding sideview mirrors, remote start, adaptive cruise control, and DVD navigation system. All GM cars will offer standard OnStar by 2007MY and StabiliTrak by 2010MY; the DTS launches with both standard.


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2006 Buick Lucerne

Buick will retires the LeSabre name with its 2006 model-year lineup and replaces it with the Lucerne. Lucerne is a major change and redesign to the LeSabre, which uses the same platform as Cadillac’s best-selling sedan. The DeVille is also revised for 2006MY, and renamed DTS.
Lucerne will be the first Buick to offer a V8 in ten years, using the 275HP 4.6L DOHC 32v V8 that serves as the base engine in the DTS. The 3.8L OHV V6 carries on as the base engine, and both are mated to four-speed automatic transmissions.
Several standard and optional features, also found on the Cadillac DTS, will be Buick firsts, including Magnetic Ride Control (paired with StabiliTrak), heated washer fluid, and dual-depth passenger airbag. Not only does the airbag sense the passenger and deploy at one of two speeds, there are two sizes, with a smaller bag deploying when the car senses a smaller person or a less severe impact. Six airbags will be standard, including side and roof-rail airbags. Lucerne will also offer a DVD navigation system.
Buick styling cues adorning the conservative Lucerne include chrome-accented portholes on either front quarter panel, chrome-tipped exhaust, and the vertical Buick grille. Lucerne will be offered in three trim levels, with one intended to take up the LeSabre place and an uplevel version hoping to satisfy would-be Park Avenue buyers, as the Park has fallen from production.


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Hyundai Portico – Chicago Auto Show

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As the SUV market slowly matures and minivans, while stable, do not enjoy much growth, manufacturer are again looking at family transportation alternatives. At the same time, Hyundai is expanding into new segments as they push for more sales, and has said they plan to bring two seven-passenger vehicles to market within the next couple of years. One is likely to be a version of the new-for-2006MY Kia Sedona, but the 2005 Chicago auto show Portico concept explores possibilities for the second vehicle. Described at its 2005 Chicago introduction as the next generation of family transport, the Portico’s silhouette is along the direction of the upcoming Mercedes-Benz R-Class or Chrysler Pacifica.
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Portico incorporates relatively new solutions to the issue of carrying both people and stuff. Similar to the Honda Edix launched in Europe last year, the Portico featured two rows of seats with three passengers in each. The middle seat could be staggered to keep the center passenger from feeling sandwiched, or it could be folded if not needed. The benefit of keeping all six passengers in two rows is more cargo space behind the seats. Making access easier were pillarless front-hinged front doors and rear-hinged rear doors, an arrangement not likely to reach production. Modern conveniences included a DVD rear-seat entertainment system and DVD navigation and a panoramic glass roof. Should a variation of Portico reach production, the interior would likely be more conservative than the wild purple scheme of the concept.
The Portico concept was shown with Hyundai’s Lambda V6, but is being designed to also accommodate a Hyundai hybrid system under development. Both powertrains are expected to be available in a production model.


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2006 Mercury Mountaineer

For the 2006 model year, both Mercury Mountaineer and Ford Explorer get a major redesign. To help generate interest in Mercury and display a commitment to the brand, the Mountaineer was introduced at the 2005 Chicago Auto Show, ahead of the redesigned Explorer and alongside the all-new Milan. Mercury also took the opportunity in Chicago to announce that the hybrid version of the Mariner would come a year early, for 2006 instead of 2007.
The redesigned Mountaineer enters 2006MY with revised exterior styling, an all-new interior, and an updated platform. The new styling, inside and out, is meant to convey Mercury’s design vision of modern design, smartly done. Mercury displays a contemporary, technical look through its selection of interior materials and satin aluminum exterior accents.
Exterior design updates include a new grille and revised headlights at the front. The waterfall theme carries over, accentuated by a new front fascia and rectangular fog lamps. Below the grille is a satin aluminum on the center section of the bumper, promised to be a new design cue for Mercury products. The shape of the side mirrors was revised for better NVH, as well as being larger for better visibility. The rear gets a new tailgate and clear taillamp lenses, as well as a satin aluminum strip in the rear bumper strip. Seventeen-inch wheels are standard, with optional eighteen-inchers.
The all-new interior gives Mercury boosted functionality and versions of features from its bigger brother Navigator. Among them are integrated power running boards and power-fold third-row seats, which also now fold 50/50. Both third- and second-row seats fold, but now create a flat load floor. The third row is now a stadium seating style, allowing the rear-most passengers a sightline out the windshield and side windows. The instrument panel, center stack, gearshift lever, seats, and door handles are all new.
Along with a stiffer frame, the mechanical changes include a revised front and all-new rear suspension. The transmission is upgraded to six speeds and the engine to 292HP as the 4.6L V6 gets three valves instead of two.


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2005 S65 AMG

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Though the next-generation S-Class is due to arrive later in 2005, at the 2005 Chicago auto show, Mercedes announced the quickest four-door sedan currently available. Along with the S65, Mercedes announced a new 268HP 3.5L DOHC 24v V6 for the E-class range.
The S65 AMG gets a 6.0L twin-turbo V12 with 604HP, an engine already available in the SL65 AMG and CL65 AMG. Mercedes claims a 0-to-60-mph time of 4.2 seconds, making it the quickest four-door car currently available. To deal with the extra power, the S65 gets Mercedes active body control suspension, AMG spring struts with firmer damping, the ESP stability control and traction control systems were revised, and brakes were beefed up.
Styling cues differentiating this powerful monster from lesser S-Class siblings include an AMG front apron with large cooling air intake, side skirts that follow the line of the front apron, a “V12 Biturbo” badge on each front fender, and two sets of chrome twin tailpipes in the rear. Wheels are nineteen inches, though the fronts are a bit smaller than the rear.

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Dodge Nitro

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Dodge is developing a truck-based mid-size SUV, and the Nitro concept introduced at the 2005 Chicago auto show is a look at what the product might look like. The concept explores adding Dodge’s aggressive attitude to a mid-size SUV, looking to the Jeep Liberty for components and a starting platform.
The Nitro bears Dodge’s signature crosshair grille and bright red exterior paint, for a look that would slot in nicely alongside the Magnum, Ram, and Charger, as well as suggesting Dodge will further evolve this look with other products during the second half of this decade. Jewel-like headlights bore a rectangular shape (avoiding the round headlights that Jeep prefers). Silver and chrome accents could be found in the satin silver and black-trimmed roof rack and crossbars, chrome dual exhaust tail pipes, a brushed silver license plate, and in the brushed silver vents on either side of the SUV.
The satin silver continued inside, most notably on the center console, though also found on the control buttons, door handles, gauges, speakers, and assist handles. The concept interior also featured black and red two-tone interior, and a seven-inch LED screen with DVD navigation, something not found on most mid-size SUVs. The interior holds five people in two rows, with the second row and front passenger seat folding flat. Among the functional interior touches is a cargo bed that slides out for easier loading and unloading, and is also made of a tough, durable vinyl for easy cleaning. The Nitro shown focused on a solid package for seating five, as Dodge has the Durango for those who need to haul more passengers in an SUV and the Caravan for those more comfortable in a minivan.
As Dodge’s upcoming SUV is expected to share with the Jeep Liberty, but the Nitro indicates Dodge is looking for a larger entry than the Liberty. Compared with Liberty, the wheelbase of the Nitro concept was stretched four inches to about 108 inches and Nitro offers a longer rear overhang. The concept featured two rows of seats and a clever easy-load sliding surface (strong enough for people to sit on and tailgate). The Nitro borrowed its 210HP 3.7L V6, four-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel-drive system from the Liberty.


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New Civic Si Concept

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At the 2005 Chicago auto show, Honda showed off a nearly production concept of the next Civic. As the current Civic suffered from some criticism from the influential and passionate tuner market, the concept was shown in Si form. If the concept is any indication, this time around, the Si will be a coupe, however, and not a hatchback. Honda indicated that the concept was 90% production.
At the same time, Honda announced a tighter relationship with this year’s Specialty Equipment Market Association show in November, where Honda will be the official vehicle manufacturer. The production Si will be introduced at the 2005 SEMA show, which caters to the aftermarket and tuner markets, a highly important segment of Civic sales. The Si will get a 200HP VTEC mated to a six-speed manual transmission; the concept wore eighteen-inch wheels and tires and a large but relatively conservative spoiler. Styling is sleek and streamlined, with a very short hood and wheel wells wrapping around the concept’s eighteen-inch wheels and tires.
For the rest of the Civic range, the sedan and coupe will also arrive in fall 2005. An updated hybrid will be offered and Civic will continue to offer a natural-gas-powered version.

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