Nissan Titan Wins AutoPacific 2005 Large Light-Duty Pickup Vehicle Satisfaction Award
Owners of the 2005 Nissan Titan rate the pickup not only at the top of its Large Light-Duty Pickup category, but also as the top rated vehicle overall. This is an outstanding accomplishment and testament to the satisfaction Titan is giving its owners.
Titan’s achievement is truly remarkable and demonstrates the inherent differences in AutoPacific’s way of measuring satisfaction compared with others. Titan is immensely satisfying, but owner surveys conducted by others show Titan has a fair share of niggling problems. But, if you are not counting things gone wrong and looking at what really matters – how well buyers are satisfied – Titan shines. Its big, powerful V8 engine combined with outstanding styling and features provide the top-satisfying product package for 2005.
“We cannot ignore that two large trucks produced at Nissan’s Canton Mississippi assembly plant won top place in their categories for 2005 – Nissan Titan and Nissan Armada. Nissan’s third large truck – the luxury Infiniti QX56 also rated very well. This is a sweep any company can be envious of.
AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Awards are given to top rated vehicles for satisfaction in their vehicle category based on owner responses to an annual national mail survey.
Jaguar XJ Wins AutoPacific 2005 Luxury Car Vehicle Satisfaction Award
Owners of the Jaguar XJ rate the XJ highest in the Luxury Car category. The rating for XJ comes from especially strong results for exterior and interior styling, image, fun-to-drive and ease of use. XJ’s traditional and sensuous Jaguar styling resonate with its buyers and its dynamic qualities reinforce its outstanding looks.
In a close race to the finish with the 2005 Lexus LS430, the Jaguar XJ nosed ahead because of the more subjective ratings given by its owners. Styling, image, fun to drive were all rated higher than the LS430. German luxury cars, interestingly, were rated substantially lower by their owners primarily because of ease of use and niggling reliability problems that took their vehicles to the dealer service department more often.
AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Awards are given for category wins based on owner responses to an annual national mail survey.
Nissan Maxima Wins AutoPacific 2005 Entry Luxury Car Vehicle Satisfaction Award for the Second Year in a Row – Top Rated Car
Maxima has topped the Nissan lineup since the early eighties and the 2005 model continues the success Nissan achieved when the car was all new in 2004. For 2005, Maxima, in fact, is the top rated car overall. In a broad vehicle segment where Maxima is actually the least expensive entry, it wins with a combination of distinctive styling, good quality, excellent value and a healthy dose of product excitement. Maxima successfully balances value and flair in a way that clearly attracts American entry-luxury buyers.
AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award is given to top ranking vehicles in their product category based on the results from owner responses to a national mail survey.
Dodge is expanding its bragging rights in the full-size pickup truck market, even if sales of the Ram are consistently below rivals Ford F-150 and GMC Sierra/Chevrolet Silverado. The next addition to the Ram lineup, the Dodge Ram Mega Cab, arrives in summer 2005 as a 2006 model-year vehicle. Described by Dodge public relations as their Texas hauler, they expect the Mega Cab to do for pickups what Stow-n-Go has done for minivans. While not disclosing volume targets, Dodge believes the Mega Cab will be a high-volume Ram derivative.
By taking the 160.5-inch heavy-duty wheelbase and using a six-foot, three-inch bed instead of the eight-foot bed, Dodge gained twenty inches and put it in the crew cab; nearly all of the extra space went to the second row. Dodge will offer the Ram Mega Cab only in heavy-duty configuration, with the HEMI or Cummins diesel engines.
Along with the 2500-pound payload and 16,000-pound towing capacity of the HD truck, the interior offers the first second-row truck seats that include room enough to recline as well as to slide fore and aft. These seats fold 60/40 (without removing the headrests) for a flat cargo floor, creating 71 cubic feet in cargo room. With the seats up, available cargo space is 7.6 cubic feet, and there are several closed storage cubbies behind the second-row seats. The cab has a whopping 145.2 cubic feet interior volume overall, and at 111.1 inches long is more than a foot longer than the F-150 Crew Cab. Making ingress and egress of both people and stuff into the second row easier are doors that open a full 88 degrees.
The Mega Cab will be offered in SLT and Laramie trim levels, with available conveniences including heated seats, power sliding rear window, rear-seat DVD entertainment system, full-screen navigation, and adjustable pedals.
With the changes to the seating, Dodge also tweaked the face of the truck (sides and rear remain the same) and the rest of the interior. Among the changes are a new crosshair grille even more Magnum-like; new headlights; and a new lower front fascia. The instrument panel and center stack take on some cues from the Dakota as well.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.