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Kia’s Latest Optima Unveiled in Detroit

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Reality and Fantasy on Kia’s 2006 North American International Auto Show Stand
Alongside a vision for a small car-based utility in the form of the Soul concept, Kia introduced the second generation of its Optima sedan at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents at the show have reported back on their first look.
The Optima was first launched for the 2001 model year, and is related to the Hyundai Sonata. After serving Kia well for a little more than five years, the latest version arrives at dealerships in spring 2006 as a 2006.5 model year vehicle. An international version went on sale in late 2005. Though the Hyundai Sonatas sold in this market are now built in this market and those sold internationally are built in Korea, Optima production continues solely in Korea.
Differences between the Optima offered in the States and that in international markets are minimal. Compared with the first generation, Optima brings a longer wheelbase and a some extra width, resulting in a bit more interior passenger room and more cargo volume in the trunk. The U.S. Optima is available with the Global Engine Alliance 162HP 2.4L DOHC 16v I4 and the updated 185HP 2.7L V6. The I4 can be had with a five-speed manual transmission, but most models will be equipped with the four-speed automatic.
The new Optima is no longer the clone of the Hyundai Sonata its predecessor was. Clearly, Hyundai Motor Corporation is using the introduction of the new Optima to further differentiate Kia from Hyundai. The new made-in-America Sonata is clearly more upmarket than the Optima. It is larger and has a larger V6 engine. While Kia likely would have preferred a larger, more powerful Optima, the new car will fit with its lineup strategy very well.


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Hyundai HCD-9 Talus Explores Luxury Sport Coupe

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Along with introducing the latest version of their Santa_Fe SUV, at the 2006 North American International Auto Show Hyundai showed off the HCD-9 Talus concept. Though the Talus was just one of the vehicles that Vehicle Voice and AutoPacific correspondents saw during the auto show’s media days, its design was among the more striking. The Talus explores what might happen by mixing a coupe with an SUV, though other concepts over the years have tested this water as well. Hyundai is looking to inspire buyers who are used to the benefits of an SUV but also are looking for sports car styling and performance.
Along with sharing an introduction, there is a similar theme to both the Talus and Santa Fe grilles and headlights, indicating this is the future direction for Hyundai styling and further emphasizing the concept’s relationship to SUVs. Hyundai called the HCD-9 Talus the future of the sports car segment, as it offers sporty car attributes along with space for four and SUV attributes.
It is a bit early to conclude they will build the Talus specifically, though styling cues from the concept and even the rear-wheel-drive platform could be seen on a replacement for the Tiburon due by the end of the decade.


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Hyundai Santa Fe All New for 2007

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Believe it or not, one of the most anticipated new vehicles introduced at the 2006 North American Auto Show in Detroit is the 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe mid-size SUV. VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) are watching this introduction very, very closely because it will demonstrate the strength of Hyundai’s research and development process and ability to produce quality products at its new assembly plant in Alabama.
This it the second generation Santa Fe. The first Santa Fe surprised pundits when it turned out to be a darn good vehicle and actually won four of the five AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Awards during its five years in production. The Santa Fe turned out to be a good value, good quality, highly warranted, if quirkily styled sport utlity vehicle what out-pointed products like the Ford Escape and Toyota Highlander in owner satisfaction.
Hyundai has high expectations for the new Santa Fe and hopes to fill half of its Montgomery, Alabama plant with Santa Fe volume. The other half of the capacity is devoted to the new Sonata sedan. Assuming quality is top-notch and Hyundai can maintain its value proposition and strong warranty coverage, the Santa Fe promises to be a winner.
The Hyundai press release for the Santa Fe is shown below.


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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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Long Live Yaris, Toyota Echo is Dead!

VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) have been strong advocates of replacing the bottom of Toyota’s lineup – the Echo – in the USA with the Yaris. The Echo was an unlucky car. Echo was designed for the lowest common denominator buyer and was ugly to boot. Sure it was inexpensive, but it was an embarrassment to be seen in. A Hyundai Accent was a better choice especially with its 100,000 mile powertrain warranty.
Echo and Yaris are essentially the same car, but somehow Echo’s styling came across as terminally dorky and Yaris looks sophisticated. The conventional wisdom is that hatchbacks don’t sell in the USA and cars need to have trunks to sell here. Well, an ugly car with a trunk won’t sell anywhere. Thankfully, Toyota Motor Sales USA convinced its Japanese parent company to bring the critically acclaimed Yaris into the USA in lieu of the Echo.
Toyota will add a Yaris 4-door sedan and 3-door hatchback to its line-up in Spring 2006.
Here is the press release Toyota released announcing the launch of Yaris…
European Favorite Toyota Yaris Arrives in U.S. in All-New Liftback and Sedan Versions
toyota-yaris-sh-01.jpg
2007 Toyota Yaris 4-door sedan and 3-door hatchback
12/26/2005, Torrance, CA: The 2007 Toyota Yaris will make its U.S. debut when it arrives in showrooms this spring in four-door Sedan and three-door Liftback configurations.
First launched in Europe in 1999, the Yaris was named the 2000 European “Car of the Year” and has become Toyota’s best-selling model in the European market. In fact, Yaris was also named “Japan Car of the Year,” marking the first time the same vehicle captured both honors in the same year. For the U.S., the Yaris will replace the ECHO in the subcompact passenger-car segment.
“As Toyota’s most affordable passenger car, the Yaris will feature contemporary exterior styling and a surprising upscale interior,” said Jim Lentz, Toyota division group vice president and general manager. “It will be one of the most economic and youthful passenger cars Toyota has built in the subcompact category.”
The Yaris Liftback will be offered in one grade, while the Sedan will offer two grades, adding a sport-themed Yaris S.


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Hyundai Santa Fe Set for Detroit Debut

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Though already on sale in Korea, an unveiling of the next U.S.-spec Hyundai Santa Fe will be at the 2006 Detroit auto show in January. Production will start at Hyundai’s new Alabama assembly plant in Spring 2006 for a Summer launch. Though details on the North American version have not been entirely laid out by Hyundai, educated guesses can be made. Exterior styling will be similar if not identical to the Korean-market version launched in November 2005.

Hyu_06_SantaFe_KR.jpg


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2005 Equinox & Santa Fe Tie For AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

Chevrolet Equinox and Hyundai Santa Fe Tie for AutoPacific 2005 Standard Mid-Size Sport Utility Vehicle Satisfaction Award

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“Owners of the all-new Equinox rate their vehicle at the top of its category. We knew Equinox was something special when it was first shown at the North American International Auto Show. These results confirm our initial impression. A truly international product, Equinox is assembled in Canada and uses a V6 engine made in China. Nothing wrong with that combination according to its owners.”
“The Hyundai Santa Fe continues its string of category-leading performances. Santa Fe has won or tied in its category for four of the five years it has been on the market. This is a testament to Santa Fe’s strong combination of product competence, value and warranty. Santa Fe satisfies its owners and continues to help Hyundai build its brand image in the United States.”


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