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.”
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.
Reflex Introduction at 2006 NAIAS
It is said around town that Ford is considering how and when they may re-enter the (very) small-car segment, which includes cars priced from around $10,000 to $15,000 or so fully equipped. This segment is expected to see substantial growth over the next several years. These cars are smaller in size than entries like the Ford Focus or Honda Civic, and most typically wear sedan or hatchback bodystyles. Chevrolet’s Aveo, Toyota’s all-new Yaris and the defunct Echo, the Scion xA, the Hyundai Accent and Kia’s Rio are among examples of vehicles in this segment.
While the 2005 Ford SynUS concept explored the possibilities a boxy urban vehicle might provide (certainly in part inspired by the Scion xB), on the 2006 auto show circuit the concept is for a sporty small car that takes into account room for small children. Enter the Reflex. Reactions by VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) analysts are very positive.
First Pictures: 2006 Dodge Challenger Concept
There is much hype this January about the Dodge Challenger concept, with conversations about the potential coupe’s marketability and the wisdom of reviving an icon seemingly everywhere, including on this blog.
Though the unveiling at the Detroit auto show is still a few days away, the first pictures have found their way into the public arena, so here they are available for VehicleVoice and AutoPacific to use. Has Chrysler’s Pacifica Studio succeeded in bringing back the 1970 Challenger as we wished it were, folding all the advances of the past twenty-five years into a package that still resonates with the 1970 look and feel?
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.
Saab Explores Ethanol-Compatible Powerplant for U.S. Lineup
Automakers often use the Los Angeles Auto Show as the venue to launch their new “green” concepts. Saab revealed its 9-5 Aero Bio-Power Concept at the 2006 LA auto show in January. This 9-5 Aero delivers 310HP from a high-pressure turbocharged 2.3L engine optimized to run on E85 ethanol or on gasoline. While Saab began offering a 2.0t BioPower 9-5 in Sweden in 2005 (and resulting in surprisingly high sales due to Swedish incentives to use bio-fuels), this concept explores U.S. acceptance to the option.
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.
S65 AMG: Still the Most Powerful Series-Production Sedan
Mercedes-Benz has been hard at work adding new products to its portfolio with the R-Class, upcoming GL-Class, all-new M-Class, and European-market B-Class all arriving within a sixteen-month span, but the company has not left behind its flagship S-Class sedan. The choice of dignitaries everywhere was officially introduced at the 2005 Frankfurt auto show, ahead of late 2005 sales in Europe.
Mercedes saved the introduction of the currently fastest version of the S-Class for North America, however. The latest S65 AMG is being introduced at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in January. Though the GL-Class is expected alongside the S65 AMG, the S65 will retain the title of the world’s most powerful production-series sedan, carrying on with the 6.0L biturbo V12. This year, its output has increased slightly to 612HP.
Along with modifications to some of the materials and components in the engine for improved performance and better cooling, there are other AMG touches. Befitting the most powerful series production sedan, it is supported by an AMG sports suspension based on the Active Body Control system and stopped by all-new high-performance composite brakes. The engine continues to be mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Along with specific nineteen-inch wheels, there are the to-be-expected AMG exterior touches. Among them are a redesigned front apron with bigger air intakes, side skirts, and V12 biturbo lettering on the front fenders. Borrowing a page from the Porsche handbook, the S65 AMG introduces AMG’s take on in-car lap-timing software with the RACETIMER system. For those track days, the system stores last lap, average lap, and best lap times as well as the track distance.
Sounds wonderful, but about a month past being able to add it to your Christmas list!
Jim Healey of USA Today reaches similar conclusions as VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) relative to the upcoming Toyota Yaris. Excellent replacement for the Toyota Echo, low entry price, but seems a little expensive when loaded with equipment most American drivers demand.
ATLANTA — Yaris is a small, economy car that will replace the unloved Echo in Toyota’s U.S. lineup this spring, and while it is pleasant enough behind the wheel, Yaris seems to fall short of Toyota’s promise of a premium vehicle at a bargain price.
Two body styles of Toyota’s Yaris are offered in the USA, a four-door sedan and a “liftback.”
Final judgment must wait for specific pricing, which Toyota won’t announce until closer to Yaris’ March or April on-sale date. But $12,000 to start is a fair guess, and for that price you won’t get a radio, possibly not a tachometer, definitely not anti-lock brakes. (Photos/audio: Toyota Yaris with Healey’s comments)
Most of the desirable features are available, for a price. If that strategy bumps Yaris up to, say, $14,000 outfitted as most Americans like, then it will be within a few hundred dollars of bigger, more refined cars such as Honda Civic and Toyota’s own Corolla. Not incidentally, Corolla’s fuel-economy rating is better than Yaris’, and Civic’s is nearly as good, even though both are bigger, heavier and have more-powerful engines.
The industry axiom is “small cars, small profits,” and it’s often true. So why bother introducing a subcompact into the size- and space- and power-loving American market? Because 45% of small-car owners — the most of any segment — eventually trade up to pricier, more-profitable models known as premium compacts, such as Civic and Corolla, according to the Power Information Network. And within that group, a significant number — 30%-plus is common — stay with the same brand, PIN data show.
In other words, buyers captured by small cars don’t require as much expensive persuading to get them to move up through the same car company’s more-profitable models.
Hoping to leverage Yaris’ appeal, Toyota says it put two separate engineering teams to work on two versions of Yaris — a four-door sedan and a two-door hatchback — and kept them apart to encourage independent design.
Toyota calls the hatchback a “liftback,” sensing that “hatchback” remains a pejorative term in the U.S. market.
The sedan is the bigger car, outside and in. The rear seat in the hatchback slides fore-aft to maximize either legroom or cargo space. With the rear seat all the way back, there is plenty of adult legroom. That’s remarkable in such a small vehicle.
The main test vehicle was a two-door hatchback equipped with a five-speed manual transmission.
VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) were impressed with the previous Ford Sport Trac and are more impressed with the new 2007 version of Ford’s Sport Utility Truck. The 1st Sport Trac was a funky, hose-it-out, derivative of a two-generations ago Explorer. In its last year in production, the first gen Sport Trac came within a hair’s breadth of winning AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award for the compact pickup category. This is quite an achieve for a last-year vehicle.
The new Sport Trac goes upscale and more sophisticated and adds a V8 to its powertrain offerings. Adopting the more modern Explorer as its basis, Sport Trac gets an independent rear suspension for the first time.Sport Trac gets Ridgeline-like storage bins in the cargo bed. But the key improvements are the V8 and IRS.
Here is Ford’s press release for the 2007 Explorer Sport Trac….
2007 FORD EXPLORER SPORT TRAC AS UNIQUE AS ITS OWNERS
Ford Explorer Sport Trac Adrenalin Concept
Gone are the days when vehicles fit neatly into one of three categories: truck, van, or car. Today, the automotive landscape is much more complicated, with vehicles for every personality or lifestyle. Leading the way in originality and versatility has been the Ford Sport Trac.
The new 2007 Ford Sport Trac follows the same formula of its predecessor. First launched as a 2001 model and based on the best-selling Ford Explorer, the Sport Trac offered the refinement and five-passenger seating of an SUV with the cargo bed and towing capacity of a pickup truck. Its unique blend of capability and personality has attracted a loyal fan base, whose passion for their vehicles rivals that of Mustang enthusiasts.
In fact, nearly 100 Sport Trac fans attended the unveiling of the 2007 Sport Trac at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas, some driving from as far as San Francisco and Buffalo. What the owners found was the 2007 Sport Trac kept what they loved about their Tracs, and addressed their three biggest requests: a V-8, more towing capacity, and more refinement.
Underhood, Sport Trac features a standard 4.0-liter V-6 and five-speed automatic transmission, rated at 210 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. The big news with the 2007 model, however, is the addition of a V-8.
“Customers have been asking for a V-8 since day one,” says Bryan Olson, Sport Trac marketing manager. “These customers want the added capability and towing capacity, as well as the power and performance that only a V-8 can deliver.”
This V-8, inspired by the one found thumping under the hood of the Mustang GT, is a 4.6-liter, three-valve V-8 delivering 292 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. Paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, the V-8 Sport Trac delivers an impressive maximum 6,800 pounds of towing capacity, and 1,390 pounds of payload.
That payload is stored in the 40 inch-long cargo box, made of sheet molded composite (SMC) with a molded-in black inner liner that resists scratches and is dent-proof. Notches in the box for two 2×4 boards across the bed provide tiered storage of materials – including 4×8 sheets of plywood.
Inside the box are three integrated cargo bins recessed into the bed floor, with two six-pack-sized bins in the right and left rear of the box and one large bin that runs the length of the box headboard. The bins are equipped with weather-resistant lids and removable drain plugs for storing wet gear or ice.
An available tubular aluminum cargo cage acts as a cargo divider or can be swung out as a bed extender for extra storage capacity when the tailgate is lowered.
Inside, the hose out Tuflor™ rubber floor covering is offset by Berber-carpeted floor mats, and available two-tone six-way power seats or 10-way heated leather seats give the 2007 model two tiers of interior comfort.
Other cool features available on the 2007 Sport Trac include a heated windshield, which uses micro-wires embedded in the glass to help prevent fogging and speed up de-icing, and a six-disc CD changer with integrated SIRIUS satellite radio and navigation.
Refinement is dramatically improved with the all new frame, which Ford engineers say is 427 percent stiffer than before. For the first time, the Sport Trac features an independent rear suspension, which offers significantly better handling over both smooth and rough surfaces as each wheel reacts independently to bumps in the road. In addition, IRS drastically reduces rear-end skate, which is the lateral movement that occurs when a vehicle with a solid rear axle travels over sharp bumps or washboard/corrugated road surfaces.