Volvo XC90 Wins AutoPacific 2005 Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle Satisfaction Award
“The widely acclaimed Volvo XC90 car-based sport utility rates highest among Luxury Sport Utility Vehicles for 2005. XC90 owners rate their Luxury SUV strongly in the reputation of the Volvo brand, feeling safe while driving (no surprise there… it’s a Volvo!), front seat room, cargo capacity, interior materials, anticipated resale value, quietness and controls. These combine to deliver a very balanced product from a respected brand.”
The Infiniti QX56 was a close second to the Volvo. XC90 nosed out the QX56 due to its perceived superior safety attributes.
Pontiac GTO Wins AutoPacific 2005 Sporty Car Vehicle Satisfaction Award
“The owners of the Pontiac GTO rate their powerful coupe tops in the Sporty Car category. GTO owners are high in overall satisfaction and rate GTO’s vehicle dynamics very strongly. Where does GTO excel? GTO has strong scores in handling, braking, power/acceleration, ergonomics, and visibility. Owner ratings lead us to conclude that GTO is a very easy car to live with and to have loads of fun with.”
GTO was in close race with the all new Ford Mustang a popular favorite with car buffs and owners. Many folks thought that Mustang was the odds-on favorite to win the Sporty Car class. After all, it is the top selling Sporty Car and has been getting rave reviews by enthusiast magazines. GTO won primarily because it is so focused. Where Mustang has two engines – a V6 that satisfies but not to the extent of its V8 – and a very nice 300HP V8 – the GTO has only a very powerful V8. It was the singularity of purpose of the GTO with its powerful torquey engine that tipped the scales.
Porsche 911 Wins AutoPacific 2005 Sports Car Vehicle Satisfaction Award
“The owners of the Porsche 911 have among the strongest overall satisfaction ratings in the industry. Instantly identifiable as a Porsche, the 911 is first coveted because of its distinctive exterior styling and its brand image. But its quality and driving dynamics put the icing on the cake. The Porsche 911 is the embodiment of a traditional European sports car.”
The 911 was closely paced by the new C6 Chevrolet Corvette a relatively traditional American sports car. Both cars are excellent and provide their enthusiast owners a thrilling driving experience and satisfying ownership experience.
Scion xB Wins AutoPacific 2005 Compact Car Vehicle Satisfaction Award
“Young, hip owners of the Scion xB rate the xB highest in the Compact Car category. Sold to perhaps the most difficult people to satisfy (young males), xB owners rate overall satisfaction very high plus giving xB high marks for fuel economy, price, rear seat room… and lets not forget its funky styling.”
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.
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.