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2006 NAIAS

13th January 2006

The Slandy Report® 2006

Welcome to the 4th annual Slandy Report, an irreverent look at the North American International Auto Show, held each January in Detroit Michigan – home of Super Bowl XL, the Ryder Cup, Red Wings, Pistons, 2006 NCAA Tournament 1st & 2nd round, 2008 NCAA Tournament Regionals, 2009 NCAA Tournament Final Four and 2010 NCAA Frozen Four. This has been a paid political announcement from the Detroit Chamber of Commerce.

2006 NAIAS Must-See Cars and Trucks

Ford Motor Company
Ford
==> Edge – 2007MY crossover utility due in the fall. Think Fusion tall wagon.
==> Shelby GT500 coupe and convertible – Carroll Shelby participated in the development and the introduction. That should say enough. How about 475hp from a 5.4L-supercharged V8? Goes on sale this summer!
==> Reflex concept – Ford says this is an American small car that doesn’t try to out-Korean the Koreans. It also has a Diesel-electric hybrid engine that could deliver 65mpg. It has butterfly doors and great styling.
==> Super Chief concept – is this s truck or a train? Ford says the styling is inspired by the Super Chief trains of the past, but also could be a preview of truck design of the future. It has a “tri-fuel” engine that can run on gas, E85 ethanol or hydrogen.
Lincoln
==> Lincoln unveiled its new naming scheme. They will be using alpha-numeric designations instead of names, to be more in-line with other luxury brands. Didn’t they just introduce the Zephyr, like a few weeks ago? Oops.
==> MKX – this is the production version of the Aviator concept seen last year. Apparently, you don’t pronounce it “M-K-X” – it is pronounced “Mark X”. It’s all very confusing. That said, this is a very nice looking luxury crossover, except for the front-end grille. Not sure what they’re thinking there.
==> MKS (“Mark S”) – hints at a future sedan from Lincoln. The front of this car is much better that the MKX and actually looks like a Lincoln. It has great lines and a 315hp V8 under the hood and all-wheel drive.
Volvo
==> C70 – this is the intro of the new 2007MY C70. This is a beautiful car. This new generation is only a hardtop convertible – no fixed roof version. The 3-piece hardtop folds away in about 22 seconds and looks great with the top up or down. Arrives this spring.
==> C30 concept – a 3-door hatch that Volvo says strongly hints at the production version to be introduced at the Paris auto show this fall. Goes on sale in the US Summer, 2007.
Mazda
==> CX-7 – like the Ford Edge is a Fusion tall wagon, CX-7 is a Mazda6 tall wagon, and all 4 are based on the same architecture. The CX-7 borrows the Mazdaspeed6’s turbo I4 engine, making 244hp in this application.
==> Kabura concept – designed by the same guy as the Pontiac Solstice.
Jaguar
==> 2007 XK – available soon, the XK (when did they drop the “8” from the name) is all-new with a lightweight aluminum body. Still one of the best-looking cars in the world, now even better. 300hp, 0-60 in 5.9 seconds!
Aston Martin
==> Rapide concept – a 4-door Aston Martin? Are you kidding? What’s next, a 4-door Dodge Charger? Joking aside, Aston Martin pulled this off. A 4-door that looks just as good as its lineup of coupes and convertibles.

General Motors
Chevrolet
==> Camaro concept – great blend of retro and modern. You know it’s a Camaro at one glance. Has the long hood, short deck of classic Camaros. 6.0L, 400hp small-block V8 from Corvette with Active Fuel Management (AFM – the technology formerly known as Displacement on Demand) allows 30mpg on the highway. “Experts” think this will eventually be built for sale, but GM ain’t talking.
==> 2007MY Tahoe – all-new, but looks much like the old one. Many won’t even notice that it’s different, but those who do might think it looks too “soft” to be a tough truck. Has power-folding 2nd row buckets, power liftgate, AFM, upgraded interior, available backup camera and lots of other goodies. On sale now.
==> 2007MY Suburban – see Tahoe – just bigger. A big fish in a shrinking pond. On sale this spring.
==> 2007MY Aveo – available this summer, the redesigned Aveo looks a lot like its predecessor. Chevy says it will get 35mpg on the highway – not much better that the 400hp Camaro.
Pontiac
==> Solstice – we’ve seen this before, but still worth mentioning. For less that $20K, you get a great-looking open-air roadster. One beef is that it looks goofy and unfinished with the top up. The GXP version, due this summer, ups the ante to 260hp, 0-60mph in 5.5 seconds all for $24,500.
==> G6 – still like this car. Finally has a proper manual tranny, but only on the GTP version. Coupe and hardtop convertible have lines like the Lexus SC430.
Saturn
==> Sky – twin to the Solstice, but much better looking.
==> Aura – if this looks familiar, it’s because Saturn showed this exact concept last year. Coming out for real this year, why not show us the “real” one?
==> Vue Green Line – Saturn’s hybrid SUV. A “mild” hybrid in that it cannot run on the battery alone. Still, it is a hybrid, and gets 27mpg city/32 highway.
Cadillac
==> Escalade and Escalade ESV – see Tahoe and Suburban, respectively. Note the rear Caddy badge. More than 5” in diameter. Designers must have been listening to The Who singing “I Can See For Miles” when designing this. Could double as a Frisbee if it were removable.
GMC
==> Yukon and Yukon XL – see Tahoe and Suburban, respectively.
Buick
==> Enclave – strong hint at the crossover that Buick will sell next year as an ‘08 Model. This is a great-looking, luxurious SUV/wagon with 270hp V6. Production version will have a V8 as an option.
==> Lucerne – this vehicle is great looking and would be taken much more seriously and have better sales future, if it were named Lexus or Acura. Cool 6-box cutaway display.

DaimlerChrysler
Chrysler
==> Imperial concept – based on the 300C/Charger platform, this is huge (17” longer than a 300). Looks like a poor-man’s Rolls.
==> Aspen – Chrysler’s first proper SUV (based on Durango), this vehicle answers the question nobody asked. It’s a big SUV with styling that makes it look like it doesn’t want to be. Sorry, but this one just doesn’t work for me.
Dodge
==> Caliber – new small crossover. Think of what the illegitimate child of a Dodge Charger and a Pontiac Vibe would look like. That’s the Caliber. Cool feature: the rear speakers fold down when the hatch is up to face out for tailgating.
==> Challenger concept – Dukes of Hazard – your ride is here! As opposed to the Camaro concept and the Mustang before it, this one is all retro, all the time. No hint of modern here, except the ubiquitous Hemi under the hood.
Mercedes-Benz
==> S-Class – all-new, the S-Class gets new sheet metal which makes it even better-looki ng than before. More important, the new S65 AMG version will get a twin-turbo, 6.0L V12 making 612hp! 60mph happens before you can read this sentence – just 4.4 seconds. Wow.
==> R-Class – more wagon-like than the ML and GL SUVs also made in Alabama. Looks too much like the Chrysler Pacifica to me.
Jeep
==> Compass – now think of the Caliber (see above) with Wrangler DNA mixed in. Compass is on the same architecture as Caliber and looks it. While the Caliber looks like a cool, truck-like car, the Compass looks like a wimpy, car-like Jeep. Unlike other Jeeps, this one isn’t “Trail Rated”, which, in my opinion, will hurt Jeep’s image.

Toyota
Toyota
==> Camry – introduction of the 2007MY Camry. The Camry gets an upgrade in looks and power – up to 268hp. Camry finally gets an upgrade in passion and excitement to go with its high quality and refinement. Also shown is the hybrid version. Both on sale soon.
==> Yaris – replaces the Echo in the lineup. It’s better looking than the Echo (not a difficult task), but it still has the center pod for the gages. One cool feature is the cupholders that fold out from the dash. Starts at $10,950 for the 3-door hatch. Sedan starts at $12,550.
==> FJ Cruiser – Toyota enters yet another niche, this one with 1 competitor – the Jeep Wrangler.
==> F3R concept – what the minivan might look like from a clean sheet approach.
Lexus
==> LS460 – redesigned for the 2007MY, the LS will now come in 2 wheelbases. It has a new 4.6L V8 with 380hp, going 0-60 in 5.5 seconds. It also has an industry-first 8-speed automatic tranny. Inexplicably, Lexus gave the LS a “Bangle-butt.”

Nissan
Nissan
==> Versa – another move down to the “B” size cars, the Versa has surprisingly ample room in the back seat. On sale later this year starting at $12,000.
==> Sentra – 2007MY intro. Sentra moves upscale in size, price and content, making room for the Versa at the bottom of the Nissan food chain. On sale later this year.
Infiniti
==> Coupe concept – hints at the next-generation G Coupe.

Honda
Honda
==> Fit – another B car. It Fits in below the Civic. Giant, bug-eye headlamps. On sale in April.
==> Civic – new, 8th generation, gas and hybrid versions and numerous body styles. On sale now.
Acura
==> RDX – on sale this summer. New small SUV based on the Honda CR-X.
==> SH-AWD – Acura’s “Super Handling All Wheel Drive” sounds like something that Wile E. Coyote would have thought of.

Volkswagen
VW
==> Passat – NA intro of the wagon. New design. All-wheel drive optional. 2 engines – turbo 4 cylinder and V6. On sale soon.
==> Passat R GT – car built for the SEMA show by HPA Motorsports. 575hp, 0-60 in 3.2 seconds, quarter-mile in 11.4 seconds.
==> Eos – VWs first hardtop convertible. Shown with a 2.0L I4 turbo w/200hp, it will also have a 3.2L V6. VW rep said they are “shooting for” under $30K.
==> GTI – the new GTI is here! The new GTI is here! I feel like Navin R. Johnson. Cool liftgate handle.
==> Phaeton – R.I.P.
Audi
==> Q7 – Audi’s first SUV. 350hp 4.2L V8, 3 rows, starts at $49,900. V6 available later.

Others
==> BMW M Roadster – Z4 with the “M” treatment, meaning it gets the 333hp 3.2L engine from the M3.
==> Mitsubishi Eclipse – coupe already out, “Spyder” soft-top convertible intro. Both have a huge window in front of the “regular” front window. Looks a little silly when the window is down.
==> Hyundai Santa Fe – NA intro. Carries on the Hyundai tradition of copying other vehicle’s styling (see Sedona/Windstar, Amanti/Mercedes E-Class). This one copies the VW Touareg.
==> Hyundai Azera & Sonata – really nice looking replacements for XG350 and old Sonata. Great value story.
==> Maserati Quattroporte – still the best-looking car here. 2 new editions: Executive GT and Sport GT.
==> Porsche Cayman – hard-top Boxster. 295hp 3.4L boxer engine. Starts under $60K.
==> Porsche Cayenne Turbo S – so much for Jeep claiming the Hemi-powered Grand Cherokee is the fastest SUV. 520hp. $111,000.
==> Geely 7151CK – the first Chinese vehicle shown in Detroit. Could be the wave of the future?

The Slandy Awards® 2006

Slandy Best in Show Chevrolet Camaro
Honorable Mention Maserati Quattroporte*, Ferrari 612 Scaglietti*, Mustang Shelby GT500, VW Eos, Saturn Sky
WATT? Award** No winner this year. Nothing struck me a just plain dumb. Chrysler Aspen was close. See next award.
Ho-Hum Award Chrysler Aspen
Oops! Award Honda Ridgeline got the WATT Award last year. My mistake.
Bet the Farm Award Ford Edge/Lincoln MKX

* Repeat winner
** Formerly known as the “What are they Thinking Award”

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