Did someone say something about hydrogen cars?
Dodge didn’t. In fact, they debuted a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, bolted it into the 2007 Caliber hatchback, and watched while we went insane, writing about the marvels of SRT. In fact, they didn't say a word about oil or fuel, giving us what we wanted in the form of a new mid-sized SUV, the Nitro, with two powerful V6 engines, and a Dodge Rampage Concept built around the 5.7-liter HEMI.
Mercedes-Benz went one better, and announced that they’ll make an AMG model for every single vehicle, and trotted out the 2007 Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG and ML63 AMG, with a 6.3-liter V8 engine making 503 horsepower and 465 lb.-ft. of torque plus a slew of other advancements, all designed to suck the oil right out from the ground. When we saw that, our eyes went wide, thinking about the fun we’d have running one of those beauties on our favorite road.
Yeah. We’re hooked on internal combustion, all right. And we can’t help ourselves. We stand for hours, sit on buses, walk for miles, just to get a glimpse of Hyundai’s new minivan, the 2007 Entourage. It’s got a 3.8-liter V6 engine and enough safety equipment to keep Mr. Marshmellow safe. Ready to roll later this year, the Entourage will probably be a hot seller, as families look for convenient, quality transportation with a good warranty. Even minivans are cool to us, which reveals the problem. We need to go to a place to test drive bicycles and write about skateboards; maybe then we’d notice the blatant contradictions automakers trot out at show time, talking the socially responsible game but delivering gas-swilling giants, super cars and fantasies about corn.
Okay, so maybe “E85” vehicles are the real deal. Designed to run on a fuel blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, Ford and General Motors think it is a very viable future alternative. And they may be onto something, working hard to develop the technology. In the meantime, they will have to wait for the day when celebrities start driving a Ford or Chevy Cornius hatchback, there’s a long waiting list, and a plus-MSRP price. That’ll be the day, but in the meantime you can load up a lot of corn inside the new 2007 Lincoln Navigator. Also introduced at the Chicago Auto Show, the Navigator has a 5.4-liter V8 engine -- and many gaudy design enhancements. There was also a new 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche, which GM touted as an E85 vehicle, except for a 6.0-liter V8 engine, due out later in the year and primed to burn oil at an astonishing clip
Maybe corn smells like oil when it burns. If so, then we’re probably okay with the ethanol thing – just as long as it doesn’t change the way that exhaust note sounds.
For a full list of debuts from day one at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, please select from the links at left.
2007 Chevrolet Avalanche
Making its official debut at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, the 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche is the newest addition to Chevy’s lineup of vehicles capable of running on E85, a fuel blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, providing a viable alternative to our dependence on fossil fuels via home-grown corn. As part of its push, Chevy is plastering its new Live Green Go Yellow campaign on a NASCAR race truck and pace truck for an upcoming race at Daytona Speedway.
Though not necessarily ready for the NASCAR track, the redesigned 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche comes with ample power for the street. Two-wheel-drive versions draw power from a 5.3-liter V8 pushing 320 horsepower and 340 lb.-ft. of torque, while the four-wheel-drive Avalanche gets the same motor with 310 horses and 335 lb.-ft. of twist. Both are E85 compatible, feature GM’s Active Fuel Management displacement-on-demand system for fuel savings, and are connected to a four-speed automatic transmission. A 6.0-liter V8, with Active Fuel Management but not corn-fed, will be released after the truck’s spring 2006 launch.
Three trims will be available – LS, LT, and LTZ, though a Z71 is slated for later this year. Among the features found on the six-passenger 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche are a rear park assist system, a rearview camera, a new touch-screen navigation system, an upgraded rear DVD system with an eight-inch screen, and a remote-starting feature. There’s also a central locking tailgate controlled by the door switches or the keyless remote, and optional side-curtain airbags for both rows.
Chevy engineers have obviously put a lot of work into the 2007 Avalanche’s powertrains and features, but what prospective buyers will notice first is the updated styling. The new front end, with smoked headlights and a clean wrap-around grille, is shared with the new Tahoe, the track has been widened front and rear for a more aggressive stance and improved handling, and tighter gap tolerances accent the truck’s appearance. Inside is a redesigned dash, a simpler and more attractive center console, all built with higher quality plastics.
Pricing has not been released, but GM’s new focus on value should keep the 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche competitive.
Photo by Ron Perry
2007 Dodge Caliber SRT 4
That’s right. Dodge Caliber, the hatchy Neon replacement now comes with a powertrain that can make 300 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, which is so much more than the regular version that it’s really, truly, unfair to count. The rest of the numbers echo what you’re thinking: 0-60 in less than 6 seconds, 86 horsepower more than the outgoing SRT 4, 260 lb. ft. of torque between 2,000 and 6,000 rpm. That’s a load of power in a car that weighs scarcely more than 3,000 lbs. and sits on a wheelbase of 103. inches, and a front and rear track of 59.8 inches. That’s especially a load of power at an EPA rating that’s decent: 22 miles per gallon city, 28 miles per gallon highway.
Based on Chrysler’s “world engine,” engineers re-machined the four-cylinder block, changed pistons and cylinders, added high temperature hardware, then mated the engine to a six-speed manual transmission. They also added better brakes – a good idea – moving up to brakes sourced from the Chrysler 300 and other mid-sized vehicles. SRT techs also improved the ride and handling, sitting the car on 19-inch wheels, sport-tuning the Caliber’s independent front and rear suspension, the rack and pinion steering and the Electronic Stability Program (ESP). Design changes to the Caliber mainly center on revising the front and rear fascias; front to deliver the necessary air flow and cooling, and rear in order to bring the Caliber into the SRT design family. Interior enhancements include sport seats, SRT monograms, carbon fiber and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Caliber SRT colors include black, orange, silver and red.
Photo by Ron Perry
2007 Dodge Nitro
The Nitro will have looks and power going for it, in spades, so it should compete just fine as long as you like that famously aggressive Dodge look. Scheduled to go on sale late in 2006 as a 2007 model, the Nitro is based on the Jeep Liberty.
Designers at Dodge have carried over the grille, lines and stance throughout the lineup, and have done an especially nice job with the Nitro. The SUV has a strong roofline, flared fenders and a front that ends like a cliff, into the Dodge grille. In red, black, or another bold color, the Nitro will look great – but maybe a little odd in softer tones. Three models will be available: the Dodge Nitro, Dodge Nitro SLT, and the Dodge Nitro R/T. Nitro and SLT buyers get a 3.7-liter, V6 engine that delivers 210 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 235 lb. ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. Nitro R/T buyers will get the added grunt and displacement of a 4.0-liter, 255 horsepower at 5,800 rpm, and 275 lb. ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. One manual and two automatic transmissions will be offered; the base Nitro will come standard with a six-speed manual, the Nitro SLT is fitted with a four-speed automatic, and the Nitro R/T will feature a five-speed automatic. This menu of powertrains will drive an SUV that weights slightly more than 4,000 lbs. and is built with an independent front and solid axle rear suspension, and a full-time 4WD system.
Inside, the feel is very utilitarian, with strong plastics and fabric throughout. The metal that’s in the cab is brushed aluminum, and the layout is one of simplicity and function. There’s even large plastic inserts on the back of the front seats, and a cascade of plastics up front. Innovations inside the 2007 Dodge Nitro include a “Load n’ Go cargo floor, which is essentially a sliding floor that moves out to just beyond the rear bumper.
Photos by Ron Perry
Dodge Rampage Concept
It’s a minivan with a HEMI…a Ridgeline with sliding doors…a cargo van with hide-away seats… Just imagine the confusion. Just bolt on a hybrid powertrain, and poof – you’ve got great fuel economy, too – and it’s good for the environment!
Thank goodness they aren’t going to build it.
Then again, if they did, Dodge would offer the most versatile truck on the market, one that would make that Honda look like a midget. Initially posed as an example of what they could do, it may be that the Rampage is a design exercise showing some of the innovations coming soon to a Ram truck. Or it could be a concept headed to production, a Honda – Avalanche fighter. Take a 5.7-liter HEMI V8, put it in a truck shell that’s built on the minivan line with front-wheel drive and an independent suspension, and there you go – the most versatile car, er, truck, er, SUV, er, minivan, on the planet
Thank goodness they’re going to build it.
See, we’re already confused. All we know for sure is that we love the innovation: First, there’s those hiding seats, which really is just DaimlerChrysler’s stow and go system built into a truck. Those sliding rear doors? Ditto. Combine the width of a Dodge Ram with the overall length of a Dodge Dakota, featuring seating for five and a five-foot cargo box, a power glass midgate and an enclosed area under the bed and there you go – ready for business, in 2010 or beyond. The look is also innovative, and may signal some design elements for future Rams.
2007 Honda Civic Si Sedan
Fast forward to 2007, and that’s just what the Honda Civic Si has done. Due to arrive in the fall of 2006, the 2007 Si Sedan (yeah, that’ll take some getting used to) promises the kind of grins that can only be had near 8,000 rpm, and until now, only in coupe form. In addition to those oh-so-useful rear doors, the Civic Si Sedan draws its power from the same 2.0-liter, dual overhead cam, 16-valve, i-VTEC four-cylinder engine cranking out 197 horsepower at 7,800 rpm and 139 lb.-ft. of torque at 6,100 rpm. Power goes to the front wheels thanks to a six-speed manual transmission, and a limited slip differential is standard. EPA ratings for the Si coupe are 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway, and one could expect the new sedan to mirror those figures. Pricing, which hasn’t been released, should also be similar to that for the coupe, which starts at about $20,000.
Making its debut at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, the Civic Si Sedan graced the stage in concept form, and as such, included goodies like some sweet black 18-inch alloy wheels rolling on 225/40 performance tires, large cross-drilled disc brakes with Brembo calipers, and a body-color rear spoiler that’s a few inches shy of garish.
We’ve spent a lot of time in the 2006 Honda Civic Si coupe, and have had a blast doing so. Chances are we’ll feel the same about the sedan, especially considering our over-30 editors are already drooling.
Photo by Ron Perry
2007 Hyundai Entourage
Oooh, how the mothers would talk.
Things sure have changed since then. Today, pull up in a Hyundai minivan and the mothers’ tongues will still wag – this time, however, it would be how smart you are, despite your public school education. Hyundai’s come a long way, indeed, and the debut of their new 2007 Entourage minivan at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show will serve to cement their reputation as a major, reputable automaker in the US. The Entourage is a pretty minivan rolling out right when Ford and GM are pulling back in the minivan segment, leaving this small yet important group of buyers to imports and Dodge Caravans. Hyundai’s family conveyance stands an excellent chance of being considered an excellent choice for those too smart to wait in line for a Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, and don’t like the features and/or styling of the Kia Sedona.
Available in GLS, SE and Limited trims, the Entourage seems pretty well-equipped no matter which one you buy. For example, a 2007 Entourage, with standard Electronic Stability Control (ESC), six airbags, anti-whiplash active front head restraints, a 3.8-liter V6 engine and more will be priced at $23,795. Highlights of the GLS model include that 3.8-liter V6 engine, a five-speed automatic transmission, ESC with traction control system, an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), 16-inch wheels, power windows, power door locks and remote keyless entry. Roof rack side rails are also standard. Inside are active front head restraints, dual front airbags, front seat side-impact airbags plus side curtain airbags. Other features include premium cloth seats, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, dual vanity mirrors, front armrest and a fold flat third row seat. Hyundai SE and Limited models add more luxury, 17-inch wheels and heated seats and a rear seat entertainment system, among other features. All Entourage minivans get a 3.8-liter V6 engine that produces 242 horsepower and 251 lb.-ft. of torque, and is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual control. Perhaps most notable about the Entourage, however, is the long list of standard safety features, and the third row fold-away, called the Hyundai Hideaway. All Entourages get a bevy of passive and active safety systems, including side and side curtain airbags, traction control and more. Just these two safety devices – traction control and side curtain airbags – will make any car significantly safer to drive. The Hideaway is a 60/40 split seat that folds flat in the floor of the car, opening up cargo room when junior’s not back there.
2007 Lexus ES 350
The 2007 Lexus ES 350 is designed to appeal to luxury customers who look for comfort before sporty handling and performance. If a sports sedan is what you crave, check out the Lexus IS. But just because the ES 350 is a luxury car first and foremost, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t accelerate, brake, and turn with talent. To that end, Lexus has installed a new 3.5-liter V6 engine under the ES 350’s power dome hood, making 272 horsepower on premium unleaded for an estimated 0-60 mph acceleration time of 6.8 seconds. Lexus estimates that the new ES 350 will also be fuel efficient and environmentally friendly, with 21-mpg city/30-mpg highway gas mileage ratings and an expected Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle II (ULEV-II) certification.
A new six-speed automatic transmission sends the V6’s power to the front wheels – all-wheel drive is not planned for the 2007 Lexus ES 350. The new ES rides on a fully independent MacPherson strut suspension, and the standard 17-inch wheels are steered by a speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion setup. The four-wheel-disc braking system includes ABS, EBD, and brake assist, and every 2007 ES 350 gets traction and stability control.
Because the redesigned 2007 Lexus ES 350 is about luxury, it comes with a wide array of standard and optional features. To ensure comfort, each ES 350 is equipped with a power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, 10-way power adjustable front seats with 2-way power lumbar support, and automatic climate control. The audio system includes a six-disc in-dash CD changer, eight speakers, and an auxiliary jack into which your iPod can be plugged. Other standard features include a moonroof, genuine wood and metal interior trim, bright Optitron gauges, and the Lexus Smart Access system with keyless entry and ignition. Occupant safety is also critical to Lexus, and the ES 350 includes dual-stage front airbags with a dual-chamber front passenger’s airbag, dual front knee airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and side-curtain airbags for all outboard passengers.
Among the nicer options for the 2007 Lexus ES 350 are lush leather seats with heating and cooling, a panoramic glass sunroof, a power rear sunshade, and a Bluetooth wireless communication system that operates through the stereo system. Lexus also offers dynamic radar cruise control, intuitive parking assist, and stereo upgrades that include an integrated navigation system and Mark Levinson premium surround sound with 14 speakers and DVD audio-video capability. On the safety side, you can order rear side-impact airbags and the Lexus Pre-Collision System that readies the brakes and seatbelts for an unavoidable impact.
The 2007 Lexus ES 350’s styling is a big improvement over the previous ES 330. In profile, it possesses a similar style as the existing car, mixed with elements of the redesigned 2007 Camry (on which the ES 350 is based) and the Toyota Avalon. Viewed from the front or rear, the new ES 350 looks terrific, with a substance and presence that the ES has always lacked. Interesting design elements include scalloped front fenders and rear quarter panels, which mimic the shapes seen inside the car. The interior is beautifully rendered, exuding quality and simplicity with just-right amounts of wood and metal trim combined in a beautiful two-tone décor treatment. The Lexus ES has always served as a sanctuary for its owners, and it appears this new version will continue to make people feel like they spent more money than they did.
Based on a preliminary inspection, our view is that the 2007 Lexus ES 350 is going to be quite popular, and may ultimately serve as the benchmark against which other luxury – not sport luxury – sedans are judged.
Photos by Ron Perry
2007 Lincoln MKZ
A name change is not all that’s new for the 2007 Lincoln MKZ, shown for the first time at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show. The car’s formerly standard 3.0-liter V6 is ditched for a more powerful 3.5-liter V6 good for 250 horsepower, and an intelligent all-wheel-drive system that can split power not only from front to rear but also side to side is newly available. To help differentiate the upgraded Lincoln MKZ from the one-year-only Lincoln Zephyr, a redesigned grille, a refreshed front fascia, chrome trim on the mirror caps, and new 17-inch wheels with a machined finish mark the new car – no pun intended. Oh, and there’s an “MKZ” badge on the back.
Everything else about the 2007 Lincoln MKZ is carried over from the Zephyr, including its impressive 600-watt THX-II Certified audio system with 14 speakers. Also carrying over is the fact that the Lincoln MKZ doesn’t present itself as a wise value proposition compared to the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan upon which it is based. Sure, the MKZ gets a few unique features, but the important bits and pieces like the 3.5-liter V6 and intelligent all-wheel drive are also offered on the Ford and Merc. That’s what happens when an automaker plays the badge-engineering name game, but hey, it seems to work for Lexus, which bases its successful ES on the pedestrian Toyota Camry.
Photos by Ron Perry
2007 Lincoln Navigator
OK, so we don’t like the new front end. But that’s not the whole story when it comes to the upgrades made to the 2007 Lincoln Navigator. Chief among them is an all-new frame that provides improved handling and ride quality, a redesigned interior with new seats for added comfort, specific design and tuning to produce a “whisper quiet” interior, and a new extended-length Navigator L model that adds 25 cubic feet of additional cargo space. The new Navigator (What? No renaming to MKN? – Ed.) also gets cleaned up flanks which look quite nice, and 20-inch chrome wheels are available as a factory option.
The 2007 Lincoln Navigator’s interior is restyled, too, and the taillights are redesigned to look like the Zephyr sedan (called MKZ for 2007). The cabin benefits from added front and third-row leg room, and the dashboard, though familiar, receives new instrument bezels styled after trendy rectangular eyewear. Buyers can choose to decorate the 2007 Navigator’s interior with Dark Ebony or light-colored Anigre wood trim, and the Navigator comes standard with what Lincoln calls “butter soft” leather. Accents are done in satin nickel and chrome for an appropriately upscale look.
Designed for added long distance support, the new front seats are 10-way power adjustable and can be equipped with heaters and cooling fans for four-season comfort. Even the seat frames were re-engineered to reduce vibration coming up from the Navigator’s floor. Power adjustable pedals help the driver to find a proper driving position, regardless of her size, and a memory function helps different drivers in the same household recall their fine-tuned seat and pedal settings. To make it easier to climb in and out of the 2007 Lincoln Navigator, power running boards that automatically deploy when the doors are opened are integrated into the lower rocker panels.
The Navigator’s second- and third-row seats tumble and fold to create a wide variety of cargo carrying options. When serving as an eight-passenger conveyance, the new extended-length Navigator L can carry 42.7 cubic feet of cargo behind the third-row seat; fold ‘em all flat and it swallows 128.2 cubic feet of stuff. An optional PowerFold third-row seat makes maximizing cargo space even easier, if pulling levers and pushing seatbacks just isn’t your style.
People riding in the 2007 Lincoln Navigator’s rear seats will love the optional DVD entertainment center connected to a 600-watt THX-II Certified premium audio system – and Hollywood executives can’t figure out why theaters are empty these days. Combined with thicker glass and added sound insulation for a “whisper quiet” interior, watching your favorite movies inside the new Navigator is just like seeing them on the big screen – almost. The new Navi also features a DVD-based navigation system with a touch screen and voice command control, available Sirius satellite radio, and an integrated auxiliary jack for your iPod or other MP3 player.
Powering the 2007 Lincoln Navigator is a 5.4-liter V8 good for 300 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 365 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,750 rpm, delivered to the rear or all four wheels through a new six-speed automatic transmission. Maximum tow capacity is 9,100 pounds when properly equipped. The Navigator also gets a new independent rear suspension design for improved handling and stability.
Aside from its sheer size and weight, the 2007 Lincoln Navigator features important safety items like dual-stage front airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and a Safety Canopy system of side-curtain airbags that can remain inflated for extended periods of time in the event of a rollover accident. But with a standard Roll Stability Control system, Lincoln is working hard to keep a rollover from happening in the first place.
All in all, the significant updates and revisions to the 2007 Lincoln Navigator are welcome improvement, enough to keep the big SUV in the ring to duke it out with a completely redesigned Cadillac Escalade. Just remember to bring a block of tasty parmigiano reggiano to scrape across the new grillework.
Photos by Ron Perry
2007 Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG
What makes the ML63 athletic is a full-body massage by AMG that transforms it from an upscale suburban SUV into a pavement-mauling sport-utility. A hand-built, 6.3-liter V8 whips up 503 horsepower and 465 lb.-ft. of torque, good for getting the muscular ML63 AMG from zero to 60 mph in just five seconds. Power flows to all four wheels through a specially-calibrated seven-speed automatic transmission that can be manually shifted using buttons on the steering wheel. The driver can even choose between three shift programs: sport (S), comfort (C), or manual (M). The 2007 Mercedes-Benz ML63’s modified 4Matic AWD system splits power 40/60 front-to-rear for a sporty feel from behind the wheel. Other hardware upgrades include stiffer shocks for the standard Airmatic suspension system, a sport-tuned version of the adaptive damping system (ADS), bigger brakes with vented and perforated rotors, and polished 20-inch wheels wearing 295/40 Z-rated performance tires.
Of course, AMG models are not just about the hardware. How else would the Joneses know you bought the top-dog model without the subtle exterior and interior modifications that mark every AMG product? On the 2007 Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG, that means a different grille, bolder front and rear aprons, flared fenders, and stainless-steel running boards. Unique wheels, tinted taillights, and two sets of chromed twin-pipe exhaust outlets round out the changes on the outside. Inside, Nappa leather AMG sport seats with Alcantara inserts grip occupants tightly for aggressive maneuvers, and the driver faces a sport three-spoke steering wheel and an AMG gauge cluster. Further underlining the 2007 Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG’s true purpose in life is an integrated lap timer – and we’re not talking about laps around a moto-cross course.
When the new ML63 AMG arrives this August, it marks the return of all-wheel drive to the AMG lineup. Pricing has not been set, but regardless of the cost and the AWD, we’re certain that AMG’s core Sunbelt markets will continue to absorb most of the U.S.-bound ML63 AMGs. After all, this is one SUV for which four-wheeling is not on the menu, and both Florida and Southern California offer plenty of pavement upon which to enjoy the magic that is Affalterbach, Germany’s finest.
Photos by Ron Perry
2007 Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG
Perhaps fitting with the start of the winter Olympics just around the corner, ice skating was the allegory used by Mercedes-Benz to debut two new AMG models in Chi-town. Claiming that the new 2007 Mercedes ML63 AMG and 2007 Mercedes R63 AMG are “designed to ice the competition,” AMG Product Manager Rob Allan compared his newest hot-rodded models to the skills both figure skaters and hockey players must employ for success. “Skating is about speed and agility, turning and stopping, despite a lack of traction,” noted Allan, remarking that like the best ice skaters, the new ML63 AMG and R63 AMG are athletic yet artful, powerful but poised.
Despite the campy press conference script, there is no question that the 2007 Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG is a serious automobile. Lending credence to the concept of a sport-tourer, the R63 seats six in comfort and is equipped with an AMG-modified version of the company’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. Under the hood revs a hand-built, 6.3-liter V8 engine making 503 horsepower and 465 lb.-ft. of torque, capable of accelerating the R63 from rest to 60 mph in just five seconds. A seven-speed automatic transmission with shift buttons on the steering wheel channels the grunt to all four wheels, and the driver can choose one of three transmission modes depending on the kind of driving she’s performing: sport (S), comfort (C), or manual (M).
AMG’s wizards have also modified the 2007 Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG’s suspension, adding sport-tuned shocks to the standard Airmatic system and a uniquely configured adaptive damping system (ADS). Brakes are upsized, vented and perforated, and the R63 rolls on polished 19-inch rims shod with 295/45 performance tires.
Inside, AMG sport seats keep the driver and front passenger glued in place when the going gets fun, upholstered in Nappa leather with Alcantara inserts. A unique AMG gauge cluster is also added, along with a leather-wrapped, three-spoke sport steering wheel. Stainless steel pedals with rubber studs are included, along with special AMG door sill trim plates. Outside, the R63 AMG adds chrome twin exhaust outlets, unique wheels, a different grille, and the subtle body kit that graces every Benz with the AMG treatment.
Look for the 2007 Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG to arrive in showrooms this September, at a yet-to-be-determined price.
Photos by Ron Perry
2007 Nissan Quest
During the vehicle’s debut at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, Nissan engineers focused a great deal on the issue of quality, describing the significant time and effort that went into reevaluating every aspect of the Quest, the result of which is what they claim to be a much improved minivan. The exterior features a new grille, smoked headlights, revised taillights, updated wheels, and chrome accents. But it’s the interior that gets the nod for the Huge Improvement award. That funky center gauge cluster, the one that turned off so many prospective buyers, has been relocated to its traditional home behind the steering wheel, the center instrument panel has been redesigned for improved ergonomics and includes new buttons with a more pleasant feel, new fake light wood or metallic trim is available, all interior panels have been reworked for better fit and finish, and the fold-away third row seat is spring-loaded for easy one-handed operation with automatic folding headrests.
Four trims will be offered – 3.5, 3.5 S, 3.5 SL, 3.5 SE – when the 2007 Nissan Quest goes on sale this spring, all of which are powered by a 240-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Pricing has not been announced.
Photo by Ron Perry
Nissan Titan Onyx Concept
At the time of this writing, Toyota hasn’t yet unveiled its totally redesigned Tundra, but word is that it’s coming tomorrow, the second day of the 2006 Chicago Auto Show. Thoughts of a Toyota truck that’s bigger and more powerful have competitors a little on edge, soon to be longing for the days when the Tundra was a little too small and a little too wimpy. Over at the Nissan booth, the nervous anticipation was only thinly veiled.
Under show lights was the Nissan Titan Onyx concept truck, with shiny 20-inch chrome alloy wheels, chrome running boards, a tweaked grille, and a modified front fascia. Other Onyx exclusives include special floor mats, piano black interior trim, and aluminum pedals. Hardly a concept in car show terms, but that’s what Nissan’s calling it. However, what was more interesting was the talk related to Titan in general, much of which consisted of gentle “reminders” about Nissan being the first import manufacturer to market with a true full-size truck (translation: if tomorrow’s Tundra is cool, just remember the Titan…did it first), the standard 305-horsepower V8 engine, and a 2005 sales increase of four percent. That’s all great news, as is the report of a diesel engine and more special edition models to be added to the Titan lineup. Yet, even so, Nissan execs sounded like they were responding with “Yeah, but the Titan…” to what is expected to be a formidable new competitor.
Photo by Ron Perry