More choice, style and power highlight incoming models
Whether needing a sedan for transporting the kids or a wagon for getting the surfboard to the shore, four-doors, hatchbacks and station wagons become a necessity at some point in most people’s lives. For 2006, automakers are offering everything from the Dodge Charger SRT-8 that can haul a quintet around faster than anyone needs to travel, to the Kia Rio5 which offers sporty styling and ample storage at a reasonable price, to the Buick Lucerne – a car most likely to be found parked outside the bingo club on Wednesday night. Whatever your needs may be, there are plenty of new choices for 2006. The exciting news for hot rod aficionados has to be the introduction of the resurrected Charger nameplate, and in the SRT-8 model the installation of a 425-horsepower Hemi V8 motor.
Buick buyers can once again choose a V8-powered sedan with the introduction of the 2006 Lucerne. Available as an option on the CXL and as standard on the CXS, the Lucerne’s 4.6-liter V8 produces 275 horsepower. Base CXL versions get a tried-and-true 3.8-liter V6 pumping 197 horsepower. Power is run through a four-speed automatic transmission to the front wheels and the Lucerne is available in five- or six-passenger configurations.
The Chevrolet Impala has always been a top seller and is currently the third best selling car in the U.S. With an almost complete redesign for 2006, the Impala should continue to find droves of buyers – and not all of them rental car agencies. Sold in LS, LT, LTZ, and SS trim levels, the 2006 Chevy Impala starts with a 3.5-liter V6 making 211 horsepower and 220 lb.-ft. of torque. Optional on LT and standard on LTZ is a 3.9-liter V6 producing 240 horsepower and 242 lb.-ft. of torque. The new 5.3-liter V8 is reserved for the SS model, making just over 300 horsepower and featuring Displacement on Demand technology to save fuel during highway cruising. All engines are connected to a four-speed automatic transmission.
Opting for the 2006 Chevrolet Impala SS over the LTZ gets you more horsepower, as in 303 from the 5.3-liter V8 vs. the 240 horsepower from the LTZ’s 3.9-liter V6. However, there is a downside. Choosing the Impala SS means losing many of the LTZ’s nicer standard features. For instance, the bucket seats in the SS model are clad in cloth instead of leather, and you lose the LTZ’s seat heaters and the passenger’s seat power adjustment. Pay more, get less? Well, there is that big V8, as well as other hardware upgrades. And the SS can be outfitted like the LTZ if you’re willing to pony up the cash.
Yes, Chevrolet is applying the SS designation to the Malibu for 2006. Upgrading to this more powerful model gets you a 3.9-liter V6 turning out 240 horsepower and 241 lb.-ft. of torque, as well as a four-speed automatic with manual shift capability. Also included in the upgrade are new front and rear fascias including a larger blacked-out grille, a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels, a spoiler, and dual chrome-tipped exhaust outlets.
Opting for the 2006 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx SS over the Malibu SS gets you hatchback styling and additional cargo space. The same SS upgrades made to the Malibu sedan apply here. A 3.9-liter V6 with 240 horsepower sits under the hood, driving the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. The 2006 Chevy Malibu Maxx SS also includes a sport-tuned suspension, different front and rear fascias, a new grille, larger wheels, and of course, chrome-tipped exhaust outlets. Buyers actually get quite a few upgrades for little extra money.
Resurrecting a nameplate like “Charger” is a risky undertaking. Dodge took the challenge for 2006 and right out of the gate sparked controversy for introducing the new Charger as a sedan. Like it or not, the 2006 Dodge Charger has four doors and even comes with a V6 engine in the low-end models. The 3.5-liter V6 produces 250 horsepower and 250 lb.-ft. of torque – nothing ground breaking there. Thankfully Dodge does offer a V8 in the RT model. The 5.7-liter Hemi bumps power up to 340 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque (slightly more if you choose the Road & Track package or the limited-production Daytona R/T model), worthy stats in line with the Charger’s legend. Hate to disappoint here, but only an automatic transmission is offered. But, with likable styling the Charger will probably sell well. Those that hark back to the days of astounding horsepower will need to step up to the Charger SRT-8.
Okay, it does have four doors but Dodge has taken steps to bring the new Charger closer to the legend it is named after with the inclusion of the SRT-8 upgrade. Yes, once again the Dodge Charger can pound the pavement like its 1960s predecessors, thanks to the SRT-8 performance upgrade. With 425 tire- smoking horsepower and 420 lb.-ft. of torque, the 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8 is a brawler, feeding all of that power to the street through a five-speed automatic (sorry, no manual) transmission with manual control. But, unlike Chargers of old, this new SRT-8 sedan can handle curves as well as straights. Adhered to the asphalt by 255/45R20 tires in the rear and 245/45R20 rubber in the front – yes, you read that size correctly – the Charger SRT-8 hugs the road. Bringing everything to a halt are four-piston vented Brembo brakes, and included as standard equipment are three modern day technologies: ABS, traction control, and stability control.
If the Dodge Charger whets your appetite for performance but you need more utility than a trunk can provide, try the 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8 on for size. Making good use of the corporate 6.1-liter Hemi engine, the Magnum SRT-8 blends the extra cargo area of a station wagon with blistering performance in a very stylish package. With 425 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft. of torque, the Magnum gets down the road using the same five-speed automatic transmission as the Charger SRT-8, as well as the sport-tuned suspension, four-piston vented Brembo brakes, and the twenty-inch wheels wearing performance rubber.
New for 2006, the Ford Fusion enters the mid-size sedan segment with modern styling cues taken from the stylish Ford 427 concept car. The Fusion is offered with either a 2.3-liter inline four-cylinder motor producing 160 horsepower or a 221-horsepower 3.0-liter V6. Choose the four cylinder and you get the option of a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. Choosing the V6 limits you to a six-speed automatic. Flip-down 60/40 split rear seats will accommodate larger items that won’t fit into the already spacious 15.8 cubic foot trunk space. Based on the Mazda 6 platform, the new Ford Fusion is fun to drive, fun to look at, and a terrific domestic sedan.
Highly anticipated by both the media and public alike, the new 2006 Honda Civic is completely redesigned and might become the new benchmark of the compact class. Powered by a four-cylinder engine producing 140 horsepower and 128 lb.-ft. of torque, the new 2006 Civic provides a choice between a five-speed manual or automatic transmission. And, given today’s high gas prices, fuel economy ratings with the automatic are an impressive 30-mpg city and 40-mpg highway. With new styling, a larger and more comfortable interior, and Honda’s legendary reputation for building affordable and reliable cars, there is no reason the new 2006 Civic won’t be a big success.