|At The Wheel|
What do 43 manufacturers have in store for the
driving public in 2006 ?
By Les Jackson
Aston Martin surges into 2006 with its new V8 Vantage, the newest addition to the legendary marque. The 4.3 liter V8 produces 380 horsepower, routed through a 6-speed manual transmission, giving a 0-60 time less than five seconds. The Vantage body is aluminum alloy, steel, composite and magnesium alloy, making it one of the most sophisticated automobiles on the road. At $110,000, the V8 Vantage will be the most "affordable" Aston Martin in the lineup, which includes the V12-powered DB9 Coupe and DB9 Volante and VanquishS.
Audi provides Bluetooth-equipped cars (A6, A8, A3, A4) with the ability to operate with the palmOne Treo 650 Smartphone, making it the first manufacturer to offer such interoperability. Access to Favorites, Dialed numbers and Missed Calls is included, as is system preparation for Sirius and XM satellite radio. The new A3 hit the showrooms in December and promises to be a big success. The 3.2 quattro with DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) and Hill-Holding tops off the A3 lineup. The A4 Cabriolet now has a DVD Navigation system with two SD memory card slots for audio files, as well as trim updates and suspension/wheel changes. Another welcome addition is an available rear-seat heating system that is sure to please passengers. Three new models are coming to the A4 lineup: a 3.2 quattro 6-speed manual sedan; 6-speed manual Avant and a CVT multitronic FrontTrak front wheel drive sedan.
Bentley consistently manages to build beautiful cars like its Continental GT, which embodies the company's rich tradition of providing comfort, elegance and impressive performance. For the few fortunate to be able to afford such cars, they won't be disappointed in the Continental GT, or in any other Bentley model. 2006 witnesses the introduction of the Continental Flying Spur, one of the fastest four-door cars in the world, with a top speed of 195 mph. This is all the more impressive when you consider that, at speed, four people can sit in air-conditioned comfort while listening to music on the 12-channel audio system! The all-wheel-drive Flying Spur provides nothing less than astonishing performance and nimble handling without fuss. Arnage T and Arnage R models continue to offer a wide choice of owner-selected no-charge options. Please pass the champagne…
BMW launches its all new 3-Series, a great car that keeps getting better. The venerable inline 6 engine develops 215 horsepower in standard form for the 325i and 255 horsepower in the 330i. More passenger room, more luxury, dynamic stability control and optional active steering and nine separate 3-Series models all add up to plenty of bang for the buck. The X3 3.0i SAV gets lots of attention this year as well, with its "intelligent" all wheel drive system and updated exterior. 6-Series cars boast a new 4.8 liter V8 engine that pounds out 360 horsepower and propels the cars from 0-60 in 5.3 seconds. Look for a new M6, coming soon. Fast corners are no problem, thanks to Active Roll Stabilization and all this can be enjoyed while listening to the 7-channel playback matrix Surround Sound.
Buick undergoes a renewal of its product line, starting with the all-new Lucerne; its entry-level luxury sedan that offers superior ride control, remote start and a huge list of amenities. The Lucerne is the first Buick to offer V8 power (275 horsepower) in over a decade and it's available as an option in CXL models, standard in the CXS. More safety features are included with the 2006 LaCrosse with the addition of standard side curtain air bags and ABS on all models. Buick SUVs aren't overlooked in the new year, either. Terraza crossover sport vans will have more power available with a 235-horsepower 3.9 liter V6, as well as available side-impact air bags, making it one of the most comprehensively equipped seven-passenger vehicles in its segment. Rainier gets standard StabiliTrak and a number of exterior refinements as well as more powerful engines with Displacement on Demand. Rendezvous receives a more powerful base engine for 2006 as well as more standard features and revised appearance changes, maintaining its status as a desirable choice in its class.
Cadillac continues to enjoy high popularity with its current lineup and adds three new models, the DTS, STS-V and XLR-V. DTS replaces the DeVille and is the latest passenger car to wear the Cadillac badge. The front-wheel-drive luxury sedan features highly refined ride quality and a 4.6 liter V8 engine with two configurations. STS-V joins the STS models, carrying with it a 469 horsepower 4.4 liter supercharged Northstar engine and spectacular rear-drive performance. The V-Series also expands into the XLR sports car. The personal luxury/performance XLR gets another version of the supercharged Northstar V8 that puts 440 horsepower into its wheels and owners will see outstanding top-end performance as a result. CTS and STS models receive a number of enhancements including Driver Shift Control on the latter. Escalade EXT gets an optional power sliding tonneau cover and sliding load floor that carries 1,000 pounds.
Chevrolet comes on strong and confident for 2006. At the high end of performance is the awesome Corvette ZO6, with its 500+ horsepower and 198 mph top speed. The ZO6 accelerates from 0-60 in the mid 3-second range and pulls over 1G in lateral measurements, putting it right up there with the world's top supercars. The Impala line gets a 303-horsepower SS model that harkens back to the heyday of the muscle car, providing plenty of bang for the buck and Displacement on Demand technology for fuel economy that needs to be experienced to be believed. Cobalt also gets an SS model that's powered by a 171-horsepower Ecotec 2.4 liter engine, along with 17-inch wheels and special trim. SS models also include the Malibu and Malibu Maxx. Both models come with a 240 horsepower V6 and loads of exterior and interior enhancements. Monte Carlo is also revamped with front and rear fascia styling as well as improved interior materials.
Chrysler can't seem to build enough 300 models to fill the demand, now made even higher by the introduction of the SRT-8 HEMI. It's an impressive blend of elegant machine and hot rod. PT Cruiser gets more power for 2006 with an available High Output Turbo engine rated at 230 horsepower. Crossfire adds an optional special edition package to the Roadster, featuring transmission choices and special red exterior paint, along with a host of styling cues. The stylish, affordable Sebring adds SIRIUS satellite radio and Town & Country models now can play any CD or DVD, including MP-3. A seat belt reminder system called BeltAlert is included for the driver and front passenger seats.
Dodge unveils the new Charger, one of the biggest names from the muscle car era. The rear-wheel drive Charger comes with a 3.5 liter V6 or, of course, a 340 horsepower, 5.7 liter HEMI, all in a body with a near 50/50 weight distribution for maximum handling. Magnum stays hot on the heels of the Charger with its own R/T model with its standard tire pressure monitoring system and available all-wheel drive. While we're talking about power, don't overlook the Viper! This legendary car has the distinction of being a "pure" 500/500/500. That is, its V10 engine displaces 500 cubic inches, has 500 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque, all of which mean a 0-60 time less than 4 seconds. The SRT convertible is joined this year by the SRT Coupe. Dakota trucks expand the lineup with four new high-performance models and Durango adds MDS (multi-displacement system) and electronic stability. The new Ram Mega Cab enters the marketplace as the most spacious truck cab on the road.
Ferrari showcases the 612 Scaglietti Coupe, one of the most spectacular four-seat coupes in the world. Matchless Italian styling and 540 horsepower, V12 performance couple with integrated stability and traction control to satisfy the most demanding owners. It features a new F1A paddle shift transmission, all-aluminum alloy body and one of the richest interiors on the road. Coming soon are the F430 in coupe and spider form, followed by the much-anticipated Superamerica.
Ford brings much of the design elements of the 427 Concept car into production as the much-anticipated Fusion. It's wide stance, European styling and advanced safety features are turning lots of eyes toward showrooms. Drivetrain choices, optional amenities and an AWD version late in 2006 make Fusion a welcome addition to the Ford family. The hot-selling Mustang adds a V6 "Pony Package" and new wheel/tire combinations for those who want just a little more personalization. The Five Hundred receives added paint choices and a family entertainment system while Escape adds availability of its 2.3 Duratec engine and Hybrid models add a Premium Package. Explorer, the best-selling SUV for 15 years, adds more power with lower emissions and improved fuel economy. The F150 lineup has a new limited-edition Harley-Davidson SuperCab and STX, XLT, FX4 and Lariat become available with SIRIUS Satellite Radio. Freestar gets a simplified lineup of three models, the SE, SEL and Limited. Ranger receives significant design changes and the Edge is now the Ranger Sport. Taurus, Crown Victoria and Focus continue essentially unchanged and as popular as ever. Last, and most certainly not least, the GT supercar – already at legendary status - continues to be available to those few who managed to place their orders.
GMC broadens its performance capabilities across its product line. Sierra adds the VortecMAX Performance Package that delivers segment-beating payload and towing levels on extended and crew-cab models. The Sierra Heavy-Duty line receives the Allison 1000 Series transmission and new models include an Extended Cab with short cargo box and a new base model 1500 SL Crew Cab. Canyon models add airbag passenger sensing systems and a number of interior changes. A ZQ8 suspension package with 17-inch wheels becomes available. Envoy gets new chrome grill and body molding accents and badging. Displacement-on-demand is now standard with 5.3 liter engines. Yukon models add more safety and comfort features such as available power pedal adjust, along with alternative fuel engine capability. Savana gets the Duramax 6600 turbo-diesel engine, giving its owners four engine and two transmission choices.
Honda breaks loose from the starting gate with its eighth-generation Civic, a totally fresh and innovative model, all new from the ground up. The stylish new cars feature Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering Body Structure, a major step toward limiting vehicle agressivity in crashes. The Civic line offers its popular Hybrid version and the exciting Si, a fun-to-drive high performance model. Element adds the EX-P trim level to its popular lineup, featuring body-colored side panels and door handles. Odyssey, arguably the most popular minivan on the market, adds DVD entertainment and standard XM satellite radio to its Touring models. Pilot is updated for the new year with major exterior and interior enhancements. An all new two-wheel drive version featuring Variable Cylinder Management will be available during the year. S2000, Honda's racetrack-ready sports car, adds electronic Drive-by-Wire throttle control and Vehicle Stability Assist for 2006. The new-for-06 Ridgeline truck is getting plenty of attention in the showrooms, with its In-Bed trunk, independent four-wheel suspension and a 72-quart cooler, among many other features. Accord Coupe and Sedan models offer more power and convenience features on top of front and rear styling updates.
Hummer brings in its latest model, the H3. This newest entry into the lineup brings all the capability of the brand, but packaged into a midsize vehicle. Its distinctive looks hide its more plush interior while its Vortec 3500 engine yields fuel economy upwards of 20 mpg on the highway. H3 also gives the choice of manual or automatic transmissions.
Hyundai proudly unveils the all-new Sonata, which offers its owners a tremendous amount of value for the money. Big news is the standard Electronic Stability Control and ABS/Traction Control on all its four models, in addition to side-impact and roof-mounted side-curtain airbags. The new Azera is sure to get lots of attention as well, especially when people notice its lavish appointments and huge list of standard features. Elantra models come fully equipped with A/C, power windows and heated mirrors and cruise controls and Sante Fe's standard V6 gives 200 horsepower and the highest residual value of any compact SUV. Add Hyundai's well-respected 10 year/100,000 mile warranty and there's a whole lot to see.
Infiniti adds Bluetooth Hands-Free Phone to the G35 to go along with its smooth, powerful performance and "intelligent" all-wheel drive system, and the G35 Coupe is available with a new Rear Active Steer system that is sure to delight drivers who want precise control. The new M35/M45 models come with major platform design and component enhancements and horsepower choices up to 335. 2006 FX models receive exterior facelifts and a spectacular 300-watt Bose sound system, along with a number of interior enhancements and new colors. QX56 enters the new year with minor enhancements, most notably the addition of power folding outside mirrors, Bluetooth Hands-Free phone and MP3 playback capability.
Jaguar announces that an all-new XK sports car will be unveiled in the Spring of 2006 and it promises to be nothing short of spectacular. Meanwhile, the company returns to its glory days of racing with the unveiling of the new XK Victory editions, celebrating the XKR's recent wins in Trans-Am Manufacturer's Championship series events. These models get unique trim features and 20-inch BBS wheels along with the now-familiar V8 engine choices that yield 294 horsepower in standard form and a pavement-ripping 390 horsepower in supercharged form. Full-sized cars now offer the XJ Super V8 Portfolio long wheelbase as the flagship model. It's the most lavishly equipped Jaguar sedan ever built and is a "must see." All model ranges are now available with Bluetooth wireless technology and Sirius satellite radio can be had with X-Type, S-Type and XJ models. Speaking of S-Type and XJ, their 4.2 liter V8's now boast 300 horsepower and 400 horespower (supercharged).
Jeep introduces the Commander, a go-anywhere, do-anything SUV that has three rows of seats and an unprecedented menu of safety and security features. CommandView skylights, choice of three full-time four-wheel-drive systems, three engines (yes, there's a HEMI), two transfer cases, two five-speed transmissions and all the things that make a Jeep a Jeep are in the Commander. The Grand Cherokee lineup is enlarged with the introduction of the new Overland, the most luxurious Grand Cherokee ever. The model lineup receives standard Electronic Stability Control and a number of new features. Don't overlook the Grand Cherokee SRT8 either. Liberty adds Electronic Stability Control to its entire lineup and it includes Electronic Roll Mitigation and Brake Assist. Wrangler brings back the Golden Eagle Edition after nearly 20 years, featuring a Dana 44 heavy-duty rear axle and a big list of amenities.
Kia brings in its completely redesigned Sportage, the next version of its popular SUV. Aside from styling and interior appointments, major items such as electronic stability control, traction control and six airbags are standard on all three models. The all-new Rio and Rio5 are sure to grab attention with their sporty looks, great flexibility and a huge list of standard features that make both models seem much more expensive than they really are. Spectra is redesigned from the ground up and boasts gorgeous styling and generous standard features. Rounding out the line are the Optima, Sedona, Sorento and Kia's industry-leading 10-year, 100,000 mile warranty.
Land Rover's big news is the unveiling of the Range Rover Sports Tourer, the fifth nameplate for the brand. At the top end, its 390 horsepower, supercharged 4.2 liter V8 makes for impressive performance to compliment its superior off-road capability. A V6 diesel and normally-aspirated V8 are available as well, and all models have the Dynamic Response suspension system and performance-tuned chassis that work together to provide superior ride and handling. The Sports Tourer is perfect accompaniment to last year's new LR3, which offers a sumptuous ride for seven along with well-respected off-road prowess.
Lamborghini powers its way onto the American roads with its Murcielago coupe and roadsters, giving breathtaking performance and bold Italian styling to those who own them. Sleek looks, hand-crafted leather and V12 power are there in abundance. The smaller – dare we say, less expensive – Gallardo would certainly not be considered an "entry-level" Lamborghini, but it's an awful lot of excitement for the money.
Lexus launches its RX 400h, the world's first luxury hybrid that offers V8 performance and no compromises on comfort or elegance. Its V6/electric motor combination will allow it to do 0-60 mph in the 6-second range while delivering excellent fuel economy and low emissions. Following closely in its footsteps will be the GS450h, the first high performance luxury hybrid sedan. Marking another "first," the GS450h will be the only rear-drive hybrid on the market. GS and IS models embark on an all new styling direction called "L-finess." The new, leading-edge designs are aimed at visually representing the high level of quality and reliability inherent in the Lexus brand. The new model year will also see all-wheel-drive systems for the GS300 and IS250 cars.
Lincoln presents an all-new model, the Zephyr, a mid-sized sedan that harks back to the '30s Lincoln Zephyr. It boasts 221 horsepower from its 3.0 liter V6 and a 6-speed automatic transmission, both of which enhance its position in the premium mid-size market. LS, an underappreciated model with lots of "soul," is modified in its lineup with a V-8 Sport version only. The Mark LT truck also takes its place in showrooms after being introduced earlier this year. It's a lavishly-appointed premium full-sized truck that has all the capability of its competition and yet can be driven to the opera after a day's chores. Navigator and Town Car receive minor appearance changes
Lotus continues to specialize in making one model, and doing so very well. The delightful Elise roadster is a wonderful combination of light weight, impressive handling (over 1G on the skid pad), intense acceleration and comfortable ride. It's cute, too.
Maserati brings us one of the world's "ultimate" luxury sedans, the Quattroporte. It provides that elusive combination of comfort, style, profound luxury and sports car-like performance (0-60 in 5.2 seconds and a top speed over 170) that has been the hallmark of Maserati for decades. For those wanting a two-seat coupe there's the GranSport, a 400-horsepower machine that is pure sophistication whether it's sitting still or blasting to 180 mph. The 90th Anniversary Spyder harks back to the 450S and 300S racing roadsters, but its 3-layer soft top makes it an all-weather package of pure fun and driving pleasure. It rides on special 19-inch wheels and is finished in special anniversary colors of blue or silver.
Maybach expands its model range with the 57S (which, believe it or not, stands for Special). It's a gorgeous saloon that manages to marry luxury, comfort and innovative technology into a voluptuous package. Its hand-built twelve cylinder engine provides an astounding 612 horsepower through twin turbochargers, enough to propel the machine to the 200 mph mark. The Maybach 57 and Maybach 62 continue their tradition of build quality and materials choices, making their six-figure prices well worth serious consideration by discriminating buyers.
Mazda launches its all-new redesign of the wildly popular MX-5 Miata since the original model was put on the market in 1989. Slightly larger, more powerful and smoother in every way, the new car features three transmission choices: a five-speed manual, six-speed manual and a 6-speed automatic. The groundbreaking and beautifully balanced RX-8 four-door, rotary powered sports car will see a full range of updates and will be launched later in the year. The Mazda3 now offers the "S Grand Touring" model, a highly equipped version that even comes with Sirius satellite radio, complimenting the broad lineup of the "3" platform. Another, sportier version called the Mazda3-I boasts a 150-horsepower, variable valve timing engine that not only provides sprightlier acceleration but also greater fuel economy. All new for 2006 is the Mazda5, a three-row, six-passenger "multi-activity" vehicle that looks like a minivan and drives like a sports sedan. It's doing nothing less than opening a brand new segment in the marketplace. The Mazda6 sports sedan, 5-door and sport wagon will be wearing new interior and exterior designs and greater performance (215 horsepower) from the V6 engines. A new MazdaSpeed6, with a new direct injection spark ignition turbo engine, will debut early in the year and will surely satisfy the racing enthusiasts, even those who'd like to be.
Mercedes-Benz introduces the new R-Class, an all-weather luxury grand sports touring machine that carries six passengers in total comfort. Two models are offered, the 3.5 liter V6 R350 and the 5 liter V8 R500. CLS, the first-ever four-door coupe, adds another new class to the automotive world. It's available as the CLS500 and the 469-horsepower CLS55 AMG. The second-generation M-Class is changed throughout and offers greater performance, full-time AWD and a standard seven-speed automatic transmission with Direct Select column-mounted shifter. The CLK-Class gets a facelift, new active front head restraints and a number of interior and exterior enhancements. The CLK320 is replaced by the 3.5 liter CLK350. SLK receives a new model, the SLK280. It features a 3 liter, 228 horsepower version of the V6 engine, giving the little sportster quite a bit more pep. S-Class brings on the power in its new S65 AMG model. It's the world's fastest four-door sedan at the moment, thanks to its 604 horsepower V12 engine and 0-60 time of 4.2 seconds. Other changes for 2006 include run-flat tires on the SL-Class, Keyless Go on SL, CL, S-Classes and a range of new V6 engines in the C-Class.
Mercury introduces the all-new Milan, a classy five-passenger sedan that promises to attract younger buyers with its blend of style, finish and very affordable price. A spunky 4-cylinder or silky-smooth V6 can be chosen, along with 5-speed manual, automatic or 6-speed automatic transmission. Grand Marquis soldiers along as a great value leader and the Mariner Hybrid drives into dealerships a full year ahead of its original production schedule, accompanied by several interior and exterior changes to the other Mariner models - such as the "Moon and Tune" package that includes satellite radio, moonroof and lots of other features. Montego receives new interior enhancements including an optional rear-seat DVD entertainment system and navigation system. Monterey simplifies its series with one, very well equipped model and minor appearance changes.
MINI continues to be the "darling" of the automotive world here in the U.S., and it is well on its way to developing an emotional following rivaling that of the Beetle in the 1960s. For 2006 the model line receives new optional features, most notably a new Checkmate package and factory-installed John Cooper Works package. The Checkmate's exterior sports cool-looking checkered decals, a rear spoiler and bonnet stripes along with a custom interior. The John Cooper Works package adds a sport brake kit and limited slip differential along with its well known engine performance upgrades. The MINI line now offers English Leather upholstery, "Seven" high gloss black or "Park Lane" dash treatments.
Mitsubishi enters the new model year with fresh products that help reinforce the company's motto: "Driven to Thrill." Eclipse is all new from the floor to the roof, styled and engineered to compete with the best of them. Two engine choices are available, a 2.4 liter inline four and a 260 horsepower, 3.8 liter V6 that will outperform a whole bunch of other street-rockets. Speaking of fast cars, Lancer Evolution IX is loaded with power and aerodynamic features that are sure to continue its international rally successes and please owners here in the States. Standard Lancer models are updated with front fascia and additional safety features. Galant, one of the most underrated sedans, gets a new dash design, impressive ice-blue LED nighttime instrument lights and new interior materials. Outlander adds seat-mounted side impact air bags and antilock brakes while Endeavor sports a more aggressive front end and grille design. Montero is unchanged, but new to the truck lineup is the Raider. Raider offers the light-truck market a bold exterior look and a very stylish interior, all at a bargain price.
Nissan adds the new 2007 Versa to its impressive lineup. The stylish little vehicle goes on sale next summer and will be available as a 4-door sedan or 5-door hatchback. Bluetooth, satellite radio and a host of state-of-the-art features will be offered and the base price starts at an amazing $12,000. The exciting 350Z is extensively updated and features revised front fascia, 18-inch wheels, spiffy interior and lots of other goodies. Quest now offers Michelin PAX Run-Flat tires and a 3.5S Special Edition trim package. Meanwhile, other models like the Altima, Murano, Maxima, Quest, Sentra, Pathfinder, etc., receive trim and color changes as well as more electronics capabilities.
Pontiac unveils the much-awaited Solstice, a pure sports car that delivers great style, impressive performance and true driving enjoyment at a very low price. The Solstice is sure to get plenty of attention wherever it goes. Another new offering is the Torrent, a boldly-styled crossover vehicle that is part SUV and part car. G6 offers two new body styles, a coupe and retractable hardtop convertible that comfortably seats four. GTP gets a new 3.9 liter V6 rated at 240 horsepower (227 in the convertible) and all G6 models are fitted with a single antenna that combines OnStar and XM radio. Grand Prix receives a Special Edition package and all models have a significantly upgraded interior that shows great attention to detail. GTO, the subtle screamer, compliments its impressive performance with revised tail lamps, twin hood scoops and available 18-inch wheels, all carried by its LS2 400 horsepower engine. The Vibe, updated in 05, gets new exterior color choices and a variety of available convenience packages. Montana SV6 receives side-impact air bags and a new 3.9 liter V6 along with entertainment features like PhatNoise and a 40-gigabyte removable hard drive.
Porsche always delights its buyers and 2006 brings in the Cayman S, a mid-engine, 3.4 liter, 295 horsepower coupe that offers Porsche's uncompromising blend of seamless performance, driving pleasure and total control, all in a boldly-styled new body wrapped over a sophisticated chassis. Boxster models are thoroughly updated for even greater agility, while delivering excellent fuel economy, enhanced safety, improved ergonomics and all of the attributes that make the Boxster such a popular choice. The time-honored 911 series keeps getting better and better and the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 and 4S join the lineup as "wide body" models based on the 997 platform.
Rolls Royce proudly continues its Phantom, truly one of the world's most prestigious cars. Having just produced its 2000th Phantom this past August, Rolls Royce acknowledges its presence all over the world. Phantom owners love the size and ever-so-traditional styling of the 435-horsepower Phantom V12 and nearly everyone – even non car-enthusiasts – recognizes a Rolls Royce when it drives by. A new convertible will debut in 2007, rounding out the legendary brand's offerings.
SAAB has introduced more new products in the past few years than in its history and 2006 marks its biggest launch year ever. The 9-3 line receives the addition of the SportCombi five-door wagon, which takes the company into the premium midsize wagon segment for the first time. The SportCombi features some innovative cargo carrying ideas and a new turbocharged V6 engine that puts out 250 horsepower. On the SUV side of the market is the new 9-7X, an all-wheel-drive SUV based on the Chevy Trailblazer platform and tailored by Saab engineers to suit its demanding customers. Ride height is lowered, interior features significantly upgraded and, yes, the ignition key is in the center console. Its inline six-cylinder engine has 290 horsepower and there's an optional 300-horsepower V8 with Displacement on Demand available.
Saturn has dramatically updated the Vue for 2006, with interior and exterior changes that add an integrated step pad, headlamps, hood and grill. Inside, new seats and chrome-and-wood accents bring a touch of class to the newly-designed center console and the Vue's 250-horsepower V6 makes it the most powerful in its class. The Relay advances its safety capabilities with the addition of first and second row side air bags, available as an option. OnStar adds Spanish and French to its voice-recognition later in the year, and a more powerful 3.9 liter V6 will become available on the Relay 3 FWD. Ion gets an Enhanced Performance Package for 2006, the "heart" of which is a new 2.4 liter Ecotec engine that puts out 170 horsepower. The package also has suspension mods, so Ion enthusiasts can expect the fun-factor to increase.
Scion xA, the first model introduced under the brand name, receives a number of styling revisions including a new front fascia, headlamps and grille. Seat fabrics and instrumentation have been upgraded as well and customers can choose from three different wheel cover designs. The xB line adds a new Rampvan model which is wheelchair-accessible. XB models feature a centrally-located volume control knob and a mini-jack port in the center console, allowing for connectivity to many of the players popular with Gen Y-ers. The tC gets audio system enhancements as well, including an optional system with iPod player, making Scion the first brand offering iPod across its lineup.
Subaru is virtually brimming with new developments, the biggest of which is the introduction of the new B9 Tribeca, the company's first 7-passenger vehicle. It's nothing less than a new design identity, with its prominent three-part grille setting the trend for many other models such as the restyled Impreza. The WRX line is expanded with the TR, which means "Tuner Ready." This entry-level model of the hot sports sedan gives buyers the ability to personalize their WRX to compliment the new 230-horsepower 2.5 liter engine. Forester also receives some updates, giving it a more refined look as well as performance and handling enhancements. The turbocharged Forester XT Limited receives 20 more horsepower. Legacy enthusiasts will welcome the 2.5 GT spec.B model, a sports sedan designed to deliver ultimate driving performance combined with luxury. Only 500 will be built, so get in line now.
Suzuki continues its drive to fill many niches in the marketplace and give great value in its vehicles. The Grand Vitara gets a more powerful, 185 horsepower engine, four-wheel independent suspension and full-time four-mode four-wheel-drive this year. The XL-7 now comes with a new audio system that is XM Satellite-ready and the steering wheel-mounted controls continue as a popular attraction. The Verona's interior is improved with nice detail enhancements and under the hood its 2.5 liter engine now meets ULEV-II emission standards. The cute Forenza sports new front-end fascia styling elements that give it a more refined look. Also incorporated in the styling changes are new wheel designs and enhanced interior elements. The Reno also comes with an upgraded interior and new wheel designs, along with a pleasant surprise: the base price is lowered for 2006! Suzuki still offers what it calls "America's #1 Warranty" on all its models. That's a fully transferable, zero-dollar deductible 100,000 mile/7 year powertrain warranty, by the way.
Toyota's focus in 2006 continues to stress eco-friendliness. Hybrid technology gets a boost with the arrival of the very nice-to-drive Highlander Hybrid, the first seven-passenger hybrid SUV. Like the Prius it offers Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive technology. The best-selling Prius continues with exterior and interior enhancements for 2006. A Camry hybrid will be built in the Georgetown, KY plant later in the year, giving Toyota an impressive hybrid lineup. The all-new 2007 Yaris, a sub-compact vehicle, is coming in the Spring, followed by a larger and more powerful RAV4. Toyota's SUV lineup (consisting of six models) continues with a number of styling changes for the 4Runner and Land Cruiser and the latter gets a new 4.7 liter engine and sophisticated suspension options. Tacoma receives some enhancements for 2006 as well, and the popular Sienna minivan gets a larger screen for its rear seat entertainment system and new styling cues. Safety isn't overlooked on the Sienna either, as side curtain airbags are provided for all rows. The much-anticipated FJ Cruiser SUV will debut in early 2006, providing the buying public with a sporty, fun-to-drive low-priced vehicle that has real off-road capability.
Volkswagen is right on track with its new product launches for 2006. The Jetta GLI is VW's new performance sedan aimed at those customers who want style, sportiness and value along with 4 doors. It offers a 200 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine and 6-speed manual transmission. Also new to the Jetta lineup is the Value Edition model. The sixty-generation 2006 Passat is now one of the most powerful front-drive midsize cars offered, with the introduction of the 3.6L - a 280-horsepower V6 (VR6) "family" car that can do 0-60 in 6.6 seconds. The once-popular Passat Estate wagon will return to the U.S. later in 2006 and will be offered in AWD. A freshly restyled New Beetle gets a more powerful 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine and standard traction control and electronic stabilization program, making it one of the safest in its class. VW is continuing to offer diesel power in nearly all its models, as the company remains a leader in this technology.
Volvo celebrates its 50th year in America with the introduction of the all-new C70, a delightful retractable hardtop convertible that seats – safely, of course – four persons. Its 2.5 liter turbocharged engine produces 218 horsepower for driving fun. Not quite as new is the V50, the company's Activity Sportswagon, which debuted in late 2004. It's available in three versions, the 2.4i, T5 and T5 AWD, all of which feature driving pleasure and unique interior styling. All S60 models become turbocharged for 2006 and the 2.4 engine discontinued. Option packages have been realigned for greater value and ease of choice. S80 models get more standard equipment and a simplified lineup featuring two models, the 2.5T and 2.5T AWD. The V70 T5 is discontinued, but those wanting performance can still get the V70R, which has two mechanical changes sure to elevate the "thrill" factor. Standard AWD with Instant Traction and a next-generation computer-controlled Haldex AWD system deliver power to the road. This same machinery is attached to the XC70 for 2006, as is an optional FOUR-C active chassis system.