Saturday, April 29, 2006

Old School Look for Petty Racing's #43 Car

Petty Racing's #43 Dodge Charger sports the classic STP colors April 30 and September 9.

When Bobby Labonte gets behind the wheel of the #43 Petty Racing Dodge Charger this weekend, he'll see an STP logo through his windshield. To help promote its new oil stabilizer product, STP is the car's primary sponsor for this weekend's Aarons 499 Nextel Cup race at the Talladega Superspeedway. This marks the first time in six years that the 43 car will wear the classic STP/Petty red, white and blue livery.

The throwback paint scheme isn't all crass commercialism, either. For each lap completed, STP will donate $43 to the Victory Junction Gang Camp, a race-themed getaway for seriously or chronically ill children. Victory Junction was created by the Petty family and opened its doors in 2004. It is a member of the Association of Hole in the Wall Camps.

The #43 car will sport the retro paint scheme again on September 9 at the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 in Richmond. That race will again see STP donate $43/lap to the camp. All told, STP will donate over $25,000 to Victory Junction this year.

As racing paint schemes go, the STP/Richard Petty colors are as recognizable as the Gulf Racing livery that became synonymous with sports car racing in the late 60s. There is something special about seeing the 43 car doing it old-school again, and it wouldn't be disappointing to see it in the winner's circle come Sunday evening.

Sure, that may be a tall order, but for the casual fan, it's something fun to root for.

The Aaron's 499 airs at 1:30PM on Fox this Sunday.

Additional Resources:
Photo: STP, Petty Racing

Friday, April 28, 2006

"Yes!" Cadillac BLS Charity Tour Gets Underway

2007 Cadillac BLS

The car companies love to get celebrities for their new car launches. For example, this year in Detroit, DaimlerChrysler had Law & Order babe Angie Harmon in the building to launch the Jeep Compass. A couple of weeks ago in New York, they had the gratuitiously hot Eva Mendes on hand for the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited premiere.

Sexist though it may be, combining women and cars seems like a pretty effective combo. If you don't believe me, I would advise that you inspect the bedroom walls of the average teenage male.

So you'll understand why I'm a bit perplexed by Cadillac's celebrity choice to launch the promo tour for the new Europe-only BLS.

Keira Knightly? No.

Kate Beckinsale? You wish.

The celebrity Cadillac Europe chose to kick off the BLS charity promo tour was Rick Wakeman, the longtime keyboardist for Yes and wearer of incredibly pimptastic fur coats back in the day.

Wakeman, you see, supports SPARKS, a UK charity that raises money to research children's medical issues. SPARKS and Caddy are teaming up to bring the BLS sedan on two-week nationwide tour where they will be showing off the car and raising money for the charity at the same time.

First stop on the tour was the London Golf Show, which opened this week. Rick Wakeman was there:

Rick Wakeman tees off at the SPARKS/BLS tour launch in London.

Source: Cadillac Europe via Newspress UK
Photos: General Motors, Rick Wakeman/A&M Records

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

38mpg Lexus IS220d Sport Makes UK Debut

2006 Lexus IS220d Sport

Sport tuning.
18" rims.
38mpg combined city/hwy.

UK-based Lexus aficionados get all those things in the just-released IS220d Sport.

The sport arrives in the wake of the already-available IS220d, and shares that car's 2.2-liter CRD (Common Rail Diesel) four cylinder. Power and torque from the oil-burner are 177bhp and 195 lb-ft respectively. In addition to the suspension mods and wheel/tire package, the 220d Sport gets a rear axle ratio of 3.20 (versus the 2.47 of the regular IS220d) and VDIM* as standard equipment. According to Lexus, these changes make the driving experience more involved and rewarding.

Winding through the 6-speed manual gets you to 62 mph in just under 9 seconds and an eventual top speed of 134 mph. That's not blinding performance, but when you combine it with fuel economy ratings of 29 mpg in town and 45 mpg on the highway, it makes for a pretty attractive overall package.

It doesn't come cheap, though.

The IS220d Sport starts at £26,925. That translates to over $48,000 at the current exchange rate. In the US, that will get you into a fully loaded IS350 with thousands left over. Is it as stingy on fuel consumption? No way. But it will blow the doors off most cars in its class, which is totally fun.

*VDIM - Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management

Source: Lexus via Newspress UK

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Special Delivery: Ford Europe Announces Fiesta SportVan

2006 Ford Fiesta SportVan (panel-style)

Work vehicle by day. Personal vehicle by night.

Small business owners often make do with a single car or truck that performs this kind of double-duty. You see them on the road all the time, ranging from big trucks and SUVs to smaller, more practical cars like the PT Cruiser (which I frequently see playing this role). The one thing they all have in common is the presence of the business name on the door, often in the form of removable magnetic signage.

In Europe, businesses work with smaller work vehicles out of necessity, and Ford has decided to inject some stiyle into the segment. At this week's Commercial Vehicle Show in Birmingham, England, the Blue Oval revealed the 2006 Fiesta SportVan. Available in both window and panel models, the SportVan takes the already sporty fiesta, dresses it up with ST-style visual cues, and deletes rear seating to create a usable cargo space.

Power comes from a 1.6-liter turbodiesel with around 91 horsepower, which is connected to a 5-speed Durashift manual.

Inside, customers get sport seating and a steering wheel and shift knob wrapped in leather. They can also add MP3 support, A/C, a heated windshield, and electric, heated mirrors from the available list of options.

Like the regular Fiesta, this thing's a Europe-only model, so if you want one, you're gonna be disappointed. It's a shame, too. As trucklets go, this may be the coolest one I've seen.

Here's the full release from Ford:
NEW FORD FIESTA SPORTVAN COMBINES PERFORMANCE WITH STYLE

Birmingham, 25 April 2006: With sporty hot-hatch looks, sparkling road performance and impressive load carrying capacity, the Fiesta SportVan is ideal for dual-use customers who require a van for both business and domestic purposes.

Like all Ford Fiestas, the SportVan combines driving quality with functionality and practicality. Powered by Ford's lively 1.6-litre 90PS 204Nm Duratorq TDCi diesel engine, it boasts the acclaimed Durashift 5-speed manual transmission, power-assisted steering and anti-lock brakes.

Making its public debut at the Commercial Vehicle Show in Birmingham and available as either a window van or panel van (availability varies by market), the Fiesta SportVan comes in one of four colours: Colorado Red, Panther Black, Moondust Silver and Diamond White – all with a dark Pewter and ebony Gun Metal interior.

Externally, distinctive styling elements communicate the vehicle's on-road prowess. These include body-coloured front and rear sport bumpers, 16-inch 12-spoke alloy wheels with 195/45 R16 tyres, tapered body-side mouldings and a rear spoiler. The front end is distinguished by a high intake front grille, sports fog lamps and a rear spoiler.

The style continues inside, with sports front seats, a sports leather gear knob and leather-wrapped steering wheel with silver spokes. An available option pack includes air-conditioning, MP3 connectivity, a heated front windscreen, and electrically-operated and heated door mirrors.

"The small delivery van market is buoyant, thanks to a growing trend toward customers who require a stylish dual-use van for both domestic and business purposes." said Phil Collareno, Vehicle Line Director, Commercial Vehicles, Ford of Europe.

"The new Fiesta SportVan has been developed to meet the needs of drivers who want more car-like performance, style and fun in combination with the practicality and durability of the Fiesta van."

The Fiesta SportVan will go on sale in markets across Europe towards the end of the year.
Photo courtesy of Ford

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Camaro On The Move


Last Wednesday, I was walking across the NY Auto Show floor when, to my surprise, I saw the Camaro Concept in front of me.

With the engine running.

Hearing it rumble makes you want to reserve one. Like, yesterday.

Even though it's only a concept vehicle (for now), Camaro makes all the right noises. The idle was a guttural rumble that made me want to hear what it sounded like under real acceleration. One guy next to me wondered aloud how much money it'd take to have the driver "light 'em up."

A moment later, the driver put the car in gear and started on a low-speed journey through the Jacob Javits Center. It pulled a bunch of us behind it like some sheetmetal-clad pied piper.

We followed it out of the GM area, through the Mini display , and around a corner to the SEMA stand, where it was parked and covered in preparation for that afternoon's press conference. Two other cars, the '07 Shelby GT500 and the Challenger Concept, were there already, hidden under covers of their own.

"Let's Motor? Come get some, bitches."

The Camaro never exceeded a speed of around 5mph on its little jaunt through Javits.

Even the ladder was intimidated.

No matter. That didn't make seeing the car in motion any less thrilling. It's not just some Faberge egg on a well-lit turntable. It's a runner, and a mean one at that.


Judge for yourself. I shot this brief Quicktime video using my little Nikon digital camera. Sadly, it doesn't record audio...



Photos/Video: Alex Nunez
Header photo courtesy of GM

Turn Back The Clock: Shelby GT-H Production Begins


Last Wednesday at the New York International Auto Show, Ford's Mark Fields brought out the 2007 Shelby GT-H Mustang (with Carroll Shelby riding 'gun), saying it represented two tiers of Ford's new performance strategy: personalized performance and Ford Racing Parts.

The Shelby GT-H is a modern take on the Shelby GT350H that appeared in 1966. These original Rent-A-Racers could be taken out for $17/day and $0.17/mile, and they were as nasty at the track as their non-Hertz Shelby bretheren.

Fast-forward 40 years . The new Hertz Mustangs are a limited run of 500, and they share the classic black and gold livery of their 1960s forebears. A modified front fascia, special badging, Shelby hood, side scoops, and a 335-horsepower V8 modified with Ford Racing Performance Parts complete the package. In a Monday press release, Shelby Automobiles announced that production of GT-H has officially begun at its Las Vegas facility.

Hertz's Joe Alesandro was accompanying GT-H prototype at NYIAS, and I asked him how the company would be handling the introduction and eventual removal of the cars from the rental fleet.

He informed me that when they're ready, the GT-H Mustangs will be added at a rate of approximately 50 per week over 10 weeks. Cars will be retired based on mileage and time in service (figure around 15,000 miles and/or 6 months). The first few cars out of service will go to Barrett-Jackson, where they will be auctioned off to set market value. The remaining cars will be made available to Ford dealers via closed sales. Those dealers will then sell the cars to the public for presumably exorbitant sums of money.

Rent 'em while you can, because once they're gone, you won't be able to touch one without backing up a truckload of cash first.

Oh, and the GT-H prototype? It'll join the '66 GT350H that currently greets visitors in the lobby of Hertz HQ.

Additional Info
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Here are some more photos we took of Carroll and his 'Stangs at NYIAS. To see and/or download higher-res (1024x768) versions, just click on them. Enjoy.



There's some more where those came from up at the NoonzWheels Flickr site. Also, be sure to check out Autoblog's coverage. They've posted really nice high-res pics of both the 2007 car and the classic GT350H.

Photos: Chris Cerreta, Alex Nunez

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Saturn: No Replacement Set For Ion

Saturn Ion Red Line

Autoweek reports that Saturn has killed the planned replacement for the Ion entry-level sedan and coupe, creating a scenario where dealers aren't going to have a starter model for a number of months after the Ion goes to the junkyard in the sky.

Given that the Ion is one of the ugliest cars ever produced by General Motors, I doubt many people will lament its departure. Since GM is going to have to swallow this bitter pill no matter what, they may as well get the replacement car right. AW is saying that Opel Astra speculation has already begun. This should be a no-brainer.

Saturn Ion Sedan

Saturn GM Jill Lajdziak is being noncommital, saying only that Saturn is looking for "a collaboration." At NYIAS last week, Bob Lutz confirmed what was quickly becoming obvious when he said that product-wise, Saturn and Opel are effectively joined at the hip going forward.

The Astra makes complete sense, then.

It's good-looking and is available as a 3-door, 5-door, station wagon and hardtop coupe/convertible (known as the TwinTop). The 3-door Astra GTC could provide Saturn with a hot hatch that would do just fine in Red Line trim.

Red Line, anyone? Opel Astra GTC

This is an opportunity that GM cannot afford to screw up. Bring the Astra here as the Ion replacement. It'll be worth the extra few months wait.

For more, check out Autoblog's post (and ensuing comment thread) on this topic.


Opel Astra TwinTop

Opel Astra Station Wagon

Official Sites:

Source: Autoweek
Photos: GM

Monday, April 17, 2006

GM Minivans Substandard In IIHS Crash Tests

2005 Pontiac Montana SV6

In results made public over the weekend, the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety found the General Motors minivans (Chevy Uplander/Saturn Relay/Buick Terraza/Pontiac Montana SV6) to be substandard performers in its most recent round of crash tests.

Particularly troubling to the institue was the tendency of the rear seat in the aforementioned minivans to literally break free during side-impact crashes. The net result: "Poor" ratings for GM vans without side airbags. When the optional side airbags were employed, it didn't help all that much. Ratings improved to "marginal," hardly confidence inspiring if you're looking for a vehicle to cart the kids around in.

In its coverage, the Detroit Free Press reports that GM will begin installation of a metal brace that should keep the seats attached to the floor when side-impact accidents occur. Even as the company moved to correct the obvious problem, a GM spokeman was quoted as saying, "We do not believe that it's a safety issue."

Right. That's about as believable as someone saying, "We believe that the Saturn Ion is a great-looking car."

In any case, I don't know how big a deal this really is, because it's not like you see a lot of the odd-looking GM minivans cruising the streets on a daily basis. If people aren't driving them, they can't crash them and get hurt by the undocumented detachable rear seat "feature."

In case you were wondering, the Kia Sedona was the top-ranking minivan in the testing.

Source: Detroit Free Press
Photo: GM

Sunday, April 16, 2006

It's Official: Next GT-R Will Be A Nissan

At the Tokyo Motor Show, we previewed the GT-R Proto but we did not disclose the global branding for the car. I am pleased to reveal today that the next GT-R will be sold exclusively through the Nissan sales channel in the U.S. and around the world. GT-R will be available in the U.S. in the spring of 2008.

-Carlos Ghosn, President and CEO Nissan Motor Co., Ltd
That little bit of news was tucked in at the end of Nissan honcho Carlos Ghosn's introduction of the new Altima and facelifted Maxima at the New York Auto Show last week.

Traditionalists and Gran Turismo devotees worldwide are sure to be pleased that the legendary GT-R name won't be attached to the luxury-oriented Infiniti brand here in the U.S.

For future buyers of the new GT-R, however, the downside is that the sales and service experience for what is sure to be a reasonably expensive and extremely desirable car will all be centered around regular Nissan dealerships, which do not offer the same benefits one receives at Infiniti outlets.

That's why I'm surprised by the announcement. The new GT-R is going to be priced in the same range as more upmarket Infiniti product, and customers who spend that kind of money have expectations about how they'll be treated that probably won't be met at the local Nissan dealer. For that reason alone, I was personally convinced that GT-R would wear an Infiniti badge in the US.

All that said, no matter what nameplate it wears, the enthusiast in me can't wait for it to get here.

Download Carlos Ghosn's full Altima/Maxima remarks here.

UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, Infiniti dealers are not happy. Leftlane News has the story.

Photos courtesy of Nissan.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

New York 2006: Ford Emphasizing Performance

"...I am from the school that says performance vehicles make brands stronger.

I believe they have a critical role in our Way Forward because they challenge our designers and engineers to excel, they excite our marketers and they make a strong emotional connection to customers – usually through the right foot."

-Ford Motor Co. Executive Vice President, Mark Fields

The Ford press conference at NYIAS on Wednesday featured an update on the company's "Way Forward" recovery plan by VP Mark Fields. In his address, Fields stated that a strong performance image is essential, and he laid out a 3-tiered approach to sustaining it.

1. Personalized Performance

Ford wants to address enthusiasts' desire for "upgraded power, performance, and appearance."

Does this mean more limited-edition Mustangs like the upcoming California Special?

2007 Ford Mustang GT California Special

Could we see a factory car that's thematically similar to one of the SEMA Fusions or the audacious Funkmaster Flex Fusion Custom on display in New York this week?

FS Werks Ford Fusion built for SEMA 2005

2006 Funkmaster Flex Ford Fusion Custom at NYIAS

How about a different sport-minded Focus? At least offer the 154-hp ST package on the inherently sportier ZX3 hatchback instead of making it exclusive to the Zx4.

It's going to be interesting to see how Ford appeals to their "personalized performance" customers, a group that potentially includes everyone from collectors to tuners.

2. SVT

Rumors of SVT's death appear to be greatly exaggerated, as Fields said that the plan going forward is to have a performance Mustang and a performance truck in the model lineup. Today, that Mustang is the Shelby GT500. As for the truck, well, who knows? One would guess that this re-opens the doors for the return of the F150 Ligntning, since Ford killed the Sport trac Adrenalin earlier this year.

For what it's worth, the slide that was on display behind Fields during his speech clearly showed the silhouette of an F-150 next to the photo of the '07 GT500. While a Lightning revival is still pure speculation at this point, it makes perfect sense. The Shelby GT500's blown 5.4L V8 is based on the 5.4L Triron V8 truck engine. Drop it in the F-150, connect it to an automatic transmission, and presto: a new Lightning.

If they do it, they'll sell them all.

2003 Detroit Auto Show SVT Lightning Concept. Is a comeback in the making?

3. Ford Racing / Ford Racing Performance Parts


Fields closed by specifically mentioning the Mustang FR500C (above) as well as the large portfolio of Ford Racing parts available for the company's street cars. Whether a customer wants to buy a race-prepped Mustang straight from the factory, or simply make his standard production Mustang a little meaner, Ford can accomodate those needs.

As you can see, there are plenty of scenarios in which the parts of the Ford performance strategy potentially overlap. To illustrate this kind of synergy between the different facets of the performance strategy, Fields summoned the car everyone had gathered to see.

To Be Continued...

New York 2006: Lexus LS600hL

"It is a vehicle as efficient and familiar as it is indulgent and advanced, a far-reaching concept, fully developed and fully realized. It is simply in a class by itself."
-Lexus Group VP & GM, Bob Carter
First stop at the New York Auto Show this morning was Lexus' press conference in the Jacob Javits Center's Galleria. The room was darkened and there were hundreds of seats in place for the gathered media. Most of them were empty when I walked in, so I took a spot on the center aisle in the middle of the room. The other attendees were, for the most part, still chatting with each other along the outskirts of the seating area.

At the far end was a large, simple stage where the action would soon be taking place. A screen hung from its roof. Ambient electronica music played in the background, and gradually the seats filled up. A voice would periodically announce the number of minutes left until "the show" began. Finally, the lights dimmed. The Lexus logo popped onscreen, and the staged glowed blue. Showtime.

Lexus Group Vice President and GM Bob Carter stolled onstage and opened his comments with a salute to New York, calling it a city of "unparalleled prestige" and indicating that that was precisely why Lexus had chosen NYC to unveil their new luxury hybrid sedan.

He gave a brief review of the first three appearances of the new LS460 sedan at Tokyo, Detroit, and Geneva, and said that the theme that had been established with the new LS at those shows was that lexus "wanted to develop an automobile that our customers would say is simply the 'World's Best.' "

He acknowledged that that is a lofty goal, indeed, and I would have to agree. Mercedes-Benz's all-new S-Class, the recently revised BMW 7-Series, and the spectacular Audi A8 have set the bar very high. The Lexus LS sedans, while absolutely excellent, had been, to this point, playing follow the leader with the Germans. Based on what Carter said next, those days are over.

Saying that the introduction of the new LS was an emphatic statement from the company, Carter said that this car, the LS hybrid, was the exclamation point: a car that "explored the outer reaches of performance, style and technology. A vehicle as efficient and familiar as it is indulgent and advanced."

And with that, he summoned the Lexus LS600hL, a car he says is "in a class by itself."

The house lights were shut off. The lower part of the stage wall lifted up, revealing an illuminated ramp from which a pair of headlights glowered at the assembled media.


As the car pulled out onto the stage, the lights came up, and it began rotating on a turntable. Carter walked back, stating, "Welcome to the new world of prestige luxury."

The LS hybrid (LS600hL is a bit of a mouthful, no?) is the first vehicle...period...to be powered by a full hybrid V8. Carter formally announced that all Lexus hybrid powertrains would be known by the marketing name "Lexus Hybrid Drive" going forward.

Driven by a 5.0L direct-injection gasoline V8 which is augmented by high-output electric motors and a new high-capacity battery, the LS hybrid produces over 430 horsepower. This is, Carter pointed out, comparable to the output Mercedes, BMW, and Audi get from their 12-cylinder engines. Power is put to the ground through a full-time all-wheel-drive system connected to a 2-stage continuously variable transmission.

Up next was a laundry list of the available luxury and safety features. Some highlights:
  • The Advanced Pre-Collision System - Two small cameras are mounted in front, which, with radar assistance, can detect large metallic objects (like other cars) or smaller, non-metallic objects (like people). These work in conjunction with a third steering-column-mounted camera that watches the driver's face.

    If camera 3 sees that the driver is not looking at the road and determines that the likelihood of a collision is high, the system springs into action. First, it sounds an audible warning. Next, it can start applying the brakes on its own. Finally, the system can reprogram the car's steering ratio on the fly to allow for the quickest response possible if the driver tries to avoid the obstruction.

    While this is all happening, it activates the seat belt pre-tensioners and prepares the braking system to apply maximum force when the driver hits that pedal. Amazing.
  • The LS hybrid will be available only in long-wheelbase configuration in North America. One of the benefits of this is an optional right rear passenger seat that reclines. With a footrest. And integrated massage. It;s like having one of those Sharper Image or Brookstone chairs in the car.
  • Parallel Park Assist - It works like this: you pull up to a parking space and you press a button. The car then parks itself. I guess part of the Driver's Ed exam just became completely obsolete.
  • Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) rating - The Lexus LS600hL has 70% cleaner emissions than its most efficient competitor.
After listing a few more options and innovations, Bob Carter brought the car's Chief Engineer, Moritaka Yoshida, onstage with him, and ended the conference.

Bob Carter (right) & Moritaka Yoshida (left) with the Lexus LS600hL

A technological tour de force. Gorgeous to behold. The new Lexus LS, and its flagship hybrid in particular, send a message to the company's German competitors that they are no longer following in their footsteps.

Instead, they have decided to take the lead themselves.

Here are some more publicity photos of the LS600hL, as provided by Lexus. Also, please note that pricing, performance, and fuel economy figures have not yet been made available.

Photos by Alex Nunez and Lexus

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Live From The Auto Show

Ok, break in the action here (for me, anyway).

Here's a quick roundup of what I've learned so far:
  • Bon Appetit magazine has someone here.
  • Met David E. Davis, icon of automotive journalism
  • First press conference was Lexus, who introduced the completely sublime LS600hL hybrid mega-luxury sedan. Full details in a post later tonight.
  • Next up was Acura, who unveiled the production RDX compact ute and the new MDX in concept form. Both are impressive. The surprise came last, however, when they pulled the wraps off their 2007 American Le Mans Series racer, which is going to give Porsche and Dyson headaches in the LMP2 class. Pics later tonight...
  • At Ford, a fantastic presentation, capped off by two Hertz Mustangs roaring onstage. One, a classic Shelby GT350H, the other, the 2007 Ford Shelby GT-H...a 500-car limited edition that will be available for rental at Hertz outlets. Oh, and Carroll Shelby was there, too. Pics tonight.
  • Saturn introduced the three new vehicles I discussed yesterday, and they are fantastic-looking. Bob Lutz was very enthused.
  • A few minutes ago, Jeep unveiled the new 4-Door Wrangler in very messy fashion, with the aid of some of New York's Bravest.
  • In 20 minutes I'm headed to the Bentley stand to see the Continental GTC reveal.
  • There's more. Check back in tonight. Looks like most posting is going to happen in the evening. I was fortunate to get on this workstation.
Update: Yes, I know that "pics tonight" didn't happen. It will happen over the next several days as I post everything I want to talk about from the show.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

NY Debuts: The Official List


From the NY International Auto Show Official Website:

2006 NYIAS World and North American Debuts
WORLD INTRODUCTIONS:
Acura RDX SUV
Acura MDX
Bentley Continental GTC
Chrysler 300 Long Wheelbase
Chrysler Aspen CSE
Ford Mustang Special Edition
Hyundai Elantra
Infiniti G35
Jeep Patriot
Jeep Wrangler 4 Door
Lexus LS 600h
Mazda CX-9
Mercedes-Benz E320 BLUETEC
Mercedes-Benz E-Class 550 Sport
Mercedes-Benz E-Class 63 AMG
Mitsubishi Outlander
Nissan Altima
Pontiac G6 GXP
Saleen Parnelli Jones Limited Edition
Saturn Saturn Sky Red Line
Saturn PreVue Concept
Saturn Aura
Saturn Outlook
Scion Scion Sport Coupe Concept
Scion tc Release Series 2.0
Suzuki XL7
Volvo XC90
NORTH AMERICAN INTRODUCTIONS:
Audi A4 Convertible
Audi S4 Convertible
Audi TT
BMW Z4 Coupe
Kia Sorrento
Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder
Land Rover Land_e Concept
Lotus Exige Competition
Mazda Mazdaspeed3
Mazda Mazda 3
MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works GP
Mitsubishi Concept-X
Rolls-Royce Phantom Extended Wheelbase
Saab Aero-X
Spyker SUV
Subaru Legacy
Suzuki SX4
Volvo S80

Easter Bunny? Nope. It's the Volkswagen Rabbit!

Fresh news from VW: The "Golf" moniker is officially out. Going forward, the North American hatchbacks will be known, once again, as Rabbit. Even the little rabbit badge makes a comeback.

The VW Rabbit makes its debut this week at the New York International Auto Show, and NoonzWheels will be there to bring you all the details.

Here's the release in full:
VOLKSWAGEN RABBIT SPRINGS INTO NEW YORK—JUST IN TIME FOR EASTER

AUBURN HILLS, Mich.— In a surprise move, Volkswagen of America, Inc. announced today that its all-new fifth generation Golf, which debuted at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, is going back to its roots with the original Rabbit nameplate for the U.S. and Canadian markets. The Rabbit will hop into the market in early summer, after its official introduction at the New York International Auto Show on Wednesday, April 12, 2006, at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

“The Rabbit was always exclusive to the U.S. and Canadian markets; while the rest of the world had the Golf, we had the iconic Rabbit,” said Volkswagen’s Director of Brand Innovation, Kerri Martin. “The reintroduction of the Rabbit represents Volkswagen’s commitment to this market and is a nod to the passionate North American enthusiasts who have an emotional connection with the Rabbit name.”

“Volkswagen customers want a relationship with their cars. Names like The Thing, Beetle, Fox, and Rabbit support this,” Martin added.

The Rabbit goes on sale this summer in both two and four-door versions, with pricing starting at $14,990 for the two-door. Standard features include an advanced ABS braking system, traction control, active front head restraints, front side airbags, air conditioning and anti-theft alarm system with remote locking. Always known for its value, this latest Rabbit is no exception, offering a high level of standard features and equipment at an attractive starting price.

The Rabbit was the first Volkswagen produced in the United States and its appeal grew rapidly, with sales of over 1.3 million in its 10-year lifespan. The Rabbit’s popularity can be credited to the wide array of standard features it offered at an attractive price. The 2006 Rabbit promises a return to the high-value, iconic status of the original.

“The Rabbit’s return to Volkswagen’s family is not an attempt to recreate the original car; today’s Rabbit is manufactured at our Wolfsburg production facility alongside the all-new GTI.”

The Rabbit, or Golf as it is well known throughout the rest of the world, is the world’s best-seller with over 25 million cars sold over five generations. This latest generation has already won more than 25 awards in more than sixteen countries. And, yesterday, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), announced that the 2006 Rabbit four-door received the Top Safety Pick, Silver award, based on the Institute’s frontal offset, side impact, and rear crash protection ratings.

Martin adds, “Even the name ‘Rabbit’ dramatizes the enhanced performance, playing off the car’s clever design, efficient size, agility and nimbleness. The Rabbit is back.”

The 2006 Rabbit benefits from its laser-welding production process, class-leading fit and finish, heightened body strength, crash protection, driving dynamics, and reduced interior noise.

Drivers of the Rabbit will benefit from it’s fully independent suspension system that uses a multi-link rear and optimized front axle, and will enjoy the new optional six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic® (five-speed manual standard). A new powerful engine with a larger displacement of 2.5 liters and five-cylinders generates 150 horsepower.

Also among the most impressive new driving advancements are a standard electro-mechanical steering system, and an optional advanced Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP).

The Rabbit also promises more interior room than ever with a large rear hatch opening. Legroom has also increased in this new version.

For added assurance, the Rabbit will come with 24-hour Roadside Assistance for four years with unlimited mileage and new vehicle warranties including:

•Five-year/60,000 mile (whichever occurs first) Powertrain Limited Warranty

•Four-year/50,000 mile (whichever occurs first) New Vehicle Limited Warranty •12 year unlimited mileage Limited Warranty against corrosion perforation.

Founded in 1955, Volkswagen of America, Inc. is headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan. It is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany. Volkswagen is one of the world’s largest producers of passenger cars and Europe’s largest automaker. Volkswagen sells the Rabbit, New Beetle, Jetta, Passat, Touareg and Phaeton through more than 600 independent U.S. dealers.
Source: Volkswagen