2005 Chicago Auto Show, Part I Page 3

February 9, 2005

Escape Hybrid Hitting High Demographics

Just because you want to cut your fuel bills doesn’t mean you can’t afford to pay for gas, said Ford product czar Phil Martens. The initial group of buyers opting for the new hybrid version of the Escape SUV could easily ignore what’s happening at the pump, since their average income is “more than twice” the household income of the rest of the Escape customer base. Ford research shows hybrid customers “are willing to pay $5000 or $6000” more to get the green technology, even if it’s just to feel like they are making a contribution to the environment.

Mustang Makes a Hit at Motor Week

The new Ford Mustang’s list of kudos grew even bigger on opening press day at the Chicago Auto Show. The retro-style pony car was named Driver’s Choice Best of the Year by the editors of the public TV show, Motor Week. Meanwhile, for those with the need for speed — and a lot more money — the show’s staff chose the Porsche Carrera GT3 their ultimate Dream Machine.

Horsepower Feast at Mercedes

How much power is too much? For those who can’t conceive of the question, never mind expect an answer, Mercedes pulled the wraps off two new models on Wednesday. The new E350 replaces the more tame E320, introducing a new 3.5-liter V-6 engine producing 268 horsepower. That’s a 20-percent bump over the old, 3.2-liter engine.

2006 Mercedes-Benz S65

2006 Mercedes-Benz S65

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Then there’s the new S65 AMG, which Mercedes is billing as the “world’s fastest production sedan,” capable of screaming from 0-60 in a neck-snapping 4.2 seconds. Resemblance to the classic S-Class are only a bit more than coincidental. Besides the new fascia, grille, and aero trim, the heart of this fire-breather is a twin-turbo, 6.0-liter V-12. At peak, it pumps out a full 604 horsepower and 738 lb-feet of torque. The engine is mated to a special five-speed Speed Shift automatic transmission that can be operated in fully manual mode. To slow the “uber-sedan” down, the car is equipped with massively oversized brakes. Up front, they measure 15.4-inches, with eight calipers. Every AMG engine is hand-built by a single technician. In a first-ever move, Mercedes brought an AMG technician to Chicagoto produce a pair of V-12s. They’ll eventually be shipped back to Germanyto be installed in a pair of S65s.

Nothing Ruled Out At Smart – Almost

There’s only one option not on the table when it comes to the future of DaimlerChrysler’s smart brand, a senior executive told TheCarConnection.com. The automaker recently confirmed it is delaying development of the formore. The mini-ute was earmarked for the U.S., where it was to serve as anchor for the smart brand’s launch, a year from now. The formore is still on the books, but whether it ever sees an assembly line will depend on a review of smart’s prospects by new Mercedes-Benz boss Eckhard Cordes. “The only thing ruled out is getting rid of the (smart) brand” the official confided. Though sales of the marque’s micro-cars have steadily grown in recent years, smart continues to be a money-losing prospect for DaimlerChrysler.

Meanwhile, Mercedes will likely put the new B-Class Grand Sport Tourer back on the U.S. books — but only after exchange rates between the dollar and euro level out. The weak dollar, officials said, simply makes it impossible to make a profit on the low-priced car if it has to be imported from Europe.

Bridgestone Building A Big Marketing Campaign

You may not know whether to dance to a new Bridgestone ad campaign or go out and buy a new set of tires. The series of 30- and 15-second spots was put together for the rubber company by Matthew Rolston, better known for his rock-video work with the likes of Beyonce, Lenny Kravitz and Madonna. For the spot itself, the producer opted for a disco re-mix of Rosanne Cash’s song, “The Wheel.” Bridgestone executives noted during a media briefing that it took 800 auditions just to find the right dancers for the ad campaign. Over 14-days of filming, the production company ran through more than five miles of film. The project required 87 tires and — for reasons not explained — also used up 250 pounds of filling from baby diapers. Unused, Bridgestone executive Michael Fluck was quick to point out.

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