Car News: GTO Dead, SL Goes to 55

February 26, 2006

2004 Pontiac GTO

2004 Pontiac GTO

Current GTO Done After ‘06

The Pontiac GTO, so shortly revived from its decades-long coma, will be going back under at the end of the model year. Automotive News reports that the two-door coupe would cost General Motors too much to certify for tougher safety regulations being phased in for the 2007 model year. Pontiac sources told the paper that about 10,000 to 12,000 more GTOs will be built for sale before the current body style goes off the production line. GM is said to be working on a new rear-drive architecture that could spawn a new GTO as well as a Chevrolet Camaro based on January’s Detroit show concept, but Pontiac has not confirmed any replacement for the car.

 

 

Benz SL Goes to 550 and 382

You don’t want to mess with a good thing, so Mercedes didn’t change too much about its 2007 Mercedes Benz SL550 roadster. Underneath the hood, a new 5.5-liter V-8 engine matched to a seven-speed automatic transmission compelled the name change from SL500 to SL550, although outside North America , the name will remain SL500.

 

2006 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

2006 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

2006 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

2006 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

The new engine produces 382 hp from those 5.5 liters, up 80 hp from the previous engine. Torque also gets a boost, moving up 52 lb-ft to 391. As you’d expect, this is a thoroughly modern and sophisticated chain-driven, double-overhead-cam engine with variable-valve timing to get the best balance between performance and efficiency.

Hooked to this engine is a new adaptive seven-speed automatic transmission called the 7G-Tronic, which comes with a sports system that includes paddle shifting on the steering wheel. It shifts smoother, but engineers say the shifts are also 30 percent faster.

The second generation of Mercedes’ Active Body Control is installed to the SL550. It allows 60 percent more control of the suspension, to keep the car flat when the driving gets strenuous. The entire active suspension system and various brake assists work together to — well, they can’t change the laws of physics, but they do extend the time until they take effect. The result is to make every driver better and safer without their even realizing it.

The appearance changes are subtle. A new front air dam, front grille, revised taillamps and redesigned door-entry sills, and a new 18-inch ten-spoke wheel are the extent of outside updates. Inside, the upgrades are the materials — new high-quality leather and some new colors, including black and red, and some new toys-and-trinkets like Sirius Satellite radio and hands-free telephone capability (you have to buy the Bluetooth or Multi Handset Interface separately).

To honor the 50th anniversary of the most famous of this line, the 300SL, the North American market will get an SL Roadster 50th Anniversary Edition. Just 550 of them will be sold, and they’ll feature exclusive double five-spoke wheels, a brown leather and black ash trim interior, and a pewter-colored exterior.

Prices won’t be released until closer to the April sale date, but expect the new SL550 it to go up about a percent or so. —David Schmidt

2006 Geneva Motor Show Preview, Part I by Ian Norris (2/20/2006)
Geneva gets into gear with Aston, Bentley, Ford, and Lotus.

 

 

Honda Prepping Hybrid Fit?

 

The next Honda hybrid to join the company’s lineup may be a gas-electric version of the new Fit subcompact. A report in Japan’s daily newspaper, the Nihon Keizai, suggests that Honda will adapt the Fit to hybrid power, while keeping the price under $12,000 in its home market. At that price the Fit hybrid would cost only about $1700 more than the gas-engined version. (Though U.S. prices are yet to be released, we expect the base U.S. Fit to come in at $13,500.) The powertrain would be similar to that in the Insight hybrid, with a 1.0-liter gas engine being teamed with a small motor and battery system. The paper says the hybrid version would be marketed around the world starting in April of 2007. Honda now offers the Insight hybrid, as well as the Civic and Accord Hybrids.

 

2006 Detroit Auto Show Index by TCC Team (1/30/2006)

 

 

Toyota Places Among Most-Admired Companies

Toyota ranked ninth on Fortune magazine’s annual Most Admired Companies list. It marks the first time a non-U.S. company cracked the top 10.

 

The magazine ranked 303 companies. DaimlerChrysler, which made the list, is sort of an American company. General Motors and Ford did not rank in the top half of the motor vehicle segment and weren’t ranked in the overall list. The top five in motor vehicles were: Toyota, BMW, Honda, Nissan, and DaimlerChrysler. Ford ranked number six, while GM finished number nine, between heavy-truck manufacturers Paccar Inc. and Navistar International.

Using a scale of one (best) to 10 (worst), the companies were judged in eight categories: innovation, employee talent, use of corporate assets, social responsibility, quality of management, financial soundness, long-term investment, and quality of products/services.

 

GM scored 10s in financial soundness and long-term investment. The company’s highest score was a six for social responsibility. Ford’s best score was also in social responsibility, where it notched a three. Toyota’s worst score was a two. —Michael Strong

 

Industry Report: Feb. 13, 2006 by TCC Team (2/13/2006)
Chicago highlights include Tundra, York gets board seat.

 

 

Kia Ce’ed Coming to Geneva, Too

 

2006 Kia Ce'ed concept

2006 Kia Ce'ed concept

2006 Kia Ce'ed concept

2006 Kia Ce'ed concept

Along with its new short-wheelbase Sedona minivan, Kia Motors will show the Ce’ed concept car in Geneva. Based on the successor to the Cerato that Kia will build beginning this December at its European assembly plant in Slovakia, the production version of the Ce’ed will make its debut in Paris in September. Although the concept car was designed as a teaser, it’s pretty close to the production version of the upcoming C-segment car, which we saw during a peek preview in Seoul last year and which has been especially developed for the European market. The Ce’ed has several design elements of the Sorento and the small Picanto, but with extended wheel arches and 19-inch wheels it looks bolder than the production version will be.  

 

2006 Geneva Motor Show Preview, Part I (2/19/2006)
Geneva gets into gear with Aston, Bentley, Ford, and Lotus.

 

2006 Geneva Show Preview, Part II (2/19/2006)
New VW Concept A, Porsche 911 Turbo, BMW WRC car.

 

 

Honda Adds More EX to CR-V

 

Honda will add a new front-wheel-drive version of the CR-V EX to its lineup. The company says the 2WD version of the uplevel model will include standard features like alloy wheels, a moonroof, a six-speaker audio system with a six-disc changer, and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. With the five-speed automatic transmission, the new model is rated at 23/29 mpg city/highway, 1 and 2 mpg better respectively than the similar 4WD model. The new EX 2WD starts from $22,500.

 

 

Street Names Contest Winners!

 

Farfrompoopin Road

Farfrompoopin Road

Farfrompoopin Road

Farfrompoopin Road

Apparently, a lot of you went nuts over TheCarConnection’s Wild, Weird, and Wacky Street Names Contest, at least if we judge by the number of entries that flooded into our digital mailbox — more than 2500 arrived since the competition was launched last December. And though we officially closed things off on February 1, we’re still seeing a few stragglers offering up some last-minute oddities.

 

We’ve seen lots of Deer Licks, Bone Licks, and more than a few Yankees, Doodles and Dandies. There are a surprising number of This-a-ways and That-a-ways, as well as a few places around the country where you can Haviturway. We’ve seen the macabre, including Shades of Death Rd. and Bucket of Blood; the musical, like the intersection of Count and Basie; and the unpronounceable,

Zzyzx Rd.

 

But some wild, weird, and wacky street names stand out from the rest, and we found that with rare exception, the top choices of TheCarConnection’s editors and managers matched the result from last week’s Reader’s Poll. Combining the two tallies, here are our winners:

 

First Prize goes to Psycho Path, a mad little private lane in Traverse City, Michigan. Our grand prize winner was submitted by Michelle Logsdon, who will soon be driving around with the help of a new Garmin C330 portable GPS navigation system.

 

READ MORE: Street Names Contest Winners! by TCC Team (2/20/2006)
Going “Psycho” scores with readers and judges.

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