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Sunday, November 27, 2005
To review, inspect, and beat on our picks for the 10m best cars of 2006, we headed to Michigan INternational Speedway.

Amazing performance, sleek design, zero cheese.

ENGINE: 7.0 Liter, 505 bhp V-8
0-60: 3.7 seconds
TOP SPEED: 198 mph

Developed in conjunction with Chevy's Le Mans - winning C6.R racer, the LS7 engine's block is bored out to seven liters and sports FT goodies like titanium connecting rods and valves, dry sump lubrication (to keep the engine oiled under extreme G-forces), and a forged steel crnakshaft.Despite its bigger wheels, badder brakes, and added performance accessories, an aluminum chasis with magnesium engine cradle and carbon fiber composite body parts helps the ZO6 weigh in at an anorexic 3,132 pounds -- about 50 pound less than the base model. Although dropping the hammer on this beast is what its' all about.It's also practical daily driver. This rod offers hatchback hauling abilities and a comfy interior with supportive racing seats. Its bimodal mufflers keep things guiet at sane speeds, but under full throttle, open vacuum actuated outlated valves boost power and burp out the earth rattling snarl of that monster mill.

DRAWBACK: The interior is more plastic, less fantastic. But at these prices, who cares?

Its bold, beautiful, and badass.

PRICE: US$19,995
ENGINE: 2.4 LITER, 177 bhp inline-4 0-60:7.2 seconds
TOP SPEED: 123 mph

We think Pontiac's found the magic formula with this hot two seater. Solstice's curvaceous, windcheating bodywork hides as aluminum engine and cutting edge hydroformed steel frame that's stronger and ligher than a traditional chassis. Engineering flourishes like these keep curb weight to a waifish 2,860 pounds and front/rear weight distributuin to a near perfect 50/50 balance. Independent suspecnsion, disc brakers, and grabby 18"x8" rubber at all four corners give Solstice serious track cred. Mated to a close ratio five speed gearbox with race inspired short throw shifters, GM's peppy Ecotec engine delviers decent grunt, but a bolt on turbocharger would make this rear drive readster really sing. Power aside, though, Solstice's smooth mill, hydraulic engine mounts, and advanced sound absorptionpackage make this one of the most refined ragtops.

Windshields frame blocks forward vision for anyone over six feet.

No entourage is complete without one.

PRICE: US$106,850
ENGINE: 4.2 liter, 400 bhp, V-8 0-62: 5.2 seconds.
TOP SPEED: 171 mph.

Maserati's new gran turismo combines supercar driving dynamics with room for five aristocrats. Beneath its seductive, Pininfarina styled bodywork, QP's eager V-8 mounts behind the front axle to achieve the same front/reac weight distribution (47/53) as Ferrari's 612 Scaglietti. The result? This balde slices the curves with nimble sports car handling we thought impossible in a 16.5 foot, 4,250 pound limousine. It's also a great highway cruiser, thanks both to its extended (120.6 inch) wheelbase and an F1-derived "robotic manual" six speed that herds those 400 Italian thoroughbred ponies down to the 18 inch Pirellis. Inside, pampered passengers enjoy a sensual symphony of engine shrieks, exhaust growls and assorted mechanical music. And since the finer things never come off the rack, QP's sumptuouinterior can be cutomized in its owner's choice of leather, wood and stitching options.

"The paddle shift is super cool-- that's formula 1 technology. And it's a smooth, quiet ride...even at 120 mph."

Don't chew terbacky? This could be the truck for you.

PRICE: US$28,215
ENGINE: 3.5 liter, 265 bhp, V-6 0-60: 7.9 seconds
TOP SPEED: 110 mph

Never thought you'd own a truck? With it's carlike ride and handling, SUV size interior, and versatile cargo bed. Honda's first ever pickup has the goods to change yourmind. Next to Ridgeline, whose cab and bed are integrated as a single unit, other half ton trucks suddenly seem outdated. That avant garde design carries through to the mechanicals, including the truck industry's first four wheel, fully independent suspension, full time all wheel drive, anda unibody chassis that's stiffer and stronger that any competitors' Equally impresive is the spacious five passenger interior, especially the rear bench with underseat storage. On the job site the Ridgeline's 5,000 pound towing capacity and 1,549 pound payload prove. It's no poseur. Althoguh the Hinda's five foot cargo bed is about a foot shorter than many other compact's; its dual action fold down tallgate sinplifies loading and unloading which comes in handy. Constructed of though as-nails composite plastic, which eliminates the need for a bedliner, the Ridgeline's cargo box includes a unique 8.5 cubic foot in bed trunk.

"Drives smooth for a pickup and has a lot of really cool features."

A hot, fast American Asian. What's not to like?

PRICE: US$23,699
ENGINE: 3.8 liters, 263 bhp V-6 0-60: 5.8 seconds.
TOP SPEED: 148 mph

First it was a tuner favorite, then a chick car. Now its fourth generation, the Eclipse has evolved into a full fledged grand touring coupe, it's interior distinguised by racing style buckets, front seat room aplenty, ergonomically arranged controls and a motor cycle style instrument duster whose large, round gauges are illumiated with ice ble ELDs for at a glance legibility. Sleek hatchback styling is practical, too, serving up nearly 16 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the rear seats flipped down. At some 3,500 pounds, Eclipse is no lightweight, but Mitsui's latest MIVE V-6 and state of the art six speed gearbox scorched the track and kept 0-60 sprints in the the sub six second range. Although front wheel drive and a cast iron engine block put 60 percent of the GT's weight up front, the carrarely felt nose heavy, especially at highway and track speeds. Still, with a generous dose of torque steer you'ss need to keep your hands white knuckled on the wheel -- so nodevil horns when blasting the optional 650 watt Rockford Fosgate sound system.Eclipse is one of the best buy in the market.

It's good looking car and a very stble drive. It's got cool gauges, a nice dash and theat stereo system is a killer.

Think of it as an investment.

PRICE: US$17,900
ENGINE: 2.5 liter, 150 bhp inline 5 0-60: 9.1 sec.
TOP SPEED: 130 mph

Remeber when compact cars were small, slow and boring? One lap in the all new Jetta and vision of cramped ecpnoboxes shrunk in our rearview. Entering its 25th eyar, the Jetta has grown up: wider, taller and a stretchy seven inches longer than last year's ride. The roomy new cabin gives passengers especially rear seaters a comfier place to hang. A redesigned dashboard with high visibility gauges and intuitively placed controls means you can speed, drink coffe, and yap on the cell with relative ease, while its trunk with split folding rear and a fold flat front passenger seat enable the Jetta to take any load. Below the sheet metal, a state fo the art electronic steering system and sophisticated multilink suspension make the most of a five cylinder engine that pumps out 30 percent more power than the old four banger. We can't figure out how VW delviers so much for so little, but it probably has something to do with the fact that they own Lamborghini.

The auto robs power and performance. Consider the hard charging GLI.

So good it feels like cheating.

PRICE: US$62,276
ENGINE: 5.5 liter,355 bhp V-8 0-60: 4.0 seconds
TOP SPEED: 165 mph

Somehow AMG, MB's supertuner division, manage to shoehorn a nasty V-8 into a tiny engine compartment, turning their nice little SLK roadstar into a Porsche killer. Of ocurse, we expected over the top power from AMG, but what really stroked our pistons were themiracles they workd with the restof the package. A unique suspension, short (95.7 inches) wheelbase, and asphalt hungry 18-inch wheels helped this pint size panzer grip the track like an Indy car. And thisis the first AMG to get Mercedes silky new seven speed automatic. With two extra gears to keep engine revs in their performance sweet spot, the Teutonic tranny squeezes every drop of power from the 55's handbuilt engine. Stopm the pedal at any speed, and programmed downshifts of up to four gears kick out acceleration on demand. And since this is a Mercedes, you get techno toys, like scratch resistant paint and "airscarf" neck heaters that'll keep you warm with the top down... or naked.

Though there's more trunk space than last year, it all but disappears when the retractable hardtop is down.

*BMW 330i*
You'll quit before it does.

PRICE: US$37,295
ENGINE: 3-0 liter, 255 bhp inline-6 0-60: 6.1 seconds
TOP SPEED: 155 mph.

It's the first rule of business. Don't screw with success. For more than 20 years, 3-series has been BMW's biggest seller. So when it came time to debut that model's fifth generation, it had to be a winner. In our book the Bimmer hits its bull's eye by achieving a series of seemingly contradictory goals. Bigger and heavier than '05 car, with more passenger and trunk space, the 2006 3,30i somehow gets better fuel economy. Credit thenew magnesium/aluminum block and patented Valvetronic variable valve lift technology, whcih coaxes 30 more ponies from a one inch shorter 22 pound lighter package. Nearly as effortless as an automatic and loads more fun, BMW's six speed manual is further improved for surer, shorter shifts. Twitch the wheel and the new double pivor front and five line rear suspecsion flattens curves with the confidence inspiring solidity of a bank vault on wheels. And since BMW included bigger brakes linked to its latest, gyroscopically governed stability control system, the 330i fulfills the promise of high performance driving without the high risk.

None that we can find. Unless, you order the somewhat convoluted iDrive system.

It dances with cheetahs.

PRICE: US$69,750
ENGINE: 4.2 liter, 390 bhp V-8 0-60: 7.2 seconds
TOP SPEED: 130 mph

Seems someone at Land Rover or its new corporate parent, Ford, must've noticed all those Porsche Cayennes and B
If Land Rover put htis 5,670 pounder on a diet, we bet it would really fly.

Kill nature, but with less guilt.

PRICE: US$29,500
ENGINE: 3.5 liter, 220 bhp inline -5 0-60: 10-2 seconds.
TOP SPEED: 98 mph.

LIke all guys, we lvoe Humemrs. But lately those visits to the gas station hae made us sore. Borrowing its beefed ip platform from GM's midsize Chevy Colorado, the H3 offers compact car maneuverability -- its 37 foot turning circle is less than two feet wider than the Solstice's and improved fuel economy (up to 20mpg). Thankfully the H3's interior does away with the plastic trim designed for the H2, substituting a thick, leather-wrapped steering whell and shifter, convenient controls and easy reading gauges. Best of all, however, is what hasn't changed. You'll ride high in this Hummer, with a feeling of invincibility that comes from knowing you could ford two-foot-deep streams and climb 16-inch verticl steps. For even more monstrous off road capability, get road capability, get the five speed manual transmission, a first for Hummer. A smarter, slimmer sequel to the bloated H2, the new H3 is everything we like about Hummers, only thriftier.

Like the H2, tiny windows, with high sills scrifice driver's outward visibility for style. And what happens when you try to pull nearly 5,000 pounds with 220 horspower? Not much!. The H3 accelerates like, a big heavy truck.

(Source: MAXIMMAG/by Jamie McMurray)
posted by infraternam meam @ 1:59 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
Home: Chicago, United States
About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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