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AutoWeek Gives Editors' Choice Honors to Top Vehicles at Detroit's 2005 NAIAS

DETROIT, Jan. 12, 2005 -- The editorial staff of AutoWeek announced its favorite vehicles of the 2005 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) this evening at the magazine's annual Design Forum at Cobo Conference/Exhibition Center in Detroit, Mich.

The AutoWeek Editors' Choice Awards were revealed by AutoWeek Editor and Associate Publisher Dutch Mandel during the Design Forum's dinner program.

The vehicles tapped for AutoWeek Editors' Choice honors from the 2005 NAIAS are:

Most Fun - Jeep Hurricane concept

"Our award is called 'Most Fun,' but one editor describes the Jeep Hurricane as winner of the 'Most Insane' category. Guess that depends on your point of view. Fun is something the folks in Auburn Hills seem to have a lot of these days, and it shows in this concept featuring not one, but two Hemi V8s," says AutoWeek Managing Editor Roger Hart.

What makes the Hurricane unique is that each engine powers one side of wheels, allowing it to have a zero-turning radius, which was nicely demonstrated on the stage inside Cobo Center. With extremely short front and rear overhangs, the Hurricane, riding on 20-inch rubber, would be a tour de force off-road.

"Don't expect this in your Jeep dealership any time soon," says Hart, "but Chrysler design chief Trevor Creed says there are applications (such as for the military, and some extreme off-road situations) where this technology could be appreciated. As the German rock group so eloquently says, 'Rock Me Like a Hurricane.' We can't wait for the SRT-16 version."

Best Concept - Chrysler Firepower

"Looking like a morph of a Chrysler Crossfire and Dodge Viper, the Firepower has us hoping this concept becomes a reality, and it easily could. With the ME Four-Twelve now dead in the water because the business case could not be made for the 12-cylinder supercar, Firepower has a much better chance of making it into your garage, though no production plans have yet been mapped out," reports AutoWeek Managing Editor Roger Hart.

Rather than using the Viper V10 motor, Firepower takes advantage of the 6.1-liter 425-hp Hemi V8 and a five-speed automatic with Autostick. That is good enough for a sprint from 0-to-60 mph in less than 4.5 seconds, though Chrysler design boss Trevor Creed says Firepower is more a grand tourer than a mondo sports car. "Whatever it's called," one editor said, "we can definitely live with it."

Most Significant - 2006 Honda Ridgeline

"No, it doesn't have a Midgate, but the Honda Ridgeline does pack more innovation between those slab sides than its Chevrolet Avalanche-purloined styling might belie. Look closely: Honda engineers actually integrated the bed into the cab, which means if you were to lift the Ridgeline's skirt, you would find unibody construction," observes AutoWeek Road Test Editor Natalie Neff. Yes, you heard that right. Honda claims the design gives the Ridgeline 20 times the torsional rigidity of a traditional body-on-frame truck.

"From there, the Ridgeline goes on to replace the traditional steel bed with a composite one. The tailgate is engineered so that it will both flip down and swing open, and the whole shebang is put on a four-wheel independent suspension. Payload is 1,000 pounds and there are 5,000 pounds of towing capacity. Our favorite feature," says Neff, "has to be what Honda calls its In-Bed Trunk, a locking storage compartment built into the floor of the bed with enough volume to swallow three golf bags.

"In other words, Honda has succeeded at no less than reinventing the notion of what it means to be a pickup truck, and if that weren't significant enough, consider, too, Ridgeline is Honda's first truck and will no doubt strengthen Japan's effort to erode the Big Three's toehold on this money- minting segment."

Best in Show - 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

When the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 finally rolled across that Detroit stage, especially when accompanied by the deafening roar of a Ron Fellows-piloted matching yellow C6-R in full racing livery, it was an entrance worthy of this American icon.

"If you've been keeping an eye on this space, then you know the details by now: 500 hp from a 7.0-liter bored and stroked Chevy small-block LS7 V8 (can you say 427-cid?), 475 lb-ft of torque with 11:1 compression, dry-sump lubrication, CNC-ported heads, six-bolt main bearing caps, titanium con-rods and forged-steel crank, Tremec six-speed manual transmission, composite and carbon-fiber body panels, hydroformed aluminum frame with aluminum and magnesium chassis bits, 12-inch-wide rear tires and just 3130 pounds at the curb -- for roughly $65,000," says Neff. "Try buying any Ferrari for that kind of coin, let alone ask one to prance to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds (remember, the $670,000 Enzo Ferrari is no longer in production). Put another way, the price of just one Porsche Carrera GT will get you six Z06s. How's that for a Best in Show argument?"

A Car's Life: Designed to Entertain was the theme of the day-long AutoWeek Design Forum, geared to automotive and non-automotive professionals and students. Held in conjunction with the NAIAS, the 12th annual program featured individual presentations and a panel discussion by leading design executives. The event was sponsored by Johnson Controls and Alias, in association with the College for Creative Studies.

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