In The Chamber: Mark HalvorsenIt's quiet right now in November, but we have already seen the first advertisements for '06 offerings from Dodge, Nissan, Ford, Toyota, Subaru, and Mitsubishi, to name a few. Here we have a myriad of automakers trying with elemental zeal to birth the perfect car, truck, or SUV in the hopes of ensuring the survival of their franchise. And here you are, the hapless consumer trying to make sense of the marketing messages, performance stats, new model names, and re-imagined marquees. It's like driving through a cloud of lovebugs in Florida. You know, those little black and red insects that couple end-to-end as they fly in great swarms across the Sunshine State? You're driving through them at highway speeds, wishing you could dodge them, but you resign yourself to the carnage of information overload that explodes across your windshields and almost entirely obscures your view of the road to automotive fulfillment ahead.

That's where I come in, the hopefully better-informed journalist who tries to scrape away the goop in order to help you make sense of it all. For the past few months I have been traveling from one press preview to another and getting insights on the automakers' finest trucks and SUVs. I've also been driving short-term loaners of '06 models, some that I've written about already, and others that I'll cover soon enough. It's fun to scoot around town in a truck that my friends have yet to hear about. Better yet, it's great to see that puzzled look on a Chipper's face as he tries to figure out what model of vehicle to note on a citation. (Let's go no further on this one.)

That said, the back-to-back trips and parade of press vehicles gets a bit confusing after a while. Returning to the bug-on-windshield analogy, the splatter from a Silverado starts to look an awful lot like the goo from a Ram. And, in some cases, their component parts might even become interchangeable, resulting in an alphabet soup of alphanumeric nomenclatures and cities. Was that preview in Philadelphia or Phoenix? Virginia or Vegas? And that Toyota Mega Cruiser was interesting, right? Or was it the Dodge FJ Cab? Or Chevy Raider? Call it a Japanese Jumble or Detroit Dementia. But don't worry, I'll get it straight in time for our next OE write-up in Issue 4or was that 5?