2007 Cadillac Escalade
Choosing the East and West Coast capitals of cool to unveil its all-new flagship, Cadillac had separate unveiling parties in Beverly Hills and Miami Beach to introduce the 2007 Escalade to the stars in attendance. Although based on the all-new GMT900 full-size truck platform, the vehicle is instantly recognizable as a Cadillac and most importantly, as an Escalade. The smoother styling and more steeply raked windshield results in an extremely slippery (for an SUV) 0.363 coefficient of drag. The narrower vertical headlamps closely resemble those on Cadillac's midsize SRX SUV and incorporate HID beams and an optional IntelliBeam directional headlamp system that follows the steering trajectory. For the first time on a GM vehicle, 22-inch wheels are offered as a factory option, a tacit concession to the Escalade's enduring popularity with the bling set.

Though it appears trimmer than its predecessor, it is in fact larger in nearly every dimension. Overall length is up by approximately three inches, and interior volume has increased in several key areas. Increased front seat travel provides the segment's leading legroom for front-seat passengers. Second-row seat legroom and knee room and third-row seat headroom are increased over the previous models. The second- and third-row seats also have more shoulder room, a feat accomplished while also offering standard roof-mounted head curtain side air bags. Cargo room has increased by 4.2 cubic feet behind the second-row seats and 2.3 cubic behind the third row. The third-row seats fold flat and are easily tumbled forward or removed for maximum cargo area. Even the glove box offers 25 percent more storage space than the previous model.

Of course, the audio, entertainment, and convenience gadgets were not neglected. One-upping the Navigator's power folding third-row seat, the new Escalade features a new industry-exclusive power fold-and-tumble second-row seat feature that eases access to the third-row seat, as well as an obligatory power-assisted rear liftgate that opens and closes with the touch of a button. The remote starting feature is standard and is integrated with the tri-zone automatic climate control system, allowing the interior to be heated or cooled when the vehicle is remotely started.

For the style-savvy but directionally-challenged set, an available 8-inch touchscreen navigation system helps guide the way, and a DVD system with large 8-inch flip-down screen will keep passengers from noticing that you're lost. A segment-first Bose 5.1 Digital Surround Sound system is integrated into the new family of radios that play DVD audio, DVD video, CD audio, CD videos, MP3s, and XM Satellite Radio.

But fear not that all these new goodies are going to slow down the king of bling. The engine is an all-new, all-aluminum 6.2L V-8 bellowing out a substantial 403hp and 417lb-ft. of torque, an increase of 58hp and 37lb-ft. over its predecessor. This all-aluminum engine uses variable valve timing (VVT) to optimize camshaft timing to improve low-rpm torque and high-rpm horsepower. This represents the industry's first application of VVT on a mass-produced V-8 overhead-valve engine. A new Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission is matched with the 6.2L engine, finally matching its cross-town rival in the gear count competition.

Replacing the previous model's floppy torsion bar front suspension and loose recirculating-ball steering is an all-new coil-over-shock design that delivers a linear, solid ride and a rack-and-pinion steering system that provides precise and responsive control and superior on-center feel, according to Cadillac.

The standard-wheelbase model will be available first in the first quarter of 2006, with the Texas-sized ESV and the EXT trucklet following later in the year.

2005 Tokyo Motor Show
The 2005 Motor Show, which ran from October 21 to November 6, affirmed the Asia Pacific region's commitment to small cars, as epitomized with the slogan "Small Cars for a Big Future." As for what that means for the pickup truck and SUV market, smaller is also better. Granted, there were no pickup concepts, but crossover SUVs did garner some attention. Here are some snapshots of what some of these were about.

Number Crunch
October was a tough sales month for automakers doing business in North America; for some, the toughest in history. Here are some numbers:

14% North American sales decrease for Porsche to 2,729 vehicles due to an almost 50-percent drop in demand for the Cayenne SUV.

31% Drop in overall sales of truck-based SUVs as compared to previous year due to 30% and 44% decline in mid-and large-sized SUVs, respectively. A small boost in small SUV sales did little to counter this trend. Domestic brands fared the worst.

Introducing Our Long-Termers
Keep your eyes open for ongoing coverage of the Jeep Commander and Dodge Ram Mega Cab, our Truck and SUV of the Year winners and our new long-term testers.

Check This Out
Three stripes down, 9 more to go. Here is 3/13 of our spine image for your pubescent edification. More to come next issue. This spine image is brought you by the truck suspension and accessory folks at AIM Industries, Dept. TR, 260 S. Hibbert, Mesa, AZ 8501, (800) 289-9980, www.truckin.com.

High-Def Automotive Hotness
Hot Rod TV and Four Wheeler TV are going High-Definition. These two programs are the television counterparts to our two sister publications Hot Rod and Four Wheeler and are broadcast on The Outdoor Channel's all-high-definition Outdoor Channel 2 HD.

According to The Outdoor Channel's executive vice president, Jake Hartwick: "These two shows are absolutely perfect for HD-you see the car colors and chrome as if you're standing there in person. You can practically smell the burning rubber and feel the jolts as your Jeep climbs that rocky canyon. The combination of action and detail are so stunning, so lifelike, that every fan of motor sports owes it to themselves to see their sport depicted in true HD."

Check out http://outdoorchannel.com/ for airdates and times.

Alcoholic F-150
Ford plans to introduce a flex-fuel vehicle version of the F-150 and other vehicles in 2006. This is part of the company's effort to promote diversity in fuel sources, stimulate demand for ethanol-powered vehicles, and to grow the availability of ethanol in the nation's filling stations. This would potentially decrease the U.S.'s dependency on fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The F-150 pickup with the 5.4L will burn an E85 fuel mixture (which is 85 percent ethanol and 10 percent gasoline) as well as normal gasoline. The powertrain will optimize itself according to the fuel mixture it is running. Other models that will be E85-capable include the Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Lincoln Towncar.

A blend of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline, E10, is commonly used today in some states as a means to improve tailpipe emissions. E85 is dispensed in only 500 filling stations nationwide. Ford is teaming with ethanol-maker VeraSun to drive the ethanol infrastructure. In addition to ethanol, Ford is pushing other alternatives to the traditional powerplant, including its recently announced goal to have hybrid versions of more than half its Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles by 2010.

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