’s Top 10 from the 2006 North American International Auto Show

By Scott Corlett
This past January, most of the Gaywheels gang gathered in Detroit to partake in the North American International Auto Show. This was the first auto show that has covered and, hopefully, we brought our unique, occasionally irreverent, but always car-loving perspective to this, the most important show of the automotive calendar.
As we saw in Detroit, gay men and lesbians play vital roles in virtually all aspects of the auto industry – from assembly lines to the corporate boardrooms, from design studios to dealership floors, from car magazines to television networks, and all places in between. Please join us as we do our part and share with you, our readers of every stripe, what we thought was fabulous in Detroit – besides the boys at the Mercedes-Benz booth and the food at Audi’s café.
No. 1 – The Dodge Challenger
Remember the early ‘70s, when the clothes were bad and the cars were bad-ass? Seems the designers at Dodge do. The faithfully rendered Dodge Challenger concept car, based upon Chrysler’s LX platform, pays homage to the last days of American auto dominance. But oh, have times changed. The original Challenger and its muscle-car brethren were done in by the ’73 oil shock, but sales of Ford’s retro-design Mustang flourished during the ’05 gasoline price spike. Bad boys and girls get ready – we expect that this 425-hp sexy beast soon will see production.
No. 2 – The Lexus LS460
We do not know if Lexus’s executives are familiar with schadenfreude—that oh-so German concept of enjoyment at the discomfort of others—but their preview of the all-new LS460 aimed directly at the stomachs of their anxiously watching European counterparts. The fourth-generation Lexus flagship features a 4000-song, built-in hard drive (think iPod), a self-park system, and a Mercedes-besting, industry-first eight-speed automatic transmission. Jim Press of Toyota, Lexus’s parent company, said that surveys show that the quality of the LS—at five years out—remains higher than that of brand-new German competitors. Ouch.

No. 3 – The Volvo C70

At the end of each manufacturer presentation, press kits are handed out by junior staffers or specially hired help, both of whom usually are brought from the manufacturer’s home country. Perhaps they spoke no English, but the trio of turquoise-suited blond hotties who worked the Volvo stand ignored our offer of a topless ride in Volvo’s C70. This hot hardtop/convertible features cool styling, a peppy five-cylinder turbocharged engine, and Volvo’s usual array of safety features. We do wonder: In Sweden, exactly how many days a year can they drive with the top down?
No. 4 – The Jaguar XK Convertible
We love when Jaguar’s executives say the company’s name – they use the British pronunciation, Jag-U-er. The 4.2-liter V-8 XK Convertible (and its sister coupe) are Jaguars worthy of this phonetic treatment. The XK’s frame is aluminum but its credentials—and its $80k-plus price tag—are all platinum. We gladly would jump into this plush-fitted, long-nosed, curvy-assed ragtop and cruise down to L.A. This car—and our publisher’s American Express Card—belong on Rodeo Drive.
No. 5 – The Toyota Camry
The all-new 2007 Camry undoubtedly will continue its 23-year love affair with the American consumer. Toyota’s product designers offer an alphabet soup of packages for the Camry – CE, LE, SE, XLE, and the Hybrid. Yes, you read right – Toyota’s engineers have fitted the best-selling sedan in America with the must-have technology of today. Sounds like a category killer to us. Bread-and-butter gays should stick to the value-packed, four-cylinder CE, while drivers seeking a sportier ride should opt for the SE version. The eco-conscious will get a 192-hp hybrid engine and goodies such as Bluetooth technology, push-button start, and Plasmacluster air filtration (think back-patio bug zapper).
No. 6 – The VW Eos
During our TV-loving pubescent years in flat-roaded Michigan, we desperately yearned to ride the streets of San Francisco with Remington Steel’s Laura in her white VW Cabriolet (Okay, yes, what we really yearned for was a ride with Pierce Brosnan in Laura’s Cabriolet). The Eos, a curvy update of the old Cabrio, is based upon the same platform as Volkswagen’s current GTI and sports either a 2.0-liter turbo four or a 3.2-liter V-6. The Eos’s five-section hardtop roof can retract partially (sunroof mode) or fully (convertible mode). We cannot wait to test drive the Eos; while we now live in San Francisco, sadly the volks at VW do not offer Pierce as an option.
No. 7 – The Ford Edge
Cross-dressing—all the rage these days—is when you take a station wagon and gussy it up like an SUV. The automotive marketing people prefer the terms, “crossover” or “CUV”; whatever name you use, this trend is hot. The planners at Ford predict sales of crossovers will exceed that of SUVs in the coming year. The Edge (also the name of a Castro-neighborhood watering hole of some repute) sports a 250-hp V-6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, seats five, and offers optionally a panoramic roof and a fold-down front passenger seat. This CUV is an excellent alternative to steroid-pumped SUVs.
No. 8 – The Dodge Caliber
“Dude, anything looks good when you compare it to a Neon,” said David Spade who helped launch the Dodge Caliber. We think the young and fun will grab this styling little five-seater with iPod connectivity and a $13,985 base price. In most vehicles, the glove box offers little room for a post-gym PowerBar; in the Caliber, four 20-oz sodas can chill—literally—in the glove compartment. We love a good cat fight and this one will be a dozy: The compact Caliber goes up against the Honda Civic, Ford Focus, and Scion xA.
No. 9 – The GM Stable of SUVs
Normally we are not admirers of SUVs; however, the all-new 2007 lineup of GM SUVs—the Tahoe, Suburban, Avalanche, Yukon, Escalade, and their variations—are so graphically iconic that we must pay tribute to them. Powered by V-8 engines that range from 4.8- to 6.2-liters, these models feature better mileage, cleaner exterior lines, and higher-quality interior fittings compared to last generation GM SUVs. Our favorite stud in the stable is the Cadillac Escalade. This outrageous bling machine—it’s a four-letter word on wheels—sports a 6.2-liter 403-hp Vortec V-8 and a Caddy grill emblem bigger than a personal pan pizza. Wondering what to get that mafia girlfriend or golfing boyfriend for Valentine’s Day? Look no further than the lot of the nearest Cadillac dealer.

No. 10 – The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

As children, we dressed G.I. Joe in his fatigues and drove him around in his Jeep – ah, so easy to find dates in those days. The all-new 2007 Wrangler comes in three trims, the base Wrangler X, the Sahara, and the Rubicon. Aside from its snazzier name, the Rubicon sports a tougher underbody and stronger axles compared to the base model. For the first time, the product designers at Chrysler offer power windows (yes, you can still remove the doors), stability control, and seat-mounted side airbags. The exterior features are sharpened; but, the 2007 Wrangler line sticks to its roots – the seven-slot grill, dark-colored top, and jig-saw-puzzle-piece doors and body panels are all still there. We need only a new G.I.—named Joe or otherwise—to ride along with us.

Honorable Mention

The Mercedes Benz GL-Class
The engineers at Mercedes-Benz promise to offer, in the near future, the all-new, full-sized GL-Class SUV with a 3.5-liter diesel plant – if so, its mileage will be positively car-like.
Pontiac G6 Convertible
The Pontiac G6 Convertible is a hot, economical, all-American convertible – maybe, just maybe this sunster will bring some light to GM’s sagging sales.
Saturn Vue Green Line
The Vue Green Line—every auto brand needs a hybrid and Saturn is no exception—is the cheapest hybrid SUV in all the land; its base price is around $23,000.

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