Buyer's Guide: 2005 Autos

Rolling offices

October 1, 2004

Some professionals commute to work. You commute for work. Depending on your priorities, you may demand a vehicle that performs under the toughest conditions; keeps you and your passengers comfy, safe, and entertained; or keeps fuel bills in check. With the 2005 models, you can score on all those criteria.

  • Fuel economy. Hybrid-electric vehicles are going mainstream. Ford’s Escape HEV is the world’s first gasoline-and-electric sport-utility vehicle, but not for long. The Lexus RX400h will explore the idea of using hybrid technology to improve performance as well as increase fuel efficiency when it comes out next year. Diesels, too, are approaching hybrid levels of fuel efficiency. Unlike diesels of the past, these new turbocharged, direct-injection models are quiet, clean, and comfortable. They’re also fast, as you quickly discover behind the wheel of the new Mercedes-Benz E320 CDi.
  • Design and comfort. Chrysler’s new 300C shows that you don’t have to sacrifice comfort for style. The early hit of the ’05 season, the 300C’s shape maximizes interior space. Ford’s new Five Hundred sedan is a good bit smaller than the automaker’s full-size Crown Victoria yet offers significantly better rear seat room and a trunk cavernous enough to swallow up eight full-size golf bags. The secret? Ford designers made the Five Hundred taller, rather than longer, which also yields the higher, more upright command seating SUV owners appreciate.
  • All-wheel drive. The Five Hundred and Ford Freestyle crossover underscore another trend on the passenger car side of the market. They’re available with optional all-wheel-drive, a must-have feature for practitioners who can’t afford to stay home when rough weather or conditions hit. Cadillac’s new STS sedan is targeted to compete with high-end imports, with rear-wheel drive. But for buyers who want a bit more grip, especially in the snowbelt, Caddy also has an all-wheel-drive option.
  • Safety. Especially when you drive with prospects and their children, safety is No. 1. With its updated Q45, Infiniti will begin offering the “pre-safe” system. It’s smart enough to sense an impending collision, and when it does, it takes several steps—such as tightening seat belts—to reduce the likelihood of injuries. Infiniti also plans to add a lane-departure warning system, the first of its kind, to the next-generation M45, which comes to market mid-model-year. The system uses side mirror-mounted cameras to detect lane “violations.”
  • Technology. When you spend the day in your car, technology can make it easier and more enjoyable to travel. Buick’s new PHAT entertainment system allows you to prerecord your own audio and video and transfer it to the car on special digital cartridges.

On-board navigation is becoming increasingly common on cars and trucks, a welcome development when you need to find addresses and the best route while conversing with prospects. The technology is slowly beginning to drop in price, even as monitors become larger and software becomes more intuitive. The latest DVD-based technology, found in vehicles like Land Rover’s new LR3 sport-ute, offer not only street addresses but also one-touch access to service stations and restaurants.

2005 model year cars and trucks

CADILLAC STS $40,995 to $64,700: Stylish, roomy, and powerful.

  • Engine: 260 hp, 24-valve, 3.6-liter DOHC V6 or 320 hp, 32-valve, 4.6-liter DOHC V8.
  • Comfort and tech options: Dual eight-way power seat adjusters, heated front and rear seats, AM/FM stereo with six-disc DVD changer, rain-sensing wipers, power mirrors, and steering wheel (wood and leather) memory. Navigation system, XM radio feature with three-month trial, power glass moonroof, and rear spoiler.
  • Dimensions (inches): Front head room, 38.7; leg, 42.6; shoulder, 58.6. Rear head, 37.9; leg, 38.3; shoulder, 57.4.
  • Cargo space: 13.8 cu. ft.
  • Safety: Front, side, head air bags, child door locks, child seat anchors, alarm system, engine immobilizer.

CHRYSLER 300C $23,920 to $40,560: This new mid-sized sedan is a sleek, roomy, and powerful trendsetter.

  • Engine: 190 hp, 2.7-liter, 24-valve DOHC V6; 250 hp, 3.5-liter, 24-valve SOHC V6; or 340 hp, 5.7-liter, Hemi V8.
  • Comfort and tech options: All-wheel drive, GPS navigation, power moonroof, and power adjustable pedals with memory. Sirius satellite radio, AM/FM stereo with six-disc CD changer and MP3 compatibility, and upgraded speakers. High-intensity discharge headlamps with washers, self-sealing tires.
  • Dimensions (inches): Front head room, 38.7; leg, 41.8; shoulder, 59.4. Rear head, 37; leg, 40.2; shoulder, 57.7.
  • Cargo space: 15.6 cu. ft.
  • Safety: Dual-front air bags, child door locks, child seat anchors. Optional side and head air bags.

FORD ESCAPE HYBRID $26,970 to $32,475: The world’s first gasoline-electric sport-utility vehicle delivers I-4 mileage and V-6 performance.

  • Engine (gasoline): 139 hp, 2.3-liter, 16-valve, aluminum DOHC, Atkinson cycle inline 4-cylinder.
  • Engine (electric): 94 hp permanent magnet AC synchronous motor.
  • Comfort and tech options: Intelligent 4WD system, MACH audio six-disc in-dash CD changer, 110-volt AC plug, retractable cargo cover, a hybrid system LCD monitor that includes a navigation system, high-end stereo, leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather-trimmed seats.
  • Dimensions (inches): Front head room, 40.4; leg, 41.6; hip, 53.4; shoulder, 56.3. Rear head, 39.2; leg, 36.3; hip, 49.1; shoulder, 55.9.
  • Cargo space: rear seat up, 27.6 cu ft; rear seat down (cushion removed), 65.5 cu ft.
  • Safety: Safety canopy side air curtain system, front row side air bags, front and passenger air bags, and optional anti-lock brakes.

FORD FIVE HUNDRED $19,000-plus (est.): Elegant and roomy, this handsome alternative to the aging Ford Taurus provides plenty of passenger space and a cavernous trunk.

  • Engine: 203 hp, 3.0-liter, 24-valve DOHC V6.
  • Comfort and tech options: AWD, AM/FM stereo with six-disc in-dash CD changer. Eight-way power driver’s seat with memory function, fold-flat, four-way power passenger seat, heated driver and passenger seats with leather seating surface, and Homelink garage remote. Leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. Reverse parking assist, moonroof.
  • Dimensions (inches): Front head room, 39.4; leg, 41.3; hip, 53.7; shoulder, 57.8. Rear head, 38.7; leg, 41.3; hip, 53.7; shoulder, 57.6.
  • Cargo space: 21.2 cu. ft.
  • Safety: Driver and passenger air bags, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and traction control, two-row safety canopy system with rollover sensor. Optional: Antitheft perimeter alarm, remote perimeter lighting, and curtain air bags.

JAGUAR XJ8L $63,495: The stretch version of Jag’s flagship XJ sedan adds roominess without sacrificing style.

  • Engine: 262 hp, 3.5-liter V8; 294 hp, 4.2-liter V8; or 390 hp, 4.2-liter supercharged V8.
  • Comfort and tech options: Adaptive cruise control. Jaguar sound system with AM/FM radio (140 watts), eight speakers, and single disc in-dash CD player. Room for 6.5-inch display screens in the head restraints; rear-seat multimedia options, including iPod, MP3 player, and DVD connectivity. Telephone conference call facility for front and rear passengers; rear-seat passengers can specify voice activation for four-zone climate-control system.
  • Dimensions (inches): Front head room, 38.4; leg, 43.3; shoulder, 58.3. Rear head, 38.6; leg, 39.3; shoulder, 58.2.
  • Cargo space: 16.4 cu. ft.
  • Safety: Side and head curtain air bags, electronic brake assistance.

JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE $25,000 base (est.): This office on the go is a powerful, stylish, and roomy SUV.

  • Engine: 210 hp, 3.7-liter, 12-valve SOHC V6; 230 hp, 4.7-liter, 16-valve SOHC V8; or 325 hp, 5.7-liter, 16-valve Hemi V8.
  • Comfort and tech options: Electronic stability program, GPS navigation radio, rear seat DVD, Boston acoustics audio, uConnect hands-free system for Bluetooth-equipped phones, rear-park assist, and three different full-time, four-wheel-drive systems.
  • Dimensions (inches): Front head room, 39.7; leg 41.7; shoulder, 59.1; hip, 57.6. Rear head, 39.3; leg, 35.5; shoulder, 58.5; hip, 60.6.
  • Cargo space: Behind rear seat, 34.53 cu. ft.; behind front-row with rear seats folded, 67.40 cu.ft.
  • Safety: Front air bags, anti-lock brakes.

LAND ROVER LR3 $44,995 (SE model) to $49,995 (HSE): Offered with an optional three-row package, the new, mid-sized ute is roomy and comfortable.

  • Engine: 300 hp, 4.4-liter, 32-valve V8.
  • Comfort and tech options: Driver’s sunroof and fixed glass over rows two and three. HSE adds a touch-screen, voice-activated navigation system, 600-watt audio system, 19-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlamps (high and low beams) that swivel with the direction of travel.
  • Dimensions (inches): Front head room, 40.4; leg, 42.4; shoulder, 59.2. Rear head, 42.4; leg, 37.6; shoulder, 59.4.
  • Cargo space: 90.34 cu. ft.
  • Safety: Driver and passenger air bags, traction control, roll mitigation system, and power-assisted ventilated disc brakes.

LEXUS RX400h $40,000 (est.): This luxurious crossover vehicle use its hybrid-electric power train to both boost mileage and increase performance.

  • Engine (gas/electric hybrid): 270 hp, 3.3-liter V6.
  • Comfort and tech options: Stability control.
  • Dimensions: Not available.
  • Cargo space: Not available.
  • Safety: Driver and front passenger air bags.

MERCEDES-BENZ E320 CDi $49,795 to $62,725: This roomy Benz is fast, quiet, and gets mileage to match a hybrid.

  • Engine: 201 hp, 3.2-liter, 18-valve, SOHC diesel V6.
  • Comfort and tech options: Harman Kardon surround-sound system and CD changer, heated seats and steering wheel, xenon cornering headlamps with washers, power glass moonroof, rear-side-door sun blinds, and voice-activated hands-free communication system.
  • Dimensions (inches): Front head room, 37.4; leg, 41.9; shoulder, 56.4. Rear head, 37.7; leg, 35.6; shoulder, 56.1.
  • Cargo space: 15.9 cu. ft.
  • Safety: Driver- and passenger-side head air bags, child seat anchors, alarm system, engine immobilizer, and four-wheel anti-lock brakes.

PONTIAC G6 $21,300 to $23,395 (est.): Sporty, stylish, refined and roomy.

  • Engine: 200 hp, 3.5-liter V6 SFI.
  • Comfort and tech options: AM/FM stereo with six-disc in-dash CD player, TheftLock antitheft system, random disc function, graphic equalizer, XM satellite radio, power adjustable gas and brake pedals.
  • Dimensions (inches): Front head room, 39.5; shoulder, 55.4; hip, 52.7; leg, 42.2. Rear head, 36.3; shoulder, 53.8; hip, 51.9; leg, 37.6.
  • Cargo space: 14 cu. ft.
  • Safety: Dual, two-stage front air bags. Optional: Side and head impact air bags, OnStar, one-year Safe and Sound Service.

Note: Options may be standard in some models.

This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of the products in this category. NAR doesn’t evaluate or endorse these products and isn’t responsible for changes in product info. Prices are the vendors’ suggested retail prices and are subject to change.

Paul A. Eisenstein is publisher of The Detroit Bureau. He has more than 30 years of experience covering the auto industry for a broad range of print, broadcast, and electronic media.

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