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2006 ICOTY Vehicle Nominees
by Martha Hindes

Luxury Car of the Year - Mercedes-Benz CLS500 Sportscar of the Year - Pontiac Solstice SUV of the Year - Range Rover Sport and Ford Explorer Crossover/Sport Wagon of the Year - Dodge Magnum SRT8

If ever there was an indication that design is king, 2006 would have to be the benchmark year. A profusion of shapes, sizes, sorts and subtleties filled the landscape and a heady variety of new cars and trucks offered something for just about everyone. Power and performance were among the pinnacle achievements, from engines that shut partly-down when only loping drive force was needed to the "green," gas-electric halfbreeds that suddenly soared in popularity, although horsepower guts and grit still dominated. Styling was simply delicious, with a deli of offerings delectable enough to make one wish for an extra helping or two.

ROAD & TRAVEL Magazine was forefront again during the year as the 2006 vehicle parade hastened by, choosing the most tantalizing to test on America's highways and byways. It was a dizzying task with irresistible choices lending ever increasing and previously unimaginable technologies, usefulness and overall appeal. As RTM reached a landmark decade of selecting the brightest and best, it was time to share its findings with the world at a star studded celebration honoring its 10th consecutive awards selection of top autos and trucks. Scores of world class vehicles have gained the coveted honor in years past, and 2006 winners joined the select group.

For the second year in a row, RTM chose a top truck entry and announced winners for the coveted 10th International Car of the Year and second International Truck of the Year awards, accompanied by the bright backing tones of the Jerry Ross Band. The honors, given under the glare of spotlights, high energy enthusiasm and grateful acceptances, took on the feel of a black-tie Academy Awards ceremony. Indeed, it was Detroit's academy for the best there is on wheels.

Whimsy and wit gained center stage again as RTM announced its second annual HEART STRING Award for the most compelling car commercial. The winner: Nissan's "Take me driving in your car," TV ad showed the super muscular 350 Z sports car casually singing its way around town in a lazily humorous, "got no cares" kind of way. It was an obvious stretch in logic, but so warm and fuzzy no one cared. The commercial, a deviation from Nissan's bold "SHIFT" theme of late, had the same tongue-in-cheek feel of an earlier Nissan ad theme: The fanciful dog pushing his owner, asleep in a rolling lounge chair, down a traffic-filled road to the nearest Nissan dealer.

Longevity in the world of autos was acknowledged as legendary "Mr. Auto" and autophile David E. Davis was honored (and roasted a bit) in a presentation of RTM's third annual auto industry Lifetime Achievement Award. Of course there were disclosures of some of the legendary leadfoot escapades of Davis, of longtime Automobile magazine fame, who currently is treading the automotive trails online.

The awards ceremony, held every January at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Hotel downtown, sounded the rousing theme once again as the premiere event for the auto industry as it kicked off the city's annual international auto show. Excitement and enthusiastic applause prevailed as every award that was handed out answered the question of which vehicle had won its category. Top honors for International Car of the Year went to Chrysler's Charger, a welcome return of the fabled muscle car nameplate to autodom after a long, lonely absence. The Hummer H3 sport utility turned in the second consecutive win for GM's specialty offroad-dominating brand as the winner of the International Truck of the Year.

Among distinctive categories, winners were: Pickup Truck - Most Athletic, Honda Ridgeline; Sports Car - Most Sex Appeal, Pontiac Solstice; Sedan - Most Dependable, Hyundai Sonata; Luxury Car - Most Respected, Mercedes-Benz CLS 500; Minivan - Most Compatible, Honda Odyssey; Entry-Level - Most Spirited, Audi A3; Crossover/Sportwagon - Most Versatile, Dodge Magnum SRT8 and SUV - Most Resourceful, a tie between Ford Explorer and Land Rover Range Rover Sport.

A star-studded list of the industry's top movers and shakers, and civic and political leaders brought a high-profile aura to the celebration, augmenting the star-quality glow of the winning vehicles. The awards ceremony itself took the television spotlight as well, with filming of the show for a one-hour CBS Detroit television special scheduled to run at 5 p.m., January 14 on Channel 62.

VIPs on hand for the event included: U.S. Congressman John D. Dingell; Carroll Shelby, President, Carroll Shelby Enterprises; Barry Meguiar, President and CEO, Meguiar's Inc.; Chief Ella M. Bully-Cummings, Detroit Police Department; and Alexander Zonjic, Recording Artist and Radio Personality.

Sponsors represented a prestigious "who's who" in the automotive and business worlds. Support for the 10th annual event came from: DaimlerChrysler Corp., Detroit Marriott Renaissance Hotel, Shell Oil, Dolby Laboratories, General Motors Corp., OnStar by GM, Hyundai Motor America, American Suzuki, Subaru of America, American Honda Motor Company, BMW North America, Nissan North America and U-Haul Corporation.

Media partners for the event, including CBS, were MSN Autos, and

The jury of renowned automotive journalists who judged the vehicles represents a wide-spectrum of publications. Jury members for 2006 include: Kevin Smith, Editorial Director of; Dan Wiese, automotive writer for St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Cheryl Jensen, automotive writer for the New York Times; Denise McCluggage of AutoWeek; John McElroy of Autoline Detroit; Ken Gross of Playboy; Perry Stern of MSN Autos; and syndicated writers Steve Siler, Ann Job and Bob Plunkett; along with RTM editor-in-chief, Courtney Caldwell.

All 2006 ICOTY votes were officially tabulated and kept a well-guarded secret by J. D. Power and Associates to ensure the utmost credibility and validity of winners.

With the wraps off of the awards, RTM proudly invites you to share in the glamor, glitz and excitement of this year's winners.

Sedan of the Year - Hyundai Sonata Entry Level Car of the Year - Audi A3 Pickup Truck of the Year - Honda Ridgeline Minivan of the Year - Honda Odyssey

Most Sex Appeal/Sports Car
Pontiac Solstice

Most Spirited/Entry-Level
Audi A3
Most Versatile/Crossover
Dodge Magnum SRT 8
Most Respected/Luxury Car
Mercedes-Benz CLS500

Most Resourceful/SUV
Ford Explorer / Range Rover Sport

2006 ICOTY Awards Links