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2006 ICOTY Vehicle Nominees
by Martha Hindes

Crossover/Sport Wagon of the Year - 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT 8
OK. So who says a crossover/sport wagon can't be a blast. More than a convenient way to downsize from a high-riding SUV. More than a trendy way to alight at the year's coolest party. Since it first blasted its way to attention among savvy drivers, the Dodge Magnum has delivered an edge, redefining the line between bland usefulness and a rip roaring way of getting there in the process. This time, Dodge has delivered what it calls “Magnum on Steroids.” For Dodge's insightfulness and the product that shows it off, the Magnum SRT8 is the hands-down Crossover/Sport Wagon – Most Versatile winner.

This vehicle wears the magic “H” word. Anyone who doesn't know it stands for HEMI hasn't traveled through Dodge country lately. The beauty of the concept (actually around for a number of decades in earlier renditions) is its ability to shut down half its cylinders while in cruising mode, then activate all eight for a power boost. In a having-cake-and-eating-it-too configuration, that means this 6.1-liter Magnum SRT8 can boast the 425-horsepower rating of the'60s “Street HEMIs” more efficiently, without being a glutton for fuel. Talk about a guilty pleasure!

If you dream of street racing, this would have to be the contender to wish for when your head hits the pillow. Jack rabbit surges. Spot-on stops. It eats up a quarter-mile in a scant 13-second range. Feeling breathless here would be a good reaction. Oh, by the way, it can still earn its keep by hauling something really huge around. Dodge suggests a new 27-inch TV. Maybe that's the bonus for getting a real race car kick without having to break the bank in the process.

Honorable Mentions:

Mercedes-Benz R-350
Mercedes-Benz doesn't play the populist game with its new R-350 crossover, or "sports tourer." Leather, nav system, active Xenon headlamps that follow the road, and a host of other available goodies, plus side curtain airbags for all three rows, could help push the price well beyond the mid-five digit range. Use premium fuel for 268-HP V-6 power, paired with M-B's seven-speed automatic for smooth shifting. Comfort, safety and style reign here, with super sound, luxurious ride and above all, panache. Definitely civilized cruising for six.

Ford Freestyle
Not everyone wants a rugged back country-capable ride or a streets-only sedan. Freestyle mates talents of both in Ford's crossover version. With flexibile function for as many as seven, good fuel economy and an airy "F" initialed name, Freestyle suits the needs of a family bent on an assortment of vehicle chores. Add comfort, "robust" performance, top-rated rollover crash-rating for safety and a flip-over/tuck-away third row. A navigation system goes on board as an option. Leather and heated mirrors add premium touches.

Most Sex Appeal/Sports Car
Pontiac Solstice

Most Spirited/Entry-Level
Audi A3

Most Compatible/Minivan
Honda Odyssey

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