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2006 ICOTY Vehicle Nominees
by Martha Hindes

Luxury Car - 2006 Mercedes-Benz CLS500
If having four doors but noticing only two is a new visual standard, Mercedes-Benz is helping to set the pace. M-B bills its sleek new CLS500 as the “first four-door coupe.”

We really do know this toney luxury auto is a top-knotch, running machine sedan. But the side lines are so sleek and smooth, the vehicle in profile keeps that unencumbered, lunging forward look with only sculpted body lines and minimally visble door handles to dapple the surface. As eye candy alone this premiere aspirational auto could have qualified for its win as Luxury Car – Most Respected, But it won for so much more.

Under all that beauty inside and out is the true heart of a Mercedes-Benz, the auto we have grown to love for its balance of thrilling ride and handling and technological superiority in addition to an appearance just haughty enough to show off in front of the less luxuriously endowed. Add a little naughty with that crouching-close-to-the-ground look, and well you get the idea. Hit the accelerator and watch it disappear. Here's a heart-thumping road machine riding a 302-hp, 5.8-liter V-8. (While that's not quite its CLS55 AMG sister's 469-hp powerhouse, it's close enough to “screamer” to get a major thrill).And CL500's high tech headrests jump the gun on new federal safety standards not due for another two years. Headrests move forward and up slightly during a collision to prevent a whiplash effect. Like other advanced M-B technology, they are designed to be reset so they can go back into action. Take the total package and this winner's award is a natural.

Honorable Mentions:

Cadillac STS-V
You could say the "V" is short for "VROOOOM!" Why not. Cadillac's
thunderbolt 4.4-liter, supercharged Northstar V-8 makes the STS-V stand out from the crowd. This newly-adapted luxury sport sedan, on the STS luxury sedan of a year ago for starters, is long on style, shorter on options. A nimble drive from 440 hulking horses, hunky tires and truly balanced handling make it ready to brawl with those luxurious European, category-defining upstarts (in a refined manner, of course).

BMW 3 Series
Its tactile feel and tacit appeal at rest defy what BMW 3 Series will be under power. Open the throttle and respond to the surge, relax in less confined interior space than past versions, luxuriate in high-tech comfort as it cruises upward to the luxury spectrum in newer, more modern attire (yet still dappled with leather and wood). Trend-setting touch buttons tame starts; nav screens and sound systems portray surroundings, seen or heard. A treasure of features feed an overflowing wish list of never-before options. We honor the variety of its invention.

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