by Andrew Welsh

For several years, Asian and European manufacturers have been feasting on Canadian automotive market share at the expense of domestic manufacturers.

Cars, especially, have been hit hard, with Honda and Toyota owning the compact and mid-sized segment, Hyundai and Kia gaining ground in the sub-compact “budget” lines, and German manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi becoming the luxury vehicles of choice for many buyers.

But don’t count out the domestic companies, because 2005 will see several significant new family cars from General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler.

Ford is currently rolling out its Mustang, Five Hundred and Freestyle, while DaimlerChrysler can’t build enough 300 sedans and Magnum sport wagons.

From GM comes the Buick Allure, the Chevrolet Cobalt, the Pontiac G6 and the Cadillac STS.

The question is, will they be up to the challenge?


2005 Ford Mustang GT
2005 Ford Mustang GT (Photo: G. Yoxon)

2005 Ford Freestyle
2005 Ford Freestyle (photo: P. Williams)

2005 Ford Five Hundred
2005 Ford Five Hundred (photo: P. Williams)
Click image to enlarge

Ford’s 2005 Mustang has looks, performance and price going for it. Starting at $23,795, this car, with its retro-design and visceral appeal, is sure to extend the model’s 40-year run into the next decade at least. For Mustang lovers, and dreamers too, this car will hit the target.

However, the $29,295-$36,095 Five Hundred sedan and $33,295-$40,445 Freestyle crossover are not as easy to peg. Built on a Volvo platform also used by that company’s XC90 and S80, these vehicles are a new take on family transportation.

By using this crossover platform, Ford is able to build SUV attributes into a car – like command seating, increased interior space, and optional all-wheel drive (front-wheel drive is standard) – that provides an alternative to the conventional SUV or minivan.

The Five Hundred has considerably more interior space than the full-size Crown Victoria, even though it’s shorter. Its trunk is truly cavernous. Likewise, the Freestyle is notable for its interior space, seating flexibility, ease of entry and exit and modest fuel consumption from the 3.0-litre 200-horsepower V-6 engine.

The Five Hundred uses a six-speed automatic or continuously variable transmission (CVT). The CVT is the only transmission available for the Freestyle.

With these vehicles Ford is betting on buyers’ long-term requirements for practicality and utility, rather than styling pizzazz. But like tasteful clothing, their conservative looks may endure.

Expect Ford to make minor front-end styling enhancements to the Five Hundred, and eventually to add more power.


2005 Dodge Magnum
2005 Dodge Magnum (photo: P. Williams)

2005 Chrysler 300
2005 Chrysler 300 (photo: P. Williams)
Click image to enlarge

In contrast, the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum, starting at $29,995 and $27,995 respectively, are big, bad and bold. They may be practical, too, but that’s not their main selling point.

Here is a pair of dazzling vehicles from DaimlerChrysler that revive the traditional American configuration of rear-wheel drive (all-wheel drive is available), powerful engines (250-h.p. V-6 or 330-h.p. Hemi V-8), and extravagant design in a large car.

While the configuration may be traditional, the execution is thoroughly modern. A sophisticated traction control and vehicle stability system is standard, so even if you don’t opt for all-wheel drive, winter driving with appropriate tires should be manageable. Built at DaimlerChrysler’s Brampton, Ontario plant, strong demand necessitated the addition of a third shift.

The 300 is offered in four trim levels: base, Touring, Limited and 300C, while the Magnum offers three: SE, SXT, RT. Both vehicles are available with AWD, but the performance bargain of the bunch is the $36,995 Magnum RT with its Hemi V-8.

Getting the same drivetrain in the sedan will cost $43,095 for the 300C, although the sedan’s forte is elegance and luxury appointments, while the Magnum’s is practicality with an edge.

Some think that the look of these vehicles will date quickly, but these are solid designs with great character, and this should maintain their appeal.

General Motors

2005 Buick Allure
2005 Buick Allure (Photo: G. Yoxon)

2005 Pontiac G6
2005 Pontiac G6 (Photo: G. Yoxon)

2005 Chevrolet Cobalt
2005 Chevrolet Cobalt (Photo: G. Wilson)

2005 Pontiac Pursuit
2005 Pontiac Pursuit (Photo: G. Wilson)

2005 Cadillac STS
2005 Cadillac STS (Photo: G. Yoxon)
Click image to enlarge

The new vehicles from General Motors are more conventional than those from Ford or DaimlerChrysler, but their styling is taut and modern.

The $25,200-$33,265 Buick Allure is a mid-sized car replacing the Regal and Century. Among its many options, StabiliTrack, GM’s electronic stability control system, is a bargain at $600.

According to GM, Buick had the Lexus ES330 in mind when designing this car and developing its quiet ride. The Allure will make 200-h.p. from its carry-over 3.8-litre V-6, or 240-h.p. from the new double-overhead camshaft 3.6-litre V-6 with variable valve timing.

Hoping to expand the market for Buicks by tightening up the suspension, and sharpening the interior and exterior design, the Allure may find itself on more people’s shopping list this fall.

The new Pontiac G6, starts at $24,670, and is a big step forward from the Grand Am it replaces. Its excellent Epsilon platform (also used on the Saab 9-3 and the latest Chevrolet Malibu) provides crisp handling and a smooth ride.

Along with the pleasing exterior style is a new, fuel efficient, 3.5-litre V-6 engine making 200-h.p. and 220 lb.-ft. torque. The optional “Panoramic” sliding roof is twice the size of a standard sunroof.

After seeing the G6, memories of the Grand Am may recede quickly.

For 2005, the Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac Pursuit will eventually replace the Cavalier and Sunfire.

Priced from $15,495 and initially available as coupe or sedan from Chevrolet, and sedan from Pontiac (coupe comes next year), these cars feature excellent fuel mileage from their base 2.2-litre, 145-h.p. inline-four cylinder engines. Two other engines making an estimated 170-h.p. (2.4-litre Pursuit) and 205-h.p (Cobalt SS) are available.

Standard and optional features include air conditioning, heated leather seats, power sunroof, MP3 playback and OnStar communications. Several wheel options are offered, including 16-inch, 17-inch, and 18-inch sizes, all with unique designs.

These cars have a styling flair not seen in a GM economy vehicle for quite a while.

Finally, the big, rear-wheel drive Cadillac returns in the form of the $55,995 STS. Boldly styled, it features the full array of luxury amenities and a choice of two engines: a 255-h.p. 3.6-litre V-6 and a 315-h.p 4.6-litre Northstar V-8. The STS is the first large Cadillac sedan available with all-wheel drive.

The domestic manufacturers are producing an interesting array of new vehicles for 2005. Quality is up, fit and finish is much improved, all-wheel drive is common, styling is eclectic and interesting, prices are competitive. For consumers, this is good news that’s been a long time coming.

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