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HEAVENLY HOT ROD

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Wed, Apr 5, 2006

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

CHEVY'S RETRO WAGON FOR THE STREETS By HARVEY SCHWARTZ

When the Chevrolet HHR (Heritage High Roof) premiered at the auto shows last year, the vehicle was said to be a Chrysler PT Cruiser wannabe. That's not the case upon closer inspection. The HHR is more substantial - longer, wider and of course, higher than the PT Cruiser, with several functional features not found on the original PT. The HHR is built on the same solid platform as the new Chevy Cobalt, with an overall length of 176.2 inches, and cargo capacity of up to 63 cubic feet. This gives the five-passenger HHR easy-to-maneuver dimensions and room for just about any lifestyle interest. Its reconfigurable and convenient storage compartments accommodate everything from groceries to surfboards. HHR comes well-equipped in two models: The base LS and up-level LT. The LT also comes in two packages: 1LT and 2LT. The 1LT model includes a standard MP3 player, eight-way power seat with power lumbar, 16-inch cast aluminum wheels and a satin chrome exterior package. Bright chrome exterior trim and bright exhaust tip are optional. ABS and traction control are also optional, with traction control only available with the optional four-speed automatic. The HHR 2LT comes with the larger 2.4-liter Ecotec engine, and includes standard features like ABS, fog lamps, bright exhaust tip, leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter, the Pioneer stereo system, 17-inch aluminum wheels/tires, FE3 sport suspension and bright chrome exterior trim. Heated front seats are available on both LT levels.

All HHR models come standard with a sporty three-spoke, tilting steering wheel, chrome accents on the instrument panel, Information Center readout, air-conditioning with air-filtration, power windows/door locks, power outside mirrors, remote keyless entry, cruise-control, variable speed wipers, dual-map lamps, thick-pile carpeting, and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, featuring an auxiliary channel and front-mounted auxiliary input jack for an iPod or other audio source that can be played through the audio system. A 260-watt Pioneer enhanced-performance audio system with subwoofer is optional. You can order your HHR anyway you want it. The HHR is a four-door vehicle with a rear touchpad liftgate that is styled with cues from the past melded with modern 21st century automotive styling. Its high roof evokes the look of the innovative 1949 Chevy Suburban, while other exterior cues carry the expressive attributes of the SSR Roadster-all unmistakably Chevy traits. Like the SSR, the HHR features deep-draw, flared front fenders that tuck in at the rockers for a solid, firmly planted stance. A one-piece stamped metal hood is reminiscent of the '49 Suburban's heritage and is evidence of precise assembly quality. More quality touches are seen in the single-cavity headlamp design, which incorporates jeweled lighting effects, as well as a flared, twin round-taillamp design in the rear. Stamped door and window appearances with a one-piece wraparound molding contribute to the clean, detailed design. The HHR's rear window is flush with the body side. The power outside mirrors are integrated into the overall design theme for a more custom appearance, and the optional roof rack side rails are designed to blend smoothly into the HHR's overall look. The HHR also incorporates contemporary Chevy styling cues such as the prominent chrome cross-grille bar with a Bowtie logo.

Like the exterior design, the HHR's unique interior combines reassuring high visibility and cargo flexibility of a sport utility with the comfort, appointments, driving ease and ergonomics of an upscale sedan. The HHR's high roofline provides increased headroom and creates an open, airy environment. Detailed, jewel-like instrument displays and chrome accents contribute to the interior style. Interior color combinations feature darker color on upper sections of the interior and lighter colors down below. Quality also is conveyed in the tailored seats, which provide firm support, and plenty of comfort for long drives. The 60/40-split folding rear seat offers generous and comfortable seating for three, along with good legroom. Complementing the HHR's comfortable and expressive interior is a highly adaptable cargo system, which maximizes storage capacity with a host of clever and useful configuration options including: an auxiliary glove box with flip-up cover located at the top center of the instrument panel for convenient storage of MP3s, cell phones, sunglasses and other smaller items; the front passenger seatback folds fully flat extending the total load length from the liftgate to the instrument panel - allowing eight-foot items, such as a ladder, to be carried with the liftgate closed; the center armrest of the front seats is integrated into the seat back frame so it is out of the way when pivoted into a stowed position, a characteristic of trucks and sport utilities; the rear seats have a 60/40-split which fold to form a flat load surface in conjunction with the folded front passenger seat. The 60 percent folding side was thoughtfully positioned on the passenger side, enabling wider objects to be positioned diagonally and carried more securely in the vehicle. The cargo area in the rear also is thoughtfully designed, and provides: a continuous flat load floor when the rear seats are folded down; the primary load floor can become a shelf when raised and mounted approximately 1ft. higher-the shelf can be mounted level or at a 45-degree angle to provide quick access to the cargo beneath it when the liftgate is opened; a 5in.deep recessed bin below the load floor can conceal 2.8cu.ft. because the spare tire is located beneath the bin; two storage bins are found forward of the load floor, nestled behind the rear seat, and plastic bag holders are conveniently located under the cargo shelf; the rear features a standard carpeted cargo mat; and the liftgate is activated via a touchpad for easy opening. You'll find the rear cargo space to be capable for your every loading need, big or small, low or high, narrow or wide.

The HHR relies on the renowned Ecotec family of technologically sophisticated inline four-cylinder engines which balances usable power with fuel efficiency. The standard engine for LS and 1LT models is the 2.2liter Ecotec engine which is rated at 143 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. The 2.4-liter Ecotec engine is available on the 1LT and standard on the 2LT. It is rated at 172 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. Both the 2.2-liter and 2.4-liter engines have distinct performance and hardware differences, but share a basis structure and construction that includes DOHC's, twin counter-rotating balance shafts for smoothness, electronic throttle control, low-friction, roller-finger follower valvetrain with hydraulic lash adjusters, low-maintenance chain-drive for the camshafts, direct-mount accessories, which reduce or eliminate traditional sources for noise and vibration, GM Oil Life System which can reduce the frequency of oil changers, innovative cast-in-oil filter housing which eliminates the need to crawl under the vehicle to perform oil changes and eliminates throwaway oil filter cans that retain used oil. The HHR's Ecotec engines also benefit from features designed to reduce noise and vibration. The pistons have a polymer coating and skirt design that reduces noise during cold starts, while a new two-layer acoustic cover is tuned to reduce noise. Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) are further reduced with a new automatic tensioner that maintains optimal tension on the timing chain.

Mated to both engines is a standard five-speed manual transmission or an optional Hydra-Matic electronically controlled four-speed automatic both turning the front wheels. The HHR is built on the same robust GM global small car platform as the Chevy Cobalt. This lower-dominant structure is designed with strength in the lower portions of the chassis, contributing to an overall feeling of rigidity, effectively minimizing superior noise and vibration characteristics. The use of premium materials such as Quiet Steel laminated panels in the plenum area further enhances the vehicle's overall quietness. Extensive use of high-strength steel and ultra-high-strength steel in key structural components, including the rocker panels and cross-vehicle reinforcing beam, bolsters the vehicle's rigid feel while providing additional side-impact support. The cockpit 'safety cage' provides load-carrying protection and, along with laser-welded blanks used in the door frames, front doors and rear doors, contributes to the HHR's NVH characteristics and build quality. The HHR uses a MacPherson strut front suspension design, along with a semi-independent, torsion beam rear suspension and five-lug wheels. Two suspension systems are available:FE1 suspension standard on LS and 1LT, with an FE3 suspension standard on the 2LT model. Both suspensions come with front and rear stabilizer bars. The FE1 suspension is tuned for a softer ride and includes 16X6.5 wheels, while the FE3 provides sportier handling traits and offers standard 17X7 wheels and monotube shocks, which provide better ride and handling. Forged aluminum high-polished 17-inch wheels are available.

All models come equipped with rack & pinion steering with electric power steering - a speed-sensitive, variable-effort system that is tuned to match the performance characteristics of two separate suspension settings. EPS eliminates the use of an engine-driven power steering pump, as well as the corresponding fluid reservoir and plumbing. Brakes consist of power-assisted 11.65-inch vented front discs, and 9.84-inch drums in the rear. An anti-lock braking system (ABS) is optional. I would like to see the HHR come standard with four-wheel discs and ABS to enhance braking power and control in all models. Traction control is available only with the automatic transmission. The HHR is designed to protect occupants in the event of a crash. Standard safety equipment includes dual-stage front airbags with GM's Passenger Sensing System. Additionally, HHR has front safety belt pretensioners, rear seat center lap-shoulder safety belts, and the LATCH child seat retention system. Head curtain side-impact airbags for front and rear- seat occupants is optional. Standard Daytime Running Lamps let drivers know where you are and front/rear crumple zones and steel beams in each door help dissipate energy forces before they enter the cabin. ONSTAR is also available. With distinctive styling, a spacious, well equipped and easily configurable cabin, and powered by economical Ecotec engines, the fun-to-drive, all-new 2006 Chevy HHR suits any lifestyle.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT The look of a hot rod; the comfort, convenience, and economy of a modern-day compact car. © All text and photos by Harvey Schwartz

For more information on Chevrolet products, go to www.chevrolet.com. More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com. SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2006 Chevy HHR Price: $15,990.00 Engine type: 2.2 liter DOHC Inline 4-cylinder all-aluminum engine/2.4 liter DOHC Inline 4-cylinder Horsepower: 2.2 liter-143 at 5,600rpm or 2.4 liter-172 at 6,200rpm Torque: 2.2 liter-150lb.ft. at 4,000rpm or 2.4 liter-162lb.ft. at 5,000rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/front-wheel-drive Transmission type: Five-speed manual Optional four-speed automatic Front suspension: Independent strut type with stabilizer bar Rear suspension: Semi-independent torsion beam with stabilizer bar Wheels/tires: 16X6.5 wheels/215/55R16 all season radials-standard/17X7 aluminum wheels/215/50R17 all-season radials-optional Brakes: Front-11.65-inch vented rotors-dual-piston calipers Rear-9.84-inch drums. ABS optional Overall length: 176.2 inches Overall width: 60.2 inches Overall height: 65.2 inches Curb weight: 3,155 pounds standard/2,208lbs. 2.4liter EPA mileage specs: 2.2liter-23mpg/city, 30mpg/highway 2.4liter-22mpg/city, 30mpg/highway

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