Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

Chevy HHR Panel wagon hauls it down the road

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PRICING: The base Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2007 Chevrolet HHR Panel starts from $16,160 for the LS and $18,005 for the LT. Destination charges add $590.

EPA FUEL ECONOMY: 22 city⁄30 hwy. (manual); 23 city⁄30 hwy. (automatic).

With distinctive styling, a spacious, easily configurable interior and economical engines, the Chevrolet HHR was introduced last year. The HHR is a four-door vehicle with a rear touchpad liftgate that borrows design elements from the 1949 Chevrolet Suburban SUV and the SSR roadster.

For 2007, the automaker adds utility in a nod to the ‘‘sedan delivery” heritage by introducing the HHR Panel variant. With windowless side doors accessed by release buttons on the dashboard, the HHR Panel makes the most of its interior space – replacing the rear seats with two deep storage bins and a flat load floor that runs from the rear hatch to the back of the front seats.

On the road, the HHR Panel, equipped with the larger 2.4L engine and optional automatic transmission, is smooth and stable at speed, although a bit more power is needed for accessing freeway on-ramps.

The Chevrolet HHR rides on the automaker's Delta global small car platform, a chassis architecture that provided the fundamental structural integrity necessary for Chevrolet engineers to fine-tune road feel with excellent ride and handling characteristics. Based on this rigid chassis, the HHR uses a independent MacPherson strut-type suspension with a stabilizer bar up front and a semi-independent torsion beam suspension with a stabilizer bar at the rear.

Inside the cabin, HHR's interior combines high visibility and cargo flexibility of an SUV with the comfort, appointments, driving ease and ergonomics of an upscale sedan. The vehicle's high roofline provides increased headroom and creates an open, airy environment.

Additional clever and useful configuration options include an auxiliary glove box with flip-up cover located at the top center of the instrument panel. The front passenger seat folds fully flat, extending the total load length from the liftgate to the instrument panel.

-Motor News Medi