Chevy introduces HHR Panel

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Who says slow news days don't yield surprises? Moments ago, we received the GM press materials announcing the all-new HHR Panel. At first, we assumed it was a SEMA thing, but lo and behold, this is an actual production car, and GM is to be commended. Unlike other panel concepts we've seen in the past, such as the Chrysler Panel Cruiser, the HHR Panel does not see the removal of its second set of doors.

Instead, the passenger doors are replaced by solid cargo doors that open via a dashboard release button. This provides easy access to the cargo area, which features a flat load floor and over 57 cubic feet of space. In addition to that, there's an additional 6 cubic feet of covered storage under the floor in the area where the rear seats would be on a regular HHR. Those compartments can be ordered with locks as an option.

As for the rest, there are two trim levels, LS and LT, and both come with the 2.2L Ecotec standard. The LT can be ordered with the 175-horsepower 2.4L Ecotec as well. Interior appointments mirror what you can have in the passenger HHR, so comfort items like power leather seats, MP3 compatibility and satellite radio are all available. You can even get it with a flashy set of 17" wheels -- a nod to the enthusiast/customizer niche Chevy's hoping to grab a piece of as well.

The HHR Panel should appeal to business owners as an economical, stylish delivery vehicle (both engines are good for 30 mpg on the highway).

This is a totally unexpected, completely pleasant surprise from the General. While DaimlerChrysler readies another panel concept for SEMA (this year, it's Nitro-based), Chevy will be taking orders as they prepare to go into production with theirs in Q1. This is a good move, and a great way to give the HHR some added juice.

(Photos, press release after the jump)

[Source: GM]


Chevy HHR Panel Delivers Style, Function And Fun In A New, Segment-Exclusive Configuration

The 2007 HHR Panel, designed for a myriad commercial and private uses, adds a new dimension of functionality to the popular HHR's lineup of stylish, efficient vehicles.

The HHR Panel features windowless side panels and rear cargo doors in place of conventional rear doors. A flat load floor provides more than 57 cubic feet (1,614 L) of cargo space, along with approximately 6 cubic feet (170 L) of additional covered, under-floor storage.

"The HHR Panel is a model unlike anything else in the segment, and it continues HHR's mission of offering customers a bold, expressive, functional and different vehicle," said Ed Peper, Chevrolet general manager. "It's great for delivery companies and other small businesses, but we think auto enthusiasts will love it too, as it gives them a large canvas on which to express their individuality."

HHR Panel production is expected to start late in the first quarter of 2007. It will be offered in LS and LT trims, with 2.2L and 2.4L engines – both of which help the HHR deliver 30 mpg in highway driving.

"Business customers will see great value in the HHR Panel," said Peper. "There aren't many vehicles designed for commercial use that provide 30 mpg."

Exterior and interior details

HHR's styling draws upon inspiration from the original 1949 Chevy Suburban, which was built on a platform that also offered panel models – vehicles that became essential tools for urban and small businesses. Over the years, vintage panel vehicles have become prized by collectors and street rodders. The HHR marks the next chapter in Chevy's panel heritage.

The body of the HHR Panel features steel inserts in place of side windows and cargo doors in place of conventional rear doors. The cargo doors open wide to enable cargo access from both sides of the vehicle, as well as from the rear liftgate. The cargo doors don't have external handles; they are opened via a dashboard release button. The continuous "canvas" created by the windowless cargo doors and rear panels provides a large area for business logos, advertising or personalization.

An auxiliary power outlet is available in the rear of the cargo area, with available 40-amp service for a variety of specialty equipment needs. This also answers the call of upfitters, who have asked for an additional power source to suit their specialty vehicles.

Inside, the HHR Panel has seating for two and a large, flat cargo floor. Tie-down points are located strategically on the floor and the available, robust floor mats enable easier movement of cargo. Two large storage compartments are located under the cargo floor – in the approximate place of the rear seats of passenger models. When ordered with the optional lockable doors, the compartments are secure and large enough to hold small computer equipment, flashlights, service manuals and other valuable equipment that is more secure when hidden.

Standard and available features

HHR Panel is available in LS and LT trim. Both models come with a fuel-efficient 2.2L engine rated at 149 horsepower (111 kW). The LT model offers a 2.4L engine rated at 175 horsepower (130 kW). With either engine, the HHR is rated at 30 mph in highway driving and can provide up to 450 miles of cruising range on a tank of gas.

Power front seats, a family of radios with MP3 capability, XM Satellite Radio and OnStar are available on both LS and LT models. LT models also offer 17-inch wheels and leather-appointed seating.

Standard safety features include dual-stage frontal air bags with GM's Passenger Sensing System. This system works with the front passenger seat and differentiates between adults – 5 th percentile females and larger – and small children or child seats to adjust air bag deployment. Head curtain side-impact air bags are available.

OnStar with Turn-by-Turn Navigation is available on the HHR Panel, enhancing its value as a courier or delivery-type vehicle. OnStar Turn-by-Turn provides verbal instructions to assist the driver with right- and left-hand turn directions; and it establishes a new route if the driver needs to get back on track, for example, if a freeway exit is missed.

Since its launch, HHR has received five-star crash ratings – the highest rating awarded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) New Car Assessment Program. The five-star ratings were awarded for the driver and right-front passenger in a frontal crash, as well as five-star side-impact crash ratings for front seat and rear seat passengers. The HHR also was the highest-rated SUV for the 2006 model year in NHTSA rollover testing.

Chevrolet is America's No. 1-selling automotive brand. With the largest dealer network in the United States , Chevy is the leader in full-size trucks and the leader in sales of vehicles priced $35,000 and above. Chevrolet delivers more-than-expected value in every vehicle category, offering cars and trucks priced from $9,995 to $78,175. Chevy delivers expressive design, spirited performance and great value with standard features usually found only on more expensive vehicles.

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