Does the world need yet another car show? Of course! That is, if it's run by Car Audio and Electronics magazine and sponsored by Arc Audio, Alpine Electronics, Kicker, Kenwood, Acoustic Edge, Focal Audison, Pontus, Crossfire Audio, Carsponsorships.com, A3, Icon-TV, Extreme Autofest, Lowrider Magazine, SEMA, and IAS. Trifecta is a little different from your typical show car competition. They gathered some of the top builders and automotive-related designers in the country to judge enthusiast rides. These guys judged not only the overall car in terms of aesthetics and build quality but also the sound quality of the audio systems. And just for fun-and some bonus points-they measured the SPL (sound pressure level) as well. Something else that's different about Trifecta? The top two winners from each event are invited to be on stage at the SEMA Show for ultimate judging and a big cash prize.

The judging came down to about five cars. In the end, the winner was no surprise. Justin Efkowtiz and his 300M packed with Focal and Audison gear took the $500, the invite to SEMA '06, and a feature in Car Audio and Electronics magazine. Second Place went to a bit of sleeper. Dave Hary's Audi S4, with Rockford Fosgate amps and subs, picked up the max SPL points and scored very high in sound quality to earn $250 and the invite. Third Place and the $125 went to Ryan Shutt's Civic with a Polk Audio-equipped system. As for the other competitors. Those in the Top Ten will be ranked and have the opportunity to work on their mods and systems and compete again to move up the chain. Look for full coverage online at www.caraudiomag.com.

Gm's New Two-Stage Hybrids
OK, before you flip this page thinking it's just a puff piece for the Toyota Prius, hold tight. Soon you'll be able to get a cutting-edge hybrid system on your fullsize GM truck or SUV. And by cutting-edge, we're not just regurgitating press release hyperbole. This is a genuinely revolutionary system. The initial release was in German and English, and was 17 pages long. So, we're giving you the quick and dirty condensed version here. Why was it in German? The system was co-developed by GM, DaimlerChrysler, and BMW, and was intended for use in future luxury sedans. So, you know if it's good enough for the BMW 7-series, it's definitely good enough for a Chevy Tahoe.

First off, unlike the Prius and most other hybrids currently on the market, which are "one-stage" hybrids, meaning the output from the gasoline engine is transferred directly to a planetary gearset, and the output is split between a mechanical path and an electrical path. Most of the output goes through the transmission and is transferred to the final drive to move the vehicle. The remainder of the output goes back to the electric motor or the battery pack.

The problem with this type of system is it generally only works effectively on small to midsize vehicles. Scaling it up to work on larger vehicles would make the components too bulky and expensive to make economic or packaging sense.

Enter the two-stage hybrid. The fundamental difference between it and the prevailing one-stage hybrid is that it integrates the electric motors of a hybrid system with the multiple ratios of a conventional automatic, combining the best of both to create a robust system capable of heavier loads, as well as optimizing performance and efficiency. While it can operate as a one-stage hybrid by channeling engine output between the transmission input and power production, it also has at least four other geared ratios to work with, providing responsive acceleration at both low urban speeds and at freeway speeds.

In the literature of the press release, cylinder deactivation was also mentioned, so it's likely that Active Fuel Management will be a part of this system, and seeing that almost all the 5.3L V-8s in the Tahoe are flex-fuel capable, so the new hybrids will pack a triple-whammy of having hybrid power, cylinder deactivation, and running on an alternative fuel. The '08 Tahoe, the first vehicle expected to employ this system, will likely go on sale in spring to summer of 2007. As soon as we can get one in our hands, rest assured we'll give it a comprehensive real-world shakedown and a no-B.S. thumbs-up or thumbs-down.