More than a hundred years after its debut to a crowd of 4000 in 1901, the Chicago Auto Show has grown into an event so large it takes a full-time crew of teamsters, electricians, riggers, electricians, and decorators two full weeks to prepare the 840,000 square-foot show floor.
It might be cold and snowy in the Windy City, but that doesn't stop Chicago's car fans from making their automotive pilgrimage to McCormick Place. Calling it the nation's largest auto show, Chicago draws a loyal crowd of enthiusiasts to enjoy multiple world and North American introductions of domestic and imported passenger cars, trucks, and sport/utility vehicles, as well as experimental and concept cars. In total, the show boasts nearly a thousand different vehicles along with numerous accessories and auto-related exhibits, competition vehicles, antiques, and collector cars.
Doors remain open to the public until February 15, though Motor Trend's online editors were there early to nab photos and info ahead of the crowds.
Our list of vehicles includes a collection of vehicle debuts, an assortment of updates to existing models, and returning show favorites touring the United States.
We're still posting updates, so keep checking back as show coverage continues to grow.
Read the 2003 Chicago Auto Show coverage.
Think of this as a transitional car between the old (front-wheel-drive, tarted-up Chevy) and new (near-luxury, predominantly rear-drive) Buick. Like the latest Pontiac Grand Prix, the front-drive LaCrosse is on a carry-over platform from previous models. As Buick reshapes its product line, the LaCrosse will replace both the Regal and the Century, the latter will have some production overlap with this car. But unlike the Grand Prix, the LaCrosse's premium, 240-horse engine is the new 3.6-liter high-feature, DOHC Variable Valve Timing V-6 with 230 lb-ft., shared with the rear-drive Cadillac CTS and SRX. That engine is available only on the "sporty" CXS trim-level model, which also features 17-inch wheels. Base CX and more luxurious CXL models have 16-inch wheels standard, and they come only with the Gen III 200-horsepower 3.8-liter pushrod V-6. All LaCrosses get an extra 1.5-inches of wheelbase and rear-seat legroom versus Regal and one-half-inch more front- and rear-seat headroom, serious work on noise reduction, nicer interiors, better ride and handling, and improved fit-and-finish. The LaCrosse will be offered with a choice of five- or six-passenger versions. Buick says the 5mm door gaps are the best in the business. The car's nose looks like classic Buick meets Jaguar and Lexus; the rear deck has a "cove" in the sheetmetal in lieu of the traditional "wall-to-wall" taillamp reflector lens. LaCrosse goes on sale in the fall here and in Canada, where it is named "Allure."
Based on GM's Delta architecture, the Cobalt sedan will be offered in base, LS, LT, and SS trims. Cobalt standard features include A/C, electric rear defogger, AM/FM/CD stereo, and driver information center. Available features include heated leather seats, power sunroof, XM Satellite Radio, MP3 playback, and OnStar. The base engine is a 2.2L/140-hp Ecotec I-4 with 150 lb-ft of torque. Next up is a 2.4L/170-hp Ecotec with 170 lb-ft of torque. The range is topped with the sporty SS package, featuring a supercharged 2.0-liter Ecotec engine. Although official output hasn't been disclosed, expect power to at least match the Saturn Ion Red Line with 205 horsepower. The SS promises to be a true sport compact contender with an aggressive suspension, short-throw manual shifter, large tire fitment, dressed exterior, and specific interior trim. In the end, perhaps the greatest excitement stems from the dedication to eradicate the how-hum fit-and-finish reputation created by the Cavalier. GM engineers are already boasting of tight 3mm tolerances on exterior body panels - a good indicator that this will be a tighter machine.
Don't be fooled by the unmistakable profile, the six-generation Corvette is 85% all new. A pureblood American sports car, the C6 is derived from the basic C5 platform, but the exterior, interior, suspension, and even engine are all fresh designs. As Dave Hill told us, the Corvette team was dedicated to improving the breed, remaining true to the heritage, and addressing specific owner issues. The result is a tidier design, with a tighter rear; a more upscale interior befitting a $50k car; a suspension that offers more refinement and more road-holding grip; and a stronger engine. Rather than nudge power up on the laudable LS1 V-8, GM Powertrain machined a Gen IV LS2 small-block producing 400 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. This 6.0-liter engine is backed by either a four-speed 4L65-E automatic or six-speed Tremec manual gearbox. Both the coupe and convertible will be on sale fall 2004, with a ultra-high-performance Z06 model expected a year later.
Based on the new rear-drive Kappa architecture, this concept evokes the spirit of the 1954 Chevy Nomad concept vehicle, including its round headlamps mounted on gently curving fenders, a trademark Corvette grille, and a forward-sloping B-pillar. It also reminds of the '90s concept of the same name and even color. This concept rides on a full independent suspension hung from a rock-solid chassis made of hydroformed frame rails. A four-seater, the Nomad rides on a 107-inch wheelbase, two inches longer than other Kappa concepts on the circuit. A turbocharged Ecotec 2.2-liter/250-hp four-cylinder engine powers the Nomad, which also features a new Hydra-Matic 5L40-E electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission with finger-operated tap shifting. The wee wagon utility is maximized by a removable rear roof panel, a folding tailgate, and a sliding cargo floor that extends over the folded tailgate so items placed on the load floor can be easily pushed into the cargo area.
General Motors is giving its corporate minivan line a complete makeover and expanding its role to fill in the Buick and Saturn ranges. As the Uplander demonstrates, these minivans feature a more dramatic, truck-like front design that stretch the vehicles' length four inches beyond the 2004 models. The longer hood gives a tougher, more SUV-like appearance, though insiders say this direction was lead by a need to address front crash-test standards. The three-row Uplander will be powered by a 3.5L/200-hp V-6, offered in front- and all-wheel drive configurations. Trick feature is an optional hard drive-based digital media system that allows passengers to synch with their home computer to bring hundreds of hours of music and video on the road. XM Satellite radio and DVD-based entertainment systems will also be available. A cargo van model will also be offered.
Ford has been on a wild tear reinventing classic model since the Thunderbird concept lead to the production of America's answer to the Volkswagen New Beetle. With a dream-fueling collection of reborn legendary cars, trucks get their due with a back-to-basics Bronco. Looking like it was CNC-machined from billet aluminum, the Bronco strikes us as a spot-on perfect design. There's no mistaking it for anything but a Bronco, yet it has modern stylings and Hummer-esque strength. The Bronco concept mates a 2.0-liter/128-hp intercooled turbodiesel with six-speed PowerShift transmission and Intelligent 4WD system for a powerful, sure-footed off-roader, and adds nitrous-oxide injection for a temporary 50-horse burst of power at the driver's fingertips. No hints given on production potential, but we've heard for a couple years that there is internal interest in creating a two-door, sub-Explorer vehicle. Like most production-capable concepts, reactions on the show circuit may be key into putting such a machine in showrooms.
Further proof that Ford has become masterful as reinterpreting its rich history, the next-generation Mustang looks like a rolling history lesson. Found memories of burnouts past can't mask the thoroughly modern structure the car is based on, promising more rigidity and refinement than the current car. The chassis retains a rear live axle setup, with MacPherson struts up front. The Mustang will be offered initially with a choice of 4.0-liter/202-hp SOHC V-6 engine and 4.6-liter/300-hp SOHC V-8. A six-inch increase in wheelbase provides a much-needed interior space increase. The interior shows '60s influences with symmetrical dash segments accented with a squared arch, three-spoke steering wheel with black center hub, and defined circular gauges. Judging from show reactions, this Mustang is good enough to even draw GM loyalists to the Blue Oval, especially with the Camaro and Firebird long retired.
A legend reborn, and a legend celebration, the Ford Shelby Cobra is a fitting tribute the machine and man that made the name famous. Carroll Shelby conspired with the concept team to develop this show car, borrowing heavily from the Ford GT production car. For the Cobra, the mid-engine platform was reconfigured for a front-mid-engine application. Inspired by the Cobra 427, the team created a special 6.4-liter V-10 that produces 605 horsepower and 501 lb-ft of torque. In a 3000-pound car sized like a Miata, that power translates to sub-four-second 0-60 mph times. The six-speed transmission is rear mounted to distribute weight and increase interior legroom. The cockpit is all business, with essential gauges, race-inspired seats, and toggle-switch controls, all surrounded by aluminum and carbon fiber materials. Likewise, the clean exterior carries the essential Cobra cues with a modern, machined appearance highlighted with 18-inch front, 19-inch rear wheels. Engineered to be production feasible, the Shelby Cobra business case is buoyed by shared componentry with the GT and knowledge that the Cobra knock-off market has thrived for decades.
Since introduced in 1999, the Denali trim designation has come to mean luxury, with distinct exterior trim and interior features setting these special editions above the standard GMC models. The name will be applied to the midsize Envoy and three-row Envoy XL for 2005, carrying on the established tradition. Standard features include such luxuries as air suspension, interior noise reduction, leather power/heated seats, Bose audio system, headlamp washers, electric adjustable pedals, and special trim. Underhood will be a 5.3L/290-hp Gen IV V-8 engine, with XL models receiving Displacement on Demand mid year. GMC disclosed that for 2006, Envoy Denali models will come standard with 18-inch wheels and be available with a vehicle stability system. While these vehicles are best enjoyed behind the wheel, fellow motorists will be able to discern the Denali models by a distinct front fascia and grille. Envoy Denali and Envoy XL Denali are scheduled to arrive in showrooms in the first quarter of 2005.
A very natural transition, the Denali treatment will soon be available on the Sierra Crew Cab, pampering truck drivers with the niceties Yukon owners have enjoyed for several years. The Sierra-specific package will include full-time AWD, Z71 suspension, four-wheel disc brake with anti-lock, chrome running boards, and distinguishing exterior trim. Inside, the Denali will feature two-tone leather upholstery, moonroof, DVD-based entertainment system, model-specific instrument cluster, and XM Satellite radio. For the first time in a GMC model, the coveted LQ9 6.0-liter V-8 will be packaged, producing 345 horsepower. While 17-inch wheels are standard, 20-inch dubs will be available later in 2005.
A sure-fire hit in the making, the midsize H3 range was first introduced to the public in Los Angeles last month with the H3T concept. The H3's goal is to preserve the brand's Lego-block styling identity and go absolutely anywhere off-road ability, while offering a more affordable, more garageable, more fuel-efficient vehicle for the masses. Riding on a 118.6-inch wheelbase and measuring 74.5 inches wide, the H3T embodies the classic Hummer proportions - wide stance, low roofline, and wheels at the corners. Pushed outward, the 34-inch tires and 11.5 inches of ground clearance gives the H3T a staggering 51-degree approach angle and a 50-degree departure angle. Although the H3 will launch in a five-door "wagon" configuration, the design team explores the potential for a pickup variant with this concept. The original Hummer was once offered in pickup form, and is still used in the military as a two door, setting the precedence. Insiders confide there is great interest in offering an H3 pickup, but the final sign-off has not yet occurred. With this concept, the cab and 5.5-foot bed are engineered as a single structure for rigidity. Power for this concept comes from a turbocharged Vortec 3500 I-5 engine producing 350-horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. Expect a production truck to be powered by a 220-hp I-5, though we're still holding out hope for an I-6.
Chrysler has long suffered from lack of a full-sized sport/utility vehicle to compete in the hot, highly profitable segment. Hummer blazed the trail for large, off-road biased SUVs, making the Jeep Rescue concept a very natural counter to this GM offensive. The Rescue draws upon Jeep heritage to create a massive body-on-frame SUV that would position naturally above the Grand Cherokee and take on the H2. Ready to save lives in remote regions, or profile in Hollywood, the 80-inch wide Rescue rolls on a 123-inch wheelbase (longer than Chevrolet Tahoe by seven inches). The suspension has adjustable ride height and an additional 4-inch lift available for fording. The massive 37-inch, run-flat tires can be aired down for increased, off-road traction, then pumped up with an on-board tire pressure control system for the ride home. Given the "rescue" theme, this concept truck features AC electric power (10 kW) generation in the field; 3-D topographical mapping software and topographical navigation system; under-chassis, point-of-view cameras for avoiding danger in its path; passive, infrared cameras for search and rescue; satellite telephone, VHF radio, and digital video recorder with satellite transmission; high-tech lighting; and front and back remote-control winches.
Hybrid drive leader Toyota has two near-production, midsize SUV models on the show circuit revealing that future alternative vehicles will offer both increased fuel economy and improved performance. Like the Lexus RX400h, the Highlander Hybrid will be powered by a new version of the Hybrid Synergy Drive system, specifically developed to meet the load-carrying requirements of a midsize SUV. This hybrid system features a larger-capacity battery and high-speed electric motor that combine to provide double the power and speed of the system in the Prius, promising a combined peak horsepower of approximately 270 horsepower and 0-60-mph acceleration below 8 seconds. Highlander Hybrid will come standard-equipped with front-wheel-drive and offer an electric four-wheel-drive with intelligence (4WD-i) system that utilizes front and rear electric motors to deliver balanced power to all four wheels along with nearly instantaneous acceleration. The Highlander Hybrid goes on sale in early 2005.
Tired of being the small player in the big full-size truck arena, Toyota will super-size the next-generation Tundra, as suggested by the dramatic FTX concept. The FTX is a huge machine measuring 19 feet long and nearly seven feet wide, with a bed edge that is eye-level. Ready for off-road adventures, this 4x4 wears 37-inch tires and isolates passengers from trail harshness with suspension-fitted seats. Retractable side step rails aid ingress/egress, and even cargo loading. A hidden ramp at the rear helps roll heavy items or recreation machines into the bed. This concept features a hybrid V-8 powertrain, reportedly under consideration for the next Tundra, though it will not be offered at launch. Look for the next Tundra to arrive in 2006.
While the competing small/midsize pickups grow larger over time, so does the Dakota, retaining its status as the largest midsize on the market, Dodge says. Overall length is up 3.7-inches and it's 2.7-inches wider, with five-inches more space between the rear wheel wells, its proud manufacturer claims. Available only as a Club Cab or Quad Cab, the new Dakota runs on a new, hydroformed frame, unique from the Durango, although it has many of the SUV's styling cues. Standard engine is a 3.7-liter V-6 rated 210 horses and 235 lb-ft, with two versions of the 4.7-liter Magnum V-8 available. The high-output version makes more than 300 pound-feet and more than 250 horsepower. Towing capacity is 7000 pounds, and gross combined vehicle weight is 11,500 pounds. A six-speed Getrag manual is available with V-6 or V-8 engines. The independent front suspension has coil-over shocks, and Dodge claims better ride and handling and the lowest noise/vibration/harshness in its class. The new Dakota goes on sale in October, leaving only one more question: "That thing got a Hemi?" No, but it will package one. We expect a Hemi model to come from Special Vehicle Operations wearing an "SRT" badge in the future.
Having won the Trans-Am Manufacturers' Championship two times campaigning Jaguar XKRs, Rocketsports Racing has applied their proven skills to developing this 550-horsepower XK-RS concept car. Teamed with Jaguar North America, Rocketsports elevated the convertible to supercar status through a comprehensive performance and style transformation. Rocketsports took the already-potent Jaguar AJ-V8 Trans-Am race engine and increased its displacement by stroking it out from 4.5 liters to 5.0 liters. This engine was topped with an Eaton supercharger to deliver enough output to send the car from 0-60 mph in under four seconds and reach a 200-mph top speed. The standard six-speed ZF automatic transmission was replaced with a five-speed manual transaxle, better distributing the weight. The suspension was fortified with coil-over high-performance Penske shocks and R-Performance Brembo calipers with drilled rotors (13-inch front/12-inch rear) mounted to each corner. Special underbody air tunnels running the length of the car were created, along with deeper front and rear spoilers, wider wheel arches, and aero-style sill sections similar to those featured on the specially-developed XKR that starred in last year's James Bond adventure, 'Die Another Day'.
After rolling out the 2005 Frontier King Cab in Detroit, Nissan showed the other model variant in Chicago, the Crew Cab. Significantly bigger in every dimension and measure, the all-new Frontier derives more than styling from the full-size Titan. The Frontiers benefit from a fully boxed, all-steel frame based on the Titan platform, along with similar suspension, spray-in bed liner, and Utili-track bed channel tie-down system. Base engine for the King Cab will be a 2.5-liter DOHC inline four-cylinder, though the Crew Cab will come standard with a 4.0L/250-plus-hp DOHC V-6. Transmission choices will include a five-speed automatic and six-speed manual, with 4x4 models fitted with a shift-on-the-fly system. Assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee, the all-new Frontier goes on sale this winter.
Pontiac has treated is versatile Vibe to a midlife freshening, reflecting the future Pontiac styling as exhibited on the production G6 and Solstice. Beyond the new front fascia and grille, the '05 Vibe has a long list of new and refined available features that includes new fabrics, leather upholstery, side-curtain airbag with side thorax bags, automatic door locks, tire pressure monitor, StabiliTrak vehicle stability system, and "Moon & Tunes" entertainment package with subwoofer. Twin to the Toyota Matrix, the Vibe will continue to be offered in front- and all-wheel drive, with a choice of 130-hp and 180-hp 1.8-liter four-cylinder engines. Production of the 2005 Vibe begins in May at New United Motor Manufacturing in Fremont, California.
The last Solara convertibles were made from chopped-top Solara coupes, and suffered serious cowl shake. For '04, the Solara convertible is built in Toyota's factory from the get-go, with different sheetmetal from the coupe, special reinforcements, and "significantly higher torsional rigidity." The car's shoulder-line crease sets it apart from the coupe, and the result is a more handsome car. The convertible comes with significantly reduced road and wind noise over last year's model, and it promises to be much more durable over time. Its only engine is the 3.3L/225-hp V-6 coupled to a five-speed automatic with sequential manumatic control. An integrated lip spoiler, 17-inch alloys and tires, full headliner, and large glass rear window also are standard. Trim levels are SE and SLE. Toyota expects the convertible to take 25 percent of Solara sales, about twice the old car's share. Look for it in showrooms in March, just in time for spring.
Suddenly, small pickup trucks are all the rage. This first look at the new Tacoma line reveals a bigger, stronger-shouldered truck with a horse-collar grille reminiscent of the big FTX concept from Detroit. The X-Runner is more slab-sided than the old Tacoma, with more distinctive taillamps and a kick-up in the rear fender opening, just like the Chevy Colorado, GMC Canyon, and the new Dodge Dakota. Compared with the current Tacoma X-Runner, the new model is five-inches longer overall, with a four-inch increase in track width and four-and-a-half inches more interior shoulder and hip room. Compared with other upcoming '05 Tacomas, the X-Runner features an exclusive x-brace frame, with a chassis lowered one inch. Lateral acceleration is 0.90 gs, better than the Nissan 350Z that Toyota says it used as a benchmark for this truck. Standard engine is a 4.0L/240-hp V-6 with 275 lb-ft of torque, coupled to a close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox. (A TRD supercharger pumps it up to about 300 horses.) The X-Runner also has 18-inch wheels, firmer, shorter springs and Bilsteins mounted outboard of the frame rails. Toyota hopes the X-Runner will appeal to youthful Scion shoppers who decide on a pickup.
Forty years ago, Paddy Hopkirk beat big Mercedes, Volvos and Fords, and the like to win the Rallye Monte Carlo with a stock 70-horsepower Mini Cooper S. BMW's Mini celebrates that victory (the first of four) with the 40th, as we'll call it, a car shorter than its full name. The 40th features the stock 163-horse supercharged engine, Chili red paint with a white top and red-trimmed leather seats, special three-spoke steering wheel, chrome grille, mirrors and trunk latch, on-board computer, special floor mats, GB badges, Xenon headlamps, front and rear fogs, special dark gray 17-inch wheels with run-flat tires, extra performance gauges, replica hood decals, a plaque engraved with Hopkirk's autograph, and magnetic-removable "37" racing numbers on the doors. Price is about $27,000, but hurry, only 1000 will be available in the U.S.
This special edition Bentley Arnage are quite rare, with only 26 offered in the United States, and a number of them have been accounted for, already. The car features 19-inch 12-spoke wheels, chrome exterior highlights, split-rim wood and hide steering wheel and a fully featured interior. The Mulliner is designed to call attention to Bentley's "personal commissioning" program for bespoke cars. Price is $212,990.
Kia is toying with the American pickup truck market, with this mid-size light-duty pickup. Looking very GM-like, with Cadillacesque taillamps, the Mojave extended cab features a power-operated load floor and a flip-open rear window with a sliding load surface that allows extension of the six-foot bed, similar to the Chevy Avalanche's midgate. The flat bed floor has no wheel well intrusion, but it's very shallow, and the tailgate opens level to the floor. The overly concept-like interior includes a DVD audio system. Engine is a 3.8L/280-hp forced-induction V-6, but Kia also is looking at four-cylinder and V-8 engine options for a future truck. Kia obviously is very serious about becoming a more mainstream, full-line automaker, but the automaker emphasizes that it doesn't have a North American factory planned that could build body-on-frame trucks. The Mohave is based on the body-on-frame Sorento SUV; Kia/Hyundai's upcoming Alabama plant is set up for strictly unibody cars and trucks.
As hard as this might be to believe, sometimes a Hummer just isn't big enough. Or boxy enough. For times such as these, consider the Avanti Studebaker XUV (for "Xtreme Utility Vehicle"). Measuring in at 216 inches long, 84.5 inches wide, and 83 inches tall, this big box on wheels is larger than the Hummer H2 in every dimension. Powered by a 6.8-liter/310-horsepower V-10 mated to a heavy-duty five-speed automatic, it promises optimistic fuel economy of 13/17 mpg. A hand-built custom luxury vehicle, the Studebaker offers and assortment of options and features. This show model was not quite complete, as fit and finish inside and out still require some adjustments. Starting price is $75,000, and Avanti hopes to sell a thousand per year, both domestic and internationally, with a security option in the future. If you simply must have one, place your order now, for delivery in about 60 days.
Hyundai makes an entry into the small SUV segment with its new four-door Tucson, scheduled to arrive in dealerships this summer. The Hyundai Tucson is designed to compete with the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Mitsubishi Outlander, promising to be a versatile playtime companion to the young buyer's sporty and active lifestyle. Base model GL is powered by 2.0L/140-hp DOHC four-cylinder engine paired with a five-speed manual or optional Shiftronic automatic transmission; Hyundai's 2.7L/173-hp DOHC V-6 and Shiftronic are standard in both GLS and LX models. Standard features across all levels include four-wheel disc brakes, on-demand four-wheel drive, 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, remote keyless entry alarm system, power windows and locks, and seat-mounted side-impact airbags for the driver and front seat passenger. Pricing has not been finalized, but should range from $17,000 to $22,000 when it goes on sale in summer '04.
Nissan gives its Altima an assortment of styling refinements for the 2005 model year that include a five-horsepower boost, as well as much-needed upgrades to the interior design and materials. Addressing criticisms, interior improvements include new instrument cluster and center console design, three-spoke steering wheel, trim finishes with added chrome accents and revised seat and headliner materials in three color "environments" (Charcoal, Blond, and Frost) that add an elegant look and feel. For easier use, HVAC and audio controls are now grouped together in a simple unit and for the first time, Altima offers an available DVD-based navigation system. Also large cup holders are big enough to hold up to a standard size one-liter bottle. The new Altima is scheduled to go on sale at Nissan dealers nationwide in mid-February 2004. (Click here to view an enlarged photo of the interior.)
One of six new car and crossover vehicles promised by Ford's "Year of the Car" campaign, the midsize Montego will be the third of four all-new Mercurys to arrive in showrooms over the next three years, and is a far cry from the boxy, pea-green, vinyl-roofed sedan this writer drove to earn her driver's license more than two decades ago. Classic Mercury design cues abound, from the waterfall grille to the distinctive taillight bezels; its Volvo-inspired chassis promises crisp handling, braking, performance, and fuel economy thanks to its multi-link fully independent suspension, dual-piston brakes, and 3.0-liter/200-hp 60-degree V-6 aluminum engine mated to either a continuously variable or six-speed automatic transmission. Offered in two trim levels, the front-wheel-drive (or optional all-wheel-drive) Montego boasts an upscale two-tone interior treatment with soft-touch fabrics and smooth satin aluminum and chrome trim, inside a roomy cabin with comfortable upright seating. For safety, passengers will be protected by roof and side structural bracing as well as dual-stage driver and passenger airbags.
Destined to assume the helm as Ford's flagship sedan, the Five Hundred sports clean geometric lines and stately proportions outside, with two trim levels offering an assortment of features as well as elegant leather and fabric choices inside. A virtual mechanical twin to the Mercury Montego, the Five Hundred is powered by the same Duratec 3.0-liter/200-hp 60-degree V-6 aluminum powerplant driving either a six-speed automatic or continuously variable transmission, and the same Volvo-based chassis and suspension system. A long list of standard features includes one-touch (up and down) power driver's window, premium AM/FM/CD stereo system, six-way power adjustable seat, four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes, traction control, and remote keyfob entry as well as driver's door keypad. Another of Ford's stable of new car and crossover vehicles promised in the "Year of the Car" campaign, the Five Hundred packages a big-car interior inside a midsize sedan body, and touts one of the largest trunks available anywhere.
Acura dives into enthusiast territory and gives us another look at the sharp TL project car that debuted in Los Angeles. Boosting power, improving handling, and bolstering its urban image, the most obvious changes include a two-inch-wider stance, one-inch lower ride height, massive 21-inch wheels, more angular front fascia, and flashy grille. The rear features similar changes, with a sporty fascia, eye-catching exhaust tips, restyled decklid spoiler, and new taillight treatments. Internal modifications, augmented by high-flow intake and exhaust, elevate power from 270 hp to over 300 hp from the 3.2-liter V-6. While all these modifications serve to display the TL's extreme potential, they also draw attention to Acura's more realistic (and currently available) A-Spec kit, complete with a track-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheel/tire combo, and full aerodynamic package, which is dealer-installed and covered by full factory warranty.
Blending attributes of a wagon, minivan, and sport/utility vehicle, Ford's new Freestyle crossover offers command seating, three passenger rows, flexible interior, abundant storage, and a Volvo-inspired structure shared with its cousin the Mercury Montego. Cargo capacity rivals many SUVs, with 47.4 cubic feet behind the second-row, measuring 49.7 inches deep. The Freestyle features a single powertrain, a 3.0-liter/200-hp V-6 with a continuously variable transmission offered in choice of front- or all-wheel drive. To save space underhood, this engine configuration also sports a new water pump driven directly off an overhead camshafts for better efficiency, reduced noise, and greater reliability. Ford promises the Freestyle will be "right priced" to appeal to a new-generation of middle market American consumers when it goes on sale in fall 2004.
Honda unveiled its SUT (sport/utility truck) concept truck in Detroit, demonstrating its unique take on the pickup market and proving that the manufacturer is indeed developing its own entry into this broadening segment. In Chicago, we got another look at this family-focused vehicle that emphasizes car-like characteristics yet boasts truck-grade toughness for weekend adventuring with seating for five, along with a five-foot cargo bed for toys like ATVs. Promising to have zing, the unibody truck will be powered by a VTEC V-6, with output estimated to be in the 240- to 260-horsepower range, and will wear billet-machined aluminum for bling. Ride and handling are aided by a fully independent suspension. On the safety front, the SUT concept features vehicle stability assist, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, and four-wheel ABS. Bonus points awarded for exterior bed speakers and the four-panel skylight treatment. Honda projects SUT production will begin at the Alliston, Ontario, plant in 2005.
First seen in Detroit, the aerodynamic curves of Mitsubishi's shapely Eclipse Concept-E merely hint at its true performance potential. An all-wheel-drive configuration in which parallel engines provide constant power to both the front and rear axles, even when shifting, makes the 2+2 coupe a high-tech study in hybrid engine mechanics. Plasma running lights and taillights, neon crackle-tube indicators and brake lights, and a glass roof that offers ambient luminescence make this fourth-gen Eclipse an artful study in lighting. Front wheels are powered by a 3.8-liter/270-hp MIVEC V-6 engine and rear wheels get an extra 200-horse push from an E-Boost electric motor sending a total of 470 horsepower to the six-speed automated manual transmission. Up front, the grille vent and integrated front spoiler evoke the image of a jet fighter; elsewhere its hybrid electric drivetrain influenced the design of such elements as the functional elliptical side exhaust ports, which allow the electric motor's batteries to be placed down the center of the vehicle.
Based on GM's new rear-wheel-drive Kappa architecture shared with the Pontiac Solstice and Chevy Nomad, the Saturn Curve concept is evidence of Saturn's evolution, both in styling and product. Sporty performance comes courtesy of a supercharged 2.2-liter/200-hp Ecotec four-cylinder engine paired with a Getrag five-speed manual for an engine/transmission combination similar to that found in the new 2004 Saturn ION Red Line. Unique seven-spoke 20-inch wheels are mounted to performance tires, while large, 14-inch brake rotors with twin-piston front calipers and large, single-piston rear calipers, provide the vehicle's stopping power. First seen in Detroit, the Curve is built from fiberglass panels over a steel tube structure, and features roof pillars concealed by a wraparound canopy of glass to create the look of a "floating" roof panel; its sinewy shape abounds with interesting details that emphasize its contemporary design aesthetic, as well as its sports car roots. (Final assembly was completed in Italy with assistance from Pininfarina). The powertrain, chassis, and brake system are based on existing production components, which makes us wonder just how close to production the Curve really could be...
With Oldsmobile retired, premium minivan responsibilities are now being handled by Buick. Here Buick's approach to its new Terraza is to weave in sedan values without compromising utility and functionality, while focusing on four attributes: power, ride, quiet and style. First seen in Los Angeles, the third entry in Buick's growing truck portfolio is powered by a 3.5L/200-hp V-6 and will be offered in front- and all-wheel drive. Attention to safety sees the fitment of 16-inch, anti-lock disc brakes at each corner, traction control, and stability control. A traditional minivan interior is treated to premium trim, with abundant use of wood grain and chrome accents. Terrqaza's third-row folds flat (though not into the floor), leaving a slightly higher than normal load surface. Independent rear supsension and self-leveling rear-air shocks combine with improved accoustics and a forged crankshaft to provide a smooth, controlled, and quiet ride.
Subaru introduced its sporty new Outback models in Chicago, showing a 3.0-liter/260-horsepower six-cylinder 3.0 R model, an intercooled/turbocharged 2.5-liter250-horse four-cylinder 2.5 XT, and a distinctive 3.0 R L.L. Bean Edition. Not afraid to use the "W" word, Subaru's third-gen wagon line combines the benefits of passenger car comfort with the convenience of an SUV in an all-wheel-drive crossover vehicle that promises safety, handling, fuel economy and performance thanks to standard four-wheel independent suspension, wider vehicle track, 16-inch wheels and tires (17-inch optional), rack and pinion steering, and four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution. A new five-speed electronic direct control automatic transmission is standard on the 3.0 R models, while the 2.5 XT offers a choice between manual or automatic five-speed trannys. Look for them in dealerships this spring.
Suzuki debuted its compact five-door Reno in Detroit and showed it again in Chicago with this souped-up tuner concept meant to display the additional modification potential of the economy crossover vehicle. The third of nine new vehicles Suzuki plans to release by 2007, the Reno is priced to start at $13,000, and is powered by a 2.0-liter/126-horse four-cylinder DOHC 16-valve engine. The tuner car's Chameleon green paint is not standard, but eight-speaker AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo, cruise control, power door locks, heated mirrors, and 16-inch aluminum wheels with four-wheel disc brakes are. Built off the Forenza platform, Reno aims to provide the performance, interior space, and standard features of such higher-priced competitive models as the Scion, Mazda3, and Toyota Matrix. Like other current Suzuki models, the Reno will be covered by Suzuki's Open Road Promise, which features a 100,000-mile seven-year limited powertrain warranty, three-year roadside assistance, and warranty repair courtesy vehicles.