Baby New Year parties in Motor City January 9th through the 23rd, as Detroit hosts the North American International Auto Show. Sunday through Tuesday are press preview days, when thousands of auto scribes from around the globe will descend upon the massive Cobo Hall to catch a first glimpse at the machines hitting the road in '05, and the concepts that will inspire vehicles over the next few years.
Hot on the heels of the LA auto show, Detroit's exclusive debuts will motivate more than a few enthusiasts to make saving money for a gotta-have vehicle a solemn resolution. And for good reason. We're expecting more performance, more innovation, and more dynamic styling from all segments.
Join us as we share the sights, sounds, and news from more than 35 press conferences.
The Acura RD-X Concept version of the upcoming Acura entry SUV, which will go on sale in 2006, promises to combine the performance of a sports sedan with the versatility and utility of a premium SUV. Aimed at active urban professionals and packed full of performance and technology, the RD-X Concept is designed to knife through traffic on crowded city streets and carve up twisty mountain roads. It features aggressive styling, a wide track, bold fender flares, and a unique wood and leather interior based on the feeling of an upscale loft apartment. Look for the RD-X to go on sale in 2006 as a 2007 model.
The Mazda MX-Crossport design concept represents a new direction Mazda is considering as it works to expand its line-up of successful new-generation products. Designed at Mazda's main design studio in Hiroshima, Japan, the crossover-type vehicle -- combines strong styling cues from the company's flagship RX-8 sports car with the more practical packaging of sport/utility vehicle. Mazda says the powerful, bold, three-dimensional identity of the concept car was created to be both surprising and uniquely eye-catching. It is at the same time clearly a Mazda, however, and strong with Mazda family design cues making it immediately recognizable. It also is a new frontier for Mazda, leading the company into a new segment, expanding the definition of Zoom-Zoom from both a design and packaging standpoint. While Mazda has not yet officially confirmed a production model based on the MX-Crossport, the company has clearly stated that it intends to expand its line of new-generation Zoom-Zoom products for the North American market and beyond. The MX-Crossport is an important conceptual step forward in the process.
Honda has reinvented the modern pickup truck with a modern design that focuses on how consumers use trucks most of the time. Derived from the light-truck platform that begat the Honda Pilot, this family-focused vehicle emphasizes car-like characteristics through its fully independent suspension, yet boasts enough truck-grade toughness for weekend adventuring with seating for five, along with a five-foot cargo bed for toys like ATVs. The unibody Ridgeline will be powered by the 3.5L VTEC V-6, producing about 255-horsepower with cylinder deactivation available. In an "oh my!" answer to the complaint of most truck owners, Ridgeline has a unique "trunk" under the bed that allows covered storage roomy enough to hold a 72-quart insulated cooler. On the safety front, the Ridgeline features vehicle stability assist, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, and four-wheel ABS. Production will be at the Alliston, Ontario, plant alongside the Pilot and Acura MDX. Click here to view a full photo gallery. Or, click here to watch the Honda Ridgeline Video.
The second concept vehicle from Kia's California design center, Kia's KCD II provides a North American take on a potential new product segment for the company, presenting a modern, rugged body-on-frame SUV that features three rows of seats and dual full-length sunroofs. Built on a long 116-inch wheelbase, the vehicle spans 192 inches in overall length.
Lincoln's second pickup takes a more conventional approach than the star-crossed Blackwood, pairing work truck abilities with automotive luxury. Derived from Ford's award-winning F-150, the 2006 Mark LT will come in a single crew-cab body style with a 5.5-foot-long cargo bed. Power is supplied by the Navigator's new 24-valve, 5.4L/300-hp V-8 for rear- and four-wheel-drive models. Towing and payload capacities will outshine the Blackwood's, at 8900 lbs and 3/4-ton, respectively. In keeping with the marque's stature, the Mark LT's interior will be the most plush of any Ford brand pickup. A full roster of luxury touches are in the offing, including real Ebony wood, soft leather, and French-style stitching.
Last winter, Land Rover unveiled the pulse-quickening Range Stormer concept, translating the brand values into a high-performance machine. The concept was chock full of innovative technology and enthusiast bits, including Land Rover Terrain Response, Alps electronic systems, Hella interior and exterior lights, and Alcoa 22-inch forged alloy wheels. The production vehicle is expected to launch in 2005 as a four-door model, with a two-door to follow a year later. Powerplant will be shared with the LR3, putting a 300-hp V-8 under the hood. A supercharged variant is certain to follow. Smaller than a Range Rover, this Sport model is sized like the BMWX5, and it will answer the German automakers' challenge with the highest-performance Land Rover ever.
Built on a fortified Chevrolet Colorado platform, the H3 promises Hummer-grade toughness in a right-sized package. Compared to the H2, the H3 is 16.9 inches shorter in length, 6 inches shorter in height and 6.5 inches narrower. The H3 uses an electronically controlled 4WD system with a fully locking rear differential, traction control, underbody shielding, and GM's StabiliTrak vehicle stability enhancement system. H3 offers two tire packages, a Goodyear 32-inch all-terrain tire and Bridgestone 33-inch, both larger than any other midsize SUV. Interior notables include available heated leather seats, a large electric sliding sunroof, DVD-based navigation, and numerous customized accessories. Powertrain is a 3.5L/220-hp I-5 with a choice of manual or automatic transmission. Peak fuel economy is 20 mpg.
Mitsubishi returns to the pickup market after a decade of absence with the midsized Raider. Co-developed with the new Dodge Dakota platform, the Raider will also be offered in two cab configurations, extended cab and crew cab, with each offered in two- and four-wheel drive. Base engine will be a 3.7L/210-hp V-6 with an available 4.7L/230-hp V-8 boasting 290 lb-ft of torque, both shared with the Dakota. With an extended cab bed length of 6.5 feet (5.25 on the double cab), Mitsubishi claims the largest cargo bed in its class, along with a 1700-pound max payload, and a 5000-pound tow capacity. Keeping with Mitsu's love for technology, the Raider will offer a thumping 500-watt audio system with a six-disc, in-dash CD changer, and Bluetooth.
Keeping in line with other GM model lines, Hummer will get its own "high-performance" badge. Called Alpha, the first vehicle to get this extra muscle will be the most muscular model in the Hummer line, the military based H1. Basically, Hummer will be swapping out the well-worn 6.5-liter Detroit Diesel they've had sitting under the hood since the commercial variant H1 came out in 1992. In its place will be the Duramax 6600 V-8 turbodiesel, with 300 horsepower (almost 50-percent more than the 6.5L TD) and 520 lb-ft of torque (almost 20-percent more pulling force than before). All new civilian H1s sold will be designated 2006 H1 Alpha models, coming in both the open-top pickup or hardtop wagon configurations, and will include a heavier-duty Allison 1000 transmission, bigger brakes (from 10.7 to 12 inches), stronger half-shafts, a bigger steering gear, and helically-cut hub gear sets to reduce noise, improve strength, and ease that annoying rocking motion at stops. In addition, the stronger transmission will have a lower first gear, offer an extra and higher overdrive (which means better fuel economy), and will have a better crawl ratio when in low range, increasing the H1 Alphas slow-speed rock crawling ability by 22-percent. Likewise, the added strength improves GCWR (gross combined weight rating) by 2,000 pounds, most of which results in an increased towing capacity. In order to fit the new engine and transmission, two-inch body mounts were necessary for clearance. Don't look for any discount sales on the H1 Alpha. They will still be priced well above $100,000 when they get to showrooms in April 2005.
After six special-edition Harley-Davidson Ford F-150 and Super-Duty pickup trucks, the all-American alliance gives the bad-boy treatment to the new-generation F-150 for the first time. After a disturbing effort with a pumpkin-colored Super-Duty, we're glad to see Ford is back in black. For 2006, the Ford Harley-Davidson F-150 SuperCab is given a black monochrome treatment, with red and blue stripe accents and obligatory badging. The truck is dressed with a distinct lower valence, custom billet grille, blackout headlamps and taillamps, chrome side steps, and massive 22-inch aluminum wheels. Inside, the Harley truck has all the leather, embroidery, and chrome expected, transforming the dash, captains chairs, center stack, and even doors. Buyers will have a choice of 4x2 and AWD configurations, marking the first all-wheel-drive application on the F-150. Under the hood on all examples will be a 5.4L/300-hp V-8 boasting 365 lb-ft of torque. Bristling with attitude, this truck shows that Ford has the formula down pat.
Mercury offers an early look at its upcoming 2007 crossover vehicle based on the Ford Freestyle with the Meta One concept, while also demonstrating leading edge technologies. The standout feature is the world's first Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV)-capable diesel hybrid powertrain. Under hood is a twin-turbocharged V-6 diesel engine and an electric motor in the modular hybrid transmission that together produce as much torque as a large V-10 gasoline engine - 431 lb-ft - while providing V-6 fuel economy and exceeding the Tier I emissions standard for NOx emissions by 97 percent. The Meta One also showcases active safety technology, including a Lane Departure Warning that uses a mechanized vision system designed to recognize lane markings and a vehicle's lateral position relative to those markings. It can provide a visual, audible and/or haptic (vibrating) warning to the driver if the vehicle departs from a distinguishable lane without activation of the appropriate turn signal. Another intriguing system called "Collision Mitigation by Braking," aka CmbB, judges if the car is about to experience a front collision, then applies the brakes if the driver is not reacting appropriately. Developed in cooperation with Volvo, the CmbB system defers to the driver's judgment if evasive action is taken, making its true safety benefit to buy precious seconds of deceleration in a calculated dangerous situation. While the production vehicle will likely be quite similar to the Ford Freestyle, this concept variation does illustrate next-generation electronic systems that FoMoCo is seriously exploring for future application. Click here to view a full photo gallery.
Ford pioneered the "sport/utility truck" segment with the original Explorer Sport Trac. Based on the previous-generation Explorer, the Sport Trac combined a five-passenger cabin, short pickup bed, and sporty demeanor into an affordable, distinctive ride. Its two main short comings were limited cargo capacity and dated ride dynamics. The next-gen Sport Trac improves on the formula, and addresses these acknowledged issues. The Explorer Sport Trac concept is nearly five inches longer, two inches wider, and sits two inches lower than today's current Sport Trac model. The bed is 30 percent larger, though there is no Chevy Avalanche-like pass-through midgate. Vehicle dynamics are much improved with an independent rear suspension and 4.6L V-8 engine. The production-intended truck is thinly disguised in this SEMA-like sport transformation, with 21-inch wheels, shaved door handles, aluminum accents, lowered right height, four captains chairs, and striking two-tone interior. Insiders confide that many of these features could appear on a special-edition production model.
"Longer, lower and wider" was the siren song of American cars in the 1950s and 1960s, and it also applies to Mercedes' completely redone M-Class SUV. Front and rear legroom is increased considerably as a result. Mercedes removed the truck frame that underpinned the previous version and retuned the suspension for a more carlike ride. While still recognizable as an M-Class, the 2006 model is clearly sleeker-looking and more in tune with the luxury and refinement buyers expect of a Mercedes passenger car. The five-seater will be available at its Spring 2005 launch with the company's new four-valve/cylinder DOHC 3.5-liter/268-horsepower V-6, as well as the carryover three-valve SOHC 5.0-liter/302-horse V-8. Safety improvements include active front head restraints, side curtain airbags, and the company's PreSafe system that cinches the belts down if it senses the onset of a collision. Off-roaders haven't been left out either with a two-speed four-wheel-drive transfer case being available, as well.
A midsized SUV, the Graphyte is the first vehicle GMC is showing to use the Advanced Hybrid System 2 (AHS2), which combines the Vortec 4800 V-8 that includes Displacement on Demand cylinder shut-off, and full electric propulsion at lower speeds. The calculated fuel savings over normal driving is said to be 25 percent when compared to a normal midsize SUV. Riding on 22-inch wheels, offering an adjustable ride-height suspension, and debuts the first rotating rear hatch/tailgate system. Inside, the Graphyte makes driving a push-button affair, while maintaining a professional-grade appearance.
The Gladiator concept takes yet another stab at a Jeep pickup, and this appears a logical and easy-to-produce machine. Its engine is a 163-horsepower, 295-pound-foot turbodiesel (specs virtually equal to the new Liberty CRD's 2.8-liter four) with part-time four-wheel drive. With a 138-inch wheelbase, its dimensions are close to those of the midsize Dodge Dakota pickup. It's also described as a concept, but it clearly gives clues to the design direction of the 2007 Wrangler. Jeep used the Gladiator name on a pickup built from 1963 to 1969. Despite the Wrangler/Liberty styling themes, Chrysler says the Gladiator's platform is unique. The club cab has a small lower access door on the driver/sidemount side and a full-height rear-hinged half-door on the passenger side. The sidemount spare saves space and allows rear overhang to be short, and it recalls the spares on the early J-10 Gladiators. Rugged and basic; top is canvas, for an open-air option. Rear-window glass rolls down, the rear seat cushion drops and slides under the deep bed, which slides forward to extend from its 5.6-foot standard size to eight feet in length. Click here to view a full photo gallery. Or, click to watch the Chrysler Concept Video.
One of the most obscure concepts at the show was this Segway all-terrain vehicle. Naturally it boasts electric drive and Segway's signature gyro-stabilized balancing capability, meaning you can pop a wheelie and hold it, even at a stop. The Centaur was revealed by Michelin because it is fitted with a bold new concept in airless tires being pioneered by the company that invented the radial tire. Here's how it works: The tread is bonded to a strong loop of steel or composite material. The vehicle's weight hangs from a series of polymer plastic spokes that connect this loop to the hub. The concept, known as the Tweel, can bear the load of a pneumatic tire four times its size, it can cushion bumps five times as well as a pneumatic tire, and the contact area can be nearly doubled for improved handling. Noise, mass, and rolling resistance have to be improved before the Tweel is ready for high-speed, high-load passenger car applications. Watch for more on this promising technology.
Anxious to identify the next trend in luxury cars, Infiniti presented the Kuraza sport/utility concept. Designer Koji Nagano emphasized comfortable space over multiple cupholders and individual video screens, with three rows of buckets separated by a "flying bridge" console running from front to back. The seats echo the shape of a traditional Japanese kimono, while classic Chris Craft speedboats inspired the wood floor. The Kuraza has six doors - the rear two with hidden handles and rear hinges, like an extended cab pickup truck - so aging baby boomers don't have to crawl over flip-fold seats to get in back. The Kuraza looks like a very large FX45 with a greenhouse reminiscent of the Renault Avantime, a very squared-off, spacious glass and top contrasting with the swoopy lower sheetmetal. Bottom line is that the Infiniti Kuraza is a high-concept multipurpose vehicle with several nifty ideas that will resonate with aging cold war-era kids. Click here to view a full photo gallery.
Audi debuted a unique crossover at Detroit, designed to demonstrate electronic systems that are destined to enter production in the next few years, while still sporting the character typical of Audi's Avant line. This allroad quattro concept features a brand-new 4.0-liter/281-horsepower V-8 turbodiesel engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that combine to promise 0-62 mph in 6.4 seconds with an electonically limited top speed of 155 mph. While Audi is known for its permanent quattro all-wheel drive systems, and has sold more than 1.8 million so-equipped cars in 25 years of production, high-technology in this vehicle goes farther than the powertrain and drive system: the allroad quattro concept also features "Audi Road Vision," which is an optical sensor that recognizes road surfaces and conditions (such as gravel or black ice) for increased driving safety. Other features are "Audi lane assist" which causes the steering wheel to vibrate to alert the driver should the car inadvertently change lanes, and "Audi side assist" in which sensors monitor the area around and behind the vehicle to inform the driver of obstructions in their blind spots.
Don't laugh, but this crossover SUV powered by the Outback wagon's 3.0-liter flat-six and five-speed automatic is intended to outperform BMW's X5 3.0i. Check the stats: relative to the BMW's inline six the Subie makes 25 more horsepower (250 total), and the truck weighs 450 pounds less, giving it a 19 percent advantage in weight-to-power. The front strut/rear multi-link suspension is tuned to closely match the handling dynamics of the BMW, while softening the suspension settings for improved ride quality. Fat 255/55R18 Goodyear Eagles match the size of the X5's sport suspension tires. Where Subaru clearly trumps BMW is in interior space efficiency. Stretching just five inches longer on a 2.8-inch shorter wheelbase, the B9 Tribeca fits three rows of seats (a third-row-delete option will be offered). Max cargo space with the seats folded flat appears to be much larger than in the BMW. Of course, learning to love Subaru's new airplane-inspired nose may take time.
For 2006, Pontiac will add its first sport/utility vehicle to the range, with its own variation of the Chevrolet Equinox. Like its corporate twin, the Torrent will standout in the compact `ute class by offering a slightly bigger package than most and a base 3.4L/185-hp V-6 with a five-speed automatic transmission. Offered in front- and all-wheel drive, the Torrent is expected to be tuned for a more enthusiastic drive than the Equinox, fitting with the Pontiac brand character. The five-seater boasts several distinct features, such as electric power steering, a rear seat that adjusts 8 inches fore/aft, and removable/adjustable rear package shelf. Ultimately, the long wheelbase and large side doors may counted among the appealing traits, allowing easy ingress/egress.
Mazda's desire to bring stylish, insightful and spirited vehicles to every segment in which the company competes is demonstrated in Detroit by the Mazda5, a six-passenger "multi-activity vehicle" that Mazda says drives like a sports car but packs people and equipment like a large SUV. Powered by the all-aluminum 2.3-liter/157-horsepower MZR series engine from the Mazda3 mated to a five-speed manual or four-speed Sport AT automatic with manual shift mode, the Mazda5 features one-touch large sliding doors that aid access to flexible, tiered "theatre-style" seating for up to six. Four-wheel disc brakes with Electronic Downforce Distribution combine with Mazda's Dynamic Stability Control combine to assure optimal control and stability when braking. Two models are available, Sport or Touring, both with CD stereo, power windows and locks, cruise control, and 17-inch allow wheels as standard equipment, Touring model adds in-dash six-disc changer, climate control, front fogs, rear spoiler, and side skirts. Pricing and onsale date are still to be determined.
Just as the West Coast is flooded by endless rain, Lexus rolled out a special RX 330 in Detroit, the Thundercloud Edition. Shown here in Thundercloud Metallic paint, this exclusive model will also be available in Flint Mica. Both body colors will be matched with light gray interior with leather-trimmed seats and black bird's eye maple wood trim. These sport/utes are further distinguished with a chrome grille, five-spoke aluminum wheels, and logos applied to the front doors and floor mats. Consumers can select from the traditional range of RX options for the Thundercloud models, including the Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS), Mark Levinson audio, and rear seat DVD entertainment system. Thundercloud models go on sale late January, with a planned volume of 6500 units. The cost for exclusivity is just $300 above the base MSRP of $35,775 for the two-wheel drive model, and $37,175 for the all-wheel drive model.
Making good on the tired clichd of "turning on a dime," Jeep wowed the media audience with its amazing Hurricane. This phase of a three-vehicle press conference began with a fellow driving an HPI Savage radio-controlled nitro truck up a ramp and up on stage. With a little ribbing from Dieter Zetsche about "what separates men and boys is the size of their toys," the Chrysler group CEO grabbed hold of an oversized controller. From behind the stage an engine rumbled to life, then a second. The massive, carbon-fiber-intensive Hurricane roared on to the stage, with its twin Hemi V-8 engines producing over 650 combined horsepower. Not needing a turntable, the Hurricane was able to rotate each tire enough to not only drive in a circle, but to spin on its own axis. Zipping `round and `round like a toy, it was definitely a big boy's toy. Radical approach and departure angles, obscene horsepower, 37-inch tires, and all-wheel-steer make this a true off-roaders dream machine. During the build up, Jeep engineers registered several patents. While twin-engined sport/utes may not catch on, we expect development will continue on an answer to GM's QuadraSteer and hope it has application on an ultimate off-roader of the future. Click here to view a full photo gallery. Or, click to watch the Chrysler Concept Video.
Not to be confused with the mighty FTX full-size truck concept from 2004, the midsize FT-SX was developed by Calty, Toyota's California-based design house, to explore a crossover niche between wagons and soft-roaders. The FT-SX also establishes a "T-Face" theme that will likely be applied to future Toyota products. Fender arches and taillamp sculpting give the exterior a cohesive, integrated look that also hints at things to come. The interior designers explored a greater use of wood than common, creating an interesting blend of planar surfaces, stark panels, and materials. The wood/metal juxtaposition continues in the cargo area, as seen on a sliding load tray that automatically deploys when the lower hatch is opened. The resulting living room feel could prove an interesting production theme, as we expect some, if not all, of this vehicle to reach the road. Click here to view a full photo gallery.
Suzuki pulled the cover off its first midsize SUV concept, as the Japanese manufacturer explorers the potential for a lifestyle vehicle. Designers were tasked to reinvent the SUV from the ground up. In the process they found their potential customers were most interested in: versatility; functionality; safety; "infotainment," a seamless blend of navigation, music, news and information; and performance. The resulting vehicle shown in Detroit is derivative of the vehicle is slated for production in 2006. Concept-X features an all-new 3.6-liter V-6 engine and a freshly developed 4WD system called "4GO." The sport/ute realizes its customer targets with such things as satellite television and DVD/DVR player with dual 12-inch LCD screens are in the second and thirds rows; integrated Bluetooth technology for cellular phones, PDAs, e-mail and navigation; and ABS, ESP (Electronic Stability Program) and curtain airbags for all six passengers. The coolest electronic feature is dual, heat-sensing perimeter CCD cameras with a warning detector prevents driving over objects within the vehicle's proximity. Expect to see much of the Concept-X enter production in two years on an all-new model, and other aspect propagate throughout the line.
With all the attention being given to the new Land Rover LR3 (Motor Trend's 2005 Sport/Utility of the Year) and the new Range Rover Sport, the Range Rover was in jeopardy of being ignored. To make sure that wouldn't happen, Land Rover decided to use the same supercharged Jaguar motor and six-speed transmission used in its high-performance sedans (and the Range Rover Sport) and offer it in the bigger and heavier Range Rover. Rated in its current form, the 4.2-liter DOHC supercharged V-8 produces 400 horsepower and more than 360 lb-ft of torque. Combined with the six-speed automatic transmission, this will be the most powerful and fuel efficient Range Rover to date. And to keep its premium luxury status, there are several interior and exterior design upgrades to keep this model fresh.
Besides the fact that it looks nothing like its namesake, what can be bad about a vehicle that has a refrigerator built right into the rear door? We suppose that depends on how you feel about being designated the official bartender at any future picnics you might attend. Calling its Fairlane concept a "new type of people-mover," Ford has actually created the ultimate tailgating vehicle, complete with flip-down utility area, fridge, cutting area, and utensils built right into the rear door. Said door also conveniently opens three ways (left, right, and down) for convenient access in any crowded parking lot. The Fairlane concept rides on an all-wheel-drive version of Ford's midsize CD3 architecture, and is powered by their 3.0-liter/210-horse all-aluminum V-6 Duratec engine mated to a six-speed transmission. Driver's zone features command seating and a low dash for greater visibility, thus ensuring safe transportation to any tailgating function. Click here to view a full photo gallery.
Claiming it built the SynUS to provide security and sanctuary from urban life, Ford's small but mighty B-sized concept takes its inspiration from bank vaults and armored cars, with a security mode that deploys protective shutters over the windshield and side windows and uses bulletproof glass in the smaller flank windows. Once locked safely inside, passengers can reverse their seatbacks to comfortably surf the `net or watch movies on the ginormous 45-inch widescreen liquid crystal display built into the tailgate. Should you need to make a speedy escape, Ford's 2.0-liter/134-horse turbodiesel and 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in P225/50-18 performance tires will help you make a fashionable getaway. Click here to view a full photo gallery.