2004 Aston Martin DB9: Powered by the latest version of Aston Martin's 6.0-liter/441-hp V-12 (developed from the engine found in the Vanquish), the beautiful DB9 promises a top speed of 186 mph and 0-62 mph in 4.9 seconds. Two transmissions are offered: a six-speed ZF automatic paddle-shifter and a conventional six-speed manual gearbox. Built entirely from aluminum for strength, torsional rigidity, and light weight, instead of traditional spot welding, a new type of ultrasonic welding was used to join the upper and lower C-pillars, whereby high-frequency vibrations actually agitate the molecules of the two aluminum panels until they are joined by a molecular bond. The new DB9 will go on sale in spring 2004.
2004 BMW 645Ci: Powered by BMW's top-of-the-range 4.4-liter/326-hp 8-cylinder bi-VANOS engine and shifted via one of three six-speed transmissions (including BMW's Formula 1, paddle-style SMG Sequential Manual Gearbox) the 6 Series promises 0-60-mph acceleration at about six seconds and a top speed electronically limited to 155 mph. High-tech features include BMW's Active Steering, Dynamic Stability Control, Dynamic Drive Control, voice operated entry and iDrive, and Car Communication Computer. On the convertible model, the fully automatic electric top opens and closes in seconds, even if the car is moving at speeds up to 20 mph. A full-fledged 2+2 convertible, a convenient wind deflector (which stores neatly in the trunk along with room for two 46-inch golf bags) turns the Convertible into a two-seater almost free of drafts. The 645Ci Coupe ($69,300) and Convertible ($76,995) arrive at dealers early spring.
2004 Cross Lander 244X: Develped for the Romanian army, the Brazilian-built Cross Lander 244X invades the U.S. market with rugged, barebones SUV. This Spartan off-roader features a 4.0L/207-hp V-6. Intended for serious off-roaders, the 244X promises to be value priced when it goes on sale at more than 90 dealers nationwide.
2004 Infiniti QX56: Infiniti joins Cadillac and Lincoln in the full-size, luxury sport/utility vehicle segment with the QX56. Following the formula proven by the domestic manufacturers, Infiniti has outfitted the mainstream Nissan Pathfinder Armada with premium accoutrements, ranging from Infiniti cues to upscale feature content. Standout elements include standard navigation system, 10-speaker Bose audio system, adjustable pedals, and Vehicle Dynamic Control with Active Brake Limited-Slip. Key options include DVD system with wireless headphones, laser-based Intelligent Cruise Control, and RearView Monitor system. The fourth Infiniti model to tout V-8 power, the QX56 shares the 5.6-liter/315-horsepower engine and five-speed automatic transmission with the Nissan trucks. Offered in rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive configurations, the QX56 carries the distinction of being the first Infiniti model assembled in the U.S.
2004 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited: The heir to the classic pickup-bed fitted Scrambler, the supersized 2004.5 Wrangler Unlimited measures 15 inches longer than a typical Wrangler. The added length is split, with 13 inches more cargo space and two more inches of rear legroom, creating a more functional, more livable all-terrain sport/ute. This long-wheelbase model promises improved on-road ride quality, while retaining the legendary Jeep off-road prowess, as engineers were keen to retain a 20-degree minimum breakover angle. Powered by a 4.0-liter/190-horse inline-six, the Unlimited boasts a 3500-lb towing capacity, besting the regular Wrangler by 1500 lbs. The larger Jeep has a large cloth top for foul weather and security that features a large 45x23-inch center flap to create a massive sunroof. Look for this mighty Wrangler to reach dealerships in April.
2004 Kia Spectra: Kia Motors America is rolling out an all-new 2004 Kia Spectra four-door compact sedan powered by a new 2.0-liter/138-hp DOHC four-cylinder engine. Equipped with continuously variable valve timing, Spectra's new engine can be mated to either a five-speed manual or an optional, electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission promising fuel economy of 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. Available in two trim levels, both models offer a satisfying assortment of standard features, though major options for the LX model include four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive, air conditioning, rear spoiler, and carpeted floor mats. The EX includes power windows and door locks with remote keyless entry, dual body-color heated power outside mirrors, and front fog lights. Optional equipment includes cruise control, alloy wheels, power moonroof, rear spoiler, carpeted floor mats, and a body kit with front spoiler and rear valance. Safety equipment includes six standard air bags, with dual advanced front and front seat-mounted side air bags, and full-length side curtain air bags. The new Spectra will be available in showrooms in late spring, starting around $13,000.