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  • Under the Radar: New Vehicles and Technology Are Just Around the Corner

Under the Radar: New Vehicles and Technology Are Just Around the Corner

Auto show recap

Allyson Harwood
Apr 29, 2008
There was plenty to see at the big auto shows this year, and from what we hear, more news is coming. Expect new technology to arrive soon as well as major changes to what's already here. There may even be a few wild experiments looking to grab headlines. We know the big truckmakers are doing their best to address the new fuel-economy requirements coming by 2020, but, believe it or not, that doesn't leave much time before we'll start seeing significant changes.
Photo 2/29   |   2009 Dodge Ram front View
Dodge Ram
The 2009 Dodge Ram was revealed at the Detroit auto show with a new look and rear coil springs-a rather shocking change in direction. This rear suspension choice effectively eliminates the half-ton Ram from any class-leading payload or towing capacity numbers. Dodge's response is that for buyers who want to tow more than 9000 pounds or carry more than 1800 (both max capacity numbers for Ram, well below max Chevy, Ford, and Toyota numbers), they can consider the 2500 and 3500 Ram HD trucks. Of course, many will see this as a withdrawal from the unofficial half-ton maximum payload and towing capacity war that's been waged with each successive new model in recent years. In fact, Ford is reporting that it will have the highest numbers in the segment when its 2009 F-150 debuts in several months. Only time will tell if this was a bold strategy or huge oversight.
There are two wheelbases and three separate box lengths-only a longbed will be available with the regular cab. Two shortbed options are available-a six-foot bed for the Quad Cab, and a five-foot, seven-inch bed for the crew cab. Additionally, the RamBox will be an exclusive crew-cab model option.
Payload capacities are a direct function of the truck's gross vehicle weight rating and what the standing vehicle weighs. With that said, GVWR is tied to powertrain (engine and transmission), chassis construction, and drivetrain (4x2 or 4x4), each adding or taking away from the overall number. Max payload for the 3.7-liter V-6 is 1850 pounds (regular cab longbed 4x2). Max payload for the 4.7-liter V-8 is 1750 (regular cab longbed 4x2). And max payload for the 5.7-liter V-8 is 1690 (regular cab longbed 4x2).
Maximum towing capacity for the 3.7-liter V-6 (offered in regular and Quad Cab) is 3800 pounds in the regular-cab shortbed. For the 4.7-liter V-8 (in the regular, Quad, and crew cabs), max towing is 7600, 7350, and 7100, respectively. Max towing for the 5.7-liter V-8 (regular, Quad, and crew cabs) is 9100, 8800, and 8400, respectively.
The new Ram will offer four different ring-and-pinion options, determined by powertrain and drivetrain. Ratios include 3.21:1, 3.55:1, 3.92:1, and 4.10:1.
Even though the towing and hauling numbers are smaller than those of the other segment players, Dodge is banking on better ride and handling from the coil/link setup and overall comfort levels to get the Ram more attention from buyers and the car-loving media.
There are only two wheelbases offered (120 and 140 inches)-Dodge will cover the three-model spectrum (regular cab, Quad Cab, and the new crew cab) with just two frames. Expect more choices at the next midmodel refresh.
The entry-level 3.7-liter SOHC 12-valve V-6 is offered as a regular cab and Quad Cab (manual or auto, 4x2 only); the 4.7-liter SOHC 16-valve V-8 is offered across the board (auto only, 4x2 or 4x4), as is the 5.7-liter OHV 16-valve Hemi V-8 (auto only, 4x2 or 4x4).
Ford F-150 Hauls
Ford's hauling prowess is impressive-the 2009 F-150's towing capacity is sure to exceed 11,000 pounds. The company also worked on making it easy to carry cargo. The bed now comes with steps integrated into the tailgate and sides, in addition to the bed extender and cargo-management system. Need to lug big gear and protect it from the elements? The cabin is six inches longer and the SuperCrew has a flat load floor, with enough room for 57.6 cubic feet of stuff behind the front seats.
Photo 3/29   |   2009 Ford F 150 bed View
Photo 4/29   |   2009 Ford F 150 step View

Photo 5/29   |   ford Explorer America Concept front View
Ford Explorer America Ecoboost
The Explorer America concept may reflect the end of the Explorer as we know it, but there is something positive here-the EcoBoost engines. We love V-8s, but if this new V-6 engine can actually produce what Ford claims, namely V-8 power with V-6 fuel economy, it's not a horrible compromise. Ford's saying the turbocharged direct injection, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 is going to put out about 340 horsepower (275 horses from the I-4), backed by a six-speed automatic. Click here for more photos!
Photo 6/29   |   ford Explorer Ecoboost front View
Photo 7/29   |   ford Explorer Ecoboost cylinder View

Suzuki X-Head
The X-HEAD, Suzuki's pint-size off-roader concept, has the charm of a Tonka truck, the angles and style of a big truck, and the four-wheel-drive prowess of a Jimny. Its cabin has neoprene seats, portable toolbox, and rearview camera. The Camper version has a sleeping area for two, and the Rescue version is built for emergency search work. The X-HEAD's 2.0-liter four is backed by a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. Click here for more photos!
Photo 8/29   |   suzuki X Head side View
Photo 9/29   |   suzuki X Head rear View

Photo 10/29   |   diesel Subaru Td front View
Diesel Subaru Forester TD
Bigger, bolder, and more SUV-like, the new Forester has now truly become more competitive in the world of crossovers. Its interior and exterior are all-new, as is the platform, and engines have been refined to improve power output. And a 2.0-liter, 148-horse, 258-pound-foot turbodiesel could be available in two years.

Photo 11/29   |   urea Injection System front View
Urea Injection Systems
There were several diesels on display, most of which inject urea into the exhaust to reduce emissions and ensure these vehicles will be 50-state legal. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi all had 'em, and all claim the urea tanks will only need to be refilled when the vehicle goes in for service. What was interesting was where each manufacturer decided to place the refill site. While most locate the urea refill under the spare in back, Audi's and BMW's are in the same spot as the fuel filler-that could mean vehicle owners would be able to refill it themselves in the future.

Photo 12/29   |   porsche Cayenne Gts front View
Porsche Cayenne GTS
Porsche has introduced another Cayenne spinoff, this one called the GTS. It's powered by a 405-horsepower version of Porsche's 4.8-liter V-8 and is backed by a six-speed manual transmission. It fits between the Cayenne S and Turbo in the lineup. More power and a great manual transmission? What's not to like? Click here for more photos!

Photo 13/29   |   toyota A Bat bed View
Toyota A-Bat Concept
Could this be the new look of the compact pickup? Designed to be strong yet lightweight, the A-BAT concept is made to carry outdoor toys, home-improvement supplies, and gear, yet as a hybrid, is still designed with excellent fuel economy and low emissions. (Yes, it's a unibody.) There are functional solar panels in the top of the I.P. and a portable power pack in the center console. Versatility comes courtesy of a sliding roof panel, midgate, and a sliding drawer under the bed. Click here for more photos!

Photo 14/29   |   suzuki Equator front View
Suzuki Equator
The way Suzuki sees it, there's no reason why someone who owns a Suzuki bike, ATV, or Suzuki-powered boat shouldn't have a tow vehicle with a matching badge. The 2009 Equator, based on the Frontier, is the company's entry into the pickup market. Like the Frontier, it'll come with a choice of cabs, engines (152-horse I-4 or 261-horse V-6), and rear- or four-wheel drive. It tows up to 6500 pounds and comes with a better powertrain warranty than Nissan's. Click here for more photos!
Ford Transit Connect
Ford is bringing this popular van from Europe to U.S. dealers starting in mid-2009. The Transit Connect is a small commercial vehicle that'll be offered with a variety of interior configurations. It has a footprint like that of a minivan, with the more masculine form and function of a full-size van-and has a 143-cubic-foot cargo capacity. It can carry loads up to 6.5 feet long and 4.7 feet wide. The Transit Connect, expected here in 2009, is built on a commercial vehicle platform yet can offer carlike fuel economy. There hasn't been a small van with this much potential since the Astro. Click here for more photos!
Photo 15/29   |   ford Transit Connect front View
Photo 16/29   |   ford Transit Connect rear View

Photo 17/29   |   denali Xt Hybrid System cross Section View
Denali XT Hybrid System
GMC showed its Denali XT concept, a rear-drive unibody hybrid SUT with a midgate. It doesn't have the capability of other SUTs, with a 3500-pound towing capacity and 1100 pounds of payload capacity, but can offer improved fuel economy and 326 horsepower. At the heart of the SUT is a FlexFuel 4.9-liter V-8 and a two-mode hybrid system. Like the Tahoe hybrid, it runs on electric power at low speed and uses fixed gears on the highway and when towing.

Photo 18/29   |   kia Borrego front View
Kia Borrego
Looks like Kia means business. Its full-size Borrego, while perhaps ill-timed as stricter CAFE regulations loom, is a three-row, body-on-frame sport/utility. Its wheelbase is 114 inches, and the SUV will be powered by a choice of a 3.8-liter V-6 (5000-pound tow cap) or a 4.6-liter DOHC V-8 (7500-pound tow cap), with a choice of two- or four-wheel drive. The Borrego goes on sale this summer and pricing is likely to begin in the mid-$20,000s. Click here for more photos!
Photo 19/29   |   2009 Honda Pilot side View
Honda Pilot
If the new Pilot is any indication, boxy is back. Just as Isuzu bows out of the light-duty market in the U.S., we're getting a Trooper lookalike from the company that used to rebadge Troopers (and Rodeos). Little else has been revealed, but we expect the eight-seater's redesigned cabin to offer an improved third row, more versatility, and more space. Also expect more power and better fuel efficiency. Click here for more photos!
Photo 20/29   |   international Maxxpro front View
International Maxxpro
The LoneStar, International's ultracool retro flagship big-rig, caused a lot of buzz at the show, as did the DMaxx retro rod. What you may not know about is International's line of military vehicles, such as the MaxxPro, which was on display at the Chicago show. This troop carrier, bearing thick armor, has an undercarriage specially designed to protect those on board from mines. Powered by an 8.7-liter turbodiesel (with 1200 pound-feet of torque), the MaxxPro has Rockwell axles, bead locks, a pintle hook, and a 15,000-pound winch.
GLK-Class 2.2-Liter TD
Whether or not you like the looks of the all-new GLK-Class, what was most interesting about this future compact luxury SUV is what lies under the hood. When on display in Detroit, both concept versions used a 2.2-liter Bluetec turbodiesel I-4 with 170 horsepower and-are you sitting down?-369 pound-feet of torque. Click here for more photos!
Photo 21/29   |   mercedes Benz Glk Class Engine front View
Photo 22/29   |   mercedes Benz Glk Class Engine front View

Photo 23/29   |   hummer Hx rear View
Hummer Hx
This concept is just plain awesome! If Hummer builds this concept, it'll be the closest you can get to buying a Baja race buggy off the showroom floor. It's built for open-air off-roading-the fender flares, doors, and roof are easy to remove. It has full-time 4WD and independent suspension, and seats four-all in buckets with racing harnesses. The gauges can be reconfigured for highway or off-road use. The Hx, smaller than a HUMMER H3, is powered by a 3.6-liter E85 FlexFuel V-6. Click here for more photos!

Photo 24/29   |   hummer H3t side View
H3T Off-Road Adventure
As off-road capable as the H3 is, the HUMMER H3T takes the H3's ability even further. The optional Off-Road Adventure package includes 33-inch tires, 4.03:1 gearing and up to a 68.9:1 crawl ratio, special shocks, and locking front and rear diffs (it's the only midsize truck to offer this). If Jeep is going to put out a pickup, it's got some serious competition to beat. Click here for more photos!

Volkswagen Routan
This van is based on the same platform as the Town and Country/Grand Caravan, yet Volkswagen has made it its own. The Routan (a play on the name of VW's European-market "Touran" subcompact van) is a seven-passenger minivan with a VW-designed interior, choice of 3.8- or 4.0-liter V-6 engines, and VW-tuned suspension and steering. With better looks than either Chrysler product and a plan to go on sale at less than $25,000, the Routan could be a serious player in the segment. And, who knows? Westfalia could make a really cool special-edition Routan with a pop-up roof. Click here for more photos!
Photo 25/29   |   volkswagen Routan rear View
Photo 26/29   |   volkswagen Routan front View

Photo 27/29   |   ford Work Solutions front View
Ford Work Solutions
Tested on job sites, Ford Work Solutions is a suite of on-board systems that helps small-business owners work from the road. The systems include communications, navigation, and fleet management-it can also track your tools and equipment, ensuring nothing's been stolen. You monitor and control it through the nav screen-it's like having a laptop in the center console. You can even create spreadsheets, connect to the Internet, download shop manuals, and connect a printer through a wireless interface. It'll be available on the 2009 E- and F-Series and the 2010 Transit Connect.

Chevrolet Traverse
Chevrolet introduced its crossover based on the Acadia/Enclave/Outlook platform. Donning an oversize Malibu front end, the Traverse seats up to eight, tows 4500 pounds, and uses a 281-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 backed by a six-speed automatic. Cabin amenities include a SmartSlide second row, nav, and DVD entertainment, all optional. The Traverse should come in at a lower price than the Outlook, making it the best value of the bunch. Click here for more photos!
Photo 28/29   |   chevrolet Traverse front View
Photo 29/29   |   chevrolet Traverse side View

  • Edge Sport-In fall 2008, the Ford Edge will be available with a sport package, which includes standard 20-inch wheels (22s optional) with 40-series Pirelli Scorpion Zero tires, an eight-piece body kit, and minor interior tweaks.
  • Sierra Hybrid-No surprise here: A Sierra hybrid is coming. It gets the same 2-Mode Hybrid system as in the Tahoe, Escalade, and Silverado. This truck uses a 6.0-liter V-8 and can tow 6100 pounds. City fuel economy increases by 40 percent (highway increase is 25 percent).
  • Tundra Warrior-Toyota may be considering a new option package for the Tundra. Displayed in Chicago, the Warrior was all black inside and out and bore TRD wheels and a dual exhaust system.
  • 4Runner Urban Runner-Toyota's newest addition to the 4Runner line is the Sport Edition Urban Runner Package. The $1760 cost gets you 18-inch six-spoke wheels, chrome tip, and black tubular side steps and roof rack with crossbars. The cabin has a unique audio system with integrated Tom Tom portable nav.
  • More on Baby Cummins-It still looks like Dodge is on track to offer a V-6 Cummins turbodiesel in the Ram 1500 after 2009. The engine is said to be around 4.8 liters and 50-state legal.