Mazda RX-8 Concept
Mazda RX-8 ConceptEnlarge Photo
MAZDA’S RX FOR PERFORMANCE. The prescription for a dulled brand is always more power – and for Mazda, more power means reviving the rotary engine. In introducing the RX-8, Mark Fields, president of Mazda, said the concept was a huge step closer to production from the original RX-Evolv concept. The RX-8's rotary engine, dubbed Renesis, is said to make 250 hp at 8500 rpm in the RX-8 concept; in other applications it may produce as much as 280 hp. With 50/50 weight distribution, doors with no center pillar (called “freestyle” by Mazda), the RX-8 seems set to distinguish itself from the pack of $25,000 sports sedans.
Ford Explorer EX Concept
Ford Explorer EX ConceptEnlarge Photo
EX MARKS THE SPOT. Don’t go looking for the Explorer EX at your local Ford showroom. This supercharged dune buggy is a 375-horsepower concept vehicle that likely would never meet federal rules and regulations. But product development chief Richard Parry-Jones hints that “I’d like to do a Baja special," a limited edition for some of the teams entering the grueling desert races that cross Mexico’s treacherous Baja Peninsula.
Ford Explorer Sportsman ConceptEnlarge Photo
SPORTSMAN'S PARADISE? For those who enjoy the rugged outdoors at a more leisurely pace, Ford’s other prototype, there’s the Explorer Sportsman, custom-designed for the avid fly fisherman. It’s a modified Explorer equipped with a variety of storage bins for fishing rods, notes Design Chief J Mays, “and other specialty equipment, like beer.” There’s a removable bench for cleaning your catch, and even a 30-gallon tank for keeping your quota live.GM, SUZUKI FORM NEW JOINT-VENTURE. A new General Motors-Suzuki joint venture is in the works that will yield a new entry-level small car for sale in the U.S., according to GM Chairman John F. Smith Jr. Smith said he really wasn't supposed to talk about the new venture, which should reach fruition in about two years. Nevertheless, he did let out some tantalizing hints about the project during a conversation with reporters at the North American International Auto Show. "We're working on a program with Suzuki that will give us an incredibly strong car in this country. We're not very far away at all. It's an amalgamation of GM and Suzuki. We'll design. It will be engineered partly by Suzuki and partly by GM and built in a joint venture plant," said Smith, who declined to be more specific. Smith also said GM also was working on efforts to enhance the appeal of the company's product to young, first-time buyers.
DC CONCEPTS: RETRO INFLUENCE? DaimlerChrysler wooed the automotive press with three fresh concept cars, two of which took on strong retro influences. The concepts left members of the press wondering, "Are you going to build them?" Considering the fact that Chrysler's last comeback was fueled by bringing innovative concepts to production, that's an important question. Trevor Creed, DaimlerChrysler's design chief, remarked, "It's incredibly important...With concepts, our job is to keep going and build the reputation of the company." Here's what they showed:
2008 Porsche Cayenne
2008 Porsche CayenneEnlarge Photo
JEEP WILLYS. The Jeep Willys goes back to basics and the simplicity of the original Willys Jeep. Basic utility and versatility is the underlying theme, although this concept has fashionable matte-aluminum interior trim, gray leather, and sea-green colored interior trim and seat covers. The Willys has an all-plastic, injection-molded body that's nearly 100-percent recyclable, bonded to an lightweight aluminum subframe, resulting in a low, 2900-pound curb weight. A 160-hp, 1.6-liter supercharged four-cylinder engine provides the power, along with a two-speed transfer case.
Dodge Super8 Hemi Concept
Dodge Super8 Hemi ConceptEnlarge Photo
DODGE SUPER8 HEMI. The Dodge Super8 Hemi, an effort to pay homage to vehicles of the 1950s. Now does seem like the right time to bring back the taller stance and interior charms of cars of that period, and the Super8 Hemi includes many of them with a touch of the new. Exterior touches that especially stand out are the three stripes of bright green side molding, the reemergence of tail fins, and exhaust tips that are siamesed in the shape of a lazy eight. The interior has thinly padded seats that are supported from the middle and appear from the side to be floating. There are no B-pillars, and the doors open away from each other allowing an open space. A 353-cubic-inch, pushrod "Hemi" V-8 engine is underhood, with a four-speed manumatic transmission. DaimlerChrysler claims a zero-to-sixty time of less than six seconds.