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2004 Detroit Auto Show Preview Page 2


Chrysler Set to "Stow 'N Go"

2005 Chrysler minivans

2005 Chrysler minivans

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Hoping to rebuild its lead in the profitable minivan segment, Chrysler will launch a significant update of its Town & Country and Dodge Caravan models for 2005. Though a formal presentation isn't scheduled until next month's Detroit auto show, the automaker provided a sneak preview to journalists, highlighting a range of new features. The one most likely to catch the attention of consumers is the "Stow 'n' Go" system. It permits both the second and third rows to fold up or down in as many as 250 different configurations — including a tailgate mode. With the seats up, there are two large storage tubs, including a covered one that can conceal valuables. Chrysler will add several safety features, including knee bolster airbags and smart front airbags. Side curtain airbags will be optional, though in light of Honda's new safety initiative — making side bags, rollover curtains and stability control standard on the Odyssey by late 2006 — Chrysler officials admitted on background they may have to rethink their own safety strategy. Stow 'n' Go will be offered only on long-wheelbase models, the new minivans set to launch in March 2004. The eighteen-month project cost the automaker $400 million, but company insiders tell TheCarConnection that the virtually all-new minivan platform is far more flexible than before. As a result, it may find use in other new models over the next few years.

Chrysler Revamps Minivan Seats by TCC Team (12/9/2003)
Can the original regain its lead with "Stow 'n Go?"

Chrysler Unveils Production 300C/Magnum

no titleThe production versions of the Chrysler 300C sedan and Dodge Magnum sports tourer concepts were quietly introduced in New York October 7, with marketing execs proclaiming this the most significant model rollout for Chrysler since the LH platform buried the K-car in 1992.

Very little has changed since the concepts were introduced. The 300C was shod with 18-inch tires, as opposed to the 20-inchers sported by the concept, and both cars wore a little less chrome trim.

Both cars will hit dealer showrooms next spring and are based on the new LX rear-wheel drive platform. Engines will range from a 200-hp, 2.7-liter V-6 through a refined version of the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 that produces 340 hp at 5200 rpm and 365 ft/lbs of torque at 4000 rpm, which should provide zero-to-sixty times of 6.5 seconds and a top speed in excess of 150 mph.

The transmission is a five-speed electronic AutoStick with a gated shifter, and ABS, all-speed traction control, and DC's Electronic Stability Program will be standard. A full-time AWD system will be an option on the Magnum.

no titleInteriors of both cars feature watch-face instrumentation, adjustable pedals, four-spoke tilt-and-telescoping steering wheels, and, in the case of the 300C, elegant faux-tortoiseshell trim on the steering wheel, shift knob, and door pull handles.

In addition, approximately 20 percent of the LX platform shares componentry with Mercedes, particularly in drivetrain hardware, suspension modules, electrical systems, and seat modules.

Packaging and pricing details still need to be worked out with the dealer network, execs said, although they expect the 300C to compete at the low end with Toyota's Avalon, up through the Acura model line. —Paul W. Cockerham

Fall is Cutback Season in Detroit by Joseph Szczesny (10/6/2003)
Dank jobs outlook mirrors the weather; when will Big Three spring back?

Dodge Sling Shot, Jeep Rescue Concepts Ride in Detroit

Debuting at the North American International Auto Show in January will be two concept vehicles.

2004 Dodge Sling Shot concept

2004 Dodge Sling Shot concept

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The Dodge Slingshot has a three-cylinder engine that produces 95 horsepower, and gets 45 miles per gallon. It's hard to know what this concept could lead to. It seemed to be in the class of Mercedes-Benz's original Smart.

2004 Jeep Rescue concept

2004 Jeep Rescue concept

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The other concept was the Jeep Rescue, an obvious attempt at answering the Hummer H2 with a huge Wrangler. Chrysler intends to answer Hummer's expected H3 SUV with a Wrangler-inspired SUV within a few years. And it is working out a business case for an entry-level Jeep to be priced below $20,000.

Saab 9-2X Set for L.A.

2005 Saab 9-2X

2005 Saab 9-2X

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Saab has released the first official photos of its Subaru-derived 9-2X, a turbo wagon due to be launched at the Los Angeles auto show later this month. The 2005 model comes standard with all-wheel drive. Buyers have a choice of a 165-hp, normally aspirated 2.5-liter flat-four engine in Arc models or a turbocharged 227-hp, 2.0-liter flat four in the 9-2X Aero. The 9-2X goes on sale July 1 and will be priced below $25,000. Anti-lock brakes and flip-folding rear seats are among the standard features.

Toyota Plans Hybrid Pair for Detroit, Pickup Too

Toyota is seizing the hybrid lead at the Detroit auto show, where it will introduce a pair of gas-electric vehicles to complement its 2004 Prius. The Highlander crossover will share the Hybrid Synergy Drive system with the Prius; the Lexus RX 330 hybrid will have a gas-electric powertrain expected to be based on the same technology. Toyota also will show a new range of GS mid-size luxury sedans in Detroit, but the most troubling or exciting concept from Toyota — depending on what brand you work for — will be a new full-size pickup that's due to enter production in San Antonio, Texas in 2006.

BMW 6-Series Cabrio Coming to Motown

BMW will use its Detroit show space to show off the droptop version of the new 645i coupe. The 645Ci shares its 4.4-liter V-8 with the 645Ci Coupe, and makes 325 hp through all of its available transmissions: a six-speed manual, six-speed Steptronic automatic or a six-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG). BMW says the Convertible will reach 60 mph in about six seconds on its way to an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. The four-seater comes with a DVD nav system standard.

Mitsu Eclipse Coupe Coming to Detroit

2004 Mitsubishi Eclipse Concept-E

2004 Mitsubishi Eclipse Concept-E

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Mitsubishi is aiming a new concept at the January Detroit auto show. The Eclipse Concept-E is a forerunner of the new Eclipse coupe due out next year, based on the Project America platform that already hosts the Galant and the Endeavor. Mitsu promises the concept delivers "pure driving pleasure, with levels of dynamic handling and exhilarating performance rivaling those found in the motorsport arena."

Spy Shots: '05 Mitsu Eclipse by Brenda Priddy (9/1/2003)
Project America spawns a two-door.

Scion Adds tC

The upcoming tC coupe will be Scion's third product, will debut at Detroit and go on sale in June. Based on the Japan-market Toyota Avensis, the tC will be especially distinctive as the only car on the market with a fully glass roof, an engineering feat to maintain the stiffness of a normal roof. The four-cylinder tC will offer a supercharger kit shortly after launch. Although price-wise it looks like people might cross-shop the tC with the Celica, a Scion rep asserts that "…the Celica is more of a boy-racer; the tC is more of a 3-Series Coupe. We're not going to be in the same market."


 
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