2004 Detroit Show, Part II

January 4, 2004

2004 Detroit Auto Show Coverage (1/4/2004)


Toyota Goes Huge with FTX

The purpose of Toyota’s new FTX concept is simple and to the point: “To show that Toyota is serious about full-size trucks.” The FTX, we were openly told, gives a preview of how the next-generation full-size pickups from Toyota will look. Designed with “the power of the fist,” the FTX is intended to look much more macho than the Tundra or any of the trucks currently in the lineup.

The FTX is huge. Significantly larger than the Tundra, it’s nearly 19 feet long, over 77 inches high, and rides on humungous 22-inch tires. The concept is powered by a V-8 gasoline-electric hybrid system, although the production vehicle will initially offer only gasoline engines. Press said that they feel the hybrid system, which will offer V-6 fuel economy with V-8 power, is an option that many customers will want, and that the company is considering it for the pickups but it won’t be offered at the debut of the next generation.

Designers opted for a crew-cab design with suicide doors for more convenient access to people who will work with the truck, and virtually all elements of the design are catered to brawny work or play. Senior designer Craig Kember added in a release, “The FTX interior is a work station a sports locker, or just a sanctuary from the elements.” Electrical hookups are offered on the outside, and in the bed cargo tie-downs take the form of camping caribiners and there’s also a built-in metal job box. The interior has an emphasis on luxury but still with a tough look, with big, comfy seats that are suspended for comfort in rough terrain. Perhaps the most novel interior piece is the 3D gauge cluster that gives separate readouts on different layers of the same round gauge. —Bengt Halvorson


Honda Gets Into Truck Game with SUT

2004 Honda SUT concept

2004 Honda SUT concept

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Described as the dream vehicle for “cool dads” who still play hard and do extreme sports and other outdoor activities, the SUT is not intended to appeal to the typical pickup or SUV buyer, but rather the type of buyer that values carlike attributes first but also wants truck utility. Sounds familiar, right?

The SUT, a concept that closely resembles the production vehicle that will go on sale in calendar year 2005, is based on the same unibody platform as the Honda Pilot and Acura MDX SUVs and the Honda Odyssey minivan. It will be powered by an all-aluminum V-6 engine (assumed to be the same as that used in the Pilot, MDX, and Odyssey). Four-wheel drive will be offered, as well as Vehicle Stability Assist. Seating for five adults is accessible through the four full-size doors. The production version will be built in Ontario, while all Odyssey production moves to Lincoln, Ala.

The SUT synergizes all of Honda, officials said in a presentation, because the SUT is geared toward the people who live the lifestyle encouraged by Honda’s line of outdoor equipment, motorbikes, and ATVs, among other things that the five-foot bed is able to hold. Tom Elliot, executive VP of American Honda, went on to call the SUT, “a next-generation truck for a new wave of truck buyers.” Whether it’s cool dads or other uncool folks, this one’s destined to be a success. —Bengt Halvorson


Subaru Replays from Tokyo

According to Fuji Heavy Industries CEO Kyoji Takanaka, in the past decade Subaru has gone from a brand of necessity to a desirable, premium brand. In forming a new, premium character for the brand, Subaru is going to turn to the new design strategy of Andreas Zapatinas (formerly the head of design for Alfa Romeo) that will draw from its aircraft heritage (it’s the only automaker that is still also in the aircraft industry). In its aircraft heritage, the company sees a parallel emphasis on performance, smart packaging, and safety. The first of these aircraft-borrowed design cues is a new familial grille that has a larger center area with two predominantly horizontal “wings”. Takanaka added that the grille arrangement also hints at the boxer engines underhood, so it’s perfect creating a distinct look for the cars. It wasn’t without surprise that both of the concept cars looked rather Italianate.

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