2004 Detroit Show, Part VI Page 2

January 5, 2004

Benz Hybrids Include GST II

2004 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid concept

2004 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid concept

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European automakers have, until now, shown virtually no interest in hybrid powertrain technology. Things changed on Monday, when Mercedes-Benz rolled out not one, but a pair of hybrid-electric vehicles designed to show that you can save fuel without sacrificing performance or your upscale image. The S-Class HEV mates a V-6 engine with two electric motors which, all together, produce a peak 309 horsepower. That’s enough to launch the big sedan from 0-60 in 7.5 seconds and hit a top speed of 155 mph. Mercedes chief executive, Juergen Hubbert, dubbed the prototype the “world’s first rear-drive HEV concept,” and suggested that in production, it would yield a 20 percent savings in fuel compared to a comparable, conventional S-Class.

2004 Mercedes-Benz Vision GST II concept

2004 Mercedes-Benz Vision GST II concept

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The automaker also debuted a version of its upcoming crossover, the Vision Grand Sports Tourer, with a V-8 diesel-electric motor hybrid. While still giving 0-60 times of under 7.0 seconds, the 314-hp package could yield 30 miles per gallon. Hubbert told TheCarConnection Mercedes is still not sold on hybrid technology. But while the automaker believes hydrogen fuel cells are the ultimate answer, they are “taking longer” than expected to get to market. So, “a bridging technology” may be needed in the meantime. One of the two hybrid systems could reach market within “the next two to three years,” according to the senior executive.

Mercedes has another high-mileage option in its parts bin. In Europe, diesels are now the option of choice for the majority of upscale motorists. And the automaker is hoping to bring the technology back to the U.S., where diesels accounted for as much as 70 percent of Mercedes volume in the years immediately after the last oil crisis. The automaker unveiled the E300 CDI, a diesel version of its popular E-Class series, which will go on sale in April. Due to strict new emissions standards in California and several other states, the E300 CDI will be available only in 45 states, at least until 2006, when low-sulfur fuel becomes available in the U.S. In turn, that will permit Mercedes to import a new and cleaner diesel engine.

Pontiac G6

2005 Pontiac G6

2005 Pontiac G6

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There seems to be a theme at General Motors this year. A variety of vehicles first shown as concept cars are making the transition into production. That includes the sleek G6, Pontiac’s replacement for the aging Grand Am. Though based off the same platform as the Chevrolet Malibu, the Pontiac sedan features a more forward-mounted windshield, lower roofline, and a more coupe-like shape, giving it, in the words of designer Brian Nesbitt, “an aggressive, firmly-planted road stance.” The ’05 G6 will launch in two versions, a 200-horsepower GT and 240-hp GTP. A coupe and a convertible will follow later. The G6 is part of a broad campaign designed to restore the performance image of Pontiac. It joins a rapidly-expanding line-up that also includes the new GTO muscle car and Solstice sports coupe. Both of those models also made their debut in concept form.

Range Stormer: Shape of Things To Come?

2004 Land Rover Range Stormer concept

2004 Land Rover Range Stormer concept

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With its sharp-edged, aggressive stance and scissors doors, the Range Stormer is definitely not your traditional Land Rover. It’s not meant to be. The concept truck is designed to hint at a “more inspirational” styling theme for the British brand, a subsidiary of Ford Motor Co., said Managing Director Matthew Taylor. The Range Stormer “won’t go on sale,” he cautioned during a press preview, “but it hints” at what’s to come. Indeed, several company sources said many of the Stormer’s design elements will reappear on a new Sports Tourer, one of several vehicles set to replace the aging Land Rover Discovery next year. Land Rover intends to reposition itself as a true luxury brand, sources added, but Taylor stressed the company will continue to build serious off-road capabilities into all of its future products. The Range Stormer will feature a variety of new technology, including Terrain Response, a user-adjustable system that automatically regulates a variety of vehicle systems, including suspension and throttle. Terrain Response is expected to go into production shortly.
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