2004 Detroit Auto Show Coverage (1/4/2004)
Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Sedan and Wagon
The new Legacy adds even more standard features on the safety front, like side-curtain airbags and active head restraints, and gets a new ring-shaped frame structure that greatly stiffens the body and enhances crash protection, while an aluminum-alloy hood (and tailgate for wagons) and longer wheelbase help lower the center of mass and give a more stable ride. Expect a completely new version of Subaru’s Legacy-based Outback to be unveiled later this year. —Bengt Halvorson
Honda Accord Hybrid for ‘04
After a very robotic introduction (thanks to ASIMO, the company’s demonstration robot), Takeo Fukui, president and chief executive officer, emphasized that the Honda is sharpening its focus as an engineering and technology company, mentioning the ASIMO and, more seriously, its new business jet, as examples. “We have no interest in being followers,” he declared.
Fukui emphasized that the company intends to stay with its light-hybrid Integrated Motor Assist system, with reasons including its relative simplicity to a full hybrid system, easier adaptation and packaging in a wide range of models, and its more transparent operation to the driver.
Honda will install the IMA hybrid system on its Accord sedan beginning late this calendar year as a 2004 model, allowing the fuel economy of a Civic with more power than a 240-hp, V-6 Accord, said Fukui. More details will soon be announced.
Also, beginning this fall, Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) will debut on some of Honda’s V-6 engines, improving overall fuel economy by allowing models so equipped to operate on three cylinders in light load and cruising conditions.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Fukui also announced that Honda has finished development of its first fuel-cell stack engineered completely in-house. A new version of the automaker’s FCX fuel-cell car equipped with the new Honda FC unit — said to offer increased performance and some packaging advantages — will be revealed in calendar year 2005. —Bengt Halvorson
2005 Nissan Frontier
2005 Nissan Frontier
2005 Nissan FrontierEnlarge Photo
Available in King Cab or Crew Cab bodystyles and two- or four-wheel drive, Frontier grows significantly larger in nearly all dimensions inside and out — including nearly ten inches in wheelbase — while still maintaining the maneuverability of a compact truck, Nissan says, and brings many of the same fine details of the larger Titan pickup. A fully boxed ladder frame allows impressive ground clearance and ruggedness for off-roading and heavy loads. An electronic-locking rear differential allows improved off-road traction. And of course, it brings the Titan’s upright chrome grill and upscale rugged looks.
Perhaps most importantly, the new Frontier upgrades to a new 4.0-liter DOHC V-6 engine, making a minimum of 250 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. Though it’s based on the 3.5-liter VQ-series engine that’s in most of the Nissan lineup right now, the new engine is tuned specifically for truck service. Five-speed automatic and six-speed manual transmissions are in the works. A base two-wheel-drive-only model will still be available with a base four-cylinder engine. With the full frame and heavy-duty suspension, the V-6 Frontier allows a towing capacity of 5500 pounds or more. A Utili-track system allows cargo flexibility thanks to movable cleats, a feature borrowed from the full-size Titan.