2000 New York Auto Show, Part I

April 20, 2000
GMC C Series  

GMC SEES FUTURE IN HYBRIDS. If GM’s recent forays into car/truck hybrids are any indication, the company sees a vast potential for crossover vehicles, even at its truckiest brand, GMC. At the New York show, GMC unveiled the C-Series, a luxo-minded version of the full-size Sierra pickup. Externally it’s a little tidier about the nose; underneath, it’s quite a philosophical change of direction. The C-Series offers a 325-hp Vortec V-8 for supple, smooth power, mated to the first all-wheel-drive system in a full-size truck. Are you ready for a $40,000 pickup? Still on the upscale face of the mountain, GMC also introduced two new Denali versions of the Yukon and Yukon XL sport-utes. With the same 325-hp engine and all-wheel drive, the Denalis also sport 17-inch wheels, black cherry interior trim, and a new 11-speaker Bose audio system sure to shake the retainers off of soccer-bound kiddie passengers.

Olds Bravada

Olds Bravada

BRAVADA NEW WORLD. With Tracker mini-utes and Suburban full-size utes pumping out a stready stream of profit, GM’s turning its attention to midsize trucks over the next two years. Launching the latest iteration of its midsize truck and sport-ute family, GM brought forth the 2002 Oldsmobile Bravada. Wider and longer than the current ute, it’s also been massaged to include a five-link independent rear suspension with air-spring control for constant load leveling. In the engine bay, a new 4200-series (read: 4.2-liter) engine with 250 hp or more – and six inline cylinders – is the foundation of a new engine family for General Motors. With 24 valves and inherent straight-six balance, GM says it’s a marked improvement over the current Vortec V-6.

Inifiniti Q45

Inifiniti Q45

NISSAN COMMANDS LUXURY PERFORMANCE. More than a decade after the seminal Q45 was birthed in 1989, Nissan’s luxury brand is back with its next stab at "performance luxury," the quite early 2002 Infiniti Q45. When it arrives in dealer showrooms a year from now, the new Q will sport a 4.5-liter V-8 to please nomenclature freaks everywhere. Performance geeks, too, will be reveling in the Q’s 340-hp V-8 engine, with 333 lb-ft of torque, good for a 0-60 dash in 5.9 seconds, Infiniti says. Infiniti also promises the power and the increased interior room will better its competition, including the V-8 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series, and newly minted Lexus LS430. A standard navigation system, rear-mounted video camera for tricky reversing maneuvers, radar-assisted cruise control, airbag curtains, and a standard five-speed automatic transmission round out the comely new luxury missile.

Ghosn Speech

Ghosn Speech

SIZE MATTERS. Just ask Carlos Ghosn, the diminutive president of Nissan Motor Co. The long-troubled Japanese automaker will take a shot at one of the U.S. markets most profitable product segments when it rolls out its first full-size pickup truck in 2003. The yet-unnamed truck will be produced at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tenn., assembly line, Ghosn gave out, and that could require some new brick-and-mortar at the plant. The Brazilian-born executive, keynote speaker at the annual breakfast kicking off the New York International Auto Show, used his speech to give a six-month update on the Nissan Revival Plan. Things are going better than expected, Ghosn hinted, with Nissan all but certain to meet its goal of breaking even in the 2000 fiscal year. With new vehicles like the Xterra drawing buyers back to Nissan showrooms, global production is up 9 percent so far this year. Product is the key, Ghosn emphasized, so look for 22 all-new products — including the full-size pickup — over the next three years.

Acura MDX

Acura MDX

KEEP ON TRUCKING. It seems like nothing can stop the steady switch from passenger cars to light trucks, but Honda’s Acura division is hoping it can win over buyers who want the best of both worlds with its new MDX. Short for Multi-Dimensional, this seven-passenger SUV is designed to deliver attributes of luxury sedan, minivan and sport-ute. "It’s a vehicle that overcomes the shortcomings in SUVs," said Honda’s top U.S. executive, Tom Elliott. Among its features: three-row seating, plenty of cargo capacity, and a peppy, 240-horsepower, 3.5-liter engine. "This is first and foremost a luxury SUV," Elliott added, and that means plenty of creature comfort features, including standard leather seats and woodgrain interior touches, as well as an in-dash CD/cassette audio system. Among the very few options: the Acura navigation system. For the green-minded, the MDX is the only Ultra-Low Emissions, or ULEV SUV on the market. To assuage concerns about fuel economy, it will deliver 17 mpg city, 23 mpg on the highway.

Toyota highlander

Toyota highlander

Toyota Rav 4

Toyota Rav 4

TWO-TRACK AT TOYOTA. Japan’s number one automaker also is putting a heavy emphasis on trucks, introducing two all-new SUVs at the New York auto show. But the midsize Highlander and compact RAV4 replacement reveal Toyota’s long-term strategy. The Highlander and RAV4 are car-based vehicles designed to give up a bit of off-roadability in favor of a smoother ride and better fuel economy. "Sometimes you feel like a truck, sometimes you don’t," said Toyota Division VP Don Esmond. In the future, Toyota trucks will either be carlike or traditional in design, Esmond announced. Though final pricing on the all-new Highlander isn’t available yet, it will come in a bit below the more conventional, midsize 4Runner. The 2001 RAV4, incidentally, will feature an all-new engine boosting the pony count by 21 and cutting a full second off 0-60 times, even though it will deliver slightly better fuel economy.

 

PRIUS AWAY. The long-awaited Toyota Prius is finally getting ready to make its American debut. Depending on who’s keeping track, the gasoline-electric hybrid is about six months behind schedule for its U.S. rollout, but Toyota engineers wanted to make sure it will meet the needs of American buyers. That will mean somewhat more horsepower than the anemic Japanese hybrid sedan, which debuted in December 1998. Look for a smaller battery pack, as well, to give the U.S. version more luggage space. Dealers will begin taking orders in May, though the first Prius delivery won’t begin until August. Expect a $20,450 pricetag, which likely means a stiff subsidy by Toyota. In Japan, analysts estimate the early cars cost consumers only half what the automaker paid to build them. "If Prius is successful," noted Toyota VP Don Esmond, "there certainly will be other hybrids coming down the road." It may soon become common, he hinted, for Toyota to offer a gas-electric option, alongside in-line four, V-6 and V-8 engine packages.

Nasser in booster seat

Nasser in booster seat

Ford Windstar

Ford Windstar

Ford CEO Jac Nasser, buckled in safely. Wonder if he’s watching Teletubbies too?  

SITTING PRETTY. Ford Motor Co. will spend about $15 million to give away child booster seats as part of its role in the Boost America project, co-funded by the Department of Transportation. "The most dangerous place children can go each day is the American highway," noted Jim Hall, director of the National Transportation Board. And a sizable number of those deaths could be prevented if parents took the right steps to protect children who are too big to fit in safety seats — but who are too small to properly use adult-sized seatbelts. The Boost America program will lead a nationwide campaign to get that message across, but Ford also intends to give out a million booster seats — designed for children weighing between 40 and 80 pounds. Half will go to Ford customers, the other half to needy families, whatever they are driving. In other Ford safety news, the automaker announced its 2001 Windstar minivan will feature the Personal Safety System. This smart airbag technology is designed to reduce injuries by adjusting the force with which each airbag inflates — if they trigger at all — depending upon crash severity. Despite long-time industry lore, safety now sells, said Ford CEO Jac Nasser. "If you have a lead and it’s real, it’s a very positive factor" with consumers.

Spike Lee

Spike Lee

SPIKING IT. Jaguar’s got a new ad man, the hip and oft-controversial filmmaker, Spike Lee. The director’s new company, 40 Acres and a Mule, will be doing some rather different creative projects for the British marque, starting with an eight-minute film directed by Lee himself. It’s aimed at a minority audience, a critical buying segment as Jaguar expands, said the automaker’s new U.S. chief, Mike O’Driscoll. Plans call for almost quadrupling Jaguar’s American sales by mid-decade, and "If we’re going to do that, we need to communicate with a much younger, a much broader and a much more diverse audience."

TWO FOR THE ROAD? Look for an even smaller BMW line, now that the German maker has sold off its British Rover brand. Board Member Helmut Panke confirmed a long-rumored 2-Series model is under development, with introduction likely before 2004. Actually, BMW would prefer not to use the number "2" to designate the new series, but that seems to be the number sticking with the public and the global automotive press. Though a good bit smaller than the mainline 3-Series, the 2 will come to the U.S. market, Panke revealed.

BMW 330xi

BMW 330xi

BMW m3

BMW m3

BMW Z9

BMW Z9

THREE TO GET READY. Closer to production are two of three BMW vehicles that made their U.S. debut in New York on Wednesday. The 330i features BMW’s all-new, in-line 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine, a powertrain pumping out a sporty 225 hp. For those who want to maximize grip, there’s a new, all-wheel-drive version, the 330xi, as well. If maximum performance is your passion, BMW also lifted the veil on the latest incarnation of the sporty M3. Its 3.2-liter powerplant boasts an estimated 330 hp, 90 more than the last generation M3, and enough to set you on course for a 5.0 second 0-60 launch. There’s no mistaking the new M3, with its 18-inch wheels and distinctive styling "gills" on the front fenders. Even more of a visual standout is the Z9 sports car, which received its American debut in the Big Apple. This high-touch/high-tech four-seater features an array of high-end technology, including voice or touch-controlled Internet access. The Z9’s unusual entry system features a dual-function door. It can open normally or, if you want to ease access to the rear seats, it yawns wide as a gull-wing door. There are no plans to put the Z9, or the door system, into production — at least for now.

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