2003 Infiniti M45
Twin New York debuts from Nissan’s upscale Infiniti division will add a new sedan and coupe to the luxury marque. The M45 recalls one of the first Infinitis, the M30 — only this time the letter designation applies to a luxury four-door based on the Japanese-market Nissan Cedric. Looking very much like the last Q45, the M45 sports the same 340-hp, 4.5-liter V-8 as the current Q, as well as a five-speed automatic and Vehicle Dynamic Control. A Bose seven-speaker stereo, DVD-based navigation and intelligent cruise control are standard on the 5-Series/E-Class intender, which goes on sale in November for a price in the low $40,000 range.
2003 Infiniti M45
2003 Infiniti G35 Coupe
2002 Acura DN-X concept
ACURA DN-X GOES HYBRID-LUX
The same technology that brings high fuel efficiency to the Honda Insight and Civic might bring 400 hp and all-wheel drive to a future Acura luxury sedan, the brand said on Thursday. The DN-X concept, a high-end, aluminum-bodied concept that bristles with technology, is a mid-engined design powered by both a 300-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine and a 100-hp electric motor. Together the powertrain could achieve 42 mpg, Honda says. A clutchless six-speed manual gearbox, Vehicle Stability Assist and Active Torque Transfer System, and four bucket seats round out the concept.
2003 Isuzu Ascender
UP AND DOWNS AT ISUZU
Increasingly uncertain about its future, Isuzu brought its new Ascender to New York, a vehicle some observers fear could mark the start of the automaker’s final decline. The Ascender is slightly larger than mid-sized, and is based on the same platform as the three-row Chevrolet TrailBlazer XL—and built at the same Ohio assembly plant. “Many of our owners have grown out of our current SUVs and need to graduate to something larger,” said Marketing Vice President Rick Bolsiger. With a 129-inch wheelbase, a 275-horsepower in-line six running through an on-demand four-wheel-drive system, the Ascender will launch late this year as a 2003 model. An optional 285-horsepower V-8 will be available as well. To try to drum up support, Isuzu announced the SUV would carry a 10-year/120,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, the longest in the industry. With the Japanese brand posting substantial losses, many analysts fear Isuzu’s U.S. partner, General Motors, may soon pull the plug on the brand and leave what’s left of the company to focus on building diesel engines, one of its few profitable business operations.
2004 Ford Five Hundred
FORD REVEALS TALL SEDAN
As TheCarConnection reported yesterday, Ford revealed the first images of its new Five Hundred sedan on Thursday, a nameplate harking back to the once-popular Galaxie 500. The full-size sedan will share platforms with the upcoming Ford CrossTrainer, an SUV/wagon crossover vehicle; both are scheduled for introduction in 2004. Though a class larger than the current Taurus, many analysts have speculated the two new vehicles could replace the sagging mid-size sedan. But Ford division VP Jim O’Connor insisted that’s not in the cards. “Taurus will continue,” he asserted. But it appears likely that Taurus will continue to decline in the market and focus more on fleet buyers. The new sedan could have similar impact on the Crown Victoria, where taxis, police and other fleets already account for two-thirds of its volume. The Five Hundred will be significantly taller than a conventional sedan, with a seating position several inches higher, and that should appeal to a generation of buyers accustomed to SUVs, noted Ford chief designer J Mays. Similar proportions have already been used on vehicles like the subcompact Focus and Mays says they are likely to influence other Ford passenger cars now in development.
2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1
COPS AND ROBBERS, FORD STYLE
Ford also pulled the wraps off a hot new version of the Mustang—and the car most likely to chase it down. The Mustang Mach 1 is a limited edition, 300-horsepower model that revives some of the visual cues of the old musclecar era, including a working shaker hood scoop. It will be available late this year.
2002 Ford Interceptor Cruiser Concept
Meanwhile, the automaker also unveiled a new concept car that could be the forerunner of the next Crown Victoria police cruiser. The Police Interceptor Concept not only boasts a stiffer body and better performance, but a Night Eye Camera system based on military technology and a sophisticated data recorder “blue box.”
2003 Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG
SL55: WATCH OUT FOR THE G-FORCES
The new SL55 AMG is so fast “it will put a grin on your face—willingly or through the impact of the g-forces,” proclaimed Keith May, sales director for Mercedes-Benz USA. The roadster is the fastest production car Mercedes has ever built, shooting from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. Under the hood, it boasts a 493-horsepower, intercooled and supercharged 5.5-liter V-8 specially tuned by the automaker’s internal performance arm, AMG. There’s also an F1-style, button-operated shifting system. This is the latest of eight AMG models, May noted, giving Mercedes a performance car in ever segment it competes in. Look for it to carry a price tag of somewhere between $100,000 and $110,000.
2003 Mazdaspeed Protege
The 2003 Mazdaspeed Protégé could be the first sign of things to come. The 170-horsepower version of the automaker’s mainstream subcompact revives the Mazdaspeed logo, which once festooned an array of high-performance Mazda vehicles. And it “highlights where the brand is going,” suggests Mark Fields, the Hiroshima-based CEO of Mazda Motor Co. Fields says the automaker is still trying to decide how many of its products will get performance editions. Indeed, there’s still an internal debate underway over whether to expand the use of the Mazdaspeed name, but “the performance orientation,” adds Fields, “is our future.”
2003 Mazdaspeed Protege
The Mazdaspeed Protégé features a variety of enhancements, including a stiffened chassis, oversized brakes, a short-throw, five-speed stick and a limited-slip differential. But the heart of the car is its 170-horsepower, 2.0-liter, 16-valve in-line four. Pumping up the pony count is a Garrett turbocharger engineered for the package by Callaway Cars. Calloway has, over the years, earned a reputation for beefing up a variety of Detroit cars, such as the tire-spinning Callaway Corvette. Company founder Reeves Callaway said he hopes to work on other Mazda products, but the firm has also begun talks with General Motors, he revealed. In Australia, Callaway created the performance engine package used in the limited edition Holden Commodore GTS. With GM importing the Holden Monaro as the next Pontiac GTO, Callaway is hoping it will be able to muscle in on that project as well.
MITSUBISHI AIMS FOR CRITICAL MASS
Like other imports, Mitsubishi is aiming for a younger audience with products like the new Outlander that debuted on TCC earlier in the week. The strategy seems to be paying off, according to the automaker’s top American executive, Pierre Gagnon. Mitsu sales in the U.S. have grown 69 percent over the last three years, he pointed out in an interview with TheCarConnection, and he’s aiming for another 10-percent bump to 350,000 units in 2002, despite the weakening American market. The “next hurdle,” Gagnon added is to hit the 500,000 mark. Originally, the automaker hoped to get there by 2005. But based on its recent momentum, “We now think we can do that 12 to 18 months earlier.”