2003 Detroit Auto Show Preview

December 9, 2002

updated 12/30/02

2003 Detroit Auto Show Coverage by TCC Team (1/6/2003)

Detroit’s annual auto show is a love-it and hate-it event. The timing couldn’t be worse: the city’s settled into the bleakest trough of the winter, and though the downtown renaissance continues apace, there’s still more to recommend Motown in the middle of summer than in the earliest days of a new year. And to top off the indignity, there’s the Japanese-subway jostling for press kits and oversubscribed press conferences to boot.

But enthusiasts and industry types have to love the annual North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), this year open to the media from Jan. 5-8 and to the public beginning the Friday after. Like no other show, Detroit puts a huge variety of hardware on display — much of it never seen before. Concepts and production cars alike fire off almost on the hour, so rapidly that it often takes a team of reporters just to make it to the newsworthy events.

TCC’s team will be doing just that in Detroit. Starting Sunday, Jan. 5, we’ll be reporting non-stop from the show floor to bring you the very latest product introductions, concept car reveals and newsmaking quotes from the top industry executives. Until then, stay tuned here as we update and add to this preview of what we expect to bring you from the Cobo Hall floor:

GENERAL MOTORS

2004 Cadillac SRX

2004 Cadillac SRX

Cadillac SRX
The SRX, a luxury crossover vehicle inspired by the 2001 Vizón Concept, will feature Cadillac’s radical new styling theme, along with an optional 295-hp 4.2-liter Northstar V-8. The standard engine will be a V-6. With all-wheel-drive, StabiliTrak traction and yaw control, an adjustable suspension height and three rows of seating, this Caddy is built on GM’s new Sigma rear-drive platform. And the name SRX? Simply, “S” is for the series, “R” for reconfigurable and “X” for crossover. The SRX will be built in Lansing, Mich., and will go on sale before summer of 2003.

2004 Cadillac XLR

2004 Cadillac XLR

Cadillac XLR
Like its German rival, the Benz SL roadster, the Cadillac XLR is a two-seat roadster with a trick hardtop designed to fold down and store in the trunk. With the XLR, that process takes 29 seconds. The SL needs just 17.The XLR is powered by a modified version of Caddy’s popular Northstar engine, though this is the first time the big V-8 has been used in a longitudinal, or “north/south,” application. For the roadster, the Northstar has gained cam phasers and the cylinder walls have been stiffened. Mated to a five-speed automatic with manual override, it is expected to put out somewhere between 300 and 350 horsepower, a bit more than the SL500’s 302 hp. The acceleration difference could be even more dramatic due to the fact that the XLR, at 3500 pounds, is about 10 percent lighter than the big Benz.

2005 Chevrolet Equinox

2005 Chevrolet Equinox

Chevrolet Equinox
Chevrolet says it will market its first crossover vehicle, the Equinox, in the 2005 model year. The new vehicle is based on the company’s Theta architecture — that’s the Saturn VUE to those of us outside the Renaissance Center. The Ingersoll, Ont., CAMI plant now building the Chevy Tracker and Suzuki Vitara will be converted to Equinox production in 2004 for a 2005 model-year launch, according to GM. GM will spend more than $322 million to update the plant for assembly of the new vehicle. The Equinox is part of GM’s efforts to completely revamp its mid-size car portfolio and woo buyers back from the Japanese brands.

2004 Chevrolet Colorado

2004 Chevrolet Colorado

Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon
The popular Chevrolet S-10 pickup will be replaced midway through 2003 with an all-new model codenamed GMT355. Sharing the newer styling sensibilities of its Silverado sibling, Chevrolet’s version of the Chevrolet-Isuzu engineered truck will also get a new name: the Colorado. The GMC version will be known as the Canyon. Powered by a new series of twin-cam in-line four-, five- and six-cylinder engines, the new pickups will be slightly larger and have a more car-like interior than today’s compact trucks. A fall launch is planned for many versions of the Colorado, which eventually will count extended cabs, four-door crew cabs and an “Xtreme” youth-oriented model among its family; GMC’s plans haven’t been confirmed.

2004 Chevrolet Malibu

2004 Chevrolet Malibu

Chevrolet Malibu
The 2004 Chevy Malibu will come to consumers in two forms—a sedan and an extended sedan with a hatchback called the Malibu Maxx. The Malibu sedan will offer a 2.2-liter four-cylinder or a 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Where Chevy hopes to impress buyers is that a nicely equipped six-cylinder Malibu will be priced around where a four-cylinder Toyota Camry or Honda Accord stickers. As for the Malibu Maxx, it gets six inches more in overall length and wheelbase and a moveable rear seat for a flexible rear cargo area; it should make its debut at either the Chicago or New York auto shows later in 2003.

2004 GMC Envoy XUV

2004 GMC Envoy XUV

GMC Envoy XUV
Imagine a cross between a Chevy Avalanche and Buick’s Cielo concept built on an Envoy XL chassis. Thanks to its power sliding rear roof, dual-function tailgate with power window, and second-generation midgate, the XUV is the new definition of functionality. The industry-first power-sliding rear roof creates a space 32 inches by 32 inches when fully retracted, so tall pieces of furniture, appliances or even trees now are easily transportable. The new midgate’s glass window is power operated. Once the glass is lowered and the second- and third-row seats are folded and tumbled, you’re ready for those four-by-eight-foot sheets of whatever. Plus, you can hose out the cargo area thanks to two exit drains leading to hidden gutters. GM’s lauded 4.2-liter in-line six is the XUV’s powerplant; but if 275 hp/275 lb-ft of torque isn’t enough, you can opt for the 5.3-liter V-8 with only 10 more horses but 50 more lb-ft.

2004 Pontiac Grand Prix

2004 Pontiac Grand Prix

Pontiac Grand Prix
Pontiac has already shown off the 2004 Grand Prix at the Texas State Fair, but we expect to see it in Detroit alongside a concept version with more than 300 hp. The ’04 Grand Prix gets smoothed out and styled up, though it doesn’t grow any larger. There are three models in the lineup: GT, GTP and GTP with the Competition Group. The GT gets twin exhausts and 16-inch wheels, standard traction control and ABS, an interior blessed with higher quality trim, as well as a 200-hp version of the venerable 3.8-liter V-6.

2004 Pontiac Grand Prix

2004 Pontiac Grand Prix

2004 Pontiac Grand Prix

2004 Pontiac Grand Prix

The GTP adds supercharging for 250 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Both engine variations have electronic throttle control. The GTP with the Competition Group, which Pontiac expects to account for 10 percent of Grand Prix sales, adds 17-inch wheels with 142-mph-rated tires and TAPshift (Touch Activated Power) control to the automatic tranny. For accessibility, the rear doors swing open 82 degrees, the trunk opening is 10 inches wider, and the lift-over height is almost six inches lower. Couple that with flat-folding rear and front-passenger seats and the Grand Prix can swallow a kayak, GM says. The new Grand Prix begins assembly at GM’s Oshawa plant in the first quarter of 2003.
GM Sketches Out '03 Concepts(8/19/2002)

Cadillac Sixteen
Domestic luxury leader Cadillac isn’t ready to cede the upcoming Detroitauto show to its import competition. Caddy plans to challenge ultra-lux marques such as Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Maybach with a V-16-powered concept vehicle that “suggests” an up-market shift in direction for General Motors’ flagship marque. A 1000-horsepower, naturally-aspirated, 90-degree V-16 engine will serve as the heart and soul of the sedan, appropriately named the Cadillac Sixteen. It will harken back to the ‘30s, when Caddy not only ruled the road but was audacious enough to put a 16-cylinder powertrain into production. With the engine nearly as long as two V-8 Northstars bolted end-to-end, the huge hood will dominate the design of the car, which measures 220 inches nose-to-tail. But the Sixteen won’t be a retromobile. Its styling will emphasize the Art & Science design theme of such current Caddy vehicles as the CTS sedan. Sixteen is a joint effort of GM and Canadian metal supplier Alcan. The body is all-aluminum, wrapped around a primarily aluminum spaceframe chassis. Even so, the huge vehicle will weigh in at close to 5000 pounds. There’ll be a short/long-arm suspension and for those who like big wheels, the Sixteen will be shod with 24-inch tires. Pulling a page from the Maybach handbook, the 4-seater will feature fold-down, business class-style rear seats. Interior styling has been influenced by the luxury goods maker, Bulgari. One of the more interesting touches will be the car’s “architectural” interior lighting. Expect a wealth of high-tech hardware, from the sedan’s computer-controlled suspension to its infotainment system. Sixteen will be a “completely functioning car,” a senior source notes. But don’t get your hopes up – yet. There are no plans to build the car, at least not now. First, Caddy would like to enter the premium luxury segment dominated by the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. After that? Stay tuned.

CONCEPTS: GM’s concepts include the Buick Centime, a crossover with six seats in three rows that celebrates the brand’s centennial...the Chevy Cheyenne, a low-bed truck with a double sunroof…the Chevrolet SS, an Impala-based sedan with a 5.7-liter V-8…and the Pontiac G6, which shows up with a 3.5-liter 300-hp engine.

FORD

2005 Ford Mustang concept

2005 Ford Mustang concept

Ford Mustang
Retro styling is once again hip and the 1960s are back again at Ford — and this time it’s the 2005 Mustang that receives the heritage treatment. This concept vehicle due at Detroit is a fair indicator of the new Mustang, though not identical to the production car due late in 2004. This time around, the Mustang will share a platform with a Jaguar (S-Type) and Lincoln (LS). We’re expecting the new Mustang to be offered with a variety of engine choices, including a 215-hp 3.0-liter V-6, and a modified 4.6-liter V-8 with 280-hp. The Cobra version will likely be fitted with a 400-plus horsepower V-8.

2004 Ford F-150 spy shot

2004 Ford F-150 spy shot

Ford F-150
Ford’s new F-150 grows considerably more sophisticated in its 2004 edition, especially inside: the interior marks a substantial step up for the full-size truck, with more amenities and three unique instrument panels for different models of the pickup. The F-150 will be the first truck powered by Ford's new 300-horsepower, three-valve-per-cylinder, 5.4-liter V-8. We expect a handful of variations to be shown in Detroit, including the base version which comes with rear-hinged doors standard.

2004 Ford Five Hundred

2004 Ford Five Hundred

Ford Five Hundred/Freestyle
Ford will unveil a new pair of platform-sharing vehicles in 2003; either the Five Hundred sedan or the Freestyle crossover wagon or both may be shown in the sheetmetal at Detroit for the first time. The Chicago-built Five Hundred and Freestyle will be built at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant beginning in early 2004. The mechanical twins will seat up to seven passengers with three rows of seating and will be available in all-wheel-drive as well as front-wheel drive. The V-6 engine will be mated to a ZF continuously variable transmission in the Freestyle and will offer car-like ride and handling with SUV-type off-road capabilities; the Five Hundred sports a roofline not unlike the VW Passat and, as a result, good interior room.

Aston Martin DB5
Ford’s top image brand has been working on a new Porsche 911-sized vehicle, and it is due to be revealed in Detroit. Codenamed AM305, and rumored to be getting the production nameplate DB5, it will hit the street sometime in 2005. Though it shares about the same overall length as the 911, it will feature a much longer hood, meant to accommodate the car’s front/mid-engine layout. The wheelbase will be notably longer than the Porsche flagship, and the AM305 will sit lower. In terms of price, the AM305 will target the higher end of the 911 range — around $100,000, Aston officials noted. Expect the DB5 to feature a unique-to-Aston V-8, though the engine will start with a block shared with its British affiliate, Jaguar. While precise details are not available, it would not surprise observers if the AM305 used a supercharger to boost performance, either as a standard feature or as part of an optional performance package.

CONCEPTS: Concept vehicles are set to show up on the Lincoln, Mazda and Mercury stands. Ford may show a concept called the 427 at either Detroit or the Los Angeles show.

DAIMLERCHRYSLER/MITSUBISHI


2003 Maybach M62

2003 Maybach M62

Maybach 62
After a five-year gestation, the reborn brand is back, and buyers willing and able to plop down at least $300,000 will have two distinct models to choose from. The substantial M57 and downright huge M62. The numbers refer to the vehicle length in meters, meaning the bigger of the two measures in at almost 20 feet bumper to bumper. That’s actually longer than the Ford Excursion SUV, making the M62 one of the longest passenger vehicles ever built. Not surprisingly, it’s also positioned as the car for the chauffeured set.

2004 Dodge Durango spy shot

2004 Dodge Durango spy shot

Dodge Durango
Contrary to popular belief, the next Dodge Durango (code named HB) will NOT take its styling from the Power Box or Power Wagon concepts, but rather from the Ram family. With the next generation Dakota downsizing, the Durango will be distancing itself from the smaller pickup. The new Durango rides on a wheelbase almost 10 inches longer than today’s model, but the vehicle’s length will remain the same, and it will sport a hydroformed frame. Interior volume will increase by 24 percent, allowing for eight-passenger seating configurations and more cargo space when the last two rows of seats are folded flat – our sources say, enough for cargo up to seven feet long. Information is sketchy on what engines may power the new Durango, but the variety of engines could include the Liberty’s 3.7-liter V-6, a 4.7-liter V-8 and the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8.

2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor spy shot

2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor spy shot

Mitsubishi Endeavor
It's official -- Mitsubishi says the name of the SUV in this picture will be called the Endeavor. The California-designed ute will be available in front- or all-wheel drive and will be powered by a V-6. One of four upcoming "Project America" vehicles (vehicles developed for the North American market), the Endeavor will compete with other mid-size utes including the new Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and Nissan's upcoming Murano, and will be in showrooms early next year as a 2004 model.

ALSO: Look for the Chrysler version of the new LX rear-drive platform, possibly as a 300C sedan;  the production version of the Crossfire coupe will be in Detroit too.

NISSAN/INFINITI


Nissan Truck
Nissan’s first full-size truck is on the way from its plant under construction in Canton, Miss., and product planners promise unique cab and bed utility for the first model, to be shown in Detroit. A 5.2-liter V-8 may power the truck, which shares its platform with the coming Infiniti QX55 SUV. Nissan says it has aggressive targets for fuel economy thanks to a multi-speed automatic transmission. A name for the truck has not been announced as of yet.

2004 Nissan Maxima

2004 Nissan Maxima

2004 Nissan Maxima

2004 Nissan Maxima

Nissan Maxima
The upcoming 2004 Nissan Maxima is a mystery no more. Nissan released this photo of the new four-door sedan to sate enthusiasts who just can’t wait until after the first of the year for the Detroit show. Nissan says the Maxima has the “soul of the Z,” while the wrapper looks like an exotic interpretation of the Altima’s straightforward goodness. And for good reason — they share the same platform with each other and with the new Murano wagon. Nissan promises aggressive performance, agile handling and an innovative interior that features a control center for HVAC and radio as in the Murano crossover. Look for the Maxima’s debut on January 5, 2003 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

2004 Nissan Quest spy photo

2004 Nissan Quest spy photo

Nissan Quest
The new Nissan minivan carries over somewhere between 80-90 percent of the styling found on their recent Quest concept. Styled at Nissan’s Design Studios in La Jolla, Calif., the new Quest is modern and flowing, and won’t be confused with any of the traditional minivans. Sharing its platform with the new Altima, the new Quest will be powered by Nissan’s 240-horsepower VQ35 Series V-6. The new Quest will be built in Canton, Miss., and should be at dealerships early next fall.

2004 Infiniti FX45 spy shot

2004 Infiniti FX45 spy shot

2004 Infiniti FX45 spy shot

2004 Infiniti FX45 spy shot

Infiniti FX45
It’s been a couple of months since our spies spotted a production-ready 2004 Infiniti FX45 parked rather nonchalantly aside a parking meter overlooking the Pacific. The FX45 is finally set for a market introduction and a production-trim debut in Detroit. We expect the newest crossover from Infiniti to be powered by a 300-horsepower 4.5-liter V-8 at introduction, with a 3.5-liter V-6 possibly following in fall 2003. Infiniti is counting on the car-based (G35/Skyline) all-wheel-drive crossover to be a hit, and forecasters are predicting sales to be roughly four times that of the outgoing QX4.

CONCEPTS: Infiniti says its Triant concept is a “highly emotional vehicle for active lifestyles,” one with gullwing doors and tailgate and a high-tech communication-centered interior.

TOYOTA/LEXUS


2003 Lexus GX470

2003 Lexus GX470

2003 Lexus GX470

2003 Lexus GX470

Lexus GX470
The new GX 470 will be on the floor of Cobo Hall, having just gone on sale in November. The GX470 is based on the same basic ladder frame chassis and mechanical package as the new 4Runner. Power comes from Toyota’s familiar 235-horsepower, 4.7-liter, DOHC, 32-valve V-8 that was introduced on the current Land Cruiser and now powers that vehicle, its clone the Lexus LX470, the Toyota Sequoia SUV, and is optional on the Tundra pickup and the 4Runner. As in the 4Runner (and the revised 2003 Land Cruiser and LX470), the 4.7 is backed by a new five-speed automatic transmission.

2004 Lexus RX330

2004 Lexus RX330

2004 Lexus RX330

2004 Lexus RX330

Lexus RX330
The all-new Lexus RX330 - the upcoming replacement for the RX300 - will be unveiled in Detroit. The RX330 is bigger in all dimensions than the current RX300. We expect it to be powered by a 240-horsepower 3.3-liter V-6 when it makes its "official" world debut at the NAIAS in January.

BMW/MINI

2004 BMW X3 spy shot

2004 BMW X3 spy shot

2003 BMW xActivity Concept

2003 BMW xActivity Concept

BMW X3
BMW will unveil the xActivity concept crossover at next month's North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The prototype is very close to the X3 sport utility BMW plans to launch in 2004. The two most notable elements of the all-wheel-drive concept vehicle are the cloth top roof and absence of B and C pillars. Utilizing a so-called "frame-structure convertible," longitudinal members on both sides connect the A-pillars with the rear end. Sources, however, says neither the roof or lack of pillars will show up in the production X3 model for structural engineering reasons. A unique rear cargo loading system, though, is likely to make into production. When the tailgate of the five-door is opened, cargo, such as two bikes, partially ejects from the loading area. The mini-ute’s 3.0-liter straight 6-cylinder engine delivers 231 bhp through a manual gearbox to 18-inch wheels. The vehicle will be anufactured for BMW by Magna. Like all the new BMWs, the xActivity body style has alternating concave and convex surfaces. BMW chief designer Chris Bangle likens this treatment to the natural lines formed by fire and water. – Jim Burt

2003 Rolls-Royce spy shot

2003 Rolls-Royce spy shot

2003 Rolls-Royce spy shot

2003 Rolls-Royce spy shot

Rolls-Royce
On New Year's Day 2003, BMW gains control of the Rolls-Royce marque from Volkswagen. On that day it also will launch this $220,000 ultra-luxury sedan, code-named RR01. The new car boasts potent V-12 power, limo‑like proportions, space-frame construction and a first‑class interior. Expect a length in excess of 212 inches in short‑wheelbase form, with long‑wheelbase Park Ward variants likely to run close to 235 inches. Hidden under the long con­toured hood is a sophisti­cated four‑valve‑per‑cylinder V-12, a modified version of the NG12 powerplant that made its debut in BMW's E65 7‑Series earlier this year. Capacity is said to have been boosted to around 6.8 liters – well up on the 5.4-­liter V-12 used in the Seraph. The engine also uses BMW's new Variotronic valve timing system to extract high torque. Drive is channeled through BMWs new six‑speed automatic transmission to huge 19-inch rear wheels.

ALSO: The V-12, long-wheelbase 760Li should make an appearance at Detroit.
HONDA/ACURA

Acura EL: Acura will debut an all-new sports sedan at the 2003 North American International Auto Show in January, possibly dubbed the EL. The new Acura sedan will sport a high performance i-VTEC engine and sport-tune suspension with a four-seat cabin. The 2004 model will be positioned squarely between the RSX sports coupe and the 3.2 TL sedan. The new car is slated to go on sale in spring of 2003.

CONCEPTS: The Honda Studio E concept vehicle, a panel-side version of the all-new Honda Element, "merges a style of nightlife transportation with a high-tech, multi-function platform that can lay tracks - both rubber and audio," according to Honda. Studio E's interior operates much like a band's backstage room with adaptable seating that can be configured into a lounge. Additional features include a DJ turntable and extensive on-board audio electronics capable of mixing music or showing videos. The paneled exterior styling features a passenger-side center-opening side cargo door. Aggressive engine tuning, high-performance suspension and a lowered body underscore the city performance edge to Studio E.

VOLKSWAGEN

The production version of the New Beetle Convertible should show up, and the Phaeton and Touareg will be shown here and in L.A. as well.

HYUNDAI/KIA

2003 Hyundai OLV concept

2003 Hyundai OLV concept

2003 Hyundai OLV concept

2003 Hyundai OLV concept

Hyundai says the OLV concept vehicle scheduled for a worldwide debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit will look a little something like this sketch. The OLV — Outdoor Lifestyle Vehicle for long — is a conceptual look at a future affordable utility vehicle. The concept will feature a supercharged and intercooled four-cylinder engine, removable roof panels and a convertible truck bed that can easily be converted from conventional trunk to utility bed when needed.
2003 Hyundai Tiburon GT V-6 by Marc K. Stengel (12/9/2002)

2003 Kia KCD-1 Concept Crossover

2003 Kia KCD-1 Concept Crossover

Kia Slice
Call it an “alternative to clumsy, fuel-thirsty sport utility vehicles.” Well, that’s how Kia is billing its KCD-1 Slice, anyway. The concept vehicle, seen here for the first time, will be making its public debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroitnext month. The car-based, six-seat Slice is aimed at offering ute-like versatility but more car-like ride and handling, with a V-6 powertrain and a sport-tuned suspension on its wheels-to-the-corner platform.

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