2003 New York Show, Part III

April 18, 2003

Related Articles:
2003 New York Show Coverage by TCC Team (4/16/2003)
All the news from the Javits Center, circa 2003.

 

 

 

 

2004 Nissan Pathfinder Armada

2004 Nissan Pathfinder Armada

NISSAN TROTS OUT A TRIO OF NEW PRODUCTS

Nissan had big news for the Big Apple, very big, starting with its first-ever full-size sport-utility vehicle. The 2004 Pathfinder Armada is meant offer Nissan buyers an alternative to the compact Pathfinder, the long-beating heart of the automaker’s SUV line-up. “This is just a natural extension for us,” suggested Jed Connelly, head of Nissan’s North American sales subsidiary, and those who own the company’s current products should make up 40 percent of Armada’s market. The three-row, eight-passenger rig features a 300-horsepower, 5.6-liter V-8, and a rated towing capacity of 9100 pounds. The automaker knows it has a tough fight cracking into a segment long dominated by domestic automakers, so it aimed to offer more power, more cargo capacity — and more cupholders, a total of fourteen in the Armada.

 

2004 Nissan Titan Crew Cab

2004 Nissan Titan Crew Cab

Call it Titan, Take II. It’s been only three months since Nissan unveiled its long-awaited, full-size pickup at the Detroit auto show, and it hasn’t even gone on sale yet. But the automaker had yet another version to introduce in New York, the Titan Crew Cab. All Titan models share a 5.6-liter Endurance V-8. The Crew Cab offers even more interior space than the King Cab displayed in Detroit. It is otherwise nearly identical, with a range of features Nissan hopes will let it quickly gain access to the American-dominated segment, one of the largest in the U.S. auto industry. Nissan officials are betting they can sell at least 100,00 Titans annually, once production reaches capacity at their new plant in Canton, Miss. “But we’d love to have this market tell us” it needs more, said Connelly, hinting there could be room to produce quite a few more.

 

2004 Nissan 350Z Roadster

2004 Nissan 350Z Roadster

The popular 350Z will go topless with the introduction of a new convertible version of the reborn roadster. The cloth-top Z car will go on sale this summer, Nissan officials announced in New York. The roadster’s power-operated soft top features a glass rear window, and will take only 20 seconds to raise or lower. Nissan figures the convertible will account for about 20 percent of Z car volume, which has far outstripped initial expectations. Longer term, it’s expected to level off somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 of the roadsters annually. There will be only two versions offered, a Touring Edition and an Enthusiast Edition. Look for prices to run between $34,000 and $36,000, company officials said.

 

LINCOLN MERCURY LAYS OUT ITS FUTURE

2005 Mercury Mariner

2005 Mercury Mariner

The two domestic Ford luxury brands rolled out two new concept vehicles during their New York Press preview. The Mercury Mariner is a stylish and more sophisticated version of the compact Ford Escape. It features a number of more luxurious features than the Escape, including keyless entry, a door-mounted keypad and 17-inch wheels and tires. Borrowing styling cues from the bigger Mountaineer SUV, the Mariner is meant to underscore Mercury’s imminent revival, declared Jim O’Connor, North American sales and marketing czar for Ford Motor Co. “We’re fully committed to Lincoln Mercury,” he told a media gathering. The Mariner shown in the city was officially labeled a “concept” vehicle, but according to O’Connor, it is “very close” to the production model coming next year. Mercury has plans to bring four new products to market in the relative near-term. Along with Mariner, there’s the Monterey minivan that launched recently, the Montego sedan coming in mid-2004, and a mid-size sedan that will share the same platform as the new Ford Futura mid-size sedan. That as-yet-unnamed Mercury is due to market in 2005.

Lincoln also will be getting at least three major new products, O’Connor promised, along with possible niche spin-offs. One very well might be the Navigator K, a high-performance version of the division’s full-sized, luxury SUV boasting a hefty 385 horsepower. The “K” designation harkens back to a popular Lincoln series from the '30s. Lincoln’s future has been a matter of serious uncertainty lately, both inside and outside the company. A series of products originally planned for a global sales campaign have been abandoned because once Lincoln decided to stick to the U.S. market, the proposed business case “didn’t hold water,” conceded O’Connor. For the moment, behind-the-scenes efforts are focusing on three new products that should help put Lincoln back in gear. They include a crossover vehicle designed to take on the likes of the Lexus RX330, a revived version of the big Continental flagship sedan, and a small, all-wheel-drive sedan.

 

MAZDA DROPS A BIG HINT WITH MX SPORTIF

2003 Mazda MX Sportif concept

2003 Mazda MX Sportif concept

The MX Sportif concept sedan provides “a very real look into Mazda’s future,” hinted the Japanese automaker’s new U.S. president, Jim O’Sullivan. The aggressively styled compact is expected to be renamed the Mazda3 when it hits the road about a year from now. Its edgy, “zoomist” design is meant to emphasize Mazda’s newly rediscovered sportiness, and is clearly in the same family as the new Mazda6 mid-size sedan. Like the larger four-door, the MX Sportif/Mazda3 is aiming at the mid to higher end of its market niche, and will offer a number of highline features, including a 160-horsepower engine, along with optional xenon headlights and leather seats.

 

WHO ARE THESE ALIENS?

With about 70 million new drivers expected to get their licenses over the next decade, it’s not surprising that manufacturers are taking aim at what Mazda Executive Vice President John Mendel describes as the “elusive 18-to-34-year-old driver.” But he wonders if there are enough of them to go around — at least with money in the bank. “Are there really that many out there who can afford a new car? If so, why can’t my son pay for his own college education?” The challenge for manufacturers, added Mazda design chief Robert Davis, is delivering these potential customers what they want at a price point they can reach. They all want BMWs and Porsches, he suggested, but all-too-often have to settle for a three-year-old econobox.

 

SUBARU ON SPEED

2004 Subaru Baja Turbo

2004 Subaru Baja Turbo

Lifting some of the high-performance hardware from its tire-spinning STi sedan, Subaru took the wraps off the third in its Baja crossover series. The Baja Turbo is, like the two earlier versions, a hybrid sedan and pickup. But in this case, it gets a 210-horsepower, turbocharged engine that boosts power by more than 40 percent over the base crossover. To make those numbers, the Turbo incorporates such STi innovations as lightweight, sodium-filled exhaust valves and a semi-closed deck cylinder head. It also adds a functional hood scoop and 16-inch wheels and tires. There are two alternative all-wheel-drive systems, depending on whether a buyer opts for the five-speed manual or four-speed sportshift transmission. Subaru officials noted that all Baja models will get an extra inch of ground clearance — bringing the figure to 8.4 inches — for 2004.

 

TOYOTA FORGES SECOND-GEN SOLARA

2004 Toyota Camry Solara

2004 Toyota Camry Solara

The all-new Toyota Camry Solara coupe second generation Solara is the most American of any Toyota to date.  Toyota trumpets US heritage since it was styled and engineered in the States and will be built in Georgetown, Ky. Derived from the current Camry’s mechanicals, the Solara gets a choice of four-cylinder or a new 225-hp V-6 engine; V-6 cars also get a five-speed automatic transmission. Each of the three trim levels (SLE, SE, and SE Sport) gets its own unique trim inside. More sporting tuning and four-wheel disc brakes distinguish it from the Camry. XM radio and a navigation system will be optional. Front side-impact airbags, four-wheel ABS, and independent rear seat headrests are standard, while front and rear curtain side airbags also will be available. The new Solara goes on sale in August.

 

CHEVROLET MAXXES OUT MALIBU

2004 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx

2004 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx

Chevrolet’s Malibu Maxx wagon may never sell as many units as the mechanically similar four-door with the same name, but Chevy sees a sizable market for the niche wagon. “The Malibu Maxx is a unique package that provides the maximum passenger comfort for everyone, front and back, along with a roomy cargo area that has a great deal of flexibility,” said Brent Dewar, Chevrolet marketing general manager. Like the Malibu four-door, it’s built off GM’s Epsilon architecture, which also is the basis of the Saab 9-3 and Opel Vectra. But the Maxx has something different from the sedan — namely, a fifth door. It is six inches longer than the standard sedan, with nearly seven inches of travel in the back seat of both models, allowing the driver to reconfigure the back seat and luggage area to accommodate passengers or gear. The front passenger seat folds flat. Chevy boasts that an eight-foot kayak or eight-foot stepladder fits inside the car with the trunk closed. The trunk of the Maxx has a flexible half that works to hide gear, and it stands up on a post when the trunk is open for a tailgating table. The engine on all Maxxes is a 200-hp, 3.5-liter V-6, coupled to a four-speed automatic. It also will come with a standard remote starter, literally a hot-button feature that Chevy feels will have as much allure to buyers in cold-weather states as a disappearing third seat on a minivan.

 

ISUZU ASCENDING BACK INTO MARKET?

2005 Isuzu Ascender

2005 Isuzu Ascender

Can Isuzu reverse its sales slide and make a comeback in the U.S. market? The next few years should prove critical as the Japanese truckmaker revamps its lineup. Next year Isuzu will add both a new five-seater version of its Ascender (based on the Chevrolet TrailBlazer) and a direct-injection gasoline engine into its lineup. Isuzu says it will be the first company to offer such an engine in the U.S in an SUV; the 3.5-liter V-6 with DI will put out 250 hp and get gas mileage up to 10 percent better than today’s Isuzu six. Meanwhile, the five-passenger version of the Ascender sport utility vehicle, will go on sale in January 2004. Finally, Isuzu plans a new SUV engineered around the DI engine and equipped with three rows of seating for sale in 2006.

 

2004 Kia Amanti

2004 Kia Amanti

KIA GETS LARGE WITH AMANTI

Kia’s 2004 Amanti is the largest four-door ever offered by the upstart Korean brand, and Kia promises it will offer roominess, comfort and safety not found in other Kias. The shape of the four-door is influenced by Jaguar and Buick; inside its sweeping instrument panel has touches of woodgrain trim and chrome. Size-wise it stacks up against biggies like the Toyota Avalon and Chrysler Concorde. Electronic braking distribution, brake assist, traction control, and electronic stability control all will be available. A 3.5-liter, twin-cam, 24-valve V-6 engine with 195 horsepower is mated to a five-speed automatic.

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