2004 Detroit Show, Part II

January 4, 2004

2004 Ford auto show logo

2004 Ford auto show logo

2004 Detroit Auto Show Coverage (1/4/2004)


Toyota Goes Huge with FTX

The purpose of Toyota’s new FTX concept is simple and to the point: “To show that Toyota is serious about full-size trucks.” The FTX, we were openly told, gives a preview of how the next-generation full-size pickups from Toyota will look. Designed with “the power of the fist,” the FTX is intended to look much more macho than the Tundra or any of the trucks currently in the lineup.

The FTX is huge. Significantly larger than the Tundra, it’s nearly 19 feet long, over 77 inches high, and rides on humungous 22-inch tires. The concept is powered by a V-8 gasoline-electric hybrid system, although the production vehicle will initially offer only gasoline engines. Press said that they feel the hybrid system, which will offer V-6 fuel economy with V-8 power, is an option that many customers will want, and that the company is considering it for the pickups but it won’t be offered at the debut of the next generation.

Designers opted for a crew-cab design with suicide doors for more convenient access to people who will work with the truck, and virtually all elements of the design are catered to brawny work or play. Senior designer Craig Kember added in a release, “The FTX interior is a work station a sports locker, or just a sanctuary from the elements.” Electrical hookups are offered on the outside, and in the bed cargo tie-downs take the form of camping caribiners and there’s also a built-in metal job box. The interior has an emphasis on luxury but still with a tough look, with big, comfy seats that are suspended for comfort in rough terrain. Perhaps the most novel interior piece is the 3D gauge cluster that gives separate readouts on different layers of the same round gauge. —Bengt Halvorson


Honda Gets Into Truck Game with SUT

2004 Honda SUT concept

2004 Honda SUT concept

Described as the dream vehicle for “cool dads” who still play hard and do extreme sports and other outdoor activities, the SUT is not intended to appeal to the typical pickup or SUV buyer, but rather the type of buyer that values carlike attributes first but also wants truck utility. Sounds familiar, right?

The SUT, a concept that closely resembles the production vehicle that will go on sale in calendar year 2005, is based on the same unibody platform as the Honda Pilot and Acura MDX SUVs and the Honda Odyssey minivan. It will be powered by an all-aluminum V-6 engine (assumed to be the same as that used in the Pilot, MDX, and Odyssey). Four-wheel drive will be offered, as well as Vehicle Stability Assist. Seating for five adults is accessible through the four full-size doors. The production version will be built in Ontario, while all Odyssey production moves to Lincoln, Ala.

The SUT synergizes all of Honda, officials said in a presentation, because the SUT is geared toward the people who live the lifestyle encouraged by Honda’s line of outdoor equipment, motorbikes, and ATVs, among other things that the five-foot bed is able to hold. Tom Elliot, executive VP of American Honda, went on to call the SUT, “a next-generation truck for a new wave of truck buyers.” Whether it’s cool dads or other uncool folks, this one’s destined to be a success. —Bengt Halvorson


Subaru Replays from Tokyo

According to Fuji Heavy Industries CEO Kyoji Takanaka, in the past decade Subaru has gone from a brand of necessity to a desirable, premium brand. In forming a new, premium character for the brand, Subaru is going to turn to the new design strategy of Andreas Zapatinas (formerly the head of design for Alfa Romeo) that will draw from its aircraft heritage (it’s the only automaker that is still also in the aircraft industry). In its aircraft heritage, the company sees a parallel emphasis on performance, smart packaging, and safety. The first of these aircraft-borrowed design cues is a new familial grille that has a larger center area with two predominantly horizontal “wings”. Takanaka added that the grille arrangement also hints at the boxer engines underhood, so it’s perfect creating a distinct look for the cars. It wasn’t without surprise that both of the concept cars looked rather Italianate.

If the B9SC looks a little familiar, that’s because it is. We’re not sure exactly what the differences are between the B9SC and the B9 Scrambler from the Tokyo show, but the two look very similar. The B9 gasoline-electric hybrid sports car also borrows aircraft design cues, in the grille, side mirrors, trim, and throughout. Similar in size and shape to cars like the Honda S2000 or BMW Z4, the B9 takes a rugged two-tone appearance — similar to the automaker’s Outback line — with lower body panels in dirt-repelling gray. The coupe, very attractive in person, really created a buzz on the floor. But the centerpoint is the hybrid powertrain, called the Sequential Series Hybrid Electric Vehicle (SSHEV) system, and it functions quite differently that existing hybrid systems, like those from technology leader Toyota. Rather than having the electric motor assist the gasoline engine, it’s vice versa in this system. At low and medium speeds, the vehicle runs only on power from the electric motor while the gasoline engine operates only to generate electricity. But at higher speeds, the gasoline engine delivers power — through a version of Subaru’s all-wheel drive system, of course — to assist the electric motor. Battery technology is new, too. The system employs next-generation manganese-lithium ion batteries made through a partnership with NEC, which should boast greatly improved performance over lead-acid batteries. —Bengt Halvorson


Audi W-12 A8 Bows

2005 Audi A8L 6.0 quattro

2005 Audi A8L 6.0 quattro

Audi’s record-setting sales year in 2003 is just the foundation for bigger, better years ahead, says Len Hunt, Audi’s chief U.S. executive. Final sales numbers for 2003 weren’t released, but Hunt says the new A8 sedan is a big contributor to Audi’s strong numbers from last year, with the new model turning in sales 170 percent stronger in the month of December. The new A8L, powered by a 6.0-liter 450-hp version of Volkswagen’s corporate W-12 engine, should help to boost the big sedan’s sales even further. All-wheel drive will be standard on the most powerful Audi when it goes on sale in Germany in February and in the U.S. before the end of the year. —Marty Padgett


Jaguar Shows Facelifted S-Type

2005 Jaguar S-Type

2005 Jaguar S-Type

Jaguar has unveiled a modestly restyled version of its S-Type sedan in Detroit today, moving the British luxury carmaker’s mid-range model into its third generation. The new model has a smoother front end, thanks to a new hood design that not only improves the look of the car, but also, because it is made of aluminum rather than steel, reduces weight on the front end of the car and improves weight distribution. The radiator grill, similar in shape to that of the 1950s C-Type racer, is smaller, and there is a deep additional air intake set beneath it that gives a ‘tougher’ look to the front end. The rear end has been modified slightly, with new lamps and a higher tail to the trunk lid.

Along with the smoother exterior, there are improvements to the interior, including a new instrument pack and improved trim options. In a first for a modern Jaguar, the more sporting versions of the S-Type will be available with a dash-panel not trimmed with wood. The high-performance models, including the supercharged ‘R’ version, will have aluminum fascia trim that echoes the dashboard style of the classic XK-E, introduced in 1961.

Introduced in 1999 as the first of the Ford era cars designed to widen the Jaguar range, the S-Type received new front and rear suspension components in 2002. The modifications to be shown in Detroit are designed to complement the technical improvements and give the S-Type a more modern appearance. It is a difficult task, however, for the original design was created at a time when the new mid-size Jaguar was seen inside the company as a replacement for the ‘compact’ Jaguars that had gone out of production in the late 1960s. The design was much influenced by the shape of the earlier cars, and the ‘retro’ influence is so predominant in the S-Type’s shape that it is almost impossible to erase, despite the efforts expended on the tail end of the new version. The new hood and headlamp treatment is smoother, however, and the interior improvements can only add to a cabin that is already a model of comfort and style.

The new S will continue to use the wide range of power units available in its predecessors, starting with a 210-hp 2.5-liter V-6 and running through to a 400-hp supercharged 4.2-liter V-8. In response to strong demand in Europe for diesel engines, the S-Type will receive a new 2.7-liter V-6 diesel with twin turbochargers in the early summer. This version will not be available in the U.S., but Jaguar and parent Ford is looking at the possibilities of diesel passenger cars for North America. —Ian Norris


Range Rover Concept Hints at Future

2004 Land Rover Range Stormer concept

2004 Land Rover Range Stormer concept

The folks at Land Rover know their strengths and they play to them. Every Land Rover has superb off-road capabilities, and the efforts of the company’s engineers are mainly directed at practical aspects of combining those capabilities with the best possible on-road behavior. Up till now, the practicalities had been more important than such things as concept vehicles, but now the SUV market — which the Range Rover created almost single-handedly — is changing, and Land Rover is changing with it. The Detroit auto show will see its first-ever concept, a high-performance SUV with the evocative name of Range Stormer.

It’s a Range Rover, but it’s certainly not as we know it. The bluff front and rear ends and the rear corners of the roof are unmistakable in their DNA, but the greenhouse of the concept has undergone the good ol’ hotrodder’s trick of chopping, or lowering. The result is a major reduction in the top volume in comparison with the lower part of the vehicle. The styling is that of an SUV coupe, and that impression is emphasized by the fact that the Range Stormer has only two doors.

The original Range Rover of 1970 also had just two doors, but not like those of the Stormer. In the concept, the doors open upwards and forwards, on hinges that have an action that has been compared to that of a penknife, coming to rest after completing an arc of 90 degrees. At the same time as the door is opening, a step descends from the doorsill to aid entry — the fact that the Stormer rides on 22-inch wheels makes this almost obligatory.

The big wheels, the doors, the aircraft step and the concept car interior — all natural aluminum and saddle leather — are unlikely to make it into production, but the Range Stormer will. The production version will take the Range Rover into the territory blazed by Porsche’s Cayenne, that of the performance SUV. Power will come from a supercharged V-8 based on that used by Jaguar, and the technology will come from Land Rover’s unparalleled experience.

Among the features displayed on the concept vehicle is a technology dubbed ‘Terrain Response’. It provides the driver with six modes of operation, from ‘Dynamic’ for high-speed operation to ‘Deep Ruts’ for extreme off-roading. Once a mode is selected, the suspension and drivetrain settings are automatically adjusted to give optimum performance and grip.

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