DAILY EDITION: Jan. 5, 2004

January 5, 2004


Don’t miss our special reports from Detroit:

Preview: 2005 Chevrolet Corvette by Henny Hemmes (1/1/2004)
The C6 takes its first bow at Detroit.

Preview: 2005 Ford Mustang by Marty Padgett (1/3/2004)
No more warmed-up leftovers for America's pony car.

Pontiac Solstice Heading to Production by TCC Team (1/4/2004)
Pontiac's little roadster could spawn a new family.

Preview: 2005 Ford Five Hundred/Mercury Montego by TCC Team (1/4/2004)
Do the numbers add up?

Preview: 2005 Ford Freestyle (1/4/2004)
Crossing over without compromise.

Lincoln Gets Pickup, Aviator Concept (1/4/2004)
Mark X concept could peek at future Lincoln style, too.

2004 Detroit Show, Part I (1/4/2004)
Chrysler's supercar shocker.

2004 Detroit Show, Part II (1/4/2004)
Toyota's FTX truck concept, Honda's SUT, a 450-hp Audi and a new pair from PAG.

2004 Detroit Show, Part III (1/5/2004)
Shelby Mustang returns, cloudy crystal balls studied.

Shelby Strikes Back

2004 Ford Shelby Cobra GT concept

2004 Ford Shelby Cobra GT concept

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Don't head for the showroom yet, but odds are looking good that the Shelby Cobra will be back in all new form in the not too distant future. Forty years after he first teamed up with Ford Motor Co., Shelby has renewed his relationship with the number two automaker, and the first product of that partnership took a bow during an auto show dinner Sunday night. Think of it as a "minimalist" muscle car, said Ford's director of design, J Mays, "No roof, no side glass, no radio and, thank God, not a single cupholder." But the reborn roadster does boast a 6.4-liter V-10 that, in normally-aspirated trim, puts out 605 horsepower and 501 lb-feet of torque through the car's 19-inch rear wheels. That's enough to launch it from 0-60 in under 10 seconds and deliver an ungoverned top speed of 190 mph. If that's not enough, a supercharger could "easily hit 700" hp, according to advanced product chief Chris Theodore. Like its crosstown competitors, Ford officials insisted that their new supercar is "just a concept," but they didn't work very hard to convince the crowd. "We built the Ford GT a year after we showed the concept," conceded Mays, and we built the Mustang a year after we showed you that concept. You do the math. How much would a product Cobra add up to? Definitely less than the $139,000 Ford GT, and more likely in line with the Dodge Viper, in the $80,000 to $90,000 range, it appears. In production, Ford would likely add roll-up windows and a very basic, removable soft-top.

Chrysler Drops Bombshell with ME4-12

2004 Chrysler ME4-12 concept

2004 Chrysler ME4-12 concept

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2004 Chrysler ME4-12 concept

2004 Chrysler ME4-12 concept

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2004 Chrysler ME4-12 conceptChrysler Group executives wowed an audience of hard-to-please journalists with a completely new supercar, the last and grandest concept car to be presented on the stand. The Chrysler ME Four-Twelve - which stands for mid-engine, four turbos, twelve-cylinder - will claim to be the new reigning king of supercar performance. The Four-Twelve's 6.0-liter V-12 is force-fed by four turbochargers with dual-core intercoolers and a very free-breathing exhaust (if the sound of the show car was any evidence) to make an incredible 850 hp at 5750 rpm (a new benchmark at 142 hp per liter). Power is delivered through a seven-speed Ricardo sequential, double-clutch transmission with quick 200-millisecond shift times. This translates to some numbers that left hard-to-please members of the press momentarily breathless: 0-60 acceleration in 2.9 seconds, 0-100 in 6.2 seconds, and the quarter mile in about 10.6 seconds at 142 mph. Top speed is an equally awing 148 mph (400 km/h!).

Toyota Goes Huge with FTX

2004 Toyota FTX concept

2004 Toyota FTX concept

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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

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