2004 Detroit Show, Part VII

January 5, 2004

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


Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Sedan and Wagon

Although it’s been on sale in Japan since May, Subaru took the wraps off its next-generation, more upscale Legacy sedan and wagon for the U.S. The two, which will soon go on sale, offer a 250-hp, 2.5-liter horizontally opposed turbocharged four-cylinder engine with Active Valve Control (variable valve timing). Standard Legacys will still offer a 168-hp, non-turbo 2.5-liter flat four. Power is delivered through either a five-speed manual or new five-speed automatic transmission, and through Subaru’s proprietary full-time all-wheel-drive system. A leather-trimmed MOMO steering wheel is standard, and the trim inside (Subaru calls it a “true grand touring interior”) is significantly more detailed and upscale than the last-generation car.

The new Legacy adds even more standard features on the safety front, like side-curtain airbags and active head restraints, and gets a new ring-shaped frame structure that greatly stiffens the body and enhances crash protection, while an aluminum-alloy hood (and tailgate for wagons) and longer wheelbase help lower the center of mass and give a more stable ride. Expect a completely new version of Subaru’s Legacy-based Outback to be unveiled later this year. —Bengt Halvorson


Honda Accord Hybrid for ‘04

After a very robotic introduction (thanks to ASIMO, the company’s demonstration robot), Takeo Fukui, president and chief executive officer, emphasized that the Honda is sharpening its focus as an engineering and technology company, mentioning the ASIMO and, more seriously, its new business jet, as examples. “We have no interest in being followers,” he declared.

Fukui emphasized that the company intends to stay with its light-hybrid Integrated Motor Assist system, with reasons including its relative simplicity to a full hybrid system, easier adaptation and packaging in a wide range of models, and its more transparent operation to the driver.

Honda will install the IMA hybrid system on its Accord sedan beginning late this calendar year as a 2004 model, allowing the fuel economy of a Civic with more power than a 240-hp, V-6 Accord, said Fukui. More details will soon be announced.

Also, beginning this fall, Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) will debut on some of Honda’s V-6 engines, improving overall fuel economy by allowing models so equipped to operate on three cylinders in light load and cruising conditions.

And as if that wasn’t enough, Fukui also announced that Honda has finished development of its first fuel-cell stack engineered completely in-house. A new version of the automaker’s FCX fuel-cell car equipped with the new Honda FC unit — said to offer increased performance and some packaging advantages — will be revealed in calendar year 2005. —Bengt Halvorson


2005 Nissan Frontier

2005 Nissan Frontier

2005 Nissan Frontier

Enlarge Photo
“Bigger, bolder, better,” and fitting in with the new Titan and a complete vision of a Nissan truck line, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn introduced the new 2005 Frontier pickup as an important next step in the company’s still-ongoing product renaissance.

Available in King Cab or Crew Cab bodystyles and two- or four-wheel drive, Frontier grows significantly larger in nearly all dimensions inside and out — including nearly ten inches in wheelbase — while still maintaining the maneuverability of a compact truck, Nissan says, and brings many of the same fine details of the larger Titan pickup. A fully boxed ladder frame allows impressive ground clearance and ruggedness for off-roading and heavy loads. An electronic-locking rear differential allows improved off-road traction. And of course, it brings the Titan’s upright chrome grill and upscale rugged looks.

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