2004 New York Auto Show, Part I

April 12, 2004


2004 New York Auto Show Index (4/5/04)

New Grand Cherokee Gets HEMI Power

2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Jeep’s new Grand Cherokee arrives in showrooms this fall not a moment too soon. With buyers moving into bigger SUVs and the Grand Cherokee’s mild 1998 makeover beginning to show wrinkles, the brand’s been in need of a refreshed core product. For the 2005 model year the new Grand Cherokee delivers on most of the goods that have become standard issue in the most hotly competitive SUV niche, save for a seven-passenger version (due in about a year, and possibly dubbed the Wagoneer, if Detroit insiders are correct). Revamped styling that draws on Jeep’s heritage plays a major role in the redo, but Jeep also promises that the new Grand Cherokee delivers a better ride and best-in-class traction. But the big addition to the Grand Cherokee lineup that will appeal most to enthusiasts is undoubtedly the appearance of the HEMI engine in the Jeep lineup.

­Preview: 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee (4/6/2004)
A dip into the heritage well becomes the new five-seat SUV.

 

Nissan Parks New Xterra in New York

2005 Nissan Xterra

2005 Nissan Xterra

It isn’t always easy finding a parking spot in the Big Apple, as Nissan apparently discovered when it pulled up at Rockefeller Center for a special preview of the second-generation Xterra. But it helped prop up the SUV’s credentials. While many of the newest sport-utes are consciously blurring the line between car and truck, the original Xterra made no excuses about its off-road heritage. And that remains the case with the new model, which shares its body-on-frame “F-Alpha” platform with Nissan’s big Titan pickup, albeit in reduced size, as well as the new Pathfinder SUV and Frontier mid-size truck. The wheelbase has been extended 2.5 inches, while the ’05 Nissan Xterra’s height has increased 1.9 inches. Interior space has been improved all around, with a full 3.6 inches more rear leg room. The original Xterra was one of the first products launched as part of Nissan’s comeback strategy, and the automaker chose not to stray too far with the replacement. So the styling and basic functionality of the new ute is “evolutionary, though with a capital E,” suggested Mark McNabb, vice president and general manager of the Nissan division. The ’05 Xterra features a new 250-horsepower, 4.0-liter version of the Nissan VQ V-6 engine. The truck will be offered in either 2WD or 4WD configurations, and several different models, including an Off-Road package. The 2005 Nissan Xterra will be assembled at the automaker’s plant in Smyrna, Tennessee.

 

M45 Finalizes Fuga Idea

2004 Infiniti M45 concept

2004 Infiniti M45 concept

Infiniti’s M45 concept due at the show on Thursday morning ends up looking a lot like the recent Fuga concept from the Tokyo motor show — which is exactly what insiders have been saying since the concept Fuga bowed at the ’03 Japanese show. While officially still a concept, the Infiniti M45 Concept is touted by Nissan as pretty representative of the 2006 M45, which should be in showrooms about a year from now. The concept vehicle’s lovely exterior shape is backed up by a 340-hp version of Nissan’s 4.5-liter V-8 also found in the current M as well as the Q45. The chassis is an updated version of the FM architecture that underpins the G35 series and the FX crossover vehicle. The new version of FM of course supports the Nissan 3.5-liter V-6 as well as the V-8, suggesting that Nissan will take a BMW 5-Series tack with the new car and offer a range of six- and eight-cylinder engines. Nineteen-inch wheels and tires grip the road and Nissan says lightweight body pieces help reduce poundage as well as lift. The five-speed automatic has a semi-manual mode, and Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and new adjustable rear suspension help to increase stability. The cabin sports power reclining rear seats and surround sound with 14-speaker 5.1-channel decoding, as well as an “Intelligent Key” system with push button start.

 

Mustang GT-R Gets “5.0” Back

2004 Ford Mustang GT-R concept

2004 Ford Mustang GT-R concept

The 2005 Mustang harks back to nearly every Mustang of the past — but the one piece missing from its greatest-hits package is the “5.0” tag applied to the V-8 cars from the 1980s and 1990s (and immortalized by Vanilla Ice, for those unfortunately in the know). The new GT-R concept, however, does have access to the magical numbers, thanks to some massive engine tweaking courtesy Ford’s aftermarket racing parts division. The 5.0 in question is a 440-hp version of the $15,000 “Cammer” crate engine mated to a Ford Racing six-speed gearbox, while the body is a carbon-fiber-ized version of the 2005 Mustang chassis, sharing about 85 percent of the parts with the coming pony car. Painted Valencia Orange, the GT-R concept gets the hot racing motor, carbon-fiber aero add-ons and widened fenders to accommodate the suspension and 20-inch wheels, and blacked-out rear quarter windows. In the cockpit a chrome-moly cage surrounds the driver; carbon fiber dresses the dash and the F1-style steering wheel incorporates most of the Mustang’s gauges. The real Mustang, by the way, turns 40 next week and the 2005 car goes on sale in the fall.

Preview: 2005 Ford Mustang by Marty Padgett (1/5/2004)
No more warmed-up leftovers for America’s pony car.

 

Now, The Price of Liberty Includes Diesel

2005 Jeep Liberty Renegade

2005 Jeep Liberty Renegade

Jeep’s been promising a diesel motor for its Liberty SUV — and this year the promises are upheld with a new Liberty powered by a 2.8-liter common-rail diesel rated at an estimated 160 horsepower and 295 lb-ft, good enough for class-leading torque and towing capability, Jeep says, as well as boosted fuel economy. The diesel engine will be available on both Sport and Limited models. At the other end of the Jeep spectrum is the Renegade, a butched-up model that’s been reshaped to link the softer side of Jeep with its more rugged past. The Renegade gets a new hood and a taller grille, big fog lamps and tail lamp guards, skid plates, and off-road tires. A DVD nav system will be available, as will a light bar. For 2005, all Liberty SUVs receive some restyling, including a new grille, fog lamps, and fender flares.

 

VW to Adjust Product Pacing

Gerd Klauss

Gerd Klauss

In today’s competitive car market, even the most popular cars are hot — then not. So manufacturers try to stagger the introduction of different models so that when one product is approaching the end of its lifecycle, another, newer one debuts, boosting sales. At least that’s the way most automakers work, but virtually all of Volkswagen’s products have typically been refreshed simultaneously. So sales boom for awhile, then hit a slump — as the automaker is facing right now. And it won’t get help for another year. The new Jetta won’t reach the U.S. until spring 2005, quickly followed by replacements for the Passat and Golf. “We’ve got to unbundle the lifecycles,” said Gerd Klauss, CEO of Volkswagen of America, and that will begin with the next generation of VW products, he told TheCarConnection.com. At the parent company’s annual meeting in Germany, Volkswagen AG chief executive Bernd Pischetsrieder recently acknowledged that factors such as this boom-bust product cycle, a weak dollar, and other issues cost the company’s North American operations over $1 billion in 2003. Exchange rate issues are only getting worse, though Klauss stressed that VW will not try to compensate by raising prices because that would “throw long-term thinking out of kilter.” To counter recent sales declines, VWoA is now offering an average of about $2000 in incentives on the typical Volkswagen brand product. Len Hunt, the new general manager of the VW division, said that should help hold 2004 sales to around 300,000, roughly where they were last year.

 

Saab Searching for Product Options

2005 Saab 9-7X

2005 Saab 9-7X

Saab is launching its first-ever SUV at this year’s New York International Auto Show, a mid-size ute borrowing all but some of its most obvious Saab-like design cues from General Motors’ GMT360 series sport-utility vehicle. That’s the same platform used in such products as the Chevrolet TrailBlazer. During a New York media preview, company officials confirmed prior reports in TheCarConnection that they will also add a crossover vehicle to their lineup, one apparently being developed in close cooperation with the Japanese automaker, Subaru. (A member of the so-called GM Global Alliance, Subaru also lent its WRX model as the basis for Saab’s sporty new 9-2X model.) “We believe the market is going into crossovers,” said CEO Peter Augustsson. “We will be there as well.” But what’s uncertain is whether Subaru will play an even more significant role in Saab’s future. It is not decided yet whether Saab will go with a GM replacement for the next 9-7X sport-ute, or seek some other source, insiders told TCC. That decision will need to be made relatively quickly, they added. Since the GMT360 is already well along in its normal lifecycle, the 9-7X will have to be replaced in less than three years.

Preview: 2005 Saab 9-7X by Henny Hemmes (4/5/2004)
The Swedes’ first SUV comes from America – but does its soul still reside in Gothenburg?

Saab Getting Bigger Than Ever by Marty Padgett (3/22/2004)
Will the 9-2X, 9-7X boost volumes above the 150,000 mark?

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