2006 Los Angeles Show Index by TCC Team (1/4/2006)
Miura Concept Shown in L.A.
2006 Lamborghini Miura concept
The first Lamborghini vehicle penned by new design chief Walter de’Silva will be a revived Miura concept introduced last night at the Los Angeles
auto show. The first Miura bowed 40 years ago at the 1966 Geneva Show; the new concept stays faithful to its lines in the same way Ford’s GT concept honors the GT40 before it. No details of the mechanicals have been released, but it’s conceivable that a production version of the new Miura could use the Murcielago V-12. More information will accompany the concept, which will be on display at the Detroit
Volkswagen Pushes the Envelope with GX3
2006 Volkswagen GX3
It’s not the sort of car you’d drive in Detroit
on a cold winter day, but Volkswagen’s global brand boss, Wolfgang Bernhard, is betting the GX3 concept will resonate with California
consumers. Any resemblance to the Tomahawk superbike the German executive unveiled in Detroit
several years ago, while working at the Chrysler Group, is anything but coincidental. Since jumping to VW, Bernhard has been stressing the need to revive the automaker’s reputation for unusual, fun-to-drive and affordable vehicles. The GX3 is a three-wheel two-seater specifically designed for the Los Angeles
market, Bernhard explained, during VW’s auto show news conference.
It rides on two wheels up front and a single, motorcycle-derived rear wheel. The chassis is a chrome-moly spaceframe, and under its composite body panels, the GX3 is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine making 125 horsepower. That’s more than enough to launch the 1300-pound running prototype from 0-60 in just 5.7 seconds and for it to hit a top speed of 125 mph. For the fuel-conscious, it will also deliver about 46 miles per gallon. This is “so friggin’ crazy,” Bernhard bluntly declared, adding that the goal was to “think beyond the basic” needs for transportation. “It’s not about the metal,” Bernhard stressed. “It’s about the emotions. Lest one think the GX3 is just a fantasy, like the Tomahawk, Bernhard told TheCarConnection.com that Volkswagen is seriously considering limited production of the GX3 and has even “lined up partners.” Sources tell TCC that Lotus would assist in suspension development of a production vehicle, which “would be built in the United States,” according to Bernhard, and if given the go, would reach West Coast dealers by the 2007 calendar year.
GTI and Eos Share the VW Stand
2007 Volkswagen Eos
“Volkswagen was most successful when we weren’t mainstream,” said global brand director Wolfgang Bernhard, though compared with the GX3 concept, the new Eos and GTI are pretty much aimed at the heart of the market. First unveiled in Frankfurt last autumn, the Eos is VW’s new hardtop convertible – or more accurately, a coupe-sunroof-cabriolet. Its five-section foldaway top can be partially retracted in a more conventional sunroof mode, as well as a full convertible. It will be offered, starting later this year, with an array of engines, including a 2.0-liter turbo.
2007 Volkswagen GTI
The fifth-generation GTI, meanwhile, is designed to return to the nameplate’s affordable roots. It features a torquey 200-hp turbo 2.0-liter engine mated to either VW’s DSG electronically-shifted manual gearbox or a more conventional six-speed stick.
Mazda CX-7 First of a Family
2007 Mazda CX-7
Mazda has unveiled its first entry into the fast-expanding crossover segment, one that will share its roots with the new Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX. Like many crossover vehicles, the CX-7 falls into a hard-to-define niche that’s part sport-ute, part wagon, and part sports sedan. The styling is intentionally aggressive, according to Mazda’s chief of design, Moray Callum, with a windshield as steeply raked as the RX-8 sports car. “This is, to us,” he says, “the four-wheel-drive vehicle Mazda should have already had.” The CX-7 borrows elements of the sporty MazdaSpeed6 and the functional Mazda3. Its turbocharged and intercooled 2.3-liter four-cylinder direct-injection gasoline engine produces 244 horsepower, while delivering 23 mpg in combined city and highway driving. It also features sport seats and a high-mount shifter, emphasizing its performance heritage. The CX-7 was designed specifically for the U.S.
market, according to Callum, who adds that it is one of four new products Mazda will launch in 2006.
Toyota Expanding Yaris Lineup
Toyota ’s edgy Scion models have more than met company expectations when it comes to attracting influential, young buyers. With the Yaris, the Asian automaker is going after those who put a premium on price. The pint-sized Yaris Liftgate will come in at $10,950, Toyota General Manager Jim Lentz announced in Los Angeles on Wednesday. A performance edition, featuring such things as a tuned exhaust and sporty seats, will raise the base to $13,325. Meanwhile, the automaker also unveiled a four-door version of the B-segment Yaris. Expected to be the big seller in the lineup, the sedan will start at $11,825. All these prices include standard air conditioning, though other niceties, like power windows and mirrors as well as side airbags, are options. Toyota expects to see Yaris volumes reach about 50,000 this year, and 70,000 in 2007. The figures might even go higher, according to Lentz, if Toyota can come up with more production capacity. In Europe , the Yaris is now the automaker’s top-selling model. That’s easy to understand in a market where fuel runs up to $6 a gallon, but Toyota is betting that rising prices in the U.S. will increase the appeal of the Yaris, which gets an EPA-estimated 34 mpg city, 40 mpg highway.
2007 Toyota Yaris
To “B” or Not to “B”
2007 Toyota Yaris
The Yaris is just one of many new compact B-segment vehicles, in industry parlance, to hit U.S.
highways. High mileage is part of the appeal, according to Toyota Division General Manager Jim Lentz, with an affordable price tag another compelling factor. Nissan will shortly enter the market, and a number of other manufacturers are weighing their options. “That segment is going to be very important here in the American marketplace,” contends Mark Fields, head of Ford Motor Co.’s “ Americas
” unit. A U.S.
version could show up within the next three years, he hinted. Less sure is Volkswagen brand boss Wolfgang Bernhard, who believes that U.S.
motorists would still prefer to get larger cars, if possible. Mazda’s Jim O’Sullivan said the big challenge for companies like his is to come up with a design that not only appeals to potential buyers, but which can translate for Mazda into a profitable business case. Those who believe the B-segment will grow from today’s levels, about 300,000 annually, see big changes in the works. Like other mainstream segments, Toyota
’s Lentz expects to see these small vehicles “morph” into a variety of styles and shapes. Price might be a compelling factor, but younger buyers, he argued, “want to be in a car they don’t have to apologize for. Design, for them, is especially important.”
Saleen Celebrates 20 Years
This year, Saleen celebrates its 20th anniversary as a manufacturer of high-performance vehicles with the presentation of the S331 Sport Truck at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
Saleen Sport Truck
The S331 is a Ford truck with a 450-hp V-8. The power is generated with the help of a Saleen Series VI integrated twin-screw supercharger. The truck will also be offered as a normally aspirated Sport Truck with 325 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque.
A special exhaust system with twin side pipes produces a unique appearance and provides a sporty sound. Because of the increased horsepower and distinct Saleen sound, the engineers at the company have named the truck “Thunder.”
For good handling, the trucks are quipped with Saleen Racecraft suspension pieces and special nitrogen-gas struts with linear-rate coil-over springs and a stabilizer bar in the front. In the rear the Racecraft suspension consists of a live axle, leaf springs and nitrogen-gas shocks.
The exterior features special sporty styling with a front grille that is designed to improve aerodynamics. The Supercharged S331 has a unique hood with an exhaust venting grille.
Saleen uses a racing-derived, upgraded interior with double-stitched leather sport seating. A special instrument panel and race-style pedals are among other details. The Supercharged version will be priced in the high $40,000s, whereas the Sport Truck will start in the high $30,000s.—Henny Hemmes
Benz S550 Starts Above $85,000
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class made its North American debut at the Los Angeles show, as did its sticker price. The new sedan will arrive at U.S. dealerships next month priced from $86,175 including a $775 destination charge. The new S550 provides more interior room (1.7 inches longer and an inch wider) than its predecessor, has new styling and increased power. It also had more features, but is nevertheless priced $650 below the outgoing S500. The new S550 comes with a new 5.5-liter V-8 engine and a seven-speed automatic transmission. The V-8 produces 382 hp, an increase of more than 25 percent over the previous model.—Henny Hemmes