2006 Detroit Auto Show, Part VIII Page 2

January 9, 2006

Preview: 2007 Toyota Camry by Bengt Halvorson (1/9/2006)
Next Camry range broadens with more luxury and power, and eco-tuned hybrid model.




Sentra Looks to Regain Small-Car Sales


2007 Nissan Sentra

2007 Nissan Sentra

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Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn unveiled the sixth generation of the automaker long-established Sentra compact sedan. The new Sentra is built on the automaker’s global “C” platform, and comes with a new 135-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, with either a six-speed manual or CVT automatic transmission.


The Sentra remains front-wheel drive, with a torsion-beam suspension setup in back, and stabilizer bars front and back. Electric power steering replaces the old hydraulic system. Inside, the Sentra offers a floating shifter in a mini center console that juts out from the bottom of the instrument panel — similar to the layout in vehicles like the Toyota Matrix and Lexus RX330.


Just a look at the interior appointments and options list confirms that Nissan is looking to pull buyers in with an upscale look and feel, as the Sentra is finally updated to reflect the rest of the revamped lineup. There’s an overhead eight-disc CD holder and various other storage areas, and available features include a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, an audio input jack, and a Rockford Fosgate MP3 compatible CD-changer system. The rear seat has an innovative 60/40 double-fold system, and the trunk offers an innovative storage divider system. Leather upholstery is now available. Power locks and windows, air conditioning, full-length side-curtain airbags, and side airbags are all standard.


The Sentra is expected to start at around $15,000 and will go on sale late this year as a 2007 model.


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Nissan Urges Drivers to Geek Out


2006 Nissan Urge concept

2006 Nissan Urge concept

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Nissan also showed a new concept aimed at young gamers. Said to be part driver’s car and part gamer’s fantasy, the colorful yellow trim, frame-and-mesh seats, spare interior appointments, and visible airbag—plus the gimmicky dash and seats—might make someone who sits down in it wonder if this is a real car or not, but the Urge boasts a motorcycle-inspired, driver-centric design, with seating for two (plus a smaller third seat), scissor-style doors, a partially exposed aluminum structure with recyclable composite body, and a racing-inspired cockpit.


For gamers, a display folds down from the rearview mirror, and the steering wheel and paddles can be used as game controls for the integral Xbox 360. There are docks for cellphones and MP3 players, and a custom cellphone can function as a key to start the vehicle. The interface allows customizable info screens, and the navigation system is displayed directly in front of the driver. To seal out the weather, there’s a canvas top that can be stowed away easily.


The Urge might not seem a serious concept at first, but Nissan points out that it’s built on a Z-car wheelbase, though shortened 16 inches, with a target weight of 2400 pounds and a “high-revving small-displacement” engine with a six-speed sequential gearbox.


The game geeks’ dream is described as living “somewhere between the real and virtual worlds,” and we take the colorful concept to be intriguing but just as mysterious.




Nissan Going Gearless


CEO Ghosn said that the automaker plans to soon replace conventional automatic transmissions with continuously variable transmission (CVT) units for all of its front-wheel-drive North American models except the Quest minivan. In addition to advantages in packaging, performance, and initial cost, Ghosn said every million vehicles equipped with CVTs rather than standard automatics reduces carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to putting 200,000 hybrid-electric vehicles on the road.

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