automaker brought an assortment of show cars — a handful from each category —
out on a warm spring afternoon, some just to sit and look pretty, but most for
us to actually slip inside and drive down the tony waterfront in
“We try to strike a balance,” explains Joe Dehner, the new design vice president at Chrysler, between the pure fantasy cars, with their wild and fanciful shapes, and “the stuff that’s more disciplined, with show car flair (tempered by) the potential to make it onto the showroom floor.”
Demon on the loose
2001 Mazda Millenia
Introduced at the Geneva Motor Show, last February,
it’s Chrysler’s take on the classic, entry-level roadster. Think Mazda Miata or
Under the skin, the Demon shares roughly the same chassis as found in the current production model, the Chrysler Crossfire, but the roadster show car features a smaller, 2.4-liter in-line four engine.
Firing it up, the Demon let out a nice little burble
through an exhaust system unfettered by a catalytic converter. We struggled to
get the manual transmission into gear — a sin forgivable in a prototype which
had to make its borrowed drivetrain fit whichever way possible. In production
form, we’d expect to see a reworked version of the four, which would boast more
than enough power for such a lightweight vehicle. (We’d also hope that Chrysler
would consider at least one up-market drivetrain option, much as
As with the drivetrain, the borrowed steering package was a little notchy and not quite ready for prime time, but the overall feel of this Demon on the loose was perfect for a cool, sunny spring day. While this may officially be described as a concept car, it has the feel of something getting ready for production. And perhaps for good reason, according to Dehner.
While there’s been no formal decision, designers had a clear mandate. “The idea behind it was to do an entry-level sports car that, if it were to get approval, could get into production very quickly,” Dehner explained, pointing to the Crossfire, which went from concept to production in barely 18 months.
If the Demon gets the go, insiders hint that it would
likely share its platform and key components with another entry-level Chrysler
minicar. The most probable? The production version of the Hornet show car. The
Caliber: Small is beautiful
2001 Mazda Miata rear
One of the automaker’s few recent success stories is
the inexpensive but strikingly styled Dodge Caliber. What happens if you trick
it out, with a performance-modified powertrain, oversized rally lamps, and a full
aero body kit? The Caliber Targa is an indication of what’s possible, a
prototype developed by Chrysler’s in-house “skunk works,” and aimed at the tuner
crowd that normally swarms to
This one-off was designed for Ralph Gilles, Chrysler’s design director, who put it through as serious a test as you could imagine, racing it in the Targa race in rugged Newfoundland last year.
Rolling that down
2001 Mazda Protege
Launched at the North American International Auto
Show, in January, it’s a striking alternative to the more macho 300 sedan, upon
The coupe-like four-door features unusual half-pillars between the doors, so windows down, there’s an unbroken view and flowing air. Two glass panels sweep the length of the roof, adding to the almost convertible-like feel.
With a 6.1-liter V-8 under the hood, you feel the raw power as soon
as you fire the HEMI up. Yet even in concept form, with its ten-spoke, 21-inch
With its huge 120-inch wheelbase, the
Back to basics with JT, Trailhawk
2001 Mazda MPV ES rear
That short-lived SUV/pickup would seem to make a perfect addition to the lineup, and the JT — literally, Jeep Truck — suggests that Chrysler is listening. Like the Caliber Targa, this was a skunkworks project, rather than a conventional concept vehicle. And it was a surprisingly simple effort: start with the new, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, chop off the rear doors, seal it up and turn the back end into a compact pickup bed.
Chrysler showed an alternative approach several years ago with the Gladiator concept, but Dehner suggested the JT involved “a lot more discipline and thought” about what it would take to make an affordable production model. So, we’ll take that as a hint of what may be coming.
2003 Lincoln SUV
At first glance, you’d be likely to think of the Trailhawk as a potential replacement for the current Grand Cherokee. Though that still might be possible, the concept ute is actually based off of the same platform as the new Jeep Wrangler. The overall dimensions have been stretched to Grand proportions, though the roofline has been chopped by three inches, giving the show car a striking and stylish feel. Meanwhile, the low brow over the headlights gives Trailhawk, “the look of a bird of prey,” said design boss Trevor Creed.
The prototype ride massive, 34-inch tires, and draws power from a 3.0-liter Bluetec diesel V-6, borrowed from Mercedes-Benz. It makes a strong 376 lb-ft of torque. And if Mercedes’ diesel-powered ML and GL models are any indication, we were expecting to experience impressive off-line acceleration. Now, we’ll have to wait for another opportunity.
Exactly how the Trailhawk might fit into the Jeep lineup is unclear. Instead of using two separate platforms for Wrangler and Grand Cherokee, it shows both size segments could be handled with one flexible “architecture.” That provides an interesting alternative that the new, cost-conscious owners, the folks from the dogs of hell, might like.
Chrysler Drums Up Nassau, Trailhawk by TCC Team
Concepts range from HEMI power to diesel.
Ten Concepts Detroit Should Have
TCC Team (4/11/2007)
Sheetmetal fantasies that deserved a wake-up call.