GM’s future plans for rear-drive cars are speeding ahead, with the spring introduction of the new Pontiac G8 sedan. The G8 is the first of a new breed of rear-driven GMs that will emerge over the next few years, and one interesting spin on the new architecture could be a four-door pickup truck like the new Denali XT Hybrid concept on display this week at the Chicago auto show.
GM says its new truck concept could boost fuel economy by 50 percent over comparable vehicles. And because it’s built on a unibody chassis, the styling of the truck is much closer to the car realm than the truck realm — drawing instant comparisons to Chevrolet’s old El Camino, and also to Subaru’s failed Baja.
The V-8 engine found under the hood of the concept is unique in two ways: it’s GM’s first two-mode hybrid that also can run on E85 ethanol fuel. It’s also 4.9 liters in displacement, versus the 5.3-liter flex-fuel V-8s found elsewhere in GM’s lineup. Power output is 326 horsepower, achieved in part through direct injection.
With its hybrid drivetrain, rear-wheel drive, and car-blended personality, GM says the Denali XT is suited to lifestyles that involve skis, snowboards, jet skis, and the like. And the addition of a Midgate that opens the rear seat area to more cargo makes the XT concept more flexible than other car-truck hybrids like the Baja and GM’s own HUMMER H3T, which also bows at the Chicago show. The XT concept also gets an adjustable air suspension, 23-inch wheels, and custom tires to pump up its appearance and utility.
GM’s chief designed Ed Welburn said in a release that the concept’s short overhangs, low roofline, and short pickup bed give it the look of a customized car. “It is a robust yet tailored design statement that is unlike anything else on the road,” said Welburn.
Inside, the Denali has a cockpit themed on aircraft controls, with metallic trim and styling meant to evoke “cold precision.” The Denali concept will seat four, half the number of the Acadia, but its interior packaging, GM says, give it the space it needs to make rear-seat passengers comfortable while also creating a usable cargo bed of 4’ 8” x 3’ 11.5” with the Midgate raised and the rear seats in use by passengers. Paylod capacity is 1100 pounds and towing capacity will be around 3500 pounds, GM says.
The Denali XT’s long, 123.4-inch wheelbase and wide stance might seem more at home wearing a Pontiac badge, but since the GMC and Pontiac divisions were twinned, it’s GMC that will get more crossovers to join the successful Acadia. There are suggestions that vehicles like the Denali are planned for production, as a part of GM’s new rear-drive strategy, but the recent rulings on new fuel-economy standards could keep the Denali firmly planted in concept territory.
Stay tuned for more details on the Denali XT concept, and more exclusive details on GM’s new rear-drive vehicles, as TheCarConnection.com reports from the Chicago auto show this week.
2008 Chicago Show Preview by Marty Padgett (1/17/2008)
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2009 HUMMER H3T Preview by Rex Roy (1/28/2008)
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