New York Auto Show – April 2007

There are a number of key Auto Shows around the world which attract huge publicity, partly fuelled by a wide variety of new models and a series of concept cars. New York probably is not on such a list for many people. Timed so it includes the Easter period, which means late March or early April, it is only a matter of weeks after Los Angeles (now moved to December), Detroit (January) and Chicago (February), as well as Geneva (March), so it struggles for media coverage and publicity. Yet. having escaped from one of the wettest days that the Tri-State area has experienced for many a month, with no less than 7.5″ of rain falling in a 24 hour period, I can report that if anyone is in the area in early April in 2008, they should give it serious consideration.

The show venue is at the Convention Centre where 11th Avenue and 38th Street meet, so, one block in from the Hudson in mid-Manhattan. It was set out over two floors, with trucks and a few cars in the basement, and most of the main displays located on the upper floor. Moving between the floors meant that you had to get a “pass out”, a stamp of ultra-violet readable pink ink on the back of your hand, which I suspect might still be there despite scrubbing it off when back at the hotel. It would have been much easier to have made the whole building as “in the show”, but actually there were no real hassles with this arrangement. More of a problem was the fact that roof of the building struggled to hold out all the rain, and what started out as a few spots, became a few damp patches, which later led to large buckets and dustbins under the worst affected areas, and ultimately a few strategically placed tarpaulins covering a few of the vehicles.

Tickets cost $14 for adults, which I thought was good value for the 9 hours I spent there. Car parking was another matter, though. The lot nearest the centre wanted an ambitious $50, and despite the downpours, seemed to have deservedly few takers. I parked up a few blocks away, attracted by what I thought was going to be $16.50 for up to 12 hours, but they pulled a special event rate off the price list and charged me $30, which seemed like a rip off. New York does have a good subway system, and I guess most people actually came on public transport. I would certainly recommend this to anyone in future. There were a number of stalls in the centre selling food and drink – most of it typical burgers, pizza and other junk food, none of it cheap. That seems to be a feature of events the world over.

The show opened at 10am – and this being America, there was no way that they were going to let people in even 2 minutes before ten, even though everything appeared ready. All morning it was quite quiet, so getting ready access to the displays was easy, even though my visit was on a Sunday, and the last day of the show. By lunchtime though it filled up and during most of the afternoon, I would have to say it was pretty busy, and only in the last hour did it empty back out to quiet levels. There were still quite a few people left at 7pm when we were all asked to leave. Unruly kids did seem present quite a challenge, too, and definitely in contrast to my experiences at Geneva, bt on the positive side, the whole show was a no-smoking zone, unlike Geneva where just about everyone seems to smoke like proverbial chimneys.

So, what of the new cars? Well, although the US press documented a long list of debuts, many of these were simply US showings of models familiar to Europe, or were simply subtle variants on familiar vehicles. Certainly from a global perspective, the most significant brand new design was the new Subaru Impreza – a car which definitely looks no better in the metal than it does in the pictures. Of course the Show is also a chance to see what was premiered at the Chicago and Detroit Shows earlier in the year and many of the concepts that were show-cased there were on display here as well. And there was ample chance to catch up on the US market and see how some familiar models are adapted for sale here as well as to see cars unique to North America. Here are some of the highlights at which I pointed my camera.


Like most of the other high-end stands, that which show-cased the latest Aston Martin range was definitely one where you looked from the perimeter, unless invited to get up close to the cars. The V8 Roadster is the latest addition to the range.

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Audi’s stand was one of the busiest in the whole show, with the RS4 proving particularly popular. Also of interest was the new S5 which made its global debut, along with the less potent A5 Coupe in a simultaneous reveal at the Geneva and Melbourne Motor Shows at the start of March. The S5 has a 4.2 litre V8 engine and the choice of manual or automatic gearboxes, and the quattro all-wheel drive is standard. US sales will start later in the year.

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The Bentley stand had the latest versions of the Continental GT Coupe and open-topped GTC on show.

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BMW’s stand is far smaller than you would get at a European Show, and of the cars on display, it was this second generation X5 which attracted my camera.

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Two significant changes for the 2008 model year were announced here, with examples of both show-cased with a turntable display: a facelift for the LaCrosse and the re-introduction of the “Super” badging on both the LaCrosse and the larger Lucerne. The Supers are engineered for Buick by the GM Performance Division to inspire performance on demand. The LaCrosse Super is powered by a 300bhp 5.3 litre small-block V-8 with GM’s Active Fuel Management technology. The LaCrosse Super’s chassis has been sport-tuned to deliver responsive handling characteristics, and the vehicle maintains Buick’s renowned quietness inside. The Lucerne Super adds a more powerful version of the legendary 4.6L Northstar V-8. It is rated at 292 bhp, an increase of more than 6 percent over existing models. The Super has an enhanced chassis with a specially tuned version of Lucerne ’s Magnetic Ride Control system, for a refined, premium ride that simultaneously enables crisp, responsive handling. Like the recently introduced Buick Enclave luxury crossover and Super models, the 2008 LaCrosse features a more distinctive front end. The new design brings the 2008 LaCrosse sedan in line with a common Buick family appearance. The fascia, hood and chrome waterfall grille are new. The 2008 model will also offer four new exterior colours, including Scarlett Red, Gold Mist Metallic, Dark Mocha Metallic and Dark Slate Metallic. Inside, the ’08 LaCrosse continues to offer a well-equipped, comfortable and quiet interior. More comfort and convenience features are now standard for CX, CXL and CXS models for 2008. The LaCrosse CX, for example, is a richer entry-level car, adding a leather-wrapped steering wheel, theft deterrent system, illuminated vanity mirrors, driver information centre personalisation and more. All trim levels now have a chrome exterior appearance package, factory remote start feature, XM Satellite Radio, telescoping steering wheel column, redundant steering wheel controls and dual-zone climate control as added standard equipment. The LaCrosse line now offers three powertrains. The CX and CXL trims are powered by the 3.8 litre V-6, now in Series III form. With more than 25 million sold, it is one of the most proven and reliable engines in the industry. Rated at 200 bhp, the 3.8 litre features electronic throttle control to improve engine response and optimise fuel efficiency, along with upgrades for quiet operation. The performance-oriented LaCrosse CXS has a standard 3.6 litre V-6 with variable valve timing that delivers 240 bhp. The premium, all-aluminium engine features dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. Its fully variable intake and exhaust valve timing achieves outstanding flexibility, delivering 90 percent of the engine’s peak torque where it is most useful, between 1,500 rpm and 6,000 rpm. The 3.6 litre VVT delivers a market-leading balance of good specific output, high torque over a broad rpm band, fuel economy and first-rate noise vibration and harshness control. The 2008 LaCrosse Super introduces a V-8 engine and portholes to the LaCrosse lineup. With the fuel efficiency of a V-6, the new 300 bhp 5.3litre small-block V-8 with Active Fuel Management (AFM) technology can propel LaCrosse Super from 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds. GM’s AFM engine technology seamlessly switches between four- and eight-cylinder power to save fuel. Sales start in the autumn.

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The Enclave is the first of what will eventually be a complete family of Crossovers instantiated across all the GM brands. Based on what is known as the Lambda platform, it effectively replaces the minivans (Chevy Uplander, Pontiac Montana and Buick Terraza) as well as the body-on-frame full-sized SUVs, the Trailblazer and Buick Rainier.

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The second generation CTS, a 2008 model year car, made its debut at Detroit and was being seen for the first time on the east coast. Cadillac chose the road of evolution for its all-new CTS which will be available in the American market in the second half of the year. While its exterior design follows on the lines of the current model, the interior is fully redesigned and according to Cadillac, heavily improved in terms of quality. For the first time buyers of the CTS will be able to opt for an all-wheel-drive system. The 2008 model will be available with a 210 bhp 2.8 V6 (not in the US), a 258 bhp 3.6 V6 and debut GM’s new 3.6L direct-injection V-6 VVT engine, delivering an estimated 300 bhp and 270 lb.-ft. (366 Nm) of torque. Apart from the introduction of the sporty CTS-V later on, it is rumoured that the CTS’s range will be enhanced with station and coupe versions. Coupled with a new overall shape, the most evolutionary dimension of the 2008 CTS comes in the form of a two-inch wider track as a result of the addition of the new, optional all-wheel-drive configuration. The wider stance gives the new model a more planted, capable and well-grounded appearance that’s exemplified by much tighter tire-to-fender relationships. The wider stance also enables more tumblehome – the vehicle sides are sculpted inward – delivering an appearance of rear-wheel-drive performance with a lower roof line, without compromising headroom or a roomy interior. Additionally, a wider, tapering sail panel, lower, more sculpted hood, smoother wheel housing lips and a tighter wheel-to-body relationship help communicate the CTS’ agility as well as its sophistication and substance. Seven-spoke, 17-inch wheels or available nine-spoke, 18-inch wheels surround larger high-performance brake calipers and rotors. Both painted and machined finishes are available for the standard 17-inch wheels. The larger, 18-inch wheels are available in a premium multi-coat finish or a high-polish finish. Inspired by Cadillac’s landmark Sixteen concept car, the CTS front appearance is immediately recognizable, yet also is new. The large, chrome dual-textured grille is significantly more vertical in shape, and is both aggressive and intricate. A large centre-positioned wreath and crest add to the three-dimensional face. The front fascia is balanced with vertically stacked headlamps with bright bezels stacked in a staircase-like array. The lower air intake is flanked on both sides with fog lamps and brake duct intakes. Side air extractors located forward of the front doors are a modern homage to Cadillac’s grand heritage. Additional bright details include chrome moulding surrounding the side windows, and three-inch chromed exhaust outlets. Even on the rear of the car, where many sedans are ordinary, Cadillac designers injected charisma. The vertical taillamps are a Cadillac trademark. The roofline and rear backlight have a coupe-like profile. At the centreline, the decklid carries the angular and directional theme of the front. Dimensionally, the 2008 CTS is 191.6 inches (4766 mm) long, 72.5 inches (1841 mm) wide and 58 inches (1472 mm) in height. Wheelbase is 113.4 inches (2880 mm) with a front/rear track of 61.8 / 62.0 inches (1575 / 1585 mm). Interior: performance and elegance combine: The 2008 CTS represents a new design theme for Cadillac interiors, emphasizing technical precision with elegant, hand-crafted details. Dramatically different from the original, the interior design is decidedly more upscale, with added ornamentation, luxury and attention to detail. Strict attention to packaging, premium materials, surface development and comfort combine to meet the discriminating tastes of luxury performance sedan buyers. Upper instrument panel and door trim surfaces are hand-cut, sewn and wrapped by expert craftsmen. Analog instrumentation that is tightly framed with a compact hood tri-tubular, chromed cluster, is defined by bright accents. An integrated centre stack design, with either a satin metallic finish or genuine Sapele wood, blends into the lower instrument panel that sweeps forward and away of front-seat occupants. The hand-assembled centre console leads seamlessly into the centre stack, providing a sportier “cockpit” feel for the driver and passenger without compromising space. Heated and ventilated seats incorporate new “thin-seat” technology for maximum occupant comfort and enhanced rear-seat leg, knee and foot room. A signature V-shaped medallion appears as a decorative touch on the backs of the front seats. French stitching is used throughout the interior, including the upper instrument panel, door inserts, seats and the shifter boot. Clean, white ambient light emitting diode (LED) soft backlighting is positioned in the door pulls, foot wells and recessed between the upper and lower instrument panels. The result is a dramatic effect similar to recessed lighting used in contemporary homes. The leather-wrapped steering wheel includes standard integrated controls for cruise and audio system. Inside and out, the 2008 CTS exemplifies an evolution of Cadillac design that achieves a remarkable combination of luxury, technology and performance.

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Chevrolet had a large stand, as you might expect, and there was lots that was fresh to see on it. Among the most significant, perhaps, were the trio of city-car sized concepts that were making their debut here: Groove, Beat and Trax. All three concepts were designed at GM’ s Design Studio in Incheon, South Korea, one of GM’s 11 Global Design Studios. Built on GM’s global mini architecture, they demonstrate the flexibility, creativity and innovative focus of design in GM’s Asia Pacific region. Designed to appeal to young car buyers in urban markets, these concepts will prove that art needn’t take a back seat just because the canvas is small. The highly creative concepts drive the energy, diversity and excitement of urban life into cars that deliver good-looking fun, fuel economy and value. The Beat is designed to evoke the mood of a speedy micro import tuner, the Beat is a front-wheel-drive, three-door hatchback concept built to be personalised, and powered by a 1.2-litre turbocharged gasoline engine mated to an automatic transmission. It’s loaded with technology, including a navigation system and premium stereo. The Chevrolet Groove: A “funkastalgia”-themed vehicle too tough-looking to be “cute,” the Groove concept is a retro-inspired vehicle with bodacious fender flares and an upright windshield. It looks much longer than it is, thanks to its short hood and long cabin. The front-drive Groove is powered by a small, efficient 1-litre diesel engine. And the Chevrolet Trax: An urban crossover concept that’s equally at home on the trails or in traffic, it gets a low-cost all-wheel-drive system and looks the part of a rugged SUV many times its size, thanks to a voluminous one-piece bumper and fender system in the front and back, a rear-mounted spare tyre and a roof rack. Trax is powered by a 1-litre petrol engine. The upper part of the exterior is bathed in Blaze Orange, while lower corner panels sport a Burnt Orange matte finish. The paint combination provides a look that reinforces the notion this Chevrolet is all business despite its small size. The General seems to be serious as after the official unveiling of the cars at the start of the Show, they opened a dedicated site for people to vote for the concept they liked most. According to GM, the results will help Chevy determine U.S. market interest in the minicar segment, and which (Korean…) design resonates best with buyers.

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Never mind those, this concept is the one I would really like them to build. For years now, Chevrolet has been teasing us with concept versions of a new generation Camaro, and it looks fantastic. Painted in a super-sexy deep orange colour with retro black stripes, the cabrio version of last years Camaro Concept is expected to find its way to production shortly after its coupe sibling is introduced to the market in 2009. Apart from the absence of a metallic roof, there’s no other significant differentiation between the Camaro Coupe Concept and Cabrio. Just build it, please!

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Representing what we are told is the future is the Volt concept that was first seen at Detroit earlier in the year. The Volt concept is a battery-powered 4door-coupe passenger vehicle that uses a gas engine to create additional electricity. The technology behind the Volt concept, GM’s E-flex System, allows electricity to be produced from gasoline, ethanol, bio-diesel or hydrogen. According to GM, the Volt can be fully charged by plugging it into a 110-volt outlet for approximately six hours a day. When the lithium-ion battery is fully charged, the Volt can deliver 40 city miles of pure electric vehicle range. When the battery is depleted, a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged engine spins at a constant speed, or revolutions per minute (rpm), to create electricity and replenish the battery. The engine runs on E85 (a fuel blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline). Using E85, fuel economy of 150 mpg would translate into more than 525 miles per petroleum gallon. The Volt can get 50 mpg by using the engine to convert gasoline into electricity and extending its range up to 640 miles.

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The 2008 Malibu made its debut around the turn of the year, with its first show appearance at Detroit. There was a top spec LTZ car on a stand and, as is often the case at US Shows, periodically, there was someone standing alongside it spouting all the PR guff about the car. There never seemed to be more than about 2 people paying any attention. Is that an indication of the future prospects for a car in a critically important segment of the market?

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One slightly surprising thing was to find examples of new and old on the same stand. Chevrolet were not the only ones to do this but I guess the logic is that with the next few months of production still of the outgoing car, they may as well show this to drum up interest before the lines switch over. So there was a current Malibu, not actually a bad car and one which has only been in production for a short time, to look at, and get in and inspect. I have first hand experience of one of these as it was the car I took on a memorable drive from Chicago to Detroit at the start of 2005 when I attended the Show there, and it acquitted itself quite well on the long drive which included a relentless snow storm on the way back.

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Also from the current range and featuring in the photos is the Cobalt, a small saloon and coupe which took the place of the long-running and much derided Cavalier for the 2005 model year and which represented a significant improvement in ability in just about all respects.

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Chevrolet had a display of trucks and their SUVs downstairs in the separate hall, and from these I picked out the massive Suburban, which in a half-hearted attempt reduce the emissions it puts out and the fuel it burns, I noted is now available in Hybrid form.

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Perhaps the most important debutants at the Detroit Show were the next generation of MiniVans from the company that by common consent invented the genre. Called the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan, they are a considered evolution of their big-selling predecessors, with a much better quality interior, and more power from larger engines, as well as a number of new technology options.

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The Demon concept made its debut at Geneva a few weeks before this show. It is a similar size to the Pontiac Solstice and Mazda Miata and has a 4 cylinder 172 bhp 2.4 litre engine to power it. Dodge has a history of productionising some of their concepts, so here’s hoping for this one!

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About four months after seeing first through leaked factory images and then as a pre-production model at the Paris Show, the Avenger finally made its official premier at the Detroit Show. Its aggressive, muscular design has grown even more on me since I first laid eyes on it in Paris, something we can’t say about its sister model, the Chrysler Sebring. Offered with three engine options (2.4 4-cylinder, 2.7 & 3.5 V6) the front wheel-drive Avenger will also be available with an AWD system. In the US sales will start in the first quarter of 2007 while in global volume markets (in both left-hand and right-hand drive) by mid-2007. According to Dodge, prices will start from $18,895 meaning that the all-new Avenger is priced $1,605 below the comparable outgoing Stratus.

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The Nitro is a sister vehicle to the Jeep Liberty and is a slightly gawky looking thing with a tall but rather narrow body.

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Ah yes, the 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10, a car that “ignited” a few journalistic plugs today. So what’s so important here? The fact that it has gained an extra 90 bhp thanks to its revised V10 engine. More specifically, the V10 aluminium engine block was revised for a 1 mm larger bore, raising the displacement to 8.4 litres from 8.3 litres. It also breathes through new cylinder heads equipped with Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC)-shaped combustion chambers, larger valves and Variable Valve Timing (VVT). These changes raise output to 600 bhp. The 2008 Viper also gets a new transmission which is the latest evolution of the Tremec T56 six-speed manual, known as the TR6060. It features 10 percent wider gears for higher torque capacity and a new synchronizer package. A new shifter system results in reduced shifter travel. According to Dodge, 0-60 mph comes in under 4 seconds and 0-100-0 mph in just over 12 seconds (braking in under 100 feet). Other changes include a new hood with a larger hood scoop for air induction and larger hood louvres, and new exterior and interior colours. Its official debut was at the 2007 Detroit Motor Show in January.

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Downstairs, there were plenty of examples of the Ram pickups, such as this Ram 1500.

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Another of those stands that was out of bounds to most people, only welcoming a select number of invitees, which did actually make it a lot easier to see the cars on show. These were the 599GTB and 612 Scaglietti.

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De to go on sale in spring 2008, Ford’s reincarnation of the “King of the Road” Shelby draws its inspiration from the original ’68 GT500 KR and it will be produced in only 1.000 units. Under its delicious carbon composite hood scoops the 2008 KR features a 5.4-litre supercharged V-8 with a Ford Racing Power Upgrade Pack that pack 540 “ponies”. Produced in a limited edition of 1,000 units, the Shelby GT500KR coupe comes with a custom carbon composite hood with scoops and stainless steel twist-down hood pins, a lower front air dam with chrome-trimmed functional brake ducts and large 14-inch Brembo front brakes. The suspension has been modified with an emphasis on race-inspired handling. Drawing inspiration from the classic 1968 KR model, the Shelby GT500KR also features 40th Anniversary exterior badging, unique striping and a distinctive interior with Carroll Shelby-signature embroidered seats and a 40th Anniversary numbered dash plaque.

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This is the Interceptor Concept, which is, apparently, Mustang based. Like the exterior, the Interceptor’s inner-self design combines circular and square themes (Ford calls it “squircles”), reminiscent of 70’s style-language. inside there are four low-back bucket seats that are wrapped in thick black belt leather with exposed-edge seams and contrasting caramel stitching. The seats are accented with Ford GT-inspired “squircle” grommets finished with Titan Metal painted inserts. To power it, there is a Mustang based, 5.0-litre V8 Cammer engine that runs on E-85 ethanol and produces 400 bhp.

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This Airstream concept is certainly striking. It was first seen at Detroit, and reactions were definitely mixed. Besides the fact that near by drivers should be blinded by its shininess, Ford refers to this contraption as the “cross-over model of the future.” With a can of Red Bull in your hand, you’ll be no match to the Airstream’s HySeries Drive plug-in hydreogen fuel cell powertrain. The latter is already on the road, and breaking hearts, in a Ford Edge prototype. The HySeries Drive delivers the combined city/highway equivalent fuel economy of 41mpg. The fuel cell’s sole function is to recharge the vehicle lithium ion battery pack. This allows it to work like a portable generator instead of an engine as had been the case in previous Ford Fuel cell vehicles.

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Although the first Ford Focus was offered to Americans, the second generation model did not make it across the Atlantic, Ford instead applying a light facelift to the established car. And now they’ve rebodied it with the 2008 range comprising no hatches any more, just a 4 door sedan and this version which is called a 2 door Coupe. Ford claim that the resulting new cars boast a “bold design, modern interior, improved driving dynamics” but I am really not sure. Visually, the whole thing looks like a semi-botched effort. The redesigned interior didn’t leave such a sour taste in our mouths. The gimmick that caught our attention in the new Focus was the instruments and switches that are lit in “Ice Blue.” An option of “ambient lighting package” that places tiny LEDs inside the front and rear cupholders and footwells is also available for those kinky summer nights. The LEDs come in seven different colors (red, orange, blue, indigo, violet, green and yellow) controlled by a dash-mounted switch. Viva Las Vegas! The 2008 comes equipped with a 2.0-liter, Duratec 20 dual-overhead-cam, inline four-cylinder engine delivering 136 hp and new suspension tuning and chassis refinements. The Duratec 20 and 20E are available with a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. Revised final drive ratios let the engine turn at a lower rpm rate during highway driving for better fuel economy.

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GMC has a range of large SUVs and Trucks which closely mirror those of Chevrolet. Among the models I saw on their stand in the basement hall were the massive Sierra truck and the large Yukon SUV.

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Definitely, Honda’s major attraction at the Detroit show was the Accord Concept which not only practically previewed the 2008 Accord Coupe but it also gave us a hint of how its popular sedan version (in the US and not in Europe) will look like. It might lack the distinctive personality and flair of an Italian coupe or the sheer elegance of a German coupe, but undoubtedly, it’s a big-leap forward (style-wise) in comparison to the current model. I just hope that they’ll do something about that “hideous”, truck-style mask… It was here for another look. The styling of the Accord Coupe Concept conveys a powerful stance through its long hood, deeply sculpted lower body and fastback roofline. A six-sided grille and projector headlamps that recess deep into the front fenders contribute to an unmistakable and aggressive front fascia. Quad exhaust outlets integrated into the rear diffuser further convey performance and style beyond any Accord to date. “The Accord Coupe Concept demonstrates the styling direction for the upcoming, eighth-generation Accord,” said John Mendel, senior vice president of American Honda. “As the industry’s target for mid-size segment excellence, the all-new Accord will set a new benchmark for safety, efficiency, performance, refinement and style.” A more powerful and lower-emissions V6 engine will provide higher fuel efficiency with the incorporation of Honda’s next-generation Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) technology. Honda leads the industry with the highest Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rating for any full line manufacturer* of 29.2 miles per gallon – well above the industry average of 25.3 miles per gallon. As part of Honda’s “Safety for Everyone” initiative, all next-generation Accord models will include the company’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) Body Structure. Honda’s ACE Body Structure incorporates a front-end frame structure that helps absorb and disperse crash energy over a large area in a frontal impact. ACE also makes the vehicle more crash compatible in frontal impacts with vehicles of differing ride heights. Production models are expected later in the year.

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There have been rumours of a luxury rear-wheel drive sedan from Hyundai aiming at the US market for a long time now, more or less ever since the Equus HCD-7 Concept which was first shown at the 2002 Chicago Auto Show. During that period several heavily camouflaged prototypes popped-up here and there, but that was it. Till now that is with the first display of a near-to-production concept version. Dubbed Genesis, Hyundai’s full size-luxury sedan concept seems to have lost any ties it might have had with the 2002 HCD-7. In the style department, Hyundai’s designers were obviously inspired from their counterparts in Lexus and BMW –don’t you love the “Bangle” trunk and Hofmeister kink? The car is big at 197 inches – 5,0 m – long. Genesis will be powered by a 4.6-litre V8 delivering well over 300 bhp and 300 lb/ft of torque to the rear wheels via a ZF six-speed automatic transmission. Guess we’ve just got to wait for the production announcement to see how seriously to take this new contender.

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The latest addition to the range is the Veracruz, a crossover which sits in the range above the Santa Fe, sold with the 3.5 litre V6 engine.

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Officially still a concept, the EX that made its debut on Infiniti’s stand looked ready for production. Measuring at 185.2 inches/4630 mm in length, the production car will change little and will go on sale in North America in late 2007. Infiniti’s BMW X3 rival will also find its way to the European market in 2008 where along with the 3.5 V6 petrol there’s the possibility of a diesel option, too. Finally it’s worth mentioning that the EX is highlighted by two systems that are said to be a world first:-the around View Monitor utilises small front, side and rear-mounted cameras to project an all-around view of potential objects on every side of the vehicle – helping reduce blind spots when parking.-the next-gen Lane Departure Prevention system uses the vehicle’s Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) system to help assist the driver in maintaining lane position if the vehicle inadvertently starts to move outside of the lane. It could do very well.

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Making its production debut was the new G37 Coupe. Aiming straight at BMW’s 335i Coupe the all-new Infiniti G37 Coupe gets curvy body lines and a more powerful 3.7-litre V6 engine delivering 330 bhp & 270-lb-ft of torque. Along with the production version of the EX SUV Concept, the G37 will be one of the first Infiniti’s to find its way to Europe starting from mid 2008. Infiniti claim that the new car combines the exhilarating performance, stunning styling and modern, sporty interior of the original Infiniti G Coupe and accelerates each to new levels. Among the key enhancements to the new second-generation G Coupe are a larger, more powerful 3.7-litre V6 engine, available advanced 4-Wheel Active Steer system, a dramatic new exterior design and a refined interior with intuitive, integrated technology. It joins the recently introduced, all-new 2007 Infiniti G35 Sedan in Infiniti showrooms nationwide in August. Leading the enhancements to the 2008 Infiniti G37 Coupe is the first-ever application of the new 3.7-litre V6 engine with VVEL (for Variable Valve Event and Lift). Estimated at 330 bhp and 270 lb-ft of torque, the new “VQ37VHR” contains approximately 35 percent new and unique parts from the new VQ35HR engine introduced in the 2007 G35 Sedan just last year. Both the Coupe’s VQ37VHR and the Sedan’s VQ35HR engines are based on the award-winning VQ engine series, named one of the “Ten Best Engines” by Ward’s Auto World magazine for 13 consecutive years. The G37 Coupe’s new VVEL system combines hydraulic-controlled variable valve timing and electronically controlled variable valve lift on the intake side to help improve performance and response. The VVEL system is also expected to improve emissions and fuel efficiency. The VVEL intake camshafts, featuring continuously variable lift control teamed with the Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVTCS), allow for a 7,500 rpm redline. The engine also features increased cylinder block height (from the previous 3.5-litre design), ladder frame construction for greater rigidity, large crank journal and pin diameters, asymmetric piston skirts, twin knock sensors, an electronically controlled “drive-by-wire” throttle system, molybdenum coated lightweight pistons, Iridium spark plugs and a symmetric twin air intake system. A new, specially tuned dual exhaust system has been designed with equal length exhaust manifolds and low muffler exhaust bac-kpressure to help improve engine breathing. Both intake and exhaust enhance driving pleasure with their authentic performance notes. The new engine is not only considerably more powerful than the previous generation G Coupe (rated at 275 hp with 5AT, 293 hp with 6MT), but is expected to offer increased fuel mileage and reduced emissions levels. Overall vehicle fuel economy improvements are estimated to be nearly one mpg better than the G35 Sedan and nearly two mpg better than the previous generation G35 Coupe (actual EPA mileage estimates and emission information to be announced at a later date). The G37 Coupe engine is backed by a choice of an upgraded electronically controlled 5-speed automatic transmission with manual mode, downshift rev matching, DS mode and ASC (Adaptive Shift Control) that allows for quicker shifts in sporty driving situations and available genuine magnesium paddle shifters; or a newly revised, lightweight 6-speed manual transmission. Developed at test circuits throughout Europe – including the famed Nürburgring – the G37 Coupe was conceived as a performance thoroughbred. Handling and ride performance increases come from the G37 Coupe’s enhanced FM (Front Mid-ship) platform, which has been stiffened 36% from the previous generation, is lower in overall height and has a wider front and rear track width. The G37 Coupe’s 4-wheel independent suspension design features lightweight aluminium components and large front and rear stabiliser bars, increased spring rates and optimised suspension damping. The front suspension is a double-wishbone design, with a single pivot lower wishbone and a long upper link. The multi-link rear suspension separates the shock absorbers and springs, locating the shock absorber inline with the wheel centre. These designs help minimise alignment changes and reduce suspension friction for nimble handling and smooth riding characteristics. Steering is provided by a twin-orifice vehicle-speed-sensing design, which provides optimum steering effort at both high and low vehicle speeds. Standard on all G37 Coupes is Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), which assists in enhancing vehicle stability under a variety of driving conditions. Also available on the new G37 Coupe is Infiniti’s exclusive 4-Wheel Active Steer system (4WAS), with unique chassis configuration that features automatically variable front steering ratios and rear suspension geometry that adjusts to steering input and vehicle speed via motor-driven controls. The system’s electronic control unit calculates the desired vehicle dynamics from a series of sensors, including vehicle speed and steering angle, and separately directs both the front and rear actuators to change steering gear ratios and rear geometry by moving both the front steering gear and rear suspension lower links – thus providing sports car-like agility and secure stability. Braking performance is provided by standard 4-wheel vented discs with 4-channel, 4-sensor Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA). The standard G37 Coupe adopts the “sport” braking system of the recently introduced G35 Sedan. The G37 Coupe Journey with Sport Package and G37 Coupe Sport 6MT are further enhanced with aluminium four-piston callipers (front)/two-piston callipers (rear) embossed with Infiniti lettering and large ventilated rotors – 14.0-inch front and 13.8-inch rear. Also available on G37 Coupe is Infiniti’s Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC) with Preview Braking, which provides a precise following distance from the vehicle ahead. It also identifies sudden braking situations with laser sensors to determine distance and relative speed of the vehicle ahead in the same lane and “pre-pressurises” the Brake Assist system before the driver steps on the brake pedal. A new 18-inch wheel and tyre package is standard on G37 Coupe, featuring a “split 5-spoke” 18×8-inch aluminium-alloy wheel design with P225/50VR18 all-season tyres. A new 10-spoke 19-inch wheel and tyre package, with lightweight cast aluminium wheels and high performance tyres, is also available. A Tyre Pressure Monitor System (TPMS) is standard on all 2008 G37 Coupes. hTo enhance the already high level of dynamic performance, the G37 Coupe 6MT and G37 Coupe Journey with Sport Package come standard with unique sport suspension, a Viscous Limited Slip Differential (VLSD) and a new wheel and tyre package with 19×8.5-inch front wheels with 225/45WR19 front tyres and 19×9-inch rear wheels with 245/40WR19 rear tyres. The G37 Coupe’s advanced performance systems are wrapped in an all-new seductive skin, giving the vehicle a kinetic feeling with emotional surface expression, sweeping character lines and tight panel gap lines. Compared with its predecessor, the G37 Coupe is longer, lower and wider. Exterior highlights include flowing front fender curves, a wave-style hood, expressive front fascia with Infiniti’s signature double-arch grille and L-shaped High-Intensity Discharge (HID) bi-xenon headlights with integrated fog lamps. As with the new G35 Sedan, Infiniti developed a specialised production process for headlight installation to impart tight build tolerances and an exacting fit of the complex front fascia. The aluminium hood is secured by dual latches located at the two front corners to ensure an excellent fit. The strong side character line and side sills integrate with the large wheel wells and the 18- or 19-inch performance-oriented wheel and tyre packages to transmit an added sense of power and vibrancy. The rear of the G Coupe features broad rear fenders, flowing into the large LED taillights – an Infiniti trademark, refined rear bumper, integrated RearView Monitor camera (when equipped), rear underbody air diffusers and large dual exhaust outlets with chrome finishers. An available rear spoiler gives the G37 Coupe zero rear lift, matching the standard zero-lift front aerodynamics. The G37 Coupe Sport 6MT models and G37 Journey with Sport Package add an enhanced performance look, with a unique front fascia, special side sills and standard 19-inch aluminium-alloy wheels with high performance tyres. Eight exterior colours, including two all-new colours, are offered. The 2008 G37 Coupe interior design features sophisticated craftsmanship, with a cockpit-oriented front driver and passenger area, Infiniti signature “double wave” instrument panel design featuring the Infiniti-signature analogue clock and dramatic, full-length centre console with a leather and aluminium-clad shifter. Special aluminium-alloy interior trim, inspired by elegant, handmade Japanese Washi paper, is located across the instrument panel, on the centre console and on the door panels. Genuine African Rosewood trim is also available. The instrument panel features Infiniti electroluminescent instrumentation with white-and-violet illumination and integrated multi-function information drive computer (average fuel consumption, real-time fuel economy, average speed, elapsed time, running distance, distance to empty, outside air temperature, warning displays, odometer and automatic transmission shift indicator) display. Drivers grip a double hand-stitched leather-covered steering wheel, designed for maximum comfort and usability with wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls. Available genuine magnesium paddle shifters for the 5-speed automatic transmission fall readily to hand and add control (G37 Coupe Journey with Sport Package only). The 8-way power driver and 4-way front passenger seats (8-way on G37 Coupe Journey, G37 Coupe Journey with Sport Package and G37 Coupe Sport 6MT model) are appointed with Infiniti’s exclusive premium leather and feature 2-way adjustable head restraints and a unique rear-seat access system, whereby the front seats will move forward automatically at the touch of a button to allow passengers into the rear seat. The G37 Coupe Journey with Sport Package and G37 Coupe Sport 6MT add special 14-way sport-styled seats with thigh extensions and power adjustable torso and thigh bolsters for the driver, unique steering wheel stitching and high-grip aluminium pedals. Technological and convenience features abound in the new G37 Coupe. Standard is the Infiniti Intelligent Key with push button ignition, Remote Keyless Entry system, a tilt/telescoping steering column with increased travel, illuminated glove compartment and automatic temperature control. Also standard is a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with mp3 playback capability, Radio Data System (RDS) and centre console-mounted auxiliary input, as well as a 7-inch colour display. Available is an 11-speaker Infiniti “Studio on Wheels” by Bose, combining a 3-way front door speaker array using 10-inch woofers with an audiophile-quality head unit incorporating double oversampling 24-bit 96KHz Burr Brow Digital Analogue Converters (DAC). Also available is a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, new touch screen Infiniti Navigation System with available X NavTraffic™ real-time traffic information (subscription required), voice activation for navigation, audio and HVAC functions, and a 9.3-gigabyte Music Box hard drive with compact flash drive slot. Three interior colour combinations are offered – Wheat, Graphite and Stone. Available on the new G37 Coupe is an Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS), which automatically controls the headlight lighting pattern according to steering angle and vehicle speed to help provide better visibility at night. Standard on all G37 Coupes is an Advanced Air Bag System (AABS) with dual-stage supplemental air bags with seat belt sensors and occupant classification sensor, front-seat side-impact supplemental air bags and roof-mounted side-impact curtain air bags for front- and rear-seat occupant head protection. Also standard are 3-point ALR/ELR seat belts (driver’s side ELR only) and front seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters and adjustable upper anchors, driver and front-passenger knee bolsters, front seat Active Head Restraints and the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) system. Available as part of the Technology Package are brake-operated pre-crash seat belts with motion sensor on the brake pedal. The G37 Coupe features Zone Body Construction with front and rear crushable zones to help disperse crash energy around the passenger compartment. For occupant safety, the engine is designed to move under the occupant compartment in a high-speed frontal collision, while a breakaway construction of the propeller shaft (connected with the engine-drop function) and the double-wall construction of the bulkhead helps to minimise cabin deformation, especially in the lower leg area. In addition, the brake pedal is designed to collapse to help reduce lower leg injuries in a severe crash. The 2008 Infiniti G37 Coupe is available in three models: G37 Coupe, G37 Coupe Journey and G37 Coupe Sport 6MT. In addition to the long list of standard features on all three models, several options and packages are available. These include the Premium Package, with a power sliding glass moonroof, 11-speaker Infiniti “Studio on Wheels” by Bose audio system with iPod connection, memory system (driver’s seat, steering wheel and outside mirrors) with synchronisation, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, anti-glare rearview mirror with compass and HomeLink Universal Transceiver, Bluetoot hands-free phone system, and heated front seats and door mirrors. Also offered is the Sport Package (available on G37 Journey model and standard on G37 Coupe Sport 6MT), which includes 19-inch wheels and tyres, Viscous Limited-Slip Differential (VLSD), sport-tuned suspension, sport brakes, unique front fascia and side sills, sport-styled seats and steering wheel stitching, aluminium pedals and paddle shifters (G37 Coupe Journey only). The Infiniti Navigation Package adds an advanced navigation system with touch-screen capability, available XM® NavTraffic™ real-time traffic information (subscription required), voice activation for navigation, audio and HVAC functions and a 9.3-gigabyte Music Box hard drive with compact flash drive slot, and RearView Monitor. The Technology Package includes Infiniti Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC) with Preview Braking, Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS) and, available for the first time on G Coupe, a “Pre-Crash Seatbelt” system. Also available is the Infiniti 4-Wheel Active Steer system; Performance Wheel and Tyre Package with 19-inch high performance tyres featuring lightweight cast aluminium-alloy wheels; Moonroof; Rear Spoiler; and African Rosewood interior trim.

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Making another appearance after a premier in 2006 was this Soul concept, a funky B-segment crossover that rumours suggest Kia will put it into production.

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Another of those stands which were off-limits to the general public, Lamborghini had a striking display of a couple of Murcielago models next to each other and also the Gallardo Superleggera.

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Star of the Lexus stand was the LFA Concept, and the staff there were asking the public to register their votes to increase the chance of it being put into production.

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A Lexus that definitely is going into production, though you will still have to wait a few months before you can get one, is the new 2008 model year LX570, which replaces the LX470 at the very top of the range. This thing is just massive, and is very unlikely to be sold in Europe. The LX 570 will be equipped with a powerful 5.7-litre V8 engine that will produce 381 bhp, over 110 more than the vehicle it replaces and over 400 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine will be mated to a new six-speed sequential-shift automatic transmission designed and built for large tasks. Both the engine and transmission are controlled and linked by sophisticated electronic management systems that help ensure optimal performance and fuel economy, with minimal emissions at all times. The new LX is expected to be certified as ULEV II. With its upgraded powertrain mated to a new chassis and suspension system, the LX 570 will have a towing capacity of 8,500 pounds, an improvement of 2,000 pounds over the previous model. Significant upgrades to the suspension and full-time four-wheel-drive system raise the LX to new levels of driving comfort and performance, on- and off-road. A Four-Wheel Electro-Hydraulic Suspension with Active Height Control (AHC) and Adaptive Variable Suspension is quicker and allows for a greater range of adjustment than the system it replaces. The new cross-linked system allows each wheel to react to the driving surface it is in contact with and also react to the actions of the opposing wheels. Using a valve at each corner and a centre or master valve, the cross-linked suspension system detects the extension or deflection of each of the LX 570’s 20-inch wheels and counters that with appropriate response at the opposite wheels. The intelligence built into the LX 570’s new suspension senses chassis roll and helps reduce that roll by more than 30 percent. The system also controls ride height quickly, lowering the chassis by an average of two inches for entry and exit and returning automatically to its normal height when the vehicle begins acceleration. For improved aerodynamics, the new AHC system lowers the vehicle by nearly one inch in front and by a little more than a half inch in the rear at highway speeds. Finally, when the transfer case is shifted into low range, the AHC system raises the vehicle by approximately three inches to provide additional ride height in driving situations where chassis clearance is at a premium. The LX 570 will also include a new Crawl Control feature for increased throttle control when manoeuvering over rough or difficult surfaces. When in low range, Crawl Control helps maintain appropriate low speeds allowing the driver to concentrate on steering the LX 570 on the desired path. Similar to cruise control in maintaining vehicle speed, Crawl Control also actuates a set of virtual locking differentials to minimise tyre slippage and maximise chassis behaviour. Because chassis control is significantly improved, the likelihood of bottoming the LX 570 on the driving surface is significantly reduced. While Crawl Control can be compared in some ways to cruise control, the driver constantly maintains control over the vehicle. Without cancelling the Crawl Control mode, the driver can reduce vehicle speed by braking, or alter the speed higher or lower by adjusting a speed selector switch.The new LX 570 will also feature a multi-terrain ABS braking system. This new technology is designed to help reduce stopping distances on slippery surfaces such as sand or gravel. Among its many advanced technologies the LX 570 will also offer a new blind corner monitor feature designed for use in urban settings such as exiting a parking garage. With cameras located within the grille and under the passenger side-view mirror, the driver can easily check hard-to-view areas by simply pressing a button on the dashboard and viewing the camera images on the navigation screen. The luxury styling of the new LX 570 emphasises the Lexus identity by combining the muscular strength and sense of security expected in a four-wheel-drive utility vehicle with the simplistic originality of the Lexus L-finesse design theme, making it much more refined and dynamic than its predecessor. The bold theme of the new LX carries over from front to rear with a wide stance and brawny cabin proportions that are accented with subtle character lines and luxury touches such as chrome-plated door handles and mouldings. The wide front grille and arrowhead design on the corners reflect a Lexus styling cue. Distinctive character lines in the hood convey a feeling of power. The character lines are integrated into the bumper and lower intake to convey an aggressive stance. The large projector headlights are restyled to add a dose of sophistication to the beefy front end. The cut-line above the front fenders adds to the performance image of the new LX while the wheel arches add an element of ruggedness to its clean profile. The running boards are fitted closer to the body to provide a more integrated appearance. In the rear, the LX features a sculpted rear door for a more dynamic look and wide combination lights that emphasise its large size. The combination lights and license plate are accentuated with tasteful chrome accents. A six-spoke 20-inch alloy wheel design creates a two-dimensional appearance that is sporty yet elegant. The styling is complemented with features that include Adaptive Front Headlights, a power back door, puddle lamps, headlight washers and a front wiper de-icer. The overall wheelbase of the new LX 570 is unchanged from its predecessor, helping to maintain its impressive manoeuverability. However, interior and exterior length have increased by at least four inches and width by nearly an inch, creating a more inviting and comfortable space for up to eight passengers and their cargo. Inside, the LX cabin is modern, civilized and characteristically quiet. It will also be equipped with an array of luxury amenities including four-zone independent climate control complete with numerous air vents, a power-sliding second-row seat with a 40/20/40 split, a power third-row seat, navigation with Bluetooth® capability, a nine-speaker premium audio system, XM Satellite Radio with XM NavTraffic, a real time traffic information service that provides driver alerts regarding accidents, road closings and traffic, front seat power bottom cushion extenders, and much more. For enhanced safety, the new LX will feature a segment-leading 10 standard airbags including driver- and front-passenger knee airbags, second-row seat-mounted side airbags and third-row curtains. Among the many safety features on the new LX are Active Front Headrests, a first for a Lexus utility vehicle, second-row seat belt pre-tensioners, and a direct tire pressure monitor system. In addition to its numerous standard features and advanced technologies, the LX 570 will also be available with a number of optional amenities including climate controlled front seats and heated rear seats, a 19-speaker Mark Levinson® audio system with Reference Surround Sound and a hard disc drive capable of storing up to 2,000 songs, a rear seat entertainment system with a nine-inch screen, the Lexus Intuitive Park Assist, a first-in-its-class Pre-Collision System with Adaptive Cruise Control and Lexus Link. Luxury packages will also be offered on the new LX that will include features such as semi-aniline leather interior trim, a cool box in the front centre console, illuminated scuff plates, unique wheel finish, a Smart Card key, and Bubinga wood trim, a wood used to craft fine furniture, instruments and to decorate private jets. The all-new LX 570 will reach Lexus dealer showrooms in early 2008.

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Another concept that was first seen at Detroit was this Lincoln MKR. While it’s more than uncertain whether it’ll wriggle its way into production, the MKR expresses Lincoln’s future design strategy and premieres a new engine family called “TwinForce”. Starting off with its design, Lincoln’s 4door-coupe concept showcases the visual elements that will influence a new generation of Lincoln products. According to Peter Horbury, executive director, Design, The Americas, there are seven key exterior cues, which will define modern Lincolns so take a few minutes to check them out: Clean, uncluttered surfaces; powerful, dynamic beltline; Chamfered surface running parallel to the beltline; Distinctive Lincoln bow-wave, double-wing grille opening; Thin, horizontal taillamps that run from one side to the other; Significant C-pillar smoothly transitioning into the cantilevered roof, and Powerful cantrail/roofrail. Interior-wise, the MKR is simple but elegant looking. Lincoln says that they used environmentally friendly amenities but knowing Horbury’s past work at Volvo, we’d call your attention on the design of the centre console. Last but not least the MKR’s powerplant. Dubbed TwinForce, it will power production versions of a range of future Ford and Lincoln products. TwinForce uses direct injection technology and turbocharging. Sound familiar? Of course it does, just think VW Group and its TFSI motors. Specifically, the MKR receives a 3.5 V6 turbocharged engine that delivers 415 bhp and 400 lb/ft of torque. The MKR’s engine also is flex fuel capable, providing the driver with the flexibility to switch back and forth between gasoline and E-85 ethanol. The engine is mated to a 6speed transmission.

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Mazda premiered the Ryuga Concept (pronounced “ree-yoo-ga,” Japanese for gracious flow) at the Detroit show. According to the Japanese car maker the Ryuga (jeez where do they come up with these names!) is more realistic than Nagare and therefore more useful in gauging reactions from those who see it. According to Mazda: Ryuga’s side surfaces were inspired by karesansui (Japanese dry gardens). The carefully raked pebbles in these garden’s represent peaceful ripples caused by a breeze over a pool of water. The karesansui’s man-made image of natural flow is represented in the Ryuga’s surface texture to express simplicity and refinement. The headlamp shape resembles the flow of morning dew dropping from bamboo leaves. Advanced LED and fluorescent tube technology will enable such a striking design to be used on a production vehicle in the foreseeable future. To impart motion, the 21-inch wheel spokes – different on the left and right sides – are slightly twisted as if they’re delivering torque. To convey the feeling of gas turbine blades, the trailing edges of the wheel spokes are accented with a tinge of body colour. Flowing lava inspired both Ryuga’s exterior hue and the tail lamp design. Depending on the incident light, Ryuga’s surface appears to be shades of yellow, red, and blue, exactly like molten, flowing lava. Notes van den Acker: “The hot red finish goes straight to your heart.” The roof moulding tightens up the flowing cabin and gives an accent to the body styling as well. Cameras located at the forward end of each molding convey rear views to a center cockpit display screen. Turn signals are also integrated into these protruding accents.

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Mazda models that you can buy right now included the excellent Mazda3 sedan and hatch and the Mazda 6, sold in sedan hatch and wagon versions.

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Sole Mercury that I photographed was this Sable, the mildly updated version of the car that started out as the Montego back in 2004, a front wheel large saloon that was intended to take the place of the Grand Marquis, but which has ended up sitting alongside it in the range as sales of the older car have remained strong.

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Star of the Mercedes stand was the CL65 AMG which was making its world debut here. The uber-alles CL features a 6,0-litre twin-turbocharged V12 familiar from the S65 AMG and SL65 AMG twelve-cylinder models delivers a truly impressive driving experience in the exclusive high-performance coupe. Its maximum output of 612 bhp and maximum torque of 1000 Nm are reflected in its outstanding performance data: the CL65 AMG attains 100 km/h in 4.4 seconds and reaches the 200-km/h mark in 13.3 seconds. Its maximum speed is 250 km/h (electronically limited). Standard features include AMG body styling, 20-inch AMG forged wheels, the unique AMG interior and highly advanced technology, such as AMG sports suspension, based on the Active Body Control system, and the anticipatory occupant protection system PRE-SAFE®. The AMG high-performance brake system with new double-frame sliding calipers offers maximum deceleration without fading: under emergency braking from 100 km/h at the permissible gross vehicle weight, the CL65 AMG comes to a standstill in 35.6 meters; this represents a maximum deceleration of 11.1 m/s2. Since the presentation of the CL65 AMG coincides with AMG’s 40th birthday, Mercedes decided to run a special limited edition of just 40 cars dubbed “40th Anniversary”. The latter feature among others, a new type of paint finish called “Alubeam” that looks like liquid metal, or at least that’s what Mercedes says.

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Also of note on the stand was the thunderous Mercedes-McLaren SLR.

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Here’s the 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X. That’s not what it is officially called, though. Making another appearance, following its debut at Detroit, this is officially the “Prototype X”, but apart from a few minor details like the LED lamps, this is what we will get a few months after the official unveiling of the production version at the Tokyo Show in October. Albeit its design is toned down in comparison to the 2005 EVO X Concept, the new EVO is without doubt, a much prettier thing to look at –in or out. Under its new skin, the EVO X or Prototype X if we must (…), showcases an all-new 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and a new high performance all-wheel-drive system called Super-All Wheel Control (S-AWC). It also previews a new paddle-shift automated manual transmission that will be offered in the Lancer Evolution for the first time. The Lancer Evolution has long lived up to its namesake by greatly improving with each successive generation. (Lancer Evolution VIII was the first to be offered in the U.S. market.) As Prototype X demonstrates, the Lancer Evolution will soon make perhaps the largest leap in overall capability seen between two generations of this model. The next Evolution will offer major gains in handling dynamics and technology while maintaining the kind of thrilling turbo engine performance that has made the model a street legend around the world. Although clearly based on the new Lancer and sharing its distinctive shark-nose grille opening, Prototype X features a unique front end, rear fenders and decklid. Making a maximum-performance statement, Prototype X looks the part of the street-wise sports machine with its boxed fenders, aggressively sloping hood with integral air scoop, 20-inch alloy wheels with massive brakes and the high-tech LED turn signals in the sideview mirrors.Inside, the deeply contoured bucket seats are upholstered in high-grip Alcantara. An electronic lap counter hints at the car’s weekend club racer capability, while the red LED light band that spans the doors and the dash surface might suggest a customizing idea to future customers. The user technology in Prototype X previews what will be available for the next Lancer Evolution. While not all design features and content seen on Prototype X will make it to the production vehicle, the overall design will carry through.The engine powering Prototype X – and the next Lancer Evolution – is a turbocharged version of the new aluminium 4B11 2.0-litre DOHC MIVEC engine used in the 2008 Lancer. It will yield the highest power rating ever in an Evolution model. (Since development continues, final engine output figures will be revealed at a later date.) Significantly, the newest Lancer Evolution will have less differentiation from market to market than the previous generations. The new model’s aluminium engine block is a significant 20 kg (53.4 lbs.) lighter than the iron-block 4G63 engine used in all previous Evolution models, which aids weight distribution. In addition, its orientation (exhaust located on bulkhead side) allows for improved placement that helps to lower the center of gravity. Although the new Evolution engine block is lighter, it was designed from the outset for high-performance turbocharged applications. High inherent strength has been achieved partly through over-engineering of the open deck block, and the use of large water jackets and metal areas around each siamesed cylinder bore. The reciprocating assembly of the turbocharged 4B11 is capable of withstanding high levels of boost. Prototype X is equipped with the automated manual transmission with magnesium steering wheel paddle shifters that will be available on the next Lancer Evolution. This new transmission will offer lightning fast, paddle-shift actuated shifting when desired, along with offering a fully automatic mode. This unit is not a conventional torque-converter automatic transmission, but rather a true auto-capable manual similar to that used on some of the world’s most notable performance models. For stick shift purists, the next Lancer Evolution will still offer a conventional 5-speed manual transmission. With the 4B11 turbo engine’s stronger torque performance, a 5-speed will provide optimal acceleration response. The next Lancer Evolution, while still providing the levels of engine performance that appeal to this model’s loyal core customers, will expand dynamic capability with the new Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) system. Combining intelligent full-time four-wheel drive with stability control, S-AWC is a further development of the advanced full-time 4WD technology first introduced on the new-generation Outlander SUV for 2007. In Prototype X this next-generation system combines an Active Center Differential (ACD) with an Active Yaw Control (AYC) rear differential and Active Skid Control (ASC). The AYC rear differential has never been offered on a Lancer Evolution sold in the U.S. market. The combination of all these technologies will help the Lancer Evolution make optimal use of its considerable torque and also ensure the highest level of dynamic capability and stability ever in this model. At the same time, the new technology will further enhance the exhilarating driving performance character that customers have come to expect from this model. The next Lancer Evolution once again features its own suspension system, replacing steel stampings of the standard Lancer with race-proven forged aluminium components. Due to the high rigidity of the new global C-platform, the Evolution’s suspension can be tuned to provide a more compliant and stable ride than before without compromising handling performance – a trait that is expected from a true world-class performance sedan.

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Also on the stand was the mid-sized Outlander crossover, which entered its second generation for the 2007 model year.

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Nissan’s brand new CUV/SUV/Crossover –yeah, its one of those cars that doesn’t know where it belongs – made its world debut at the Detroit show in January with sales starting in the US shortly after. And yes, when we first saw it, we didn’t scream mini-Murano but Hyundai Santa-Fe… The Nissan Wolverine –ehh sorry, I mean Rogue, will compete against the likes of Toyota’s RAV and Honda’s CR-V. It will be available in two versions, Rogue S and Rogue SL, each fitted with a standard 170Hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and Nissan’s Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). An all-new all-wheel drive system with yaw moment control is also available on both S and SL models. Is this the next X-Trail? Certainly if you compare the dimensions you might think so, as it is basically the same size, but apparently it is not. It turns out that the Rogue, which like the Qashqai is heavily based on Nissan-Renault’s new C-Segment platform (the Nissan Sentra uses it and so will the next Renault Megane) is quite larger than the X-Trail. I’d be more than willing to place a bet that the next generation X-Trail which will be presented at next years Geneva show, if not the same model, it will be heavily based on the Rogue.

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This coupe version of the mid-sized Altima model caught my eye. A direct rival to the Honda Accord, but cars with few other competitors as the market for these “personal coupes” has largely evaporated.

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Final photo from the stand was this gargantuan 2008 Armada, effectively a passenger-carrying version of the Titan full-sized truck.

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GM came up with two very different looking two seater affordable sports cars, the Saturn Sky and this, the Pontiac Solstice. I think this is by far the better looking of the two. Whether it is decent to drive, though, I am not sure, as it has the GM 2.4 litre 4 cylinder unit from the Chevy Cobalt and entry level Malibu models to power it. I wonder if it will appear in the rental fleets?

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The G8 made its debut at the Chicago Show a few weeks prior to is one, and was making another appearance here in advance of an on-sale date which is slated to be early 2008. Enthusiasts got quite excited when rumours of this car first surfaced as it is a rear-wheel drive sports sedan that’ll be offered with V8 power. It is, of course, basically a rebadged 2007 Holden Commodore that went on sale in Australia last August. The main difference between the two models is the new grille and front bumper as well as the addition of air-scoops on the hood. The G8 will be offered in two guises; the G8 GT we see here that’s fitted with a 362 bhp 6.0 V8 (available with two gearboxes, a six speed auto with manual shift mode and a 6 speed manual) and the base G8 powered by a 261 bhp 3.6 V6 (available five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode).

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Sole Porsche model in the photos is this 911 Targa.

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Star turn here was a car which will be familiar to Europeans, but which is new to Americans. The Astra has been federalised and will be sold in America with Saturn badges, replacing the unloved and unloveable Ion.

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Established models from the brand include the Aura, which shares much with the European Vectra and the Vue which we know in Europe as the Vauxhall/Opel Antara.

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Final model here was the Saturn version of the new GM “Lambda” range of crossovers, theirs being called the Outlook.

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Having dropped a big clue that Subaru was going to make an international launch at the event, the promise was fulfilled by the presentation of the new third generation Impreza, and there were four cars on the stand, all of them locked and on display plinths so you could not get inside and have a really close look. A before, there are 4 door saloon and 4 door hatch models, both with standard all-wheel drive. WRX performance versions of the new cars were also presented here. The stand staff did admit that the new look has drawn equal measures of praise and harsh criticism, and quickly tried to move the conversation to talking about the vastly better interior quality and how the car needed to appeal to mainstream America.

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Also here was the 2008 Tribeca, showing its new nose. I think they have changed one form of ugly to a different form of the same affliction, but maybe beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, and my views may not accord with the majority? Subaru made a big deal of it, of course, in the hope that there would not be a repeat of the stunned silence when they presented the initial B9 Tribeca to a less than impressed audience. And to show how different their new model is Subura threw out “B9” from Tribeca’s name. Behind that aggressive SpongeBob-Squarepants styled grille the revised Tribeca hides a newly designed 3.6-litre boxer engine with a higher output than the outgoing 3.0-litre (256Hp vs 245Hp) that’s combined to a substantially revised 5-speed Automatic transmission. Will this actually make the car the sales success that the first version was not? Hmm……..

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Final Subaru of note was this Forester STi.

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Making its US debut was the SX4 sedan, which arrives on the heels of an impressive 2006, when American Suzuki enjoyed sales of more than 100,000 vehicles for the first time in its 22-year history. Last year’s automotive sales were up 23 percent from 2005 and mark the company’s third consecutive double-digit annual sales increase. The front of the car is the same as the SX4 hatch which has been avialable for a couple of years, but the rear is new. Elegant, it really is not, and some would likely call the resulting product a box on wheels. Whilst it may be rather uninspiring in-and-out, it will probably be as hassle free as it gets. US market versions of this Japanese built SX4 Sedan will go on sale in the autumn. They will all have a 143 bhp 2.0-litre engine and will boast an impressive equipment tally for cars in the compact class including standard 17″ alloy wheels.

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Also on the stand was the XL7, a mid-sized crossover which shares much underneath with the GM crossover vehicles, the Chevy Equinox and Saturn Vue.

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Picked from the extensive Toyota range are two extremes: the Yaris hatch which sits at the bottom of the range and the gigantic LandCruiser at the top.

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The regular Mark V Golf is just going on sale in America, a very long time after its launch in Europe and other markets. The GTi version, though, has been available for a while, sold as a stand-alone model simply with GTi badging and no mention of the name Golf.

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The Volvo stand was one of the ones which suffered most from the leaking roof. I was fortunate to be able to grab this picture early in the day, as later on, I found the staff desperately trying to drape protective covers over all the cars on the stand and positioning buckets to try to catch the worst of what was pouring through the ceiling. There were some new Volvo models on the stand as well, but the stand out for me was this, an example of Volvo’s first ever car from 80 years ago.

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This was an interesting day out, with a good update on the health and future direction of the US market and by extrapolation, the global scene as well. Virtually all the manufacturers were emphasising their green credentials. Hybrid technology has spread from Toyota and Honda to the Nissan Altima, the Ford Escape and even some of the larger GM vehicles such as the Tahoe and the GMC Yukon. There were further displays which expounded at great length how bio-fuels would solve the problems of the global warming, pollution and were totally renewable energy sources. All of which might have been vaguely convincing until one analysed the ever larger pickup trucks, the ever greater numbers of new SUVs (the latest Lexus LX570 is huge, for instance). I know I am not tall, but just getting into these vehicles is quite a challenge as they are so high off the ground. As working vehicles in the rural mid West, they make some sense, perhaps, but as everyday transport on suburban freeways, even with petrol at $3.09 a gallon (that’s about £1.55, though remember a US gallon is only 3.8 litres, not the 4.54 of Europe), I really cannot see why people want ever larger behemoths. Interestingly, there was a rush of small cars launched last year: the Yaris, in hatch and ungainly sedan, the Honda Fit (Jazz to the Europeans) and also as hatch and sedan, the slightly larger Nissan Versa. The Nissan is getting quite common on the roads, but the Toyota and Honda remain rare sightings. Only the Mini, as a cult car, and rental car stuff like the latest Hyundai Accent are reasonably ubiquitous.

As manufacturers look to the economies of scale of globaIisation, there are more cars that you see in Europe on sale in America than perhaps ever before. But the transitions are not always straight-forward. Ford have just gone the other way with their latest Focus, of course,and the Nissan Rogue could have been an X-Trail but instead is a completely different model. Others are looking to take models from their European ranges and adapt them to meet domestic US tastes. Sometimes there is a significant time lag. The Mark V Golf is only just going on sale, badged as Rabbit, and sports a much larger front air intake – perhaps needed as the only engine offered is the same 2.5 litre as appears in the Jetta. The Golf GTi has been on sale for a while, but is just branded GTi and the R32 also has no other model designation. The European Astra will go on sale at the end of the year with Saturn badges, replacing the much hated plastic-bodied Ion. The Daewoos that we now see as Chevrolets are badged Suzuki in the US, so the Lacetti becomes the Reno and the Nubira is the Forenza. the Verona, based on the Evanda was conspicuous by its absence and not in the brochure, so I assume that it has been deleted. The Aveo, however, which is based on the Kalos, is badged a Chevy. There is a new 4 door version (based on the Gentra), but the 5 door has yet to be updated, though this was not on display.

It was also interesting to see which cars were attracting most attention, and to listen to the comments of the show-goers. Without doubt, the biggest crowds were around the Mustang 500KR, and the Camaro Convertible Concept, closely followed by the Mercedes McLaren SLR. The Ferrari stand was popular, but fenced off to all bar invited guests. Of the stands that everyone could access, the Audi stand was the busiest, with huge crowds around the RS4, which was one of very few cars that was locked. Even very mundane cars, such as the Chevy Cobalt seemed surprisingly popular. Comments on things like the size of the cup holders were frequently heard, both from the public and as part of the script that the stand hosts were reciting every few minutes, whether they had an audience or not (and the poor lady by the 2008 model Chevy Malibu never seemed to have more than 2 person listening to her!). Awful looking fake maple wood trim clearly is a hit with more people than you would believe, too, which must be why the American manufacturers keep inflicting it upon us!

I did try to decide what my favourites were. Of the concept cars, that was easy: the Camaro Convertible looks even better than the Coupe. I am looking forward to the production version in 2009, when I hope it hits the Hertz fleet. In dream car world, the Ferrari 599 still looks fantastic, and the Quattroporte would provide a further 2 seats if I needed to be practical. At only $76,000, the Audi RS4 looks like a bargain, so that’s on the list, too. As this is America, though, I thought I should try to pick an American car…………… and there I struggled! Actually, standards are getting better, so perhaps I am being a bit harsh. The trio of Fusion/Milan/MKZ are certainly capable, though not that exciting. May be it should be the Dodge Charger? Then I remembered the Pontiac Solstice GXP. I still think it looks odd with the roof up, but with the roof down, it looks superb…………. it’s now got the power it needed from “the get go” (as the Americans would say). Whilst it is still hopelessly impractical even compared to an MX5, I cannot help feel that perhaps in 30 years time this could be the car that is tucked away in garages as a classic of the early 21st century like few of the other current Detroit products will be.


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