Concept vehicles serve these purposes: to provide a forward look at the future of a car company in terms of styling cues, interior appointments and technology advancements. In this way, concepts serve as a blue print and as a marketing tool: even though it's impossible to drive a concept, a cool, futuristic vehicle will always be the talk of the town - at least until the next cool glimpse at the future is revealed. In this way, automakers can gain attention to their brand and gauge interest in the more creative application of vehicle design and engineering. The other main point is more realistic: to showcase a car, such as the Saturn Sky, an almost-ready for production roadster, build anticipation and gauge consumer interest for the actual vehicle.Lexus, for example, debuted the Lexus LF-A this year at the North American International Auto Show -- and while it is solely a concept vehicle, Lexus designers and engineers have put two years into the development of what they say will be the "new face of Lexus." So while you may never drive the Lexus LF-A - a brute strength and graceful super car - you will very likely see the essence of the LF, which stands for L-Finesse, in new model and redesigned Lexus vehicles. And you may one day drive it, so don't count it out: concept vehicles that reach a high note of popularity often make it to the production line, if only in limited numbers.
Then there is the more, ah, boring kind of concept. Acura, for example debuted the concept RD-X as a direct precursor to the actual production SUV. Smaller than the MDX, the RD-X will feature all aspects of Acura's burgeoning technology drive, especially the use of navigation, traffic link, SH-AWD, and satellite. According Bill Elliot, executive vice president of America Honda, the RD-X will actually debut as a 2006 model. The RD-X is perfectly representative of a concept that will go directly into production, in while Acura officials maintain that much of the concept will make it to the production line, reality dictates that some of the more futuristic touches -such as a custom briefcase in the center console will not make it to the model that graces dealer lots. Still, it's admirable that some automakers try mightily to carry on the most appealing and "cool" aspects of the concept vehicles they introduce. Both types of concepts - and a few that blurred the lines between fiction and reality - are on hand at your local Auto Show. In addition to the Lexus LF-A, Acura RD-X and Saturn Sky, concepts that debuted in the United State include the very real Chrysler Firepower, a beautiful Corvette killer that hints at the potential of Crossfire design; the Chrysler Gladiator, another realistic look at expanding Jeep capabilities, and the Jeep Hurricane, a two-HEMI engine mounted future car that would be an extreme off-road capable vehicle -- but wouldn't exactly make the grade when it came to taking the kids to school.
By Brian Chee
Along with the SH-AWD system, the RD-X offers fully independent front and rear suspension, Brembo disc brakes, and 19-inch, 5-spoke alloy wheels.
Sounds just about ready to go - until you get to the interior. Inside, all manner of concept fun is going on, including mood lighting and a custom suitcase in the center console. The instrument panel and door inserts are trimmed with a combination of ivory leather and ivory suede -probably not for production, much like the tangerine-colored, crocodile-embossed leather seats with ivory-colored wool headrests and the rosewood covered flooring...It all sounds a bit tropical for Acura, so expect a typically precise and comfortable interior for the RD-X.
More realistically, the RD-X will come with Acura's Navigation System with Voice Recognition, the audio system, and other advanced in-car functions, such as Acura's Traffic link . Like in the RL sedan, navigation, audio, dual climate control and other features are controlled using the Interface Dial mounted in the center of the instrument panel. The concept features a downloadable hard drive for personal music collections - a nice bit of technology that would boost the ever-increasing Acura reputation for tech advancement in vehicles.
Yes. The wait is almost over.
By Brian Chee
Audi Allroad Quattro
Perhaps they have a point about that progressive thing The Audi Allroad Quattro Concept is not currently scheduled for production.
By Brian Chee
BMW is committed to launching a dual-fuel 7-Series sometime in the next few years. This car will run on both gasoline and hydrogen, allowing owners to more easily bridge the gap between the technology and the infrastructure to support it.
By Christian J. Wardlaw
The Firepower boasts the 6.1-liter Hemi V8 developed by SRT. This engine will also show up in the Dodge Charger. The V8 is mated to a 5-speed automatic AutoStick, and estimates from Chrysler put the 0-60 time at less than 4.5 seconds. The exterior is covered in Hydro Silver Pearl, with dark carbon fiber and polished aluminum accents. The interior color combination consists of Ocean Deep Blue as a primary hue, with Oyster leather and Behr maple accents. Finely trimmed leather-covered sport seats, automatic climate control and a premium audio system provide a tasteful and purposeful interior environment. All touch surfaces - steering wheel, control knobs, and shifter - are finished with fine materials.
By Brian Chee
That's just silly. Let us set the record straight. In concept form, the Dodge Nitro is based on the existing Jeep Liberty, a compact sport-ute known for none of the attributes listed by Creed. It's got the Liberty's 210-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 engine; four-speed automatic transmission; full-time 4WD system; 4,115-pound curb weight; and independent front and solid axle rear suspension. In the Liberty, this doesn't add up to anything "best" except off-road capability, and we doubt the 20-inch wheels and 255/50 Michelin Diamaris tires on the Nitro make that big a difference. In fact, press releases for the Dodge Nitro state a top speed of 108 mph, a zero-to-60 mph time of 9.6 seconds, and a quarter-mile trap time of 16.9 seconds. Maximum cargo volume for this alleged midsize SUV is a measly 66.9 cubic feet. See what we mean about a smokescreen?
Now that we've got that out in the open, here's what's cool about the Dodge Nitro Concept. It looks terrific, and something like this slotted under the full-size Durango makes sense. Dodge needs a smaller SUV, and when it arrives, we hope it looks just like the Nitro. With bulldog front styling, a chopped-top roofline, squared-off edges, and flared fenders, the Nitro exudes attitude. Details such as side vents (which look like those on the Range Rover Sport), an integrated tow hitch, and chrome exhaust outlets enhance the Nitro's stylish and aggressive appearance.
Inside, Dodge jazzed up the Jeep's cabin by adding a three-pod gauge cluster with electroluminescent lighting, lots of satin silver trim, and brushed aluminum pedals. Black leather seats with red inserts provide a sporty ambience, and the cargo area features ultimate utility thanks to a textured vinyl floor that slides out for easy loading and unloading. Modular storage bins and a first-aid kit are also included.
Despite our gripe about public relations spin that could qualify as a Category 1 hurricane, the Dodge Nitro Concept is a great idea. It looks great, fills a hole in the Dodge truck lineup, and would make a compelling alternative to many entries in the small(er) SUV segment.
By Christian J. Wardlaw
Ford Explorer Sport Trac
Powering the Ford Explorer Sport Trac Concept is a 4.6-liter V8 engine matched to a five-speed automatic transmission. Production versions are expected to offer the same 4.0-liter V6 and 4.6-liter V8 engines as the Explorer. Also, the Sport Trac Concept gets the Explorer SUV's independent rear suspension, which improves the ride but might not prove as sturdy as the solid rear axle on other crew-cab competitors when it comes to towing and hauling. Roll Stability Control and side-curtain airbags are also going to be available on the new 2006 Explorer Sport Trac.
Wider, longer, and with a 30-percent larger bed than before, Ford jazzed the Explorer Sport Trac Concept up with a custom street truck appearance, including a lowered suspension, 21-inch wheels painted gunmetal gray, red brake calipers, a mesh milled-aluminum front grille, and a number of decorative scoops and vents. The rear bumper and all door handles are shaved off the body, and the rocker panels receive integrated running boards that double to provide the appearance of ground effects. The concept's bed includes saddlebag storage wells and recesses to create a tiered load floor for large, flat cargo. Like the original, an extender is included to increase cargo-toting capacity.
Inside, an all-new interior debuts, featuring four bucket seats on the Explorer Sport Trac Concept. The console-mounted gearshift looks similar to that in the Ford F-150, and white-faced gauges peer out of an oval-shaped binnacle ringed in chrome. The tall center stack is designed to accommodate a navigation system, and large cupholders appear capable of handling even the biggest buckets of java.
What the Ford Explorer Sport Trac Concept lacks is a feature that could ultimately doom the production truck. This vehicle should come to market with a pass-through to the cabin, like the Chevrolet Avalanche. But with the passenger cab a distinctly separate component from the cargo bed, a design that mimics GM's brilliant Midgate is not in the cards for the Sport Trac.
Nevertheless, the 2006 Ford Explorer Sport Trac is sure to be a major improvement over the current model, and this alleged concept truck gives you an extremely clear look at what's coming soon to a Ford dealership near you.
By Christian J. Wardlaw
Based upon Ford's new CD3 architecture, which forms the basis for the 2006 Ford Fusion, 2006 Lincoln Zephyr, and a slew of new FoMoCo products due in coming years, the Ford Fairlane is powered by a 210-horsepower, 3.0-liter Duratec V6 engine, matched to a six-speed automatic transmission and driving all four wheels for maximum all-weather traction.
Key design attributes of the Ford Fairlane Concept include flush-mounted exterior glass and thin pillars for a sleek appearance. Horizontal side strakes decorate the doors, which are "French-opening" to allow unfettered access to the cabin, and the Fairlane wears Ford's new corporate tri-bar metal-finish grille. Extremely handsome multi-spoked and polished alloy wheels make the Fairlane look expensive, while at the rear is a three-way tailgate with glass that flips up and a door that swings open from the left or the right.
Inside the cargo bay is a flip-down utility area with a cutting surface and a refrigerator. Three rows of seats accommodate six adults, with the leather-covered front Command Seating chairs fronting a low-slung dashboard trimmed in oak and maple bentwood laminate.
Second-row "club" chairs are upholstered in closely woven canvas, recline for comfort, and offer unique storage armrests. They fold flat, along with the third-row seat, to reveal a cargo floor finished in stainless steel, gleaming from the ambient light that filters in through the Fairlane's three glass roof panels.
With the Freestyle and an upcoming Mercury model already serving as Ford's mainstream crossover suvs, the chances of something like the Fairlane reaching production are slim. However, this concept does illustrate the flexibility of the new CD3 corporate platform, while getting the show-going public used to another classic Ford "F" name that's sure to be revived for a future model.
By Christian J. Wardlaw
Ford SYN-us Concpet
Glaze your eyes over and what do you see here? We see a Scion xB dressed up with Ford's new triple-bar grillework, or a miniaturized Honda Element. Take your pick; either way, if something like this lands in showrooms toward the end of the decade, we're fairly certain that young buyers will have tired of the box-on-wheels school of design by then.
Dressed up like a midget Brink's armored vehicle, complete with a tailgate that opens using a four-spoke spinner like a bank vault, the Ford SYN-us Concept is an "urban sanctuary," according to Ford design guru J Mays. Sadly, the best thing about the SYN-us would never make production: The front seats spin to face the rear of the vehicle, where a 45-inch LCD flat-screen monitor displays movies, can be used to surf online, and serves as the rear window of the vehicle via cameras. Sick, yo. Xzibit, just try pimping this ride, G.
Developing power is a turbocharged, intercooled, 2.0-liter four-cylinder Duratorq diesel with 134 horsepower and 236 ft.-lb. of torque, which may not seem like much, but this is a small vehicle - smaller than a Focus. The engine is equipped to run on bio-mass diesel fuel, and delivers power to the front wheels through a five-speed manual transmission. Riding on a front independent and rear torsion beam suspension, the Ford SYN-us Concept's 18-inch wheels and 225/50 performance tires help to improve handling.
Jumping on a design bandwagon is dangerous business. Witness the lukewarm reception that the 2006 Chevrolet HHR is receiving seven years after the Chrysler PT Cruiser first debuted in concept format. Small, square, boxy vehicles make great sense, and the Scion xB has made the look work to its advantage, but fickle young Americans are likely to be looking for the next big thing by the time Ford's planned B-car arrives in a couple of years.
By Christian J. Wardlaw
Ford Shelby GR-1
A front-engined two-seater, the Ford Shelby GR-1 Concept is powered by a huge 6.4-liter V-10 engine that develops 605 horsepower at 6,750 rpm and 501 lb.-ft. of torque at 5,550 rpm, plenty to motivate an estimated 3,900-pound curb weight. All that thrust goes to the rear BBS one-piece wheels through a rear-mounted, six-speed manual transmission equipped with a limited slip differential. According to Ford, performance is on par with others in this class, with zero-to-60 times under four seconds and a theoretical 200-mph top speed.
Aluminum Brembo brake calipers clamp down on cross-drilled, vented four-wheel disc brakes. Goodyear racing slicks, sized 275/40ZR19 in front and 345/35ZR19 in back, keep the Shelby GR-1 glued to the ground in combination with the front and rear double wishbone suspension design from the Ford GT supercar. A Tire IQ system provides the driver with tire temperature and pressure data, as well as cornering g-forces. What are the chances that the Ford Shelby GR-1 will actually be available to consumers in 2007 or 2008? We'd say that this new Shelby, or something very close to it, will be offered to give Ford a true sports car to battle such performance machines as the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe.
Just don't count on the polished aluminum exterior finish.
By Christian J. Wardlaw
2007 Ford Sport Trac Adrenalin
Powering the existing Ford Explorer Sport Trac is a 4.0-liter V6, and the underpinnings are mostly based upon the first-generation Explorer. Not exactly exciting. Quite the opposite is the redesigned and muscular Sport Trac Adrenalin. Packed under the hood is a supercharged 4.6-liter, 32-valve V8 cranking out 390 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque, and the four-wheel independent suspension has been tuned by the gearheads from Ford's SVT (Special Vehicle Team). Power is managed by a six-speed automatic transmission, and massive 21-inch wheels connect it all to the pavement. The F-150 SVT Lightning may be dead, but its heart and character are alive and well in the 2007 Ford Sport Trac Adrenalin. And now two extra passengers can go along for the ride
By Thom Blackett
Though this rapid advance of technology is impressive, what matters most about the GM Sequel Concept is that it's a "skateboard chassis," which means that the liquid hydrogen storage tanks; fuel-cells; by-wire software for steering and brakes; battery packs; and electric motors that power the vehicle are all contained within an 11-inch tall "sandwiched" chassis that protects the components top and bottom.
Fully operational as a stand-alone unit, the GM Sequel Concept's chassis can therefore accommodate a variety of body types, from an SUV to a sports car, as long as the wheelbase and track widths remain the same. GM has purposely sized the GM Sequel Concept's foundation to tackle the meat of the market, midsize sedans and midsize crossover SUVs.
In Detroit, the GM Sequel Concept wore a crossover SUV body, able to seat five and carry plenty of cargo. Because the body sits on top of the propulsion system, interior space and comfort is not compromised. Sized similar to a Cadillac SRX, the GM Sequel Concept can accelerate from rest to 60 mph in less than ten seconds, and possesses a 300-mile range between fill-ups. Because the GM Sequel Concept is powered by electric motors in the wheel hubs, it's all-wheel-drive for sure-footed traction and superior performance. GM also claims that by-wire drive systems for the steering and brakes, combined with a perfect 50:50 front to rear weight distribution, make the GM Sequel Concept easier to maneuver while providing responsive handling.
Readily available but not affordable, the cutting-edge technology aboard the GM Sequel Concept could hit the road today if an infrastructure to deliver liquid hydrogen existed. The company clearly stated its goal of creating a hydrogen powertrain and structure that is comparable to today's internal-combustion engines in terms of performance and durability by 2010. Not only that, but GM intends to have a system that is affordably scalable to produce a wide range of products. Rick Wagoner, Chairman and CEO of General Motors, called the GM Sequel Concept nothing less than "the reinvention of the automobile."
Infrastructure that delivers liquid hydrogen as easily and reliable as today's network of gasoline filling stations must be put into place, because hydrogen-powered fuel cells are coming. Count on it. And count on GM to bring the technology to the mass consumer in something like the GM Sequel Concept within the decade.
By Christian J. Wardlaw
At the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, GM debuted the GMC Graphyte Concept, an all-wheel-drive SUV equipped with the company's two-mode full hybrid powertrain, which supplies a 25-percent increase in fuel economy with no loss of power and performance over a regular mid-size SUV.
Designed at GM's studio in Coventry, England, the GMC Graphyte Concept resembles the progeny of an Audi and an Isuzu Axiom. A large metal-framed grille presents GMC's giant red logo front and center, flanked by lighting elements that instantly recall the Chrysler 300 and which also swivel side-to-side as well as up-and-down. The Graphyte's wheelwells bulge tastefully, and the greenhouse is squared off with a triangular D-pillar reminiscent of the deceased Isuzu.
A Vortec 5300, 5.3-liter V8 engine sits under the hood, equipped with Displacement on Demand cylinder deactivation technology. It's connected to the two-mode full hybrid system that is scheduled to debut in the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon. In its first mode, the hybrid system combines engine and electric power for low-speed, stop-and-go driving, while the second mode operates at higher vehicle speeds.
Though it looks like a crossover SUV, the GMC Graphyte Concept possesses rugged ladder-frame construction, with an independent air suspension that allows the ride height to be adjusted by 4.7 inches for either increased ground clearance or road-hugging stability and aerodynamics. The concept vehicle is equipped with giant 22-inch wheels wearing Goodyear all-terrain tires, which reinforce the notion that the Graphyte is a real SUV designed for real off-roading. Huge vented and cross-drilled brake discs are mounted at each corner.
Inside, twin skylights running the length of the GMC Graphyte's roof, divided by an overhead console, illuminate the cabin. Mokanto wood veneer, polished aluminum trim, and leather are the primary design materials for the cabin, which also offers impressive utility. The rear seat, which slides fore and aft for comfort or cargo, includes three seatbacks that fold independently of one another for maximum flexibility. The clamshell tailgate can open from either side or fold down like a pickup truck to ease cargo loading.
Interesting interior features include a control panel for the transmission, which is push-button even though it looks more like a regular sliding gear selector mounted to the center console. The hybrid powertrain's operational details are displayed on a centrally mounted screen, which also displays functions for onboard info-tainment features. Next-generation OnStar telematics offers English, French and Spanish interaction, and the GMC Graphyte concept also includes Advanced Automatic Crash Notification (AACN), which communicates critical crash information to OnStar advisors after an accident, so that emergency responders know before arriving at the scene what to expect.
We wouldn't take a bet that GM will produce the GMC Graphyte, but the technology is coming to showrooms and this concept vehicle could point in the direction that the next generation Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon will take, stylistically. Regardless, it's a great showcase of GM's dedication to developing real world, no-compromises hybrid powertrains.
By Christian J. Wardlaw
Honda Civic Si
At the 2005 Chicago Auto Show, Honda made it clear that it still wants its slice of the sport-compact pie by unveiling the Civic Si Concept, a barely disguised version of what will appear in showrooms for 2006. It also announced that the production model would debut at the 2005 Specialty Equipment Marketers Association (SEMA) trade show in Las Vegas this fall, and that Honda is SEMA's official vehicle manufacturer for the show - which means scores of modified new 2006 Civics adorned with scantily clad women will litter the desert floor come November.
In the meantime, the Honda Civic Si Concept not only signals a return of America's favorite compact car to favor among aftermarketers, but it foreshadows the entire redesigned 2006 Honda Civic lineup, which includes coupes and sedans in various states of trim, the performance-oriented Si Coupe, the environmentally responsible Civic Hybrid sedan with updated Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) technology, and the natural-gas powered GX sedan.
John Mendel, Senior Vice President, Automobile Operations for American Honda, promised, "The new Civic will be the safest car in its class, bar none." Standard equipment on every 2006 Civic will include antilock brakes, side-impact airbags, and side-curtain airbags. More details on the redesigned 2006 Honda Civic lineup will be available at a later date.
To whet appetites, we have the Honda Civic Si Concept to ponder. It's been 20 years since the first Honda Civic Si arrived in the U.S. for the 1984 model year, and Honda says that the 2006 Civic Si will be the fastest and most powerful production Civic ever. A 200-horsepower, 16-valve, dual-overhead cam, inline four-cylinder engine with an 8,000 rpm redline boasts the latest generation of i-VTEC technology to produce optimum power, optimum efficiency, and optimum levels of emissions.
A close-ratio six-speed manual transmission delivers power to the front wheels, and the engine breathes through a sport-tuned exhaust system that sounds terrific. Honda recorded a production Civic Si making a run through the gears and played it for the assembled press. It sounded more powerful, and more exotic, than a four-cylinder ought to. Keeping that power flowing to the ground is a standard helical-type limited slip front differential. Large 18-inch alloy wheels wearing 225/40 performance tires filled the wheel wells on the Honda Civic Si Concept, fronting four-wheel-disc brakes with cross-drilled rotors and Brembo four-piston calipers. But these rotors and calipers are just for show, like the glossy black-painted hood, giant rear decklid wing, and the air diffuser with center-mounted exhaust mounted under the back bumper.
What will translate to showrooms is the Honda Civic Si Concept's swept roofline and ultra-fast windshield rake, which present a gentle arc that stretches from front to rear. There's plenty of Acura in the Civic Si Concept's face, which results in a more aggressive appearance, but the flanks are plain despite better elegance and flow than a Scion tC. Don't expect the full aero kit on the Honda Civic Si Concept to be standard when the car goes on sale early in 2006.
Mendel called the Honda Civic Si concept, "Fast, fun, and full of what makes a Civic, a Civic." Let's hope Honda was smart enough to get the car programmed for inclusion in the next iteration of every driving enthusiast's favorite video game, Gran Turismo 4.
By Christian J. Wardlaw
In other words, it's Korea's idea of a Chrysler Pacifica, Ford Freestyle, or even the upcoming Mazda 5. But once you've weeded through the marketing hype and have looked past an exterior design that resembles an angry sea mammal, the key attributes of the Hyundai Portico Concept are notable. For example, it's wide enough that six people can comfortably fit in two rows of staggered seating, leaving a huge cargo area behind the second-row of seats. Here's another cool feature: there's no B-pillar, so the suicide doors open wide to create a huge portal through which to enter and exit. Want another one? An available hybrid drive system includes electric motors front and rear, effectively creating a slick all-wheel-drive system. Finally, the Hyundai Portico Concept includes a glass panoramic roof that can be darkened on bright sunny days. Otherwise, the Hyundai Portico Concept is fairly conventional, with an aluminum V6 engine equipped with variable valve timing, a six-speed Shiftronic transmission, a rear seat DVD entertainment system, and a navigation system.
We'd guess that the Hyundai Portico Concept is mostly pure fancy, with certain elements ultimately bound for production. And since Hyundai has a new seven-passenger Santa Fe SUV and a new minivan debuting this year, we'll be able to see sooner rather than later if the design and technology showcased inside the Portico Concept becomes a reality.
By Christian Wardlaw
That's a quote from Mark Igo, Vice President and General Manager of the Infiniti Division of Nissan North America, when he presented the Infiniti Kuraza luxury utility concept at the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Igo stated that the Kuraza is a design study in luxury that is focused more on the use of space rather than the utility of space. That theme of comfort versus utility is readily apparent after a few minutes of viewing the Infiniti Kuraza. While the interior provides seating for six (three rows of dual buckets), each passenger is afforded a great deal of personal space. That results in very little room for cargo behind the third row seats. And while all seats feature power adjustment, the one-piece center console that runs continuously between all three rows prevents any true interior versatility. But, again, versatility and utility are not goals of the Infiniti Kuraza concept. Indeed, the Infiniti Kuraza is simply a passenger vehicle. Words and phrases used by Infiniti representatives during the Kuraza's debut included "strong," "vibrant," "rewarding," "offering a highly social space that provides panoramic views." One of the goals of the design was to exhibit gracefulness and serenity, which reflects the Japanese culture from which it was born. Needless to say, there were plenty of poetic terms used in reference to the Infiniti Kuraza.
Helping to form the Infiniti Kuraza's attractive silhouette are glass roof panels, flush suicide style rear doors, and brushed aluminum that outlines the grille and roof. The fluid lines of the body and glass indeed say elegance, but the mammoth 23-inch tires make "graceful" a tough sell. However, with wood trim located on the dash, on the floors, and scattered throughout the cabin, and supple leather covering nearly everything else, the interior can accurately be called serene and rewarding.
It seems odd for an automaker to experiment with a utility-less utility vehicle. But, given the fact that most luxury suv owners do little more with their vehicles than transport themselves and friends, the Infiniti Kuraza's "let's cut to the chase" approach may be one of the more sensible concepts to hit this year's Detroit Auto Show.
By Thom Blackett
Jaguar Advanced Lightweight Coupe
Nonetheless, we'd better get used to it, because the 2007 Jaguar XK8 is probably going to look plenty like the Advanced Lightweight Coupe Concept. The car is based upon the Jaguar XJ's lightweight aluminum body structure, which explains the somewhat long wheelbase. Seating for four is offered in bucket seats front and rear, and a hatchback design makes loading luggage into the generous trunk easier.
Inside, the design theme is "clean, simple, and straightforward." Again, we'd suggest that those three words should never describe a Jaguar. Jags are supposed to feel like a wealthy gentleman's club from the driver's seat, and that means plenty of wood and leather trim. The Advanced Lightweight Coupe Concept offers plenty of the latter, but none of the former, because aluminum panels have taken its place for a colder, more modern appearance. An Alpine telematics system dominates the center of the dashboard, furthering the impression that this isn't your traditional Jaguar.
Hardware includes a supercharged 4.2-liter V8 engine that can get the relatively scrawny Advanced Lightweight Coupe Concept to 60 mph in less than five seconds on the way to a top speed cresting 180 mph. The car rides on 21-inch wheels with special Pirelli tires, and includes the latest version of Jaguar's Computer Active Technology Suspension. Adaptive cruise control and the company's Active Restraint Technology System are also included in the Advanced Lightweight Coupe Concept.
Design isn't Jaguar's problem today. Rather, durability and resale issues are to blame for sales losses. Nobody who spends the kind of coin that a Jag commands wants to know the local dealership service advisor on a first name basis, wishes to be stranded at the side of the road due to a mystery malady, is thrilled to learn that Hertz has a large fleet of Jags on hand for luxury rentals, or wants to watch a sizable portion of the purchase price evaporate with weeks of taking delivery. When it comes to luxury cars, most people expect to get what they paid for, and nothing less. If Jaguars lose their garish and exaggerated design vocabulary, the automotive landscape will definitely become less zesty.
By Christian J. Wardlaw
Then there are the dual 5.7-liter Hemis, front and back - both emiting power in the realm of 335 horsepower and 370 lb.ft.. of torque, that will gofrom0-60 in less than 5 seconds. Both HEMI engines offer Multi-Displacement -meaning the engines only use the necessary power. That power is delivered through a central transfer case and split axles with a mechanically controlled four-wheel torque distribution system. The front and rear suspension is short/long arm independent with 20 inches of suspension travel, controlled by coilover shocks with remote reservoirs.
The creature has an approach/departure angle of 64.0 and 86.7 degrees -close to vertical - and the Hurricane can even travel sideways. "In the last two years, we've though of something totally extreme," said Trevor Creed, Trevor Creed, senior vice president - Chrysler Group Design. "Now it's Jeep's turn." Talk about extreme…Bring that Hummer over here, boy. According to Creed, the Hurricane is full function and built for extreme off-roaders. It's less a car than an amazing mechanical beast, a creature from the deep recesses of a Jeep engineer's dream. Wake up. The scary thing, according to Chrysler executives, is that they could build it for sale - the two-engine design could be modified into a one-engine package. As for the rest, it seems unlikely that a Hurricane will crab-walk down your street anytime in the next 50years. But then again, they also said hybrids were just a dream..
By Brian Chee
Sounds like a winner. But looking at a Wrangler as a lifestyle pickup sure will take a little getting used to, should Chrysler decide to build it.
By Brian Chee
The Mesa features body-on-frame construction, a fully-boxed frame, full-time four-wheel-drive with low range, and a limited slip differential. In concept form, power is provided by the Sorento's 3.5-liter V6 and is controlled by a five-speed automatic transmission. However, the Kia Mesa has been designed to accept a wide range of future engines. Downhill Assist Control and Hill-Start Assist Control have been added to afford drivers more vehicle control. A large horizontal searchlight mounted above the windshield offers extra illumination for those nighttime camping sessions. Other handy features include power retractable running boards and a trailer hitch that is hidden behind a power footstep.
Accented by huge 22-inch alloy wheels, the Kia Mesa features a clean shape that is enhanced by muscular wheel flares. The large chrome grille makes a powerful statement, and the wrap-around glass is meant to mimic a turret. The Kia Mesa's design conjures up a sense of understated power.
While the exterior may draw praise, it's the interior that passengers will be affected by most, and Kia designers have addressed that area, as well. Each of the six passengers is treated to a bucket seat; a central center console separates the seats in each row. Overhead dual glass panels allow plenty of light to enter and give a feeling of spaciousness. Brushed metal is located on the instrument panel and doors, while the seats are wrapped in leather. Bluetooth connectivity allows passengers to stay in touch, while side curtain and knee airbags help to keep them safe.
Despite its concept status, the Kia Mesa makes a bold statement about what the company is capable of, and given the dealers' craving for a large SUV to sell, chances are this is one concept that will eventually make it to production.
By Thom Blackett
This meant the future for mainstream luxury vehicles. The thing that the rest will follow, envy and stare at as it goes by. And if the design and power of the Lexus LF-A delivers on such high expectations, it will be no surprise, as the concept is a beautifully- Japanese rendering of luxury sports car, the kind that, looks different from every possible direction, a car that looks brutishly masculine and softly feminine at the same time. "What I say is.. .wow," said Jim Press, Toyota Motor Sales executive vice president and COO. . And while Press is of course enamored with his offering, it would not be a stretch to claim a similar for most who see the LF-A. Built 5-inchesshorter than the Porsche911 but on a wheelbase that is 9-inches longer, is identical to the Ferrari F430, and is close to the Mercedes-Benz SL55andthe Aston Martin DB9. It features an engine capable of developing more than 500 horsepower, the Lexus LF-A concept is engineered to take advantage of gearing, weight and aerodynamics. Lexus executives say that the LF-A concept could produce a top speed of 200 miles per hour.
Best of all, it may yet be driven. Lexus claims that that the LF-A could, indeed, become their first super car. The Lexus LF-A is also meant to showcase the direction of Lexus design into the future. But then again, no one really knew how far Lexus would go 15 years ago, except those smug lads who keep building excellent cars.
By Brian Chee
Debuting at the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit was the MX-Crossport, a four-passenger SUV concept that demonstrates Mazda's desire to inject more of its zoom-zoom DNA into the SUV segment. Designed in Japan with a focus on the North American market, the MX-Crossport takes it's styling cues from the RX-8. One of the goals of the MX-Crossport exercise was to create a vehicle that offers both sport and utility, but is not the traditional SUV. The MX-Crossport offers sport and utility, but more importantly, it's engineered with a true driving enthusiast in mind.
From a styling perspective, the Mazda MX-Crossport is a handsome design with fluid bodylines and subtle, yet well-sculpted wheel flares. While the look is attractive and clean, the MX-Crossport comes up a bit short in distinguishing itself from the numerous SUV concepts from Mazda's competitors. What is special is the glass roof, with a unique feature that allows for its transformation from a clear to a translucent panel to control the amount of light entering the cabin. Stylish 20-inch polished alloy wheels are wrapped in 275/45 tires.
Inside, four-bucket seats are covered in leather and include integrated seatbelts. Brushed aluminum trim is used throughout the passenger compartment for a high-tech look. Rear bucket seats fold, resulting in a flat load floor that sits below a power cargo cover. Mazda's Three Panel Display system, which features a collection of monitors that offer information such as vehicle diagnostics, Internet functions, and views of the road from integrated cameras, is also included. Though the Mazda MX-Crossport is not earmarked for production, company officials claim they are committed to offering compelling new products, and a derivative of the MX-Crossport is a definite possibility.
By Thom Blackett
Mercedes-Benz Compact Sports Tourer Vision B
Looking much like its bigger Grand Sports Tourer Vision R sibling, the Vision B concept measures in at 168 inches long, making it roughly ten inches shorter than the current C-Class sedan. In addition to the similar profiles, both the Vision concepts also use an ALU-BEAM paint process, which coats the car in a silver paint that looks more like aluminum.
Unlike the potent, V8-powered Grand Sports Tourer Vision R, however, the Mercedes-Benz Sports Tourer Vision B's front wheels are powered by a transversely-mounted, four-cylinder diesel engine, though its platform has been designed to handle a variety of powerplants. The engine and transmission have been mounted at a 60-degree angle, the purpose of which is to allow the entire powertrain to crush under the car in the event of a serious frontal impact, rather than intruding on the passenger cabin. Other safety features include adaptive front airbags, as well as head-thorax side airbags.
Inside, the design is typical Mercedes-Benz, including generous use of aluminum trim and a sporty new interior fabric that Mercedes claims lends an "airy lightness" to the Vision B's interior. Bucket seats accommodate front seat passengers, while a 66/33 split folding seat is standard in the rear. With that seat in its upright position, cargo capacity comes in at 15 cubic feet; with the rear seat folded, cargo capacity crests at 48 cubic feet.
According to Mercedes-Benz officials, this compact sport tourer will be available in Europe this year, but no final decision has been made on whether it will be offered here in the U.S. We're betting it will be.
By Thom Blackett
Debuting at the 2005 North American International Auto Show was the Nissan AZEAL Concept car. The AZEAL is a car that, according to Nissan's Vice President of Design, Bruce Campbell, is a design study in blending desirability with affordability. The idea isn't new, but plenty of time has passed since it's been tossed around at Nissan. Consider the original 240 Z , for example. In its day, that car was both affordable and highly desirable. Now, consider the 2005 Nissan 350Z. While that car may be highly desirable, it being affordable is debatable. Yet, as Campbell puts it, the AZEAL has been designed as an entry-level vehicle while still offering the appealing design, powerful stance, and tailored functionality that has been bestowed upon its costlier relatives, such as the Nissan 350Z and the Infiniti G35.
In particular, the Nissan AZEAL concept car features a six-speed manual transmission and a limited slip differential that control the power of a turbo-charged, four-cylinder engine. Inside, bucket seats (rear are split folding with a pass-through) are wrapped in two-tone Wasabi Charteuse fabric, and the sky can be seen through dual overhead panels like that found in the Nissan Maxima. Other touches include generous use of brushed aluminum trim, 19-inch alloy wheels, racing food pedals, front foglights, rear diffuser and airfoil, and dual exhaust. Rounding off the list are signaling exterior mirrors and a navigation system.
Though the Nissan AZEAL is billed as a concept, Nissan officials admit they will be offering a new small vehicle for 2006, one of a slew of new or redesigned vehicles the company will be launching over the next 18 months. Design VP Campbell suggests that the AZEAL would fit into Nissan's lineup quite well, but again, it's just a concept.
Given the recent success of the Scion tC (the AZEAL closely resembles the tC, but looks more like a smaller Infiniti G35 coupe) and Nissan's desire to give customers the most bang for their buck, we're hoping this concept becomes a reality.
By Thom Blackett
Opel Astra Diesel Hybrid
Not only is a solution necessary now, but also it must be scalable. In other words, the technology must be flexible to enough to work with big vehicles and small, gasoline and diesel internal combustion engines, and in a variety of world markets. Scalable technology becomes affordable technology, and unless the new GM/DC collaboration called the two-mode full hybrid system is affordable, few consumers will accept it or, most importantly, buy it.
First developed for vehicles that consume the most fuel and spew the most pollution into the air such as diesel-powered buses, the two-mode full hybrid system is scalable enough to be used in everything from midsize suvs to small cars, is compatible with both diesel and gasoline engines, and can be paired with front-, rear- or all-wheel drive, as GM demonstrated at the 2005 North American International Auto Show.
To prove that the two-mode full hybrid system was viable for small cars, GM displayed an Opel Astra GTC Coupe in Detroit, equipped with a 125-horsepower, 1.7-liter CDTI diesel engine mated to twin electric motors, one generating 30kw of power and the other 40kw. The Opel Astra GTC Coupe is sold in Europe, and not in North America.
In terms of packaging, the two-mode full hybrid system does not compromise comfort or utility, according to GM. In the Opel Astra Diesel Hybrid Concept, the nickel metal-hydride battery pack is located in the spare tire well to ensure cargo carrying capacity, and since the hybrid system is no larger than a transmission, it was easy to package under the car with the rest of the mechanicals.
Able to run solely on electric power, the Opel Astra Diesel Hybrid Concept will nonetheless accelerate to 60 mph in little more than 7.5 seconds when working in conjunction with the diesel engine, proving yet again that performance and economy are not mutually exclusive concepts when it comes to hybrid vehicles.
Compared to production Astra diesels, the Astra Diesel Hybrid Concept is 25 percent more fuel-efficient. Not only does this make the car less expensive to operate, but it also cuts down on carbon-dioxide emissions per mile traveled, making it cleaner that a regular diesel vehicle. Changes between a production Astra GTC and this Diesel Hybrid Concept are few. The gauge cluster displays information about the hybrid system, the spare tire well is stuffed full of battery packs, and a special badge on the outside identifies the car as a hybrid.
Based on information supplied to the press in Detroit, it would appear that General Motors is well on its way to resolving problems associated with fuel consumption, fuel economy, and powertrain emissions. The two-mode full hybrid system is slated to debut on the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon, with other vehicles receiving the technology thereafter.
By Christian J. Wardlaw
Designed by BMW's DesignWorks USA in Southern California, the Rolls-Royce 100EX employs a nautical theme that will unlikely make production. Nobody wants to care for bleached teak wood decking, which is liberally used inside and out on the 100EX. Then again, if you're buying a Roller, chances are that caring for it is someone else's job. What could make a transition to production are the mahogany wood trim covering the dash, the rich Dark Curzon leather upholstery, the polished aluminum trim, and the machined aluminum windshield frame and A-pillars. A true four-seater, the Rolls-Royce 100EX is equipped with rear hinged coach doors that allow access to the rear seat.
Despite being shorter and lower than the Phantom sedan by 6.5 inches and 3 inches respectively, the Rolls-Royce 100EX is designed to "build on the Rolls-Royce tradition of 'waftability,' the sense that the 100EX can whisk its passengers swiftly to maximum speed in a truly relaxed manner," according to Exterior Designer, Marek Djordjevic. Fronting the 100EX's composite body is a more rakish version of the traditional Rolls-Royce grille, topped by a Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament.
Under the hood, which is lined on the inside with a blended wool and cashmere fabric, resides a massive 9.0-liter V16 engine that drives power to the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Talk about 'waftability.' The production car will get a 6.75-liter V12 motor instead.Giant 21-inch wheels wear P255/50 tires in front and P285/45 tires in the back. The Rolls-Royce 100EX's convertible top is tailored from an advanced material incorporating woven wire strands for strength and all-weather protection. At the rear, boat-tail design continues the nautical theme, and the trunk lid splits to provide a drop-down tailgate lined with more bleached teak wood - perfect for an idyllic countryside picnic.
Beverly Hills is the biggest market for Rolls-Royce, which makes construction of a convertible a no-brainer. Pricing was not announced, but dealers are already taking deposits, so if you've about half a mil burning a hole in your pocket, get on the Gulfstream and get to one of Rolls-Royce's 68 global dealerships, pronto.
By Christian J. Wardlaw
Of the two vehicles unveiled, the Saturn AURA will be the volume seller (or at least Saturn officials hope so). With this midsize sedan based on the same Epsilon platform that carries the Chevrolet Malibu and Pontiac G6, the goal is present a "contemporary and upscale image", according to GM designers. Those same designers pointed to the strong headlights (think Chevy Malibu/Cobalt), and styling that was characterized as fluid…and muscular…and powerful. What that boils down to is a Saturn model that looks more substantial than those we've seen in the past, complete with a bigger body, steel body panels rather than the plastic usually inherent of Saturn vehicles, fender flares, and in the case of the concept car, big chrome wheels. The look is accented by a large chrome grille, a retractable sunroof as seen on the Pontiac G6, and small hood ducts. Like its cousins, the Saturn AURA has a relatively long wheelbase, and GM's Vice President of Design, Ed Welburn, suggested that it was this trait that allows the AURA to carry such attractive body proportions. On the inside, deeply bolstered leather seats will accommodate four or five adults, and upscale touches are found throughout the cabin. According Welburn, the AURA "clearly indicates the dynamic design language for Saturn."
Like its cousin, the Pontiac G6, the design of the Saturn AURA will likely be met with a fair amount of success. However, unlike the Pontiac G6, Saturn officials have no plans of building a coupe or convertible version any time soon (the convertible slot will be filled by Saturn's other unveiling in Detroit, the Saturn SKY concept). Although the Saturn AURA was introduced as a concept, company representatives suggest the AURA will see production within the next year or so.
By Thom Blackett
While the number of product offerings has (very) slowly grown to three over the past several years, little has been done to draw any significant attention to the newest of GM's divisions. But the SKY two-seater convertible and the AURA sedan indicate somebody's been stoking the fire at GM. In fact, Saturn will double its portfolio to six vehicles over the next few years, while also updating its existing models. That may not sound like a lot, but for a brand that has been withering on the vine for years, it's big and welcome news. As noted by Gary Cowger, President of GM North America, there is now an emphasis on retaining the positive buying experience that Saturn customers have enjoyed, while extending the range of products from which those shoppers (and others) can choose.
Of the two vehicles unveiled in Detroit (the other being the Saturn AURA sedan), the Saturn SKY concept garnered much more attention. Sharing its front engine/rear-wheel-drive architecture with the Pontiac Solstice concept car, this two-seater might be the last thing most people would expect from the folks who brought us the L-Series. And, in a way, it's not. According to GM, seven of GM's eleven worldwide design studios have had their hands in Saturn's new look. What those collective minds have come up with is a sleek, well-proportioned roadster. The goal, say GM officials, is to put a face on Saturn that presents a "contemporary and upscale image". Inside, leather seats sit low in a cockpit that closely resembles that of the Honda S2000, which along with the Mazda Miata LS and the Toyota MR2, served as a reference for the SKY's designers. The Saturn SKY also comes equipped with a manual soft top, a clamshell hood, 18-inch polished alloy wheels wearing Goodyear Eagle tires, and piano lacquer inserts.
Propelling this fine looking ride is a 2.4-liter, 170-horsepower four-cylinder under the hood that's responsible for carrying around 2,860 pounds of curb weight. Torque is rated at 162 lb.-ft, and power is managed by either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. Short and long arm suspension in front and back controls the ride and braking is courtesy of a four-wheel, anti lock setup.
Available starting in the first half of 2006, the Saturn SKY will be built at the Wilmington, Delaware plant. Expect pricing to start in the low 20's, with an anticipated volume of 10-12,000 units per year.
By Thom Blackett
Hands down, the best thing about the Scion t2B concept is the door system it's a three-door car without a hatch. On the driver's side, there are suicide doors, while passengers get a sliding power door, similar to that of a mini-minivan. It leaves one wondering - why not? - and thinking about how many small, very cool crossovers Scion would sell if it offered this - and other amazing t2B functions - in the real world.
Scion's t2B concept is a "pure" concept, meaning that it is not intended for production. Chances are, however, that the t2B foreshadows the next Scion vehicle. Scion doesn't really need to develop concepts for creative fun, after all - the cars they build are fun enough for even the wildest vehicle engineer. It's likely, then, that some elements of the Scion t2B concept may wind up steering the development of a new car for Scion. Scion's t2B is powered by a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that's controlled by a four-speed automatic transmission. It is equipped with 14-inch brakes and 20-inch billet wheels. This is where the concept gets cool: The exterior is part Brinks truck, Scion xB and Honda Element - with major improvemen1ts, such as a bay window in the back. The t2B comes equipped with high-intensity discharge headlamps, a projector inside the car, and unique, soft storage compartments. Hands down, the best thing about the Scion t2B concept is the door - it's a three-door car without a hatch. On the driver's side, there are suicide doors, while passengers get a sliding power door, similar to that of a mini-minivan. It leaves one wondering - why not? - and thinking about how many small, very cool crossovers Scion would sell if it offered this - and other amazing t2B functions - in the real world.
By Brian Chee
What the research apparently didn't discuss was styling, but Suzuki hasn't ignored that issue. Like many of its competitors' SUV concepts, fluid bodylines, bulging fender flares, and wraparound lighting elements characterize the Suzuki Concept-X. Twenty-inch alloy wheels accent the design. The Concept-X also features power-retractable running boards and suicide doors, features that were also seen on concepts from Infinti (Kuraza) and Kia (Mesa).
Suzuki is moving itself forward with this attractive concept, laden with desirable safety and "infotainment" features. However, the Suzuki Concept-X, as good as it is, does little to distinguish itself from pack of midsize SUV concepts on the auto show floor.
By Thom Blackett
Now they're at it again, with the unveiling Monday of the Toyota FT-SX Concept, a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time concept vehicle that trumpets Toyota's intention to build cars that appeal to the baby boomer generation. The FT-SX, while strictly a concept, is a strong indication of what's to come from the automaker that seems to always have the market momentum.
"Yes, we could build it," said Jim Press, Toyota Motor Sales executive vice president and COO. "You start with a concept, but it's very realistic that it would be built." Press went on to say that there is a system in place to determine the validity of a concept, but that the FT-SX is the result of a market shift that Toyota sees - that being the demand from older buyers for vehicles that have the SUV feel and sedan-like performance.
A crossover. Yes - but more car than SUV in the classic definition of what a crossover should be. Left unsaid is the potentially subtle upscaling of the Toyota brand, should they build it.
Don't bet against it. It's clear that Toyota intends to make cars for this growing and influential market - and that they think a crossover would do the job quite nicely. If it were on the market today, the FT-SX would probably be quite successful, judging from sales of the Scion xB to boomers, and because it theoretically offers the perfect solution to buyers who don't have the requirement of space but want it, and who want more sportiness but can live without a roadster or small performance sedan.
The FT-SX answers the call with a bold exterior design that is futuristic in its application of lighting and doors yet also carries strong current-day Toyota design cues. Designers from Calty, Toyota's California design center, call the design a future look at Toyota, especially when it comes to the front of the vehicle. Named the "T-Face" by designers, the front design integrates the headlamps and grille with a sculpted hood and lines that move all the way from front to back. Though the FT-SX sits tall, it has a strong coupe feel, except for the back, which hints strongly at its SUV character. In back, the hatch opens three different ways - upper glass goes up, lower hatch goes down, and its glass roof operates two panels that slide toward the center, leaving ample loading space in back. As with most concepts, the interior is a combination of function and fantasy - with a stronger emphasis on fantasy. Features include a floating gauge cluster and what Toyota executives call a 60/60 design, which increases the personal living space of each passenger. The concept also features all-wheel drive and 21-inch tires.
Should they build it? Chances are good that a vehicle similar to the FT-SX will be built, and chances are good that it will be a hybrid. Just like that gathering storm, Toyota keeps coming, and this time they've laid a course for the heart of the baby boomer generation.
By Brian Chee
Started with the existing New Beetle convertible, designers also added a U-shaped roof structure that surrounds the ragtop. With side windows that fully retract, the Ragster offers an airy alternative to the more traditional convertible. While enjoying that open-air feeling, passengers are comforted by bucket seats clad in leather.
Volkswagen engineers have left the door wide open with regard to the Ragster's powertrain, with visions of either a potent gas or turbodiesel engine generating forward momentum. Regardless of engine choice, the Volkswagen Ragster is ready with its Brembo brakes.
No decision has been made on Ragster production, but there's no doubt that this fresh, muscular ragtop could breath some new life into this aging icon.
By Thom Blackett
Volvo 3CC Concept
PremAir is offered on Volvos today. The technology removes the ozone from the air sucked into the radiator, making select Volvo models four-wheeled pollution vacuums. (Everyone in Houston and Los Angeles should be required to own one of these Volvos, eh?) PZEV engines meet partial zero emission vehicle standards in California and New England, and are among the cleanest-burning vehicles of any kind regardless of their requirement for gasoline. Hybrid powertrains are not yet provided in a Volvo, but parent company Ford has a doozy of a system in the award-winning Escape Hybrid. Bio-fuels are not readily available for consumption today, but with infrastructure bio-gas could be a viable source of energy.
To demonstrate the company's commitment to clean vehicles, Volvo entered the forward-thinking 3CC into a contest at the 7th Annual Michelin Challenge Bibendum, where the environmental tour-de-force won "Best Design" laurels. The Michelin Challenge Bibendum pits alternative-fuel concept vehicles against one another in a yearly competition that challenges automakers to find better, greener ways of doing business. Following its win, the Volvo 3CC Concept was unveiled to the public at the 2005 North American International Auto Show.
This radical, diminutive three-seater, powered by 3,000 lithium-ion cells like those in a laptop computer, can accelerate to 60 mph in 10 seconds while emitting zero emissions, according to Volvo. It will travel 180 miles on a single charge, and can cruise at speeds as high as 85 mph. Unique engine housing construction allows the Volvo 3CC to conform to a wide variety of propulsion systems, giving it the flexibility to meet ever-changing power source requirements whether they call for gasoline, diesel, hybrid, electric, or bio-fuel motors.
But what about safety, that Volvo hallmark and iconic characteristic of the brand? Volvo's Lars Erik Lundin agrees "crash safety is a real challenge in a small, lightweight car." To resolve this problem, engineers have designed the instrument panel, steering column, and seating in the Volvo 3CC to move forward as far as eight inches in an accident. This movement effectively serves as a shock absorber for the 3CC's occupants while simultaneously extending the car's crash zone by the same distance.
A production car like the Volvo 3CC Concept is years away, but in the meantime, Volvo is planning to launch a new model that is similar to it in some ways. The 2007 Volvo C30, which is scheduled to arrive in late 2006, is a new small hatchback that measures eight inches shorter than the S40 sedan. According to Volvo, the C30's shape is inspired both by the 3CC Concept and the SCC Concept of 2001.
A brief slide show that revealed glimpses of the Volvo C30's bodywork confirmed a three-door hatchback design in the idiom of the MINI Cooper, but flavored with distinct Volvo P100 overtones. The Volvo P100 is a low-slung and sporty two-door wagon from the 1960s, and among the Volvo faithful is a design icon of the brand. Other cues that we discerned include Volvo's now trademark bulging hood, exaggerated front fenders, strong shoulders at the bottom of the greenhouse, and triangular taillights shaped like those on current Volvo sedans. The windows and roofline taper to the rear, where it appears that the hatch includes a glass panel that wraps into the roof.
With European hatchbacks arriving in the United States from several major manufacturers, it makes sense to develop the 2007 Volvo C30. Particularly given Volvo's environmental goals.
By Christian J. Wardlaw