IRVINE, CA --- There was rain in the air and change on the ground Wednesday during the opening of the California Auto Show, enough rain to make automakers wonder if Orange County really is paradise, as claimed by Volvo North America President and CEO Vic Doolan, and enough change on the ground to keep car buyers happy – and nationwide auto sales clipping along at a nice steady rate. Just how they plan to do that changed with the nameplate, however, as there was little common direction, except perhaps for a large wink and nudge to the upcoming SEMA Auto Show in Las Vegas. Automakers look at SEMA’s show, otherwise known as the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association annual business-to-business love-in, as an opportunity to present more stylistic and exciting vehicles to the auto buying public. With aftermarket customization becoming a larger part of automaker plans, many of the vehicles displayed at the California Auto Show were either built to illustrate this versatility or plans were announced to do the same. Hummer announced plans to start building performance vehicles under the moniker Alpha – and introduced the Alpha H1. No word on when the H2 will hit the streets. Pontiac unveiled the anticipated Grand Prix GXP and the 240 horsepower Pontiac G6 GTP. Kia, long excited about the potential of SEMA and custom vehicles, showed off two of the vehicles destined for next week’s show in Vegas, the Spectra LD and performance Spectra5.
The biggest moment of the day, however, came from Chrysler – and though it may not have been the most important news, Chrysler debuted the SRT8 to a crowd of journalists the way any HEMI-powered vehicle ought to be shown – at a drive-in burger shack surrounded by historic HEMI predecessors. The vehicles were classics, owned by individuals and driven to the Show from as far away as Texas. The effort underlined Chrysler’s commitment to performance and to utilizing its heritage in today’s products, in what has become a bit of an open field for SRT – fewer competitors and more vehicles, possibly, on the way.
Ford also paid homage to performance, by helping Steve Saleen introduce the 2005 Saleen Mustang, and by showing off the hot Shelby GR-1concept vehicle. As one Ford executive put it, after discussing Mustang plans in Las Vegas: “there will be thousands of cars there. And no two cars will be the same.”
But this was the California Auto Show, in Orange County, and there are many cars that look the same here, especially the large and boxy kind. This, after all, is the place where SUVs roam -- and if they weren’t talking about performance, many automakers were keen to prattle on about their new sport utility vehicles. Notably, the new Hummer H3 was introduced, as well as a more powerful Volvo XC90, a new Kia Sportage, as well as plans to build the Pontiac version of the Chevrolet Equinox, the Torrent. The Torrent is due for introduction next year. Other introductions included the Jaguar X-Type wagon and the Infiniti M. Mark Igo, Infiniti general manager and vice president, announced plans to introduce the M35 and an M45 at the 2005 North American International Auto Show. The M45 will boast the same 4.5-liter V8 that’s shared with the Infiniti Q45 and FX45, and the M35 will be driven by the 3.5-liter V6 engine found in the G35 and FX35.
Possibly the biggest news for Infiniti was the “hopeful” emergence of hybrid power in the near future. According to Igo, Infiniti has been “looking at it for awhile, and it is something that can be offered at some point in the future. Don’t bet on it being too far into the future, as the debut of the RX 400h has given Lexus a full stride head start.
For more information about the vehicles introduced at this year’s California Auto Show, click on the article links at left.
Hummer H1 Alpha
Arriving in dealerships in early 2005, the H1 Alpha – the first of Hummer’s new performance series -- promises to deliver more of what Hummer H1 owners crave -- more power, more torque, more on- and off-road capability – and more of what they could only ever hope for, in improved fuel economy. This is thanks mainly to the inclusion of GM’s Duramax 6600 (6.6-liter) turbo-diesel engine, and an Allison 1000 five-speed automatic transmission. The Duramax 6600 delivers 300 horsepower at 3000 rpm, a 46 percent increase over previous H1s equipped with the 6.5-liter Optimizer Turbo-Diesel. Peak torque is 520 lb.-ft. at 1500 rpm, an increase of 18 percent. This increased power makes the H1’s off-road crawling and climbing ability even more effective, while on the road, Hummer engineers are hoping that the new powertrain provides smoother, quieter and more comfortable operation, with better acceleration. Zero-to-60 acceleration improves by a full three seconds to 13.5 seconds, respectable for a truck. Preliminary testing indicates that a revised fuel system has increased capacity of the H1’s two on-board tanks to 51.5 gallons, 9.5 gallons more than previous H1s. The increased tank capacity combines with the efficiency of the Duramax to raise cruising range from 400 miles to an estimated 570 miles between fill-ups. The Allison 1000 transmission – normally utilized in medium- and heavy-duty commercial trucks -- features a Tow/Haul mode that adjusts shift patterns for optimal performance when the vehicle is towing or carrying heavy loads. The Allison unit aids the H1 in severe maneuvers with features such as improved drive train braking and a crawl ratio of 45:1, an increase of 22 percent. As a result of the H1 Alpha’s drive train, towing capacity has increased. Gross Combined Weight Rating (the sum of vehicle, maximum cargo and towing capacities) increases 2,000 pounds, to 17,300 pounds.
In addition to the drive train, braking, interior and structural improvements have been made to the H1 Alpha, primarily to accommodate the increased size and power. For example the H1 Alpha sits two inches higher than the regular H1. The 2006 H1 Alpha will be offered in both Open Top and Wagon models. The Duramax 6600 replaces the previous 6.5-liter Optimizer Turbo-Diesel, which will continue on as the power plant for the military HUMVEE, the vehicle on which the H1 is based. All commercial H1s produced for the 2006 model year will be H1 Alpha models. H1s used for fleet sales will use the Optimizer engine.
In case you think the HEMI doesn't resonate with the driving public anymore, guess again: HEMI is as American as you can get, right along with hot dogs, pretty girls and hamburgers served up at a drive-in burger joint. That side of America still exists, believe it or not, and so does the HEMI -- alive and well, in fact, and living large in the Chrysler SRT8 (Street and Racing Team). A 300C by day, the SRT8 turns it into a re-bored 6.1-liter HEMI that looks almost as cool as it is fast. Think 425 horsepower, 420 lb. ft. of torque, raised compression ratios and really BIG brakes. The SRT8 will go 0-60 in the low 5s, and will do a quarter in the 14s -- and give you change back. Order yours with cheese and a real big smile.
Proving that the essence of Hummer isn’t in the size, consumption or price tag, General Motors unveiled the new Hummer H3 at the California Auto Show, a notable vehicle in that it is a kinder and friendlier Hummer: at the pump, in its size and from the perspective of the MSRP.It is, actually, the first mass appeal Hummer – and as such should meet with a fair measure of success. According to GM, the new H3 offers all its friendly benefits and keeps the “authentic” Hummer style and off-road capability. They’re hoping that the H3 does to the midsize SUV segment what the H2 did to larger SUVs --- make everything look just plain small. Available at dealers in spring 2005. Compared to the H2, the H3 is 16.9 inches shorter in length, 6 inches shorter in height and 6.5 inches narrower. It is approximately the same length as a midsize family sedan. Powered by the Vortec 3500 engine with dual overhead cams and variable valve timing, the H3 features a combination of power and greatly improved fuel economy, up to 20 miles per gallon, according to GM. The Vortec 3500 is a 3.5-liter inline five-cylinder and delivers 220 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 225 lb.-ft. of torque at 2800 rpm. The H3 will also be the first Hummer to offer the choice of a manual or an automatic transmission. The H3’s electronically-controlled off road system offers features such as a fully locking rear differential, traction control, underbody shielding and GM’s StabiliTrak vehicle stability enhancement system. H3 also offers two tire packages, a Goodyear 32-inch all-terrain tire and Bridgestone 33-inch, both larger than any other midsize SUV.
Other features of the H3 include significant interior improvements, such as heated leather seats, a large electric sliding sunroof, a DVD-based navigation radio and other customization accessories.
The Infiniti M, originally unveiled at last year’s New York International Auto Show, will be offered in five models: the M35 (V6 rear-wheel drive), M35x AWD (V6 all-wheel drive), M35 Sport (V6 rear-wheel drive with Rear Active Steer and 19-inch wheels and tires), M45 (V8 rear-wheel drive) and M45 Sport (V8 rear-wheel drive with Rear Active Steer and 19-inch wheels and tires). All are equipped with 5-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. Other standard features include leather-appointed seats, Intelligent Key with push button ignition, voice recognition, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, in-dash 6-disc changer with MP3 playback, revised Infiniti Vehicle Information System with 7-inch LCD screen and easy-to-use controls mounted on both the console and the steering wheel, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), 10-way power driver’s seat, power-sliding sunroof and Advanced Air Bag System (AABS). The M35 Sport and M45 Sport models offer standard 19-inch wheels and tires (18-inch wheels and tires are standard on non-Sport models), sport-tuned suspension with Rear Active Steer, xenon headlamps with advanced front lighting system, climate controlled sport front seats, premium steering wheel and aluminum interior trim accents.
The M45 features a 4.5-liter V8, shared with the Infiniti Q45 and FX45. It is rated at 340-horsepower and 333 lb-ft of torque. The M35 utilizes an advanced 3.5-liter V6 rated at 280 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. The V6 is part of the VQ engine series found in the G35 and FX35. Every Infiniti M utilizes the FM (Front Mid-ship) platform currently used on the G35 sedan, G35 coupe and FX crossover suv. According to Infiniti, approximately 60 percent of the platform design and components have been enhanced for use with the 2006 M. The FM platform positions the engine behind the front axle. This positioning results in an ideal front-to-rear weight balance, which factors in weight transfer during key handling maneuvers. The Infiniti M’s large diameter wheels and tires are positioned out near the corners of the vehicle, helping to further enhance handling and driving excitement. The M suspension is an independent double-wishbone design in front and multi-link independent system in the rear
Interior features for the 2006 Infiniti M include genuine Rosewood or aluminum trim, leather-appointed seats, a “Solar Eclipse” instrument lighting system and available climate controlled front seats, heated power reclining rear seats and advanced Bose® Studio Surround™ sound audio system with digital 5.1-channel decoding and 14 speakers including two personal speakers mounted in each front seat. The interior also offers several technology features, including the Infiniti Intelligent Key system with push button ignition. This system eliminates the need to take the key fob out of your pocket when locking, unlocking and starting the engine. Other features include standard Bluetooth wireless connectivity, available RearView Monitor, available Intelligent Cruise Control and available Infiniti DVD-based Navigation System with a new user interface featuring voice-activated destination entry as well as HVAC and audio control. The Infiniti M is also a showcase for Infiniti’s new Lane Departure Warning (LDW) system.
The system recognizes lane markings and calculates the lateral distance between the vehicle and the lane marking, along with vehicle speed relative to the marking, and generates an audible signal to warn the driver of a pending, unintended lane departure. Engagement of the turn signal turns off the system, which also features a driver defeat switch. The Infiniti LDW system is currently available in the 2005 Infiniti FX crossover SUV, the first production passenger vehicle in North America to feature LDW. Other safety features include dual-stage front supplemental air bags and roof-mounted side-impact curtain air bags, and available brake-operated pre-crash front seat belts, which tighten under emergency braking in anticipation of an evasive maneuver or crash.
Jaguar X-Type Wagon
Jaguar reminded everyone about its first-ever production wagon – the X-type Sportwagon – at the California Auto Show, a family-friendly cat based on the X-type sedan. Jaguar claims that the X-type wagon is new from the B-Pillars back, with 50 cubic feet of maximum volume, with 15.7 cubic feet for luggage. Split-folding rear seats allow one, two or all three-rear seat spaces to be allocated to luggage carrying, which makes it possible to carry either one or two rear-seat passengers even with the seatbacks partially folded. Other features of the X-type include the gas-filled struts to assist with tailgate opening and closing, and an open area at an 88-degree angle. There’s also a molded tray below the rear floor that contains two storage sections. This compartment has 12-volt output. Like the sedan, the X-type Sportwagon is engineered to deliver a quality ride that follow the Jaguar marquee. While most aspects of the Sportwagon’s performance are the same as the sedan’s, suspension and electronic control systems have been tuned to the Sportwagon’s specific criteria. The front suspension is a twin-tube MacPherson strut with a fabricated steel front cross-member and lower control arm. The 2004 X-type Sportwagon offers the same V6 powertrain as the sedan, paired with the Traction-4™ all-wheel-drive system.
Some would say that it took too long, while others – after seeing the remade Kia Sportage at the 2004 California Auto Show – would lay claim that the wait may well be worth it. Either way, two model years and miles of highway later, the Sportage is back, and Kia’s best-selling nameplate looks to continue where it left off. Priced at $17,000 and built around plentiful content and a more upscale design -- echoes of Kia’s new Spectra sedan and elements of Volvo’s XC90 are very noticeable – the Sportage is also larger than the previous version, with a longer wheelbase, wider track and more horsepower than its predecessor. The new Kia Sportage also places a heavy emphasis on safety, with features that include six airbags (two advanced front airbags, two front-seat-mounted side airbags, and two full-length side-curtain airbags); four-wheel disc brakes with antilock brake system (ABS); traction control system (TCS); and electronic stability program (ESP). The Sportage offers either front-wheel drive or full-time four-wheel drive -- both with traction control system (TCS) and electronic stability program (ESP) as standard equipment -- more headroom and legroom than many of its competitors, the choice of two engines, versatile seating, flat-floor cargo area and standard front, side and curtain airbags. The Sportage offers a rear ‘Drop & Fold’ seating system, which creates a flat surface that offers 66.6 cubic feet of cargo volume. To accommodate long items, the front passenger seat backrest also folds forward to create an additional flat cargo area. Like the Sorento, the Sportage’s top-hinged tailgate features a flip-up window for cargo-loading and -carrying versatility. The driver’s seat is equipped with dual-height adjustment, and electric heated seats are an option. With the rear seat folded, the length of the load area extends from 32 inches to more than 64 inches. Maximum cargo volume is 66.6 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat. The five-door Sportage offers a choice of two engines—2.0-liter in-line four-cylinder or 2.7-liter V6—two-wheel or four-wheel-drive powertrains, five-speed manual or four-speed Sportmatic™ transmissions, and LX or EX trim lines. All Sportage vehicles get 16-inch alloy wheels, and high profile tires. The 2.0-liter, 16-valve engine uses Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT). This engine generates 140-horsepower at 6,000 rpm 136 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm. For more power, the V6 engine is available, mated to a four-speed transmission. The 24-valve all-aluminum 2.7-liter engine generates 173-horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque.
The Sportage offers a fully independent suspension system, front and rear. The Sportage's front suspension is composed of MacPherson Struts, a rugged, wide-based lower A arm and coil springs. At the rear, Sportage employs struts and coil springs, with dual lower transverse links and a single lower trailing link. For 4WD models, a larger, more substantial rear subframe supports the rear differential. And both models are equipped with front and rear stabilizer bars and gas pressure shocks. Both rear suspension designs features gas-filled shocks designed to create minimum intrusion into the trunk space.
Standard equipment for all models includes ABS, traction control, ESP, six airbags, and a choice of engines and drivetrains. The Sportage LX also comes with rear privacy glass, power windows with a driver’s one-touch down feature, power mirrors, a roof rack, cruise control, and an AM/FM/CD stereo system with six speakers. The EX model adds a power-operated, one-touch sunroof, fog lights, heated outside mirrors, a leather-covered shift knob and steering wheel, illuminated ignition, remote keyless entry system, a cargo cover and upgraded seat fabric. The EX also has a Luxury Package which includes leather seats and interior trim, heated front seats, automatic headlamps, electrochromatic interior mirror with HomeLink® wireless control system, upgraded stereo system complete with subwoofer and external amplifier, and special body-color bumpers. The leather seats and trim are also available as a stand-alone option.
All Sportage models come with 16-inch alloy wheels. The four-cylinder Sportage LX is fitted with 215/65 R16 tires, while Sportage V6 models make use of 235/60 R16 BF Goodrich tires. The Kia Sportage will be available at dealerships in January of 2005.
Pontiac Grand Prix GXP
Pontiac drove out the 2005 Grand Prix GXP on high-gloss concrete at the 2004 California Auto Show, and in doing show announced that the performance arm of the Pontiac division is alive and well. The Pontiac Grand Prix GXP is, after all, a high-performance sedan equipped with up stream interior materials and extras, a racer exterior, sport-tuned suspension and a new 5300 5.3L V-8 (LS4) engine producing an estimated 290 horsepower and 325 lb. ft. of torque. As the first Grand Prix model since 1987 to offer a V-8 engine and it is the first Pontiac equipped with Displacement on Demand (DOD) technology, the Grand Prix GXP is expected to deliver 0-60 performance of approximately 6 seconds. The all-aluminum 5300 V-8 is based on the Gen IV small-block architecture, but is modified to accommodate the “east-west” mounting position of the Grand Prix’s front-wheel-drive chassis. To fit the “sideways” positioning in the Grand Prix, several changes were made to reduce the engine’s overall length, including the use of a shorter crankshaft and a single-belt accessory drive system. Other features of the 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP include a four-speed electronically controlled transmission with TAPShift, new front fascia, rear fascia, rocker extensions and badging, 18-inch forged aluminum wheels and performance W-rated tires, reduced ride height, Bilstein gas-charged struts and a four-wheel disc brake system with aluminum calipers, 12.7-inch vented and cross-drilled front rotors and 12-inch vented and cross-drilled rear rotors. GXP-specific interior appointments include new gauge faces, doorsill plates and embroidered floor mats. The Grand Prix GXP is scheduled to start production in the first quarter of 2005. Pricing will be announced at a later date.
Pontiac Torrent In between Hummer announcements, GM found time to hint at the debut of a vehicle that may well have widespread appeal – the new Pontiac Torrent, an SUV along the lines of Chevrolet’s Equinox. Due for introduction at the Los Angeles International Auto Show, the Torrent will be powered by a 185 horsepower, 3.4-liter V-6 engine in either a front-wheel or all-wheel-drive system. Paired with that powertrain is a suspension system that, according to GM, allows for the utility and capability of an SUV without sacrificing the precision handling characteristics normally associated with a performance car. Pricing for the Torrent will be announced at a later date.
Volvo XC90 V8
Volvo, not content with being perceived as being the maker of safe and sensible cars, is attempting to build a “dimension of performance” with its vehicle line-up, and has started with perhaps its most popular vehicle: the XC90. For 2005, the XC90 will add a V8 model – Volvo’s first V8 powertrain –designed to meet ULEV II emissions requirements. The engine is 4.4-liter and is rated at 311 horsepower and 320 lb. ft. of torque, will power an XC90 in a 0-60 time of 6.9 seconds. In order to fit within the existing XC90 architecture – and thus maintain the safety aspects of the XC90, the engine is mounted transversely – like other Volvo engines – and the two banks of cylinders are built at a 60-degree angles, with staggered cylinder heads. According to Volvo, the left-hand cylinder bank is offset half a cylinder ahead of the right bank, contradicting normal practice in the automotive world – so the engine can slot neatly into the structural beam network of the XC90 and improve collision safety. Also new for the XC90 is a six-speed automatic transmission, and new 18 inch wheels, as well as slight exterior styling changes to reflect the new power plant. Changes include side mouldings, door handles painted to match body color, a graphite grille, chrome-plated trim and new twin exhaust pipes. Volvo expects to sell around 15,000 globally, with about 75 percent going to North America.