The 12 Most Significant Concepts of the Detroit Auto Show

Mazda MX-Crossport

Rear Side View

The Mazda 6 platform has not only spawned various new sedans for Mazda's parent company, Ford, such as the upcoming Ford Fusion and Lincoln Zephyr, it's also the basis for this Mazda crossover concept. The MX-Crossport's bulging, muscular exterior lines even were penned by the 6's chief designer, Iwao Koizumi, who describes the new concept as having "the speedy and athletic image of a sports car, plus the toughness of an SUV." The big, five-spoke wheels are, as in most show cars, a prominent feature of the MX-Crossport's profile. Mazda suggests that, if the MX-Crossport is well-received on the show circuit, it is likely for production. However, a production version would be at least two years away, which means 2007, likely as a 2008 model. The MX-Crossport sure looks good, but, with only two rows of seats, it is basically the same concept as the existing Tribute, and does nothing to put Mazda into a new segment.

Jeep Gladiator

Side View

In essence, the Jeep Gladiator Concept marries a Wrangler front end, a very small extended cab, and a seven-foot cargo box. The ultra-long, 138-inch wheelbase makes room for the jaunty, side-mounted spare. The cab has a rear-hinged access door on the passenger side, but on the driver's side access to the rear seat is via a small "dog door" roughly two feet square. That's appropriate because the rear bench is better suited to canines than to people. The Gladiator also offers a twist on the Midgate theme: the cab rear window powers down, the rear seat squab tucks down to the floor, and the rear bulkhead then slides forward, like a drawer, to increase the cargo bed to a full eight feet in length. Whether or not that trick could be engineered for production, this good-looking pickup would be a great, and fitting, addition to the Jeep line.

Chrysler Firepower

Front Side View

This concept drapes a curvaceous new body over a Viper chassis. In place of the Viper's V-10, the Firepower slots in the new, 6.1-liter Hemi (from the 300C SRT8) under its grooved hood. The design is the work of Brian Nielander, who penned last year's ME Four-Twelve, and similarities can be seen in the front end and in the use of tiny, torpedo-shaped LEDs. From the side, the look recalls current Aston Martins. A glass roof lets light into the gorgeous, chrome-drenched interior, which provides cozy accommodations for two. Brembo brakes peek through nineteen-inch wheels at the front and twenties at the rear. The anemic sales of Chrysler's Crossfire would seem to doom production prospects for another high-performance, two-seat coupe, but the company's need to fill its underutilized Conner Avenue Viper assembly plant might give the Firepower a chance. If so, the car will likely get a new moniker, as the Firepower name belongs to Exide batteries.

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