The 12 Most Significant Concepts of the Detroit Auto Show

Mercedes-Benz Vision R

Front Left View

Shown here in nearly production ready form, the Vision R presages the R-class coming to the U.S. It's Mercedes-Benz's version of the Chrysler Pacifica theme and it will be the larger of two sport touring models; the smaller one will be the B-class. Expect the production car's interior to look a lot like this, and features like versatile 6-passenger seating and all-wheel drive will carry over. M-B's excellent new 3.5-liter V-6 likely will be the initial engine offered in the R-class when it makes its way stateside. The R-class is similar in price and size to the ML-class, but it looks different, and it marks the continuation of Mercedes Benz's strategy of flooding the market with similar models styled differently to capture more sales. The CLS-class is essentially an E-class with a different body, and similarly the R-class and the upcoming G-class replacement are really M-classes in drag.

GM Sequel

Rear Right View

The GM Sequel is the third in a line of GM fuel cell concept vehicles, following the Autonomy and Hy-wire. The Sequel has a completely functional powertrain, and is held back from the market only for monetary reasons. With advances in fuel cells, by-wire technology, and wheel hub motors, GM has doubled the range and halved 0-60 times for its concept vehicles. The Sequel is able to travel an impressive 300 miles on its Hydrogen supply while accelerating from 0-60 in under ten seconds, bettering present green machines such as the VW Jetta TDI and Toyota Prius Hybrid. GM hopes to have fuel cell vehicles on the market by 2010-a lofty goal for a company with no full hybrid vehicle presently on the market (the Silverado/Sierra hybrid trucks are merely "mild" hybrids). We can only hope that the General's hybrid silence is due to strong efforts to expedite a fuel cell reality.

Toyota FT-SX

Front Side View

Aimed at "young families looking for a stylish and refined vehicle," the alphabet-intensive, Highlander-based FT-SX crossover concept could see production in three years. The concept boasts V-6 power, all-wheel drive, 21-inch wheels, and a large glass roof. Toyota claims that the front-end layout of the FT-SX is "an all-new expression" and that the look, which it calls "T-Face," will become the new design language for the company. This includes the three-slat grille, which is showing up everywhere these days (hello, Ford Fusion). The FT-SX sports a trick rear hatch which allows two panels in the glass roof to slide toward the center of the vehicle, creating both a larger opening and a rear sunroof. The exciting-for-Toyota interior is trimmed in wood, leather, and metal over its sweeping forms. If built, it would serve as a larger and more stylish descendent of the departed (and dearly missed) Camry wagon.

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