Ford hopes the Fusion, scheduled for release sometime this fall as a 2006 model, will be its next mid-size powerhouse. A tick smaller in most directions than the Taurus, the Fusion will be built on a modified Mazda 6 platform. The front-wheel-drive car gets either a 160-hp, 2.3-liter in-line four or a 210-hp, 3.0-liter V-6. All-wheel drive will be a later option. Ford desperately needs this car to help it to bounce back from a disappointing 2004, which saw it lose 1.2 percent of its U.S. market share. The "athletic" exterior design was inspired by the well-received 2003 Ford 427 concept-which looks from the side much like a Chrysler 300 with a different grille. It will be interesting to see how well the mass-market receives the taillamps, which were inspired by either aluminum foil or the tuner scene. Ford claims that the Fusion has a light and nimble driving personality, which is assisted by the car's fully-independent front and rear suspensions and strong torsional rigidity.
The fourth-generation Eclipse is longer, wider, taller, and more powerful. Based heavily on last year's well-received Detroit concept, this latest version is extremely important for beleaguered Mitsubishi, which hopes to recapture the younger buyers lost with the previous-generation car. We hope it looks better on the road than it does at the show if it's going to save this automaker on the brink. GS models will be equipped with a 2.4-liter, 165-hp four and either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission. GTs will get one extra ratio per gearbox and a class-leading 3.8-liter, 260-hp V-6 with Mitsubishi's versions of variable valve timing. The coupe is due in mid-2005 with the Spyder following in 2006.
Subaru B9 Tribeca
The Tribeca goes on sale this summer and will be both Subaru's biggest and most expensive vehicle to date. It is a seven-seater crossover SUV that is more car than truck. A unibody platform carries four-wheel independent suspension, with a new control arm rear end and struts up front. Subaru has fitted the Tribeca with its most sophisticated all-wheel-drive system that incorporates stability control. Power comes from its familiar, 250-hp, horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine. Subaru is very proud that the Tribeca has a center of gravity 1.5 inches lower than a BMW X5, yet still has 8.4 inches of ground clearance. Externally, the car incorporates the new face of Subaru-a grille that is said to represent the fuselage of an aircraft, with wing-like vents on either side. The Tribeca will be very well equipped for a base price around $37,000, with power front seats, leather, all manner of air bags, and a power moonroof.