The 12 Most Significant Concepts of the Detroit Auto Show

January 11, 2005
Jeep Hurricane
0500 Naias+2005 Jeep Hurricane Concept+front Left View
What's Chrysler's hottest property? The Hemi V-8. What's better than a Hemi? Two Hemis, of course. That's exactly what the Jeep Hurricane--a highly conceptual, dune-buggy-like off-roader--packs: one forward-facing Hemi up front and a second, rearward-facing Hemi in back. Each makes 335 hp and 370 lb-ft of torque, and the Hurricane can blast from 0 to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds. The Hurricane also defies credulity with its 4-wheel steering system that enables it to spin on its own axis and move sideways. 37-inch tires and 20 inches of articulation add credence to the Hurricane's boast of ultimate off-road vehicle. The chassis and body are both carbon fiber, and they're attached to an aluminum central spine. The point of all this exotic hardware is to create a flag-waving extreme machine that lets Jeep thump its chest and bask in glory.
Jaguar Advanced Lightweight Coupe
0500 Naias+2005 Jaguar Xk8 Concept+front Left View
The Advanced Lightweight Coupe shows that design director Ian Callum has a clear vision of where he wants to take Jaguar. Yes, it's officially a concept, but this car will hit the road nearly intact as the next-generation 2007 XK8 and XKR coupe and convertible. As its name implies, the concept, like the XJ8 sedan, has a bonded and riveted aluminum skeleton supporting aluminum body panels, which should drop curb weight by several hundred pounds compared with the current car. This plus higher-horsepower versions of the current cars' normally aspirated and supercharged V-8s should put performance near Porsche 911 territory. The 2+2 cabin beautifully balances modernity and sumptuousness, with nary a trace of show-car frippery.
Lexus LF-A
0500 Naias+2005 Lexus Lf A Concept+front Left View
A sports-car concept possibly foreshadowing a supercar from Toyota's premium brand, the LF-A aims to, Lexus says, "explore the outer limits of sports car performance." It would theoretically be developed in tandem with the company's Formula 1 racing efforts to take advantage of competition-grade power- and drivetrains. With an engine capable of pumping out more than 500 horsepower, Lexus estimates a top speed of more than 200 mph. The supercoupe also provides clear hints at future Lexus design. With a Z06-ish rake, it is more visually interesting than any previous Lexus. Exterior features include turbine-inspired wheels, Shrek-ear side mirrors high on the A-pillars, and cool scoops/inlets on the C-pillar. The LF-A's overall length measures 173.2 inches, which is two inches shorter than a Porsche 911 Turbo, but its 101.6-inch wheelbase is nine inches longer. The Lexus is 73.2 inches wide and 48 inches tall.
Mercedes-Benz Vision R
0500 Naias+2005 Mercedes Benz R Class+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
0500 Naias+2005 Gm Sequel Concept+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
0500 Naias+2005 Toyota Ft Sx Concept+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.
Infiniti Kuraza
0500 Naias+2005 Infiniti Kuraza Concept+front Right View
Infiniti hopes to use the Kuraza in the same manner as the Triant, a past concept: as a look into the future. Just as the Triant presaged the production FX, the Kuraza is a nod toward future Infiniti SUV interiors. This includes a philosophy that offers all six occupants equal space and amenities and a combination of "traditional Japanese design cues, extensive use of natural materials, and modern technology" in one environment. A look at the passenger compartment reveals some interesting tidbits: a center console/tunnel running the entire length of the vehicle, an abbreviated, semi-circle steering wheel, and enough wood to deforest a small national park. Six doors--the rearmost two open suicide-style--finally bring easy third-row access to reality.
Saturn Aura
0500 Naias+2005 Saturn Aura+front Left View
The current Saturn product line is not made up of the clever vehicles that once defined the hip young brand. They are instead dull, awkward blobs of plastic. But Saturn is now ready to win back a customer base with Opel-like cars such as the Sky sports car and this beautiful sedan called the Aura. Jill Lajdziak calls this a "sneak peek at a new generation of emotionally compelling Saturn vehicles," and we hope that claim lives to be true. This stylish sedan, which shows the future of the Saturn L-Series, rides on 19-inch wheels, features a panoramic roof, and uses Cadillac's excellent 250-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 with variable valve timing, as well as a six-speed automatic transmission. What this car shows is that Saturn and General Motors are finally making an effort to gain global recognition as GM's loyal customers are disappearing faster than Yankees fans after a failed season.
Mercedes-Benz Vision B
0500 Naias+2005 Mercedes Benz B Class+rear Left View
The "Vision B" concept, first unveiled last Fall in Paris, shows the styling of the production B-class range that we'll see later in 2005. Designed as a competitor to the BMW X3, the B-class is the smaller of two Mercedes-Benz sport tourers destined for production. Given the X3's tepid reception in the U.S., we're surprised that Mercedes is planning to bring this premium-cute-ute to our shores. The B-class will be the cheapest Mercedes-Benz in the U.S., and it will move the brand ever further downmarket than the M-class did when it was introduced. With quality and satisfaction scores in the toilet, it will be a stretch for Mercedes to market a small people mover like this at a premium price.
Mazda MX-Crossport
0500 Naias+2005 Mazda Mx Crossport Concept+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
0500 Naias+2005 Jeep Gladiator Concept+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
0500 Naias+2005 Chrysler Firepower Concept+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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