WHAT: Instead of simply replacing the Neon with another ho-hum sedan, Dodge plans to produce this crossover, which is likely to be named the Caliber. The five-foot-tall sedan-wagon hybrid combines Dodge's familiar crossbar grille with some fresh proportions and aggressive detailing. Think of it asa Toyota Matrix that's been redesigned in Auburn Hills. Its front-wheel-drive platform is a version of the new C/D-segment components set conceived with Mitsubishi. Engines will be supplied by the World Engine Alliance formed by DaimlerChrysler, Mitsubishi, and Hyundai.
WHEN: Chicago show debut; on sale this fall.
SELL-BY DATE: The Neon passed it long ago.
WHAT: A redesign will see a new, higher-quality sedan for America, along with a re-tooled coupe positioned to take on Scion's tC. We will not get the roomy four-door hatch targeted for Europe or, unfortunately, a 2.0-liter Type-R two-door hatchback that will push the performance envelope in both Europe and Japan. Models bound for the United States do get an extended wheelbase for better cabin space, and the design is said to be much more cab-forward than that of other cars in the class.
WHEN: Fall 2005.
CAUTION, THY NAME IS HONDA: The Civic has lost its mojo and needs more than evolutionary changes but is unlikely to get them. At least there will be an even greener hybrid.
WHAT: This cleverly packaged Euro-style space wagon's doors slide open to reveal three-row, walk-through seating for six. The only engine is a 157-hp, 2.3-liter four.
WHEN: Summer 2005.
WILL IT FLY?: Does anybody remember the Expo LRV?
Subaru B9 Tribeca
WHAT: The B9 Tribeca is the most expensive Subaru ever. Externally, it is distinguished by the new corporate face. Inside, it shows an elegant new design approach, with a sweeping dash layout and high-quality materials. Three rows of seats can accommodate seven; the second and third rows fold flat, and the middle row slides fore and aft. A brand-new platform supports control-arm rear suspension and front struts. Subaru's 3.0-liter boxer six makes 250 hp and 219 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Stability control is standard. We've driven a prototype and can report that the Tribeca is one of the most carlike crossover vehicles, with great ride and handling. At 4245 pounds, it's hardly startlingly quick, though.
WHEN: Summer 2005.
SPORTY: Subaru claims a top speed of 120 mph.
WHAT: The legendary GTI returns to its roots in fifth-generation form, with a 197-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four with 207 lb-ft of torque on tap. A stiffened suspension, bigger brakes, and optional plaid seat inserts are notable features on the 2006 GTI, our December '04 cover car.
WHEN: Early 2006.
CAN'T WAIT: It should be interesting to see if young tuners embrace this car. We sure will.