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01/13/2006-01/22/2006 2006 NORTH AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Jan 22, 2006

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

RHYTHM AND BLUES AT THE MOTOWN AUTO SHOW By CHRISTOPHER MERLO and MARK DAPOZ Photos by MARK DAPOZ It's midwinter in Motown. And some say it's high noon for the Big Three. Take two. The Big Three are no more. It's now the Big Six - Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan and Toyota - with the incumbents fighting desperately to retain market share while the upstarts look to gain even more of the domestic market. This hyper-competitiveness for the share of mind - and pocketbooks - of the American consumer is resulting in a plethora of new product offerings guaranteed to delight the enthusiast and satisfy every imaginable taste and whim.

Consequently, despite the doom and gloom for the Detroit-based automakers, Motown has put on a good face, rolled out the welcome wagon and staged a great show even if the "homeboys" increasingly must share the stage with equals who not too long ago were simply blips on the radar. Indeed, a number of foreign brands marked milestones at this year's show, with Acura proudly announcing its 20th anniversary in North America and Hyundai also at the double decade mark. Yet another trend to consider: In light of increasing competition and growing market share of foreign competitors, with domestics like Chevrolet touting its American Revolution and Ford its American Innovation, foreign-based manufacturers are going to great lengths to emphasize their U.S. based manufacturing, design studios and product development. Against this backdrop, this year's show recorded another milestone with the first display ever by a Chinese manufacturer, as Geely debuted a vehicle set to be introduced in the U.S. market in 2008 at a price under $10,000. So stay tuned, because soon even the Koreans could be looking over their shoulders at the next emerging automotive powerhouse trying to nudge its way into the low end of the market.

Other major themes and trends found at the 2006 NAIAS: · Small Cars. Increased emphasis on small cars and entry-level vehicles. One of the mantras repeated at this year's press conference was "Small Is Big" and found reality in new B-car production vehicles such as the Honda Fit and Nissan Versa as well as plethora of small car concepts. With small car sales in 2005 up for the first time since 2000, it looks like several automakers called this one right. Bravo. · Fuel Economy. Another factor contributing to the small car emphasis. With the rise in fuel prices, manufacturers are eager to let consumers know about their alternative fuel technology, hybrid powertrains, diesel engine technologies and the increased fuel efficiency of their powertrains. · Rebirth of the Pony Car. With the runaway popularity of the Ford Mustang, both Chevrolet and Chrysler are eager to rejoin the herd and debuted notable and crowd-buzzing concepts for the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro. · Crossovers are the new craze. Specifically, the truck-based SUV segment has passed its peak - accelerated in its decline by high fuel costs - only to be supplanted by the car-based crossovers. At 2 million plus unit sales, crossovers now make up the fastest growing segment in the U.S. market. We first noted this trend a couple of years ago with the bevy of crossover concept vehicles unveiled at past shows. · High on practicality and low on fantasy. It may be a sign of the times, but this year's concept vehicles - a few exceptions aside - are on big on practicality and low on fantasy. With 56 production and concept vehicles making their world debuts, here's a brief review of some of the highlight vehicles on display at America's premier auto show.

Acura RDX Prototype The Acura RDX, an entry-level premium crossover, is due in showrooms this year.

Aston Martin Rapide Concept One would never think four doors synonymous with appeal and performance until one catches a glimpse of the Aston Martin Rapide concept. Based on Aston Martin's unique VH (Vertical/Horizontal) architecture, this high-strength, low-mass architecture forms the backbone of the current generation of Aston Martins, spearheaded by the DB9 Coupé and flanked by the DB9 Volante and the Vantage. Powered by the V12 from the DB9 but uprated to 480 horsepower mated to a ZF Touchtronic transmission, the car's performance is equivalent to the DB9.

Audi Roadjet Concept The five-door Audi Roadjet is a premium compact crossover concept featuring a massive grille and tall roofline. Details are few other than that it is powered by a 3.2-liter V6 capable of delivering 300 horsepower.

BMW Z4 Roadster (production premier)

Buick Enclave Concept SUV Touting it as the "new face of American luxury" Buick introduced the all-wheel-drive Enclave - a luxury SUV concept. It strongly hints at a vehicle Buick intends to bring to market. With room for six and a skylight that extends the length of the passenger compartment, Enclave looks ready to compete in the hot crossover segment. Signature Buick cues include a waterfall grille - with "tri-shield" emblem - and portholes. The portholes, which are similar in design to the new Lucerne sedan, are mounted on the trailing edges of the sculpted hood, which forms a distinct "V" shape as it flows out from the grille and into the front fenders. Enclave is built on a 119-inch wheelbase and is powered by a 3.6L high-feature V6 with dual-overhead camshafts and variable valve timing. Power output is rated at 270 horses teamed to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Chevrolet Camaro Concept A blockbuster hit, the rear-wheel-drive Camaro Concept is wowing the press and the public. With its long hood, short deck and wide stance, its design immediately says serious performance car. The looks are backed up by a 400-horsepower, Corvette-inspired aluminum small-bock V8, a six-speed manual transmission, and a sophisticated chassis with four-wheel independent suspension. And this is one muscle car that is stingy on fuel consumption, thanks in part to the Active Fuel Managementâ„¢ cylinder deactivation technology - yielding highway fuel economy of 30 mpg or better.

Chevrolet Tahoe Two-Mode Hybrid General Motors announced its plan to produce at least a dozen hybrid car and truck models in the near future, displaying the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe and 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line. The Tahoe and the GMC Yukon feature the Two-Mode hybrid system, named "Two-Mode" because it's designed to optimize fuel economy for both city and highway driving. The Two-Mode system was co-developed with BMW and DaimlerChrysler and increases fuel economy by an estimated 25%. Both the Tahoe and Yukon Two-Mode Hybrid models go on sale in 2007 as 2008 models and will be followed by a Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. Dates and models are yet unannounced.

Chrysler Aspen (production premier) Chrysler's first ever sport utility vehicle, the full-size Aspen is based on the Dodge Durango.

Chrysler Imperial Concept If the Chrysler 300 can be affectionately referred to as a "Baby Bentley" then you are looking at its sibling the "Baby Rolls Royce." Chrysler resurrected the venerable and storied Imperial marque for this luxury, flagship concept. This concept is the product of a challenge Chrysler issued to its design team: Use one platform and build two concepts, taking each in a separate direction. The results are the Chrysler Imperial and the Dodge Challenger (more on that vehicle below). To create the Imperial's stately presence, designers stretched the LX platform 17 inches, giving the car a 123-inch wheelbase. Combined with the high hood and deck lines and the large 22-inch aluminum wheels, this gives the Imperial the noble stance the designers envisioned. Other luxury cues on the exterior include a large front grille and boat tail rear end. The doors are hinged at the A and C pillars, and entry is unobstructed due to the lack of a B pillar. Powered by a Hemi V8, the Imperial is, in the words of Chrysler executives, a concept that is "built to drive." Stay tuned.

Dodge Caliber (production premier) The front-wheel drive, 2007 Dodge Caliber crossover is due in showrooms this summer.

Dodge Challenger Concept Dodge turned to its fabled muscle-car history to bring back one of the most anticipated unveilings at this year's show, the venerable Challenger. Decked out in bright Orange Pearl and sporting the trademarked "performance hood" with twin diagonal scoops, Challenger is all about performance thanks to a 425-horsepower, Hemi V8 engine teamed with a 6-speed manual transmission - pistol grip shifter included. Trimming 4 inches off the rear-wheel-drive LX platform, Challenger sits on a 116-inch wheelbase - 6-inches longer than the '70s original. But its width is 2-inches greater, giving the concept car a squat, tougher persona. Combined with the car's aggressive thrust stance, thanks in part to the 20-inch front and 21-inch rear five-spoke chrome wheels, this is one hot-looking hard top.

Ferrari FXX (North American production premier)

Ford Edge (production premier) As the popularity of traditional truck-based SUVs market shifts, Ford is betting on the Edge to capture buyers moving into the crossover market. Look for it to hit showrooms this fall. Ford Explorer Sport Trac (production premier) Ford's venerable and popular Sport Trac gets a makeover set to debut in showrooms this spring.

Ford F-250 Super Chief Concept This much is clear: Ford knows trucks, and this fantasy concept is a delight. The F-250 Super Chief features a supercharged Tri-Flex V-10, designed to run on hydrogen, ethanol or gasoline. Interior features include a full glass roof and automated rear-seat ottomans, beverage bar and two 25-inch digital monitors.

Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 convertible (production premier) Set to hit the streets this summer, the Shelby GT500 roars out the gate with a supercharged, 5.4-liter V8 delivering 475 horsepower.

Ford Reflex Concept The subcompact Ford Reflex concept utilizes a diesel-electric hybrid capable of delivering 65 miles per gallon. Features include reverse-butterfly doors, solar panels in the headlights and taillights, automatic solar-powered fans that keep the car cool when parked, mesh seats, a transforming rear seat capable of allowing seating for one adult or two children, 20-inch wheels and innovative safety belts that inflate during a collision.

Honda Fit (production premier) Competition heats up in the entry-level B-car segment with Honda's new subcompact, the Fit, due in showrooms this spring at a starting price around $13,000.

Hyundai HCD-9 Talus Concept Hinting at future design direction from Hyundai's studio in Irvine, California, the HCD-9 Talus is a sporty, athletic expression with 22-inch wheels.

Hyundai Santa Fe (production premier) Built on an all-new platform, the popular-selling Santa Fe is now designated a crossover that takes aim at premium competitors, such as Lexus 330 and BMW X5. Once again, Hyundai trumpets "designed, developed and built in the U.S.A."

Infiniti Coupe Concept Low, aggressive stance. Lean. Pure. Powerful. The Infiniti Coupe Concept's exterior features include a full-length glass panel roof, modulated front fenders and hood, deep front spoiler and large projector headlights, polished bare metal-look paint, compact camera outside rearview mirrors, hidden door handles and large 20-inch, nine-spoke painted aluminum-alloy wheels.

Jaguar XK Convertible (production premier) The all-new, 2 plus 2, XK convertible - along with the coupe version - comes standard with a 4.2-liter Jaguar AJ-V8 engine capable of delivering 300 horsepower. Teamed with the new Sequential Shift 6-speed ZF automatic transmission, the convertible accelerates for zero to sixty 6.3 seconds.

Jeep Compass (production premier) The Jeep Compass concept premiered at the 2002 NAIAS, and now the wraps have come off the production model - the brand's first car-based crossover model, set to hit showrooms this summer.

Jeep Wrangler (production premier)

Kia Optima (North American production premier) The 2007 Kia Optima goes on sale this spring.

Kia Soul Concept The rugged, aggressive design of the Soul concept compact sport utility represents the future direction at Kia.

Lamborghini Miura Concept

Lexus LS 460 sedan (production premier) Awesome. Look out, BMW and Mercedes. The Japanese are coming, and they are aiming at the heart of the premium luxury segment, with their sights squarely set on the 7 Series and S Class. It's been 17 years since Lexus entered the fray with the LS, and now it's take-notice time. With the introduction of the all-new 2007 LS 460 and the company's first-ever long-wheelbase model, the LS 460L, Lexus brings new levels of performance, sophistication, contemporary styling and luxury refinements to its flagship sedan. The LS is powered by an all-new highly advanced 4.6-liter V8 that produces approximately 380 horsepower and 370 pound-feet, mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission, a world-first. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is less than 5.5 seconds. The 2007 Lexus LS 460 and LS 460L are targeted for sale in the fall of 2006.

Lincoln MKS Concept The MKS ("Mark S") concept strongly hints at the future direction for a flagship Lincoln sedan. Featuring Lincoln's trademark waterfall grille and 20-inch tires, the largest ever on a Lincoln sedan, the MKS combines a new all-aluminum, 315-horsepower, 4.4-liter V8 with a six-speed transmission.

Lincoln MKX (production premier) The 2007 Lincoln MKX ("Mark X") is a five-passenger crossover powered by an all-new 3.5-liter engine teamed with a 6-speed transmission. Replacing the discontinued Aviator SUV, the MKX gives Lincoln its first entry into the red-hot crossover market. Available features include a nearly full-length moonroof, adaptive front lighting, heated and cooled front seats (heated rear seats), a 14-speaker THX audio system and DVD navigation.

Maserati Quattroporte Executive GT (North American production premier) Mazda Kabura Concept The attractive Kabura is a rear-wheel-drive compact sports coupe designed at Mazda's design center in California under the guidance of Franz von Holzhausen, who worked on the Pontiac Solstice concept at General Motors. Power is supplied to the rear wheels by a 2.0-liter version of Mazda's highly respected MZR DOHC 16-valve engine. Basic dimensions fall between Mazda's MX-5 and RX-8 sports cars.

Mercedes-Benz GL-Class (production premier) Joining its stable mates the M-Class and R-Class in Mercedes showrooms this spring, the new full-size, seven-passenger GL-Class is now the third model series to be built at the Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Mini Traveller Detroit Concept

Mitsubishi Concept CT MIEV The hybrid four-wheel-drive Concept CT MIEV - Mitsubishi In-Wheel Electric Vehicle - designed at the company's California studios, features electric motors in each wheel and a lithium battery pack to supplement the gasoline powered engine.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder (production premier)

Nissan Sentra (production premier) Nissan unveiled the new, sixth generation, 2007 Sentra, scheduled to go on sale this fall. Built on Nissan's new "C" platform, the new Sentra features an all-new, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, standard 6-speed manual transmission or fuel-efficient Nissan Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission).

Nissan Urge Roadster Concept Sporting color-infused aluminum panels, the Nissan Urge is one of the few fun concepts at the show. In addition to the exterior aluminum cage structure, the body features a glass hood for a view of the engine, four-bar hinge scissor doors, see-through door panel cutouts, and a collapsible canvas top. On the inside, there's two-plus-one seating - with a unique third seat tucked behind the driver and passenger. And while the fun factor of open-air driving cannot be disputed, the Urge turns up the entertainment quotient thanks to a built-in gaming system, powered by an Xbox 360, with fold-down display and steering wheel/pedal controls. In addition to the responsive engine mated to a 6-speed manual sequential gearbox, Urge performance features include lightweight 9-spoke spun aluminum-alloy wheels, 350Z-style Brembo® brakes and 19-inch front/20-inch rear wheels and tires.

Nissan Versa (production premier) Nissan took the wraps off its all-new, B car, the 2007 Versa. Available in 5-door hatchback and the 4-door sedan body styles, Versa comes with a standard 120-horsepower 1.8-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine and a choice of three transmissions, including Nissan's advanced Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). Available in early summer, the Versa is expected to have a MSRP starting at around $12,000.

Saturn Vue Green Line Hybrid The hybrid Saturn Vue Green Line's 0-60 mph time is estimated to be one second faster than the Vue's non-hybrid version, along with an approximately 20% increase in fuel economy (27/city, 32/highway). The hybrid option on the Vue will be priced at less than $2,000, keeping the Vue Green Line's base price under $23,000. It goes into production summer 2006. Saturn unveiled the production version of the 2007 Vue Green Line Hybrid, the first GM vehicle powered by a new, more affordable hybrid system. The Vue Green Line delivers an estimated 20-percent improvement in fuel economy, depending on driving conditions. It is expected to deliver an EPA estimated 27 mpg in the city and the best highway mileage of any SUV, at 32 mpg. The Vue's hybrid system will cost under $2,000. The full vehicle price will start at less than $23,000.

Subaru B5 BTH (North American concept premier)

Toyota Camry (production premier) When it came to redesigning America's best-selling car, one might think that Toyota would stick with the plain vanilla formula it has followed since Camry's introduction in 1983. Not so. In today's competitive market, design is as important a selling point as quality. The result is an all-new exterior design that provides the 2007 Camry with a visual impact that signals a departure from the upright style of its predecessor. The new Camry's shape is athletic and modern, with a long, high-visibility cabin set on a horizontal underbody with strong, rounded planes and elongated structures. The wheelbase is longer than before, and track is wider, with the wheels pushed toward the extremes of each of the car's four corners. Available with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, 158-horsepower engine or a 24-valve, DOHC 3.5L 268-horsepower V6 teamed with an all-new six-speed automatic transmission. A hybrid version is also available.

Volvo C30 Design Concept The Volvo C30 Design Concept is a sporty two-door, four-seater that offers a taste of what's to come in the forthcoming production model set to be introduced at this year's Paris motor show in September. Under the hood, the C30 Design Concept has an in-line five-cylinder 2.4-litre turbocharged engine. It produces 260 horsepower and is matched with a six-speed manual transmission. For more information about the show, go to naias.com.

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