2005 Scion tC
Toyota's Scion division revealed its third product at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the tC coupe.
Based on the JDM Avensis and Caldina, the tC has been conceived strictly for America. "We picked that platform for its double-wishbone rear suspension," explains Gary Boler, Scion's senior manager of sales marketing and product planning. "No other American Toyota model has that. It's something typically found on more expensive Lexus products."
At 106.3 inches, the tC's wheelbase is just 0.8 inches shorter than that of the 2004 Solara. However, the tC stretches 174.0 inches overall, which is a full 18.5 inches shorter than the Solara and 3.5 inches longer than a Celica (which has a 102.4-inch wheelbase). That gives the tC a taut, athletic appearance with the wheels pushed to the corners of the car; something like an Acura RSX with more curvaceous flanks and a more distinctive nose.
Power for the tC will come from the Camry's super-familiar 2.4-liter, DOHC, VVT-i, four making 160 hp feeding either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic front-drive transaxles. Seventeen-inch wheels, P215/45R-17 tires and four-wheel disc brakes are also part of the package. The rear suspension may have a double-wishbone design, but the front is, yup, MacPherson struts. All tCs will be made in Japan.
When the tC goes on sale in June (with a base price well below $20,000), Scion will already be supporting it with a range of performance and appearance items. That includes body pieces, lowering springs, wheel and tire packages and such vital components as shift knobs. But a few months later, the most interesting dealer-installed package will arrive: A new TRD supercharger system.
Unlike previous TRD blower systems, which were built around the Eaton roots-style blower, this new one will use a Vortech centrifugal supercharger. "We investigated various solutions and this was the best one," Boler tells us. "TRD is doing the development with TMS and TMMC and the supercharger's casing will be a little different, but the rotating components are common with other Vortech blowers. The Vortech is well known to us and is a good-quality unit." The Vortech's most significant advantage, Boler adds, was that it fit nicely in the tC's tight engine bay. A full 200 hp is the goal for the blower installation. If the blower is as keenly priced as the tC itself, Scion may, in fact, have produced a car a young person will crave.
Detroit Auto Show
Acura TL A-Spec ConceptIf the Acura TL is good (It is.) wouldn't a wider TL be even better? That's about as profound a question as Acura's TL A-Spec Concept is capable of mustering. Shown at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the A-Spec Concept is obviously based on the 2004 TL and features a 42mm wider track with fenders swollen to cover it, 21-inch prototype wheels, 15-inch diameter Brembo disc brakes clamped by eight-piston calipers, a panoramic glass roof that virtually replaces the metal between door tops, tweaked front and rear fascias, and a three-stage Mica Pearl paint so lustrous it could have been yanked out of an oyster.
Power for this concept comes from a modified version of the TL's 3.2-liter V6 that, Acura says, wallops out 300 hp and feeds it to a six-speed manual transmission and limited-slip differential. That's nothing much different than what's in today's TL.
The crowning glory of the A-Spec Concept is the interior, which features open-faced seats done in matador red leather with built-in heating and cooling ventilation-critical for those of us cursed with a butt that turns to ice in the winter and boils in its own juices during the summer.
As close as it is to the production TL, what this car really showcases is the potential of the TL as a tuner car. Anyone out there want to take up Acura's challenge?
It's an open question just which one was the best concept car, but it was obvious which mixed utter coolness with midget proportions best: Dodge's Slingshot. Based on the truly tiny SMART Roadster (a product of Dodge's brother at DCX, Mercedes), the Slingshot uses a rear-mounted normally aspirated three-cylinder engine knocking out about 100 hp while delivering sub-10-second 0-to-60 clockings and 45 mpg. The suspension is independent, the steering is by rack-and-pinion, the gearbox has five forward gears and each of the four wheels has its own disc brake.
With truly neat surface modeling and loads of simple design details, the Sling Shot looked nearly production-ready in Detroit. In fact, this car is so clearly a good idea, we expect something like it to appear in production. Here's hoping a turbocharged SRT version comes soon after that.
2005 Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT
The JDM version of the next-generation Subaru Legacy is already on sale, so its appearance in American-spec form at the Detroit Auto Show was no big whoop. But what's pegging the whoop meter is news that we'll also get a new 2.5 GT sedan (and wagon) powered by a turbocharged and intercooled version of Subie's 2.5-liter flat-four engine. It's not quite an Americanized B4, but it's closer than we've ever been offered before.
Like all Subies, the new Legacy gets all-wheel drive standard. It rides on a 105.1-inch wheelbase (up from 104.3 inches on the 2003 Legacy) and gets all-new sheetmetal that, Subaru says, carries a miniscule 0.28 coefficient of drag in sedan form and just 0.30 Cd as a wagon.
The GT gets 17-inch wheels with 215/45R-17 all-season tires, over-size front brake rotors and ventilated rear brake rotors to further distinguish it from other Legacy models. The hood scoop on the GT is functional and feeds the intercooler that is mounted across the engine. In general specification, the engine is similar to that used in the WRX STi, but the cylinder block, turbocharger and its intercooler are unique to the 2.5 GT. Both five-speed manual and five-speed automatic transmissions will be available, with the new automatic also being shiftable either from the floor shifter or with buttons on the steering wheels.
The new Legacy models, including the 2.5 GT, will be at dealers this spring.
Daring to enter a twerpy niche where the MINI only dared tread, Mazda showed its MX Micro Sport at the Detroit Auto Show. Based on the Euro-only Mazda2, the Micro Sport has some MINI in the styling (mostly in the nose), though it's a five-door. Power comes from a 2.0-liter four and those wheels are 17s to give you an idea of how tiny this thing really is. It was shown as a concept at Detroit, but it's going into production for some market some place. Lilliput seems a good guess.
The rumor mill has it that it's still under consideration for America. It would make a lot of sense for America... if everyone here was to wake up one morning 40 percent smaller
Hyundai seems to produce a fresh coupe concept car every year. At this year's Detroit Auto Show, it was the HCD8, which may (or may not) indicate the Korean company's direction for the next Tiburon.
Supposedly built atop the next-generation Elantra platform, the HCD8 is powered by a supercharged version of Hyundai's 2.7-liter V6 feeding a six-speed manual transaxle. The suspension is an air-filled system that allows the driver to adjust it across a 4-inch span.
Those are 19-inch wheels encased in P255/40R-19 Michelin Sport Pilot tires with the front set 103.6 inches away from the rears. The lighting is by advanced LEDs, while the paint is something called "Ballistic Yellow Nippon."
If the HCD8 has any influence on the next Tib, we'll know in about two years.
2006 Lexus GS
Up against the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E Class, Lexus' GS sedan may have the toughest competition of any vehicle in its line. But it's a conservative market segment and yet the next GS (shown at Detroit and on sale next year) takes some daring chances.
The biggest chance is the addition of all-wheel drive to the mix-the first time AWD has found its way onto a Lexus car. The all-wheel-drive system will be integrated with a new "Vehicle Dynamic Management" (VDM) system that is the latest generation of Lexus' stability control system. Rear-drive fans need not fret, as all-wheel drive will only be an option and, at least at first, will only be available on six-cylinder GS300 models.
But it's not the same old six in that GS300. The iron-block straight-six that powered previous GS models (and the old Toyota Supra) has gone to engine heaven and is replaced by a new 3.0-liter V6 making 245 hp. Right now, Lexus isn't releasing any details about the new V6, though we're sure it's all-aluminum and carries an entire alphabet's worth of variable valve timing, variable valve lift and variable volume intake technologies. The 300-hp, 4.3-liter, DOHC, 32-valve V8 returns from the previous GS intact.
Both the V6 and the V8 will be lashed to a new, sequentially shiftable six-speed automatic transmission. The "Adaptive Variable Suspension" will allow the driver to choose between four damping settings ranging from normal to sport. Of course, the interior is more luxurious than ever, with "ultra-premium" wood milled from trees that actually volunteered to die in order to become part of a Lexus, polished metal and leather trim (we hear the cows put up a fight). A tire pressure monitoring system will also be part of the package and, as on the RX330 SUV, the headlights will turn with the steering in order to illuminate around corners.
Notes From The Detroit Auto ShowIs nitrous now mainstream? Ford's Bronco concept vehicle included nitrous injection on its diesel engine. How long before nitrous becomes a standard feature of some production car?
The sport compact ethos has even spread to Jeep, which introduced its Jeep Trail Rated campaign anime-style, complete with a girl in boots and all.
At least two concept cars, the Hyundai HCD8 and the Saturn Curve, used Ferrari-style metal gated shifters. That comes just as Ferrari itself increasingly relies on paddle-shifted transmissions for its cars.
Nissan mega-boss Carlos Ghosn personally promised us that the next Skyline GT-R will be coming to America by 2007 and that its performance benchmark is the Porsche 911. He also promised that, like the 350Z, it will deliver a lot of performance for the money.
Ghosn also told us that what's holding Nissan back, if anything, is a lack of qualified and capable engineers. It's just hired another thousand engineers and plans on breaking through that bottleneck to produce more exciting products.
"Design DNA" is already an overworked and trite phrase at virtually every car company. What's the new, soon-to-be-over-used term? "Mass individualization."
While the domestic manufacturers were concentrating on cars at this show, the Japanese were showing almost nothing but trucks-including a wacky Pilot-based pickup from Honda called the "SUT." Go figure.
Honda announced it will build a hybrid version of the Accord and virtually every manufacturer had some commingling of gas and electric technologies on display. Considering the success of Toyota's Prius, it looks like hybrids will be here into the foreseeable future.
Many execs seem convinced that people will move back into cars as the novelty of SUVs and pickups wears off and the attributes they like in those vehicles (all-wheel drive and higher seating positions, for instance) migrate over to sedans, coupes and convertibles.
The Toyota Prius was named 2004 North American Car of the Year at the Detroit Auto Show.
KIA is looking to establish an assembly plant in the United States as its sales volume grows beyond 300,000 here.
The price of the VW Phaeton with the W-12 engine is $94,600. In 1949 that much money would have bought about 74 VW Beetles here in the United States. In fact, it only sold two here that year.
Mitsubishi has announced a new 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty on all its cars, including the EVO. New Mitsu U.S. leader Finbarr O'Neill used a similar warranty to boost Hyundai here when he led that company's U.S. efforts.
BMW built at least one minivan prototype before backing away from the idea.
Lotus will put its mid-engine Elise on sale here in May with a 190-hp Toyota powerplant and a $39,985 MSRP.
Rumors are that the Saturn Curve has already been ordered into production, but that no decision has been made on the Chevy Nomad, which is also based atop the Kappa platform.
In order to attract older, more credit-worthy customers, Mitsubishi is expected to ditch its rock-and-roll-themed ad campaign. The new ads will concentrate-get this-on the cars.
Sirius, the satellite radio people, wants to offer at least four channels of in-car video programming by the middle of 2005. Expect it to concentrate on kid-oriented shows that will narcotize the precious little tots during extended family drives. Parents are already rejoicing.
GM's Captivating Kappas
Pontiac showed the production version of its 2006 Solstice two-seat roadster, to no one's surprise, at this year's Detroit Auto Show. But what wasn't expected were variations on the same rear-drive architecture in concept (but very plausible) form from both Chevrolet and Saturn.
GM calls its new small, rear-drive platform "Kappa" and it's the most interesting development at the corporation since... heck, since ever. The basic structure is similar to the Corvette's in that it's built around a solid, stamped-steel backbone incorporating the transmission tunnel and full-length hydro-formed perimeter frame rails. The suspension is independent with forged-aluminum double A-arms and coil springs at all four corners.
About the size of a Miata (at 157.2 inches, it's 1.9 inches longer than the Mazda, though its 95.1-inch wheelbase is 5.9 inches longer), the production Solstice closely resembles the concept version shown at the 2002 show with the 18-inch wheels pushed out to the car's four corners. It's powered by a 2.4-liter version of GM's Ecotec DOHC, 16-valve four now equipped with variable valve timing and making 170 hp. It's backed by an Aisin close-ratio five-speed manual transmission. A supercharged version (probably displacing 2.2-liters) making somewhere near 240 hp will come online sometime after the car's introduction.
Using the same Kappa platform, Chevy's Nomad is a neat sportwagon that closely resembles the original, Corvette-based Nomad concept car of 1954 and the Saturn Curve is a tightly drawn coupe. Both are just concepts at the moment, but they make sense as GM tries to spread Kappa's development costs and production among more products. The Nomad uses a turbocharged 2.2-liter Ecotec making about 250 hp, while the Curve has a supercharged version that "produces more than 200 hp." Don't be surprised if they both make it into production over the next several years.
A fourth Kappa-based car, the Vauxhall VX, was also on display in Detroit and is an open roadster like the Solstice. It has the supercharged Ecotec in its nose, an engine this time rated at 240 hp. We're told it will show up in the States rebadged as something. Maybe a Saturn.
Debuting at the Los Angeles Auto Show alongside its four-door sedan brother (together they replace the arthritic Cavalier), the Cobalt SS coupe is built around GM's Delta front-drive small car platform that also underpins the Saturn ION and Opel Astra. There's nothing particularly staggering about the Cobalt's MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension or unibody structure, but GM didn't have to re-invent physics to produce a vehicle better than the old Cav.
GM's Ecotec DOHC four will power all Cobalts with the base, LS and LT models using a 140-hp, 2.2-liter version, the SS coupe and sedan get a 2.4-liter version that uses variable valve timing to knock out 170 hp, and the SS Supercharged coupe has an Eaton blower wheezing into a 2.0-liter variation and should make somewhere near 200 hp. A five-speed manual transaxle will be standard on most models with GM's 4T45-E four-speed automatic optional.
The Cobalt should be Chevy's sales volume leader, so expect a wide range of options and variations. There will be, for example, 15-, 16-, 17- and even 18-inch wheels on the menu and four-wheel ABS disc brakes will be standard on the SS. Cobalt production begins late this year at GM's Lordstown, Ohio, plant. Expect a big showdown between the Cobalt and Dodge's Neon to see which element really rules the periodic table. Cobalt's atomic number of 27 and atomic weight of 58.933200 totally swamps Neon's atomic number of 10 and atomic weight of 20.1797.
2004 Mazdaspeed Turbo MiataMazda's turbocharged roadster is finally here as the 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata. What took it so long?
The single-scroll, ball-bearing turbo on the Mazdaspeed Miata wheezes 7.25 pounds of boost through an air-to-air intercooler into the 1.8-liter DOHC, 16-valve four to heave output from 142 hp up to a full 178. To handle that, the engine block is modified to accommodate an oil line for the turbocharger, the radiator core is enlarged for extra cooling and the six-speed manual transmission, clutch, pressure plate, driveshaft and Bosch torque-sensing limited-slip differential have all been reinforced. Inside the engine are new pistons reshaped to handle the additional fuel and air being forced in.
Along with more power, the Mazdaspeed Miata's suspension is twisted with shorter and tauter springs to work with new, faster steering gear and 17-inch Racing Hart aluminum wheels and Toyo Proxes R28 205/40R-17 tires. All four disc brake calipers are painted silver and equipped with ABS.
Throw in a new sound system, a lot of Mazdaspeed badges, smoked plastic headlamps and a 225-watt Bose stereo, and the result is a $25,500 stormer that goes on sale this spring. About the only option available is leather that adds $700 to the sticker. That sounds like a bargain, but we won't know until we've driven it how much of one it is.
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