2005 Detroit Auto Show Coverage

Ron SessionswritersMark WilliamswritersMatt StonewritersBrandy A. SchaffelsphotographersJeff Bartlettphotographersfrankmarkuswriters

Baby New Year parties in Motor City January 9th through the 23rd as Detroit hosts the North American International Auto Show. Press preview days Sunday through Tuesday saw thousands of auto scribes from around the globe descend upon the massive Cobo Hall to catch a first glimpse at the machines hitting the road in '05, and the concepts that will inspire vehicles over the next few years. Hot on the heels of the LA auto show, Detroit's exclusive debuts will motivate more than a few enthusiasts to make saving money for a gotta-have vehicle a solemn resolution. And for good reason. We saw more performance, more innovation, and more dynamic styling from all segments.Industry days brought hordes of automotive insiders to the floor Wednesday and Thursday, with the doors finally opening to the public on Friday. Join us here as we share the sights, sounds, and news from more than 35 press conferences. Words and pictures are now complete, we've posted nearly two dozen photo galleries highlighting selected vehicles, and added ten videos on the video page.For more on the Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Dodge Charger, Dodge Viper coupe, Infiniti M45, MazdaSpeed 6, Nissan Xterra, and Volkswagen Jetta, be sure to pick up the February 2005 copy of Motor Trend magazine.

The Acura RD-X Concept version of the upcoming Acura entry-level SUV, which will go on sale in 2006, promises to combine the performance of a sports sedan with the versatility and utility of a premium SUV. Aimed at active urban professionals and packed full of performance and technology, the RD-X Concept is designed to knife through traffic on crowded city streets and carve up twisty mountain roads. It features aggressive styling, a wide track, bold fender flares, and a unique wood and leather interior based on the feeling of an upscale loft apartment. Look for the RD-X to go on sale in 2006 as a 2007 model.

The all-new 2006 Kia Rio sedan made its world debut at NAIAS. Completely redesigned from the ground up, the all-new Rio features a longer wheelbase, wider track and more horsepower than its predecessor, providing better handling, a smoother ride and improved performance. The new Rio will also offer class-leading interior volume and six standard airbags, including full-length side-curtain airbags. Like all of Kia's vehicles, the 2006 Rio will be covered by Kia's comprehensive 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, and five years of roadside assistance. The all-new Kia Rio will be built at Kia's Sohari manufacturing facility in South Korea, and will be available in showrooms in Summer 2005.

The Mazda MX-Crossport design concept represents a new direction Mazda is considering as it works to expand its line-up of successful new-generation products. Designed at Mazda's main design studio in Hiroshima, Japan, the crossover-type vehicle -- combines strong styling cues from the company's flagship RX-8 sports car with the more practical packaging of sport/utility vehicle. Mazda says the powerful, bold, three-dimensional identity of the concept car was created to be both surprising and uniquely eye-catching. It is at the same time clearly a Mazda, however, and strong with Mazda family design cues making it immediately recognizable. It also is a new frontier for Mazda, leading the company into a new segment, expanding the definition of Zoom-Zoom from both a design and packaging standpoint. While Mazda has not yet officially confirmed a production model based on the MX-Crossport, the company has clearly stated that it intends to expand its line of new-generation Zoom-Zoom products for the North American market and beyond. The MX-Crossport is an important conceptual step forward in the process.

Honda has reinvented the modern pickup truck with a contemporary design that focuses on how consumers use trucks most of the time. Derived from the light-truck platform that begat the Honda Pilot, this family-focused vehicle emphasizes car-like characteristics through its fully independent suspension, yet boasts enough truck-grade toughness for weekend adventuring with seating for five, along with a five-foot cargo bed for toys like ATVs. The unibody Ridgeline will be powered by the 3.5L VTEC V-6, producing about 255-horsepower with cylinder deactivation available. In an "oh my!" answer to the complaint of most truck owners, Ridgeline has included a unique "trunk" under the bed that allows covered storage roomy enough to hold a 72-quart insulated cooler and other gear. On the safety front, the Ridgeline features vehicle stability assist, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, and four-wheel ABS. Production will be at the Alliston, Ontario, plant alongside the Pilot and Acura MDX.

The first concept car created at the new Nissan Design America, Inc. studios in Farmington Hills, Michigan, Nissan's Azeal coupe concept is themed to prove the point that "an entry-level car doesn't have to look entry level." Aiming to be a fresh interpretation of the "pocket rocket," Nissan touts the Azeal as an affordable, high-performance entry-level coupe with an emphasis on personality and aggressive styling, and demonstrates that theory with dramatic architecture that combines square forms with round corners, 19-inch machined-and-painted alloy wheels, and a driver-oriented cockpit with retractable navigation screen. Liquid Titanium paint and "Mohawk" center roof panel add to its visual intensity.

The second concept vehicle from Kia's California design center, Kia's KCD II provides a North American take on a potential new product segment for the company, presenting a modern, rugged body-on-frame SUV that features three rows of seats and dual full-length sunroofs. Built on a long 116-inch wheelbase, the vehicle spans 192 inches in overall length.

Based on the 911 Carrera and Carrera S Coupes released earlier this year, the 2005 911 Carrera Cabriolet and Carrera S Cabriolet are equipped with an electronic soft top that opens or closes in just 20 seconds and can be deployed or retracted with the car moving at up to 30 mph. The 911 Carrera S Cabriolet is powered by the same 3.8-liter/355 horse, flat-six cylinder engine as the new 911 Carrera S Coupe; Porsche promises 0-62 mph in just 4.9 seconds. The 911 Carrera Cabriolet is powered by the new Carrera Coupe's 3.6-liter/325 horse flat-six engine that promises 0-62 mph in 5.2 seconds. Both models achieve the same top track speed -- 177 mph for the Carrera Cabriolet and 182 mph for the Carrera S Cabriolet -- as their 911 Carrera Coupe counterparts despite weighing 180 pounds more. The 2005 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet and Carrera S Cabriolet will be introduced to the United States in mid March of 2005 at a price of $79,100 for the Carrera Cabriolet and $88,900 for the Carrera S Cabriolet.

Lincoln's second pickup takes a more conventional approach than the star-crossed Blackwood, pairing work truck abilities with automotive luxury. Derived from Ford's award-winning F-150, the {{{2006 Mark LT}}} will come in a single crew-cab body style with a 5.5-foot-long cargo bed. Power is supplied by the Navigator's new 24-valve, 5.4L/300-hp V-8 for rear- and four-wheel-drive models. Towing and payload capacities will outshine the Blackwood's, at 8900 lbs and 3/4-ton, respectively. In keeping with the marque's stature, the Mark LT's interior will be the most plush of any Ford brand pickup. A full roster of luxury touches are in the offing, including real Ebony wood, soft leather, and French-style stitching.

Last winter, Land Rover unveiled the pulse-quickening Range Stormer concept, translating the brand values into a high-performance machine. The concept was chock full of innovative technology and enthusiast bits, including Land Rover Terrain Response, Alps electronic systems, Hella interior and exterior lights, and Alcoa 22-inch forged alloy wheels. The production vehicle is expected to launch in 2005 as a four-door model, with a two-door to follow a year later. Powerplant will be shared with the LR3, putting a 300-hp V-8 under the hood. A supercharged variant is certain to follow. Smaller than a Range Rover, this Sport model is sized like the BMW X5, and it will answer the German automakers' challenge with the highest-performance Land Rover ever.

Built on a fortified Chevrolet Colorado platform, the H3 promises Hummer-grade toughness in a right-sized package. Compared to the H2, the H3 is 16.9 inches shorter in length, 6 inches shorter in height, and 6.5 inches narrower. The H3 uses an electronically controlled 4WD system with a fully locking rear differential, traction control, underbody shielding, and GM's StabiliTrak vehicle stability enhancement system. H3 offers two tire packages, a Goodyear 32-inch all-terrain tire and Bridgestone 33-inch, both larger than any other midsize SUV. Interior notables include available heated leather seats, a large electric sliding sunroof, DVD-based navigation, and numerous customized accessories. Powertrain is a 3.5L/220-hp I-5 with a choice of manual or automatic transmission. Peak fuel economy is 20 mpg.

Mitsubishi returns to the pickup market after a decade of absence with the midsized Raider. Co-developed with the new Dodge Dakota platform, the Raider will also be offered in two cab configurations, extended cab and crew cab, with each offered in two- and four-wheel drive. Base engine will be a 3.7L/210-hp V-6 with an available 4.7L/230-hp V-8 boasting 290 lb-ft of torque, both shared with the Dakota. With an extended cab bed length of 6.5 feet (5.25 on the double cab), Mitsubishi claims the largest cargo bed in its class, along with a 1700-pound max payload, and a 5000-pound tow capacity. Keeping with Mitsu's love for technology, the Raider will offer a thumping 500-watt audio system with a six-disc, in-dash CD changer, and Bluetooth.

Keeping in line with other GM model lines, Hummer will get its own "high-performance" badge. Called Alpha, the first vehicle to get this extra muscle will be the most muscular model in the Hummer line, the military based H1. Basically, Hummer will be swapping out the well-worn 6.5-liter Detroit Diesel they've had sitting under the hood since the commercial variant H1 came out in 1992. In its place will be the Duramax 6600 V-8 turbodiesel, with 300 horsepower (almost 50-percent more than the 6.5L TD) and 520 lb-ft of torque (almost 20-percent more pulling force than before). All new civilian H1s sold will be designated 2006 H1 Alpha models, coming in both the open-top pickup or hardtop wagon configurations, and will include a heavier-duty Allison 1000 transmission, bigger brakes (from 10.7 to 12 inches), stronger half-shafts, a bigger steering gear, and helically-cut hub gear sets to reduce noise, improve strength, and ease that annoying rocking motion at stops. In addition, the stronger transmission will have a lower first gear, offer an extra and higher overdrive (which means better fuel economy), and will have a better crawl ratio when in low range, increasing the H1 Alpha's slow-speed rock crawling ability by 22 percent. Likewise, the added strength improves GCWR (gross combined weight rating) by 2,000 pounds, most of which results in an increased towing capacity. In order to fit the new engine and transmission, two-inch body mounts were necessary for clearance. Don't look for any discount sales on the H1 Alpha. They will still be priced well above $100,000 when they get to showrooms in April 2005.

After six special-edition Harley-Davidson Ford F-150 and Super-Duty pickup trucks, the all-American alliance gives the bad-boy treatment to the new-generation F-150 for the first time. After a disturbing effort with a pumpkin-colored Super-Duty, we're glad to see Ford is back in black. For 2006, the Ford Harley-Davidson F-150 SuperCab is given a black monochrome treatment, with red and blue stripe accents and obligatory badging. The truck is dressed with a distinct lower valance, custom billet grille, blackout headlamps and taillamps, chrome side steps, and massive 22-inch aluminum wheels. Inside, the Harley truck has all the leather, embroidery, and chrome expected, transforming the dash, captains chairs, center stack, and even doors. Buyers will have a choice of 4x2 and AWD configurations, marking the first all-wheel-drive application on the F-150. Under the hood on all examples will be a 5.4L/300-hp V-8 boasting 365 lb-ft of torque. Bristling with attitude, this truck shows that Ford has the formula down pat.

Mercury offers an early look at its upcoming 2007 crossover vehicle based on the Ford Freestyle with the Meta One concept, while also demonstrating leading edge technologies. The standout feature is the world's first Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV)-capable diesel hybrid powertrain. Underhood is a twin-turbocharged V-6 diesel engine and an electric motor in the modular hybrid transmission that together produce as much torque as a large V-10 gasoline engine - 431 lb-ft - while providing V-6 fuel economy and exceeding the Tier I emissions standard for NOx emissions by 97 percent. The Meta One also showcases active safety technology, including a Lane Departure Warning that uses a mechanized vision system designed to recognize lane markings and a vehicle's lateral position relative to those markings. It can provide a visual, audible and/or haptic (vibrating) warning to the driver if the vehicle departs from a distinguishable lane without activation of the appropriate turn signal. Another intriguing system called "Collision Mitigation by Braking," aka CmbB, judges whether the car is about to experience a front collision, then applies the brakes if the driver is not reacting appropriately. Developed in cooperation with Volvo, the CmbB system defers to the driver's judgment if evasive action is taken, making its true safety benefit to buy precious seconds of deceleration in a calculated dangerous situation. While the production vehicle will likely be quite similar to the Ford Freestyle, this concept variation does illustrate next-generation electronic systems that FoMoCo is seriously exploring for future application.

Ford pioneered the "sport/utility truck" segment with the original Explorer Sport Trac. Based on the previous-generation Explorer, the Sport Trac combined a five-passenger cabin, short pickup bed, and sporty demeanor into an affordable, distinctive ride. Its two main short comings were limited cargo capacity and dated ride dynamics. The next-gen Sport Trac improves on the formula, and addresses these acknowledged issues. The Explorer Sport Trac concept is nearly five inches longer, two inches wider, and sits two inches lower than today's current Sport Trac model. The bed is 30 percent larger, though there is no Chevy Avalanche-like pass-through midgate. Vehicle dynamics are much improved with an independent rear suspension and 4.6L V-8 engine. The production-intended truck is thinly disguised in this SEMA-like sport transformation, with 21-inch wheels, shaved door handles, aluminum accents, lowered right height, four captains chairs, and striking two-tone interior. Insiders confide that many of these features could appear on a special-edition production model.

"Longer, lower, and wider" was the siren song of American cars in the 1950s and 1960s, and it also applies to Mercedes' completely redone M-Class SUV. Front and rear legroom is increased considerably as a result. Mercedes removed the truck frame that underpinned the previous version and retuned the suspension for a more carlike ride. While still recognizable as an M-Class, the 2006 model is clearly sleeker-looking and more in tune with the luxury and refinement buyers expect of a Mercedes passenger car. The five-seater will be available at its Spring 2005 launch with the company's new four-valve/cylinder DOHC 3.5-liter/268-horsepower V-6, as well as the carryover three-valve SOHC 5.0-liter/302-horse V-8. Safety improvements include active front head restraints, side curtain airbags, and the company's PreSafe system that cinches the belts down if it senses the onset of a collision. Off-roaders haven't been left out either with a two-speed four-wheel-drive transfer case being available, as well.

Ford is finally crashing the family sedan party that the ubiquitous Camry, Accord, and Altima sedans have long dominated. Based on Mazda6 running gear, the Fusion will be offered with a 2.3-liter 160-hp inline four or a 3.0-liter 210-hp V-6 mated to a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. The front suspension resembles that of a Mercedes E-class, using a control arm, a lateral link, and a leading link to reduce the effective scrub radius for improved steering feel and accuracy. Along with a multi-link rear suspension, this setup promises best-in-class handling. Four-wheel disc brakes will be standard on all models; ABS and traction control are options. The look is broad-shouldered and confidently American outside and the interior fit/finish and materials are first-rate. One area where Ford invites unflattering comparison, however, is in its interior space: most major dimensions fall short of the Asian bogeys, some by up to two inches.

The Shelby GR-1 takes the performance car genre in a new direction combining modern sculptured surfaces in a sleek muscular fastback design. Displayed in Detroit under strong blue lighting, its polished aluminum body panels took on a strangely futuristic aura. Ford Motor Company says the new Shelby GR-1 concept sports car is a salute to performance art, calling it "a uniquely emotional American sports car design that makes a bold statement about Ford's performance future." Inspired by Carroll Shelby, the front-engined, two-seat, fastback supercar is based on the architecture of the Ford GT. Designed by George Saridakis of the Ford Irvine (California) Advanced Design Studio, this car was developed as a possible lesser-priced successor to the GT. Unlike other iterations of this car that we have seen through the autoshow season, this car was a runner, powered by Ford 6.4-liter/605-horse DOHC 90-degree V-10.

Shake, rattle, and roll may be a great tune for an oldies station, but it by no means describes the feeling you get when you drive the droptop version of Ford's new-generation ponycar. From the start of the program, Ford engineers designed the convertible alongside the coupe, resulting in a car that has more than twice the torsional stiffness of the previous-generation Mustang. Steering-column shake and cowl quiver over railroad tracks and potholes, common bugaboos of many convertibles on the road today, are held largely in check. The insulated fabric top seals out noise better than its predecessor allowing conversation at normal levels while cruising. Unhook two front latches and press the electric switch on the windshield header, and the open-air four seater moves though the air with less buffeting than previous Mustangs. The best news of all, Ford expects to price the V-6 convertible around $25,000 and the GT V-8 ragtop near $30,000, yet another reason to go topless in a Mustang.

Signaling that Cadillac's performance metamorphosis is as serious as ever, it is launching a hotted-up version of its rear-drive STS flagship with an all-new 4.4-liter version of Cadillac's Northstar V-8. The engine packs an estimated 440 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque courtesy of an intercooled Roots-type Eaton blower nestling under its discreetly domed hood, and hooks to GM's first six-speed automatic transmission. Also part of the package is a ground-hugging aero body kit, stainless-steel wire mesh grille, quicker steering, huge vented Brembo disc brakes, a front shock-tower brace, 18-inch front, 19-inch rear Pirelli run-flat tires, and a new four-channel version of Stabilitrak that allows the driver to completely turn off stability and traction control, if desired. Engineers even lowered the engine about half an inch to lower the car's center of gravity. No word yet on price, but the premium leather coverings on the dash, door panels, and console, and AMG-like addition of a supercharger and aggressive chassis mods may take the STS-V just north of the Corvette-based XLR and south of the similarly outfitted E55 AMG, around $80,000.

Chrysler's Hemi-powered, Viper-based Firepower concept is wedged neatly in size and status between the ME Four-Twelve dream car and the very real Crossfire SRT6. Since other companies--presumably in the arms biz--own "Firepower," the label is a working codename. The car will have been renamed by the time you read this. But the vitals remain the same. The handsome, fastback skin is by Four-Twelve designer Brian Nielander and stretched over a Viper chassis--it seems Chrysler was drinking from the same design well as was Ford with the Shelby GR-1. Replacing the Viper's thumping 8.3-liter, 500-horsepower V-10 under the hood is the punchy yet refined 425-horse, 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 from the hi-po version of the hot-selling Chrysler 300, the SRT8. The suspension is tuned for a softer, GT-style ride akin to Aston Martin in handling and feel, and tires are 275/35R19 fronts, 335/30R20s rear, with 14-inch Brembo brakes all around. Production? It sits in that auto-show purgatory of "we have no plans, but if we did it, it would bridge Crossfire and [the equally uncommitted] ME Four-Twelve." At first glance, it makes a lot more sense for Chrysler than the ME, as it would be affordable and much easier to put into production if demand exists. The nose features familiar Chrysler grille, with hood-strakes like the Crossfire and ME Four-Twelve. Overall length, at 172.6 inches, is 2.9 inches shorter than a Viper (yet more than a foot longer than Crossfire) and shares the Viper's 98.8-inch wheelbase. Width is 73.0 inches, height a rakish 47.7 inches.An all-glass roof sweeps from the windshield to the glass hatch (coincidentally, the new Jaguar XK coupe will have a fastback-hatch) and the CHMSL is integrated into the satellite-navigation/satellite-radio antenna. Rear quarter-panels are influenced by Aston; the tail is GR-1-like. But overall design is tidy, elegant, muscular Chrysler.

Relief arrives for legions of weekend-warrior Viper owners who have been reluctant to install ugly roll cages in SRT10 roadsters just to pass tech inspection on race weekends. This coupe's steel roll hoop in the B-pillar satisfies amateur racing regs and contributes to a 30-percent improvement in torsional rigidity. The SMC roof panel retains the old Viper GTS's double-bubble roof shape to provide ample room for helmeted heads to move around. The hatch shape and rear ducktail spoiler help improve the roadster's 0.40 drag coefficient and add downforce -- handy for those probing the 200-mph top speed. Engine performance is unchanged, which begs the question: Can this Viper outrun the new Corvette Z06? Chevy boasts a superior power-to-weight ratio, gearing that's about 13 percent shorter, and slipperier bodywork, but the Viper has wider tires and less frontal area, so it may put the power down better and hit a similar top speed. Stay tuned for one helluva battle royale.

A midsized SUV, the Graphyte is the first vehicle GMC is showing to use the Advanced Hybrid System 2 (AHS2), which combines the Vortec 4800 V-8 that includes Displacement on Demand cylinder shut-off, and full electric propulsion at lower speeds. The calculated fuel savings over normal driving is said to be 25 percent when compared to a normal midsize SUV. Riding on 22-inch wheels, offering an adjustable ride-height suspension, and debuts the first rotating rear hatch/tailgate system. Inside, the Graphyte makes driving a push-button affair, while maintaining a professional-grade appearance.

The Gladiator concept takes yet another stab at a Jeep pickup, and this appears a logical and easy-to-produce machine. Its engine is a 163-horsepower, 295-pound-foot turbodiesel (specs virtually equal to the new Liberty CRD's 2.8-liter four) with part-time four-wheel drive. With a 138-inch wheelbase, its dimensions are close to those of the midsize Dodge Dakota pickup. It's also described as a concept, but it clearly gives clues to the design direction of the 2007 Wrangler. FYI: Jeep used the Gladiator name on a pickup built from 1963 to 1969. Despite the Wrangler/Liberty styling themes, Chrysler says the Gladiator's platform is unique. The club cab has a small lower access door on the driver's side and a full-height rear-hinged half-door on the passenger's side. The sidemount spare saves space and allows rear overhang to be short, and it recalls the spares on the early J-10 Gladiators. Rugged and basic; top is canvas, for an open-air option. Rear-window glass rolls down, the rear seat cushion drops and slides under the deep bed, which slides forward to extend from its 5.6-foot standard size to eight feet in length.

With the Aura sedan concept and Sky roadster, Saturn is taking Oldsmobile's place in the "Chevy, Pontiac, Olds..." etc. lineup as GM's "import fighter." The Aura (not its final name) rides on the 112.3-inch wheelbase version of the Epsilon platform (Malibu Maxx and G6), but it will be the only Epsilon offered at-launch with GM's 3.6-liter twin-cam "high-feature" V-6. It will also come with a 2.4-liter/174-horse four, but a six-speed manual will be offered only with the six. Styling is based heavily on the Opel Vectra, with "sculpted surfaces and flowing horizontal lines," projector-beam trapezoidal headlamps and a panoramic sunroof, like the G6's. The concept's interior features snakeskin-like "Rustica" leather seats in navy and dark saddle and much attention to lighting, including a backlit instrument cluster, center vent switches and window and door switches, theater dimming, ambient overhead lighting, and illuminated door handles.

If 500 ponies weren't enough, the power mavens at Saleen have upped the ante to 750 horsepower and 700 lb-ft of torque for the new 2005 Saleen S7. Saleen has made numerous changes to its American supercar in order to capture increased sales and bragging rights as the best -- or at least the fastest of the best. Lined up side by side with the original S7, you'd be hard pressed to notice differences such as the new diffuser/rear spoiler or the reshaped front fenders. The chassis was also reengineered with revised suspension pickup points and geometry in the name of improved performance dynamics with increased comfort. Engine updates are extensive to accommodate ball-bearing twin-turbochargers packing 5.5 psi of max boost pressure. Saleen claims 2.8 seconds from 0-60 mph and a 10.7-second quarter mile time, which would rocket it to the head of the exotic car class.

What consumer wouldn't want more? With the all-new fifth-generation Jetta that will go on sale later this year, Volkswagen is betting that customers are ready to step up to more size, more power, and more features. The upsized Jetta grows an inch in width and height and a whopping seven inches in length, graduating from premium subcompact to premium midsize status. Still smaller than the also-redesigned Passat, the new Jetta gets more juice, courtesy of a 2.5-liter inline-five with 150 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque, like Audis of yore. Though pricing of the "Hecho en Mexico" Jetta will start below $18K, a feature-rich standard equipment list is enhanced with stability control, head-curtain airbags, a six-speed automatic transmission that aids powertrain reponsiveness, a new independent rear suspension, and electro-mechanical steering for a more dynamic driving experience. And if buyers catch a whiff of the Phaeton luxury flagship in the Jetta's rear flanks, that's all the more reason to get enthusiastic about VW's best-selling model in the U.S.

2005 Detroit Auto Show Coverage

The Impala sedan is reborn for '06, with dramatic new sheetmetal giving the four-door a more international appearance. The basic formula continues, though improvements can be seen throughout, from major components to details. The interior is equally redone, with a cleaner, more modern arrangement. Like the updated Monte Carlo, the Impala offers dual-zone climate control, remote-start with climate presets, steering wheel cruise controls, heated power seats, Generation 6 OnStar system, and an uplevel MP3/CD-radio configured for XM Satellite Radio. Significant structure fortifications and suspension tuning promise a more refined, more controlled ride, balanced by an improved steering system. In total, three suspension packages are available (FE1, FE2, and FE3), with 16- and 17-inch wheels available. The most exciting feature set is undeniably the powertrains, with the base 3.5-liter V-6 engine producing 210-hp. Next step is a 3.9-liter/240-horsepower V-6. And the enticing top offering is a 5.3-liter OHV V-8 fitted with GM's fuel-saving Displacement on Demand technology, allowing 303 horsepower and 323 lb-ft of torque to be available with V-6-grade mileage.

Exterior freshening gives the Monte Carlo a slightly more contemporary appearance, with new lamps and tightened skin shortening overall length by 1.2 inches. The SS model remains distinct with black-diamond grille, decklid spoiler, and generally looking more like the NASCAR cars Gordon campaigns. The interior has been transformed with a new dash and instrument cluster, along with a roster of revised features, including dual-zone climate control, remote-start with climate presets, steering wheel cruise controls, heated power seats, Generation 6 OnStar system, and an uplevel MP3/CD-radio configured for XM Satellite Radio. Revised chassis structure enables more ride refinement, new suspension tuning, and ability to cradle a V-8 engine. That's right, after years of rumors, the V-8 has finally returned to the Monte. A 5.3L V-8 with Displacement on Demand technology produces 303 horsepower and 323 lb-ft of torque, routed through the front wheels. The base engine is a 3.5L/210-hp V-6, with a midline 3.9L/240-hp V-6 available. All three engines are offered with a Hydra-Matic 4T65-E electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission.

General Motors dances with the branding devil yet again with a badge-engineered Saturn version of the Pontiac Solstice sports car. Both are rear-drive Kappa platform two-seaters, but the Sky has sharper creases in its sheetmetal, styling borrowed heavily from the Vauxhall Lightning concept. Other changes versus the Pontiac include more standard equipment, such as OnStar, power windows, and air conditioning (although you can option out a Solstice with all of the Sky's equipment) and a more elegant interior with piano black inserts and LED backlighting. The Sky will have the same suspension tuning and standard 2.4-liter/170-horse Ecotec four as the Solstice, with probably a supercharged 2.2-liter four available sometime after launch. GM hopes enough buyers will discriminate between the two roadsters to help elevate Saturn upmarket as a more prestigious, sophisticated brand than Pontiac. Click here to view a full photo gallery.

One of the most obscure concepts at the show was this Segway all-terrain vehicle. Naturally it boasts electric drive and Segway's signature gyro-stabilized balancing capability, meaning you can pop a wheelie and hold it, even at a stop. The Centaur was revealed by Michelin because it is fitted with a bold new concept in airless tires being pioneered by the company that invented the radial tire. Here's how it works: The tread is bonded to a strong loop of steel or composite material. The vehicle's weight hangs from a series of polymer plastic spokes that connect this loop to the hub. The concept, known as the Tweel, can bear the load of a pneumatic tire four times its size, it can cushion bumps five times as well as a pneumatic tire, and the contact area can be nearly doubled for improved handling. Noise, mass, and rolling resistance have to be improved before the Tweel is ready for high-speed, high-load passenger car applications. Watch for more on this promising technology.

The Vanquish is already one of the world's most desirable exotic GTs. In newly updated S form, it is even more so. With a maximum speed in excess of 200mph, courtesy of an amped-up 6.0-liter V-12 engine developing 520 horsepower, the Vanquish S has been spec'd out to deliver even greater performance, complemented by subtle suspension, steering, and brake system upgrades. "The Big V" looks meaner too, with a reshaped grille and decklid plus new wheels. Revised steering geometry provides 20-percent quicker response, and the Sports Dynamics suspension, steering, and braking package that was optional on the Vanquish is standard on the Vanquish S. The original Vanquish's interior wasn't quite up to the level of the rest of the car, but Aston has upped the game for the S with a more richly finished cabin that now looks and feels the part. The Vanquish S's main competition is Ferrari's 550 Maranello and 612 Scaglietti. U.S. pricing has not yet been announced, but expect it to fall between $250k-275k.

Dodge has taken a good bit of heat for applying the venerated Charger nameplate to a four-door sedan, but this particular sedan may just have the swagger and cojones to pull it off. Practically every part of this new sedan that you can't see is shared with its LX platform siblings, the Magnum wagon and our car of the year, the Chrysler 300 sedan. On the exterior, only the windshield is shared. And like the 300 and Magnum, this Charger looks better in person than it does in pictures. The headlights sneer just like a Viper's, and along with the chrome cross-hair grille, they appear to lunge forward as if poised to head-butt a docile Camry or Accord out of the fast lane. A steeply raked rear window like that found on its Intrepid predecessor conspires with sloping rear side glass to lend a distinctive coupe-like appearance, while preserving reasonable rear seat headroom. Engine choices range from the Magnum's 3.5-liter V-6 on up through the 6.1-liter SRT8 Hemi V-8. Click here to view a full photo gallery.

To the casual observer, everything about the new Z06--its rolling chassis, engine, and composite skin--looks like standard C6 Corvette fare. But give this beast a double take and you'll discover that it's Chevy's 200-mph supercar; its Dodge Viper/Ford GT slayer. The chassis is all aluminum, hydroformed in similar dies to those used to build the standard steel C6 frame. Magnesium and carbon fiber parts are also used to help contain the total curb weight to less than 3150 pounds. The carbon fiber front fenders are flared to accommodate 275/35ZR18 tires and the rear quarter panels are widened 1.5 inches to clear massive 325/30ZR19s. The big news, though, is the 427.6-cubic-inch small-block LS7 engine, good for 500 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 475 pound-feet of torque at 4800 rpm. Titanium connecting rods, intake valves, and valve springs permit 7000-rpm revving, for this, the ultimate small-block. Expect to pay at least $75,000 when the Z06 hits the road this fall. Click here to view a full photo gallery.

This race car sibling of the all-new Corvette Z06 street car is set to assault racing circuits from Sebring to LeMans this year. Packing the same all-aluminum 7.0-liter 500-horse Chevy small-block V-8 as the Z06, the C6-R features a dry-sump lubrication system, forged-steel crankshaft, titanium valves and connecting rods, plate-honed cylinder bores and CNC ported heads. Cranking to 7000 rpm between shifts, the pushrod V-8 has never sounded sweeter. A two-car factory-backed team will compete in the production-based GT1 class in the American LeMans Series. The previous Corvette-based race car, the C5-R, won its class at LeMans three out of the last four years. Race car engineers developed a new aerodynamic package for the C6-R, due to that vehicle's shorter overall length and longer wheelbase, that includes a new rear wing and front splitter. The same drivers that piloted the undefeated C5-R in the 2004 season will return to drive the C6-R: Ron Fellows, Max Papis, Johnny O'Connell, Jan Magnussen, Olivier Beretta, and Oliver Gavin. Click here to view a full photo gallery.

Remember when a Volvo looked like the box that the toy came in? Thosedays ended long ago, and the 3CC is further evidence that Volvodesigners and product development folks are thinking (way) outside the(old) box. The idea somewhat recalls the much-loved 1800 ES of theearly 1970s, but does so in a modern form, and makes use of tandemseating for three. That's two up front, and one in back. There's lotsof storage room in the cargo area, and the rear boattail roof design isinteresting, if not terribly practical. This concept is electricallypowered, but Volvo made it clear that all manner of gasoline, diesel, orother powertrain types would fit. Volvo won't produce this car in thisexact form, but simultaneously announced that it will soon bring a newcoupe to market dubbed C30 that clearly takes its inspiration fromthis design study. The C30 will slot in around or just below the S40and V50 models, and the production version should break cover during the2006 auto show season. Click here to view a full photo gallery.

Don't let the "concept" moniker fool you: this is Jaguar's next XK8.The first all-new Jaguar to come from the hand of former Aston Martindesign director Ian Callum, the Advanced Lightweight Coupe is a strongand elegant piece of work. The feline proportions and strong rearfenderlines are Callum trademarks. While theglinting headlights and ovoid grille are Jaguar trademark design cues,the rear design is a new design language for the marque, including thereturn of a rear hatchback, a la the E-Type of the 1960s and early 1970s.The front and rear fascias will be toned down a bit, but this designstudy otherwise gives a clear view of next-gen production XK that willcome to market in 2006. Like the XJ sedans, the next XK will make useof aluminum intensive construction for both chassis and body panels.Revised versions of Jaguar's naturally aspirated and supercharged V-8engines, estimated at 320 and over 400 horsepower respectively, willpower the new coupe and convertible. Clearly among the stars of theDetroit show, the ALC shows that Jag isn't going down without a fight.Expect pricing to increase 5-10% over current levels. Click here to view a full photo gallery.

Anxious to identify the next trend in luxury cars, Infiniti presented the Kuraza sport/utility concept. Designer Koji Nagano emphasized comfortable space over multiple cupholders and individual video screens, with three rows of buckets separated by a "flying bridge" console running from front to back. The seats echo the shape of a traditional Japanese kimono, while classic Chris Craft speedboats inspired the wood floor. The Kuraza has six doors - the rear two with hidden handles and rear hinges, like an extended cab pickup truck - so aging baby boomers don't have to crawl over flip-fold seats to get in back. The Kuraza looks like a very large FX45 with a greenhouse reminiscent of the Renault Avantime, a very squared-off, spacious glass and top contrasting with the swoopy lower sheetmetal. Bottom line is that the Infiniti Kuraza is a high-concept multipurpose vehicle with several nifty ideas that will resonate with aging cold war-era kids. Click here to view a full photo gallery.

The global chassis architecture that underpins the Mazda6 is spawning a trio of mid-sized domestic sedans: Ford's Fusion (also introduced here in Detroit), the Mercury Milan, and the Lincoln Zephyr. The latter will be the least expensive Lincoln model, and is intended to entice new, younger buyers to consider Ford's top luxury brand. The Zephyr will be available in front- or all-wheel drive form, powered initially by a 3.0-liter V-6 producing 210 horsepower matched with a six-speed automatic transmission, quite noteworthy for its class. A more powerful 3.5-liter V-6 will come along about a year after launch. Zephyr's exterior design is crisply edgy, and appears well-differentiated from its Ford and Mercury platform mates. The elegant passenger compartment treatments boast the quality, materials, and creature features you'd expect of a luxury nameplate; choose between real wood or high tech-looking satin aluminium interior trim themes, with leather upholstery standard. Expect a base price of under $30,000, with fully loaded models at around $35K.

The Eclipse coupe has been a franchise player for Mitsubishi since the model's introduction 15 years ago. But the previous-generation "geo mechanical" styling hasn't always rung the sales bell, so Mitsu is rolling out an all-new one for '06 that it believes will recapture the magic of the previous, turbocharged sportster. The fourth-gen Eclipse is based on a coupified version of the current Galant chassis platform. It will be available in two trim levels, and with two new powertrain offerings. The look is aggressive and ultra-modern, recalling some elements of the second-generation Eclipse, a bit of Audi TT, and a lot that's new and fresh. A 162-horse I-4 is standard; performance types will head directly for the 3.8L/260-hp V-6. This powerplant represents the company's first use of variable valve timing on a V-6, and it is backed with a new six-speed manual transmission. Serious drivers will also want the Sport Package, which includes sportier suspension tuning and 18-inch rolling stock. The new Eclipse's interior goes way up market, with serious Rockford Fosgate audio offerings, optional leather trim, and an avant garde look courtesy of Mitsu's California design studio. The 2006 Eclipse goes on sale late this spring, with pricing to be announced. If the car drives as good as it looks, we expect the Eclipse to reclaim its leadership position in the performance coupe marketplace.

Hyundai uncovered the all-new, American-built Sonata at the Detroit auto show, revealing the third of seven vehicles scheduled to roll out in just 24 months. When an empty, circular stage without a ramp was seen as the presentation dias, journos wondered if sheetmetal would be seen, and then the dark Sonata was lowered from the ceiling in a startling surprise typical of Motor City fanfare. The sedan promises to further the brand's march into the mainstream sales fray, with a generously equipped package that at 120 cubic feet offers more interior space than the Toyota Camry. This advantage sees the Sonata EPA-rated as a "large car," yet priced aggressively against the midsize competition. The Sonata boasts a full complement of standard safety features, including six airbags, active front headrests, ABS, and for the first time in the mid-size sedan segment, standard Electronic Stability Control (ESC). The Sonata will come with a choice of two new all-aluminum engines; a 2.4-liter from the new Hyundai/ Mitsubishi/ DaimlerChrysler global four family, and a 3.3-liter V-6. Trannys are a four-speed automatic, and available with only the four, a five-speed manual. Front suspension is double-wishbone, with a multi-link rear, and Active Geometry Control Suspension is optional. It regulates rear toe-in via two electric actuators that vary the geometry of the control arms. Hyundai undoubtedly will again offer full equipment for the price of a stripper Camry, but at this rate, the rapidly improving automaker could soon sell its cars on design alone.

Audi debuted a unique crossover concept at Detroit, designed to demonstrate electronic systems that are destined to enter production in the next few years, while still sporting the character typical of Audi's Avant line. This allroad quattro concept features a brand-new 4.0-liter/281-horsepower V-8 turbodiesel engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that combine to promise 0-62 mph in 6.4 seconds with an electonically limited top speed of 155 mph. While Audi is known for its permanent quattro all-wheel drive systems, and has sold more than 1.8 million so-equipped cars in 25 years of production, high-technology in this vehicle goes farther than the powertrain and drive system: the allroad quattro concept also features "Audi Road Vision," which is an optical sensor that recognizes road surfaces and conditions (such as gravel or black ice) for increased driving safety. Other features are "Audi lane assist" which causes the steering wheel to vibrate to alert the driver should the car inadvertently change lanes, and "Audi side assist" in which sensors monitor the area around and behind the vehicle to inform the driver of obstructions in their blind spots.

Don't laugh, but this crossover SUV powered by the Outback wagon's 3.0-liter flat-six and five-speed automatic is intended to outperform BMW's X5 3.0i. Check the stats: relative to the BMW's inline six the Subie makes 25 more horsepower (250 total), and the truck weighs 450 pounds less, giving it a 19 percent advantage in weight-to-power. The front strut/rear multi-link suspension is tuned to closely match the handling dynamics of the BMW, while softening the suspension settings for improved ride quality. Fat 255/55R18 Goodyear Eagles match the size of the X5's sport suspension tires. Where Subaru clearly trumps BMW is in interior space efficiency. Stretching just five inches longer on a 2.8-inch shorter wheelbase, the B9 Tribeca fits three rows of seats (a third-row-delete option will be offered). Max cargo space with the seats folded flat appears to be much larger than in the BMW. Of course, learning to love Subaru's new airplane-inspired nose may take time.

Pontiac wants to own the high-performance front-drive market. So following up on the Northstar V-8-powered Bonneville GXP, the division is shoehorning an aluminum 5.3-liter V-8 into the Grand Prix GXP, arriving in March. The LS6 small-block boasts cylinder-deactivation and makes 290 hp and 325 lb-ft. It also weighs less than the cast-iron supercharged 3.8-liter V-6 it replaces. In the hopes of making the car corner like a rear-driver (eagerly, with less tendency to understeer wide in turns), the rear anti-roll bar is stiffened by 20 percent and the 18-inch alloy wheels actually wear fatter rubber in the front (255/35 vs. 225/40). Bigger cross-drilled brakes counteract the added go-power. Exterior mods are limited to monochrome fascias, subtle chrome accents, and a demure trunk spoiler that actually reduces lift. Suede seat inserts and "engine-turned" dash bezels dress up the interior, which is also hushed by the Buick LaCrosse's quiet package. Expect a price under $29,000.

For 2006, Pontiac will add its first sport/utility vehicle to the range, with its own variation of the Chevrolet Equinox. Like its corporate twin, the Torrent will stand out in the compact `ute class by offering a slightly bigger package than most and a base 3.4L/185-hp V-6 with a five-speed automatic transmission. Offered in front- and all-wheel drive, the Torrent is expected to be tuned for a more enthusiastic drive than the Equinox, fitting with the Pontiac brand character. The five-seater boasts several distinct features, such as electric power steering, a rear seat that adjusts 8 inches fore/aft, and removable/adjustable rear package shelf. Ultimately, the long wheelbase and large side doors may counted among the appealing traits, allowing easy ingress/egress.

Mazda's desire to bring stylish, insightful and spirited vehicles to every segment in which the company competes is demonstrated in Detroit by the Mazda5, a six-passenger "multi-activity vehicle" that Mazda says drives like a sports car but packs people and equipment like a large SUV. Powered by the all-aluminum 2.3-liter/157-horsepower MZR series engine from the Mazda3 mated to a five-speed manual or four-speed Sport AT automatic with manual shift mode, the Mazda5 features one-touch large sliding doors that aid access to flexible, tiered "theatre-style" seating for up to six. Four-wheel disc brakes with Electronic Downforce Distribution combine with Mazda's Dynamic Stability Control combine to assure optimal control and stability when braking. Two models are available, Sport or Touring, both with CD stereo, power windows and locks, cruise control, and 17-inch alloy wheels as standard equipment; Touring model adds in-dash six-disc changer, climate control, front fogs, rear spoiler, and side skirts. Pricing and onsale date are still to be determined.

Toyota took the wraps off its third-generation Avalon sedan in Detroit, just a month before it goes on sale. An American-designed and manufactured vehicle, the all-new Avalon advances its proven formula by offering more power, sophistication, and amenities. The sleek exterior makes a striking evolution from the second-generation model, retaining a high roofline that allows for generous rear-seat headroom. A closer look reveals several interesting touches, such as in-glass LED mirror turn signals, low-profile wiper blade assembly, and high-intensity-discharge headlamps with dynamic auto leveling. Again, all trim levels are powered by a sole V-6 engine. For '06, the all-new 3.5-liter powerplant produces 280 horsepower and 260 lb-ft. Matched with a five-speed automatic, the new V-6 can reportedly propel the 3500-lb car from 0-60 mph in 6.6 seconds. The Avalon features a solid roster of safety gear, including seat-mounted side airbags, front and rear side-curtain airbags, driver's knee bag, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, and available stability control. The cleanly designed interior features nine-speaker AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo, dual-zone climate control, steering-wheel-mounted controls, and basic power amenities. Uplevel models add leather upholstery, aluminum trim, and additional content, such as JBL Synthesis audio system, power rear sun shade, and Smart Key System. Trick options include Dynamic Laser Cruise Control and Remote Engine Starter, perfect for warming the cabin on brisk winter mornings.

Volkswagen has cooked up yet another fun variation of its iconic New Beetle with the Ragster concept. With stripes that remind of "Herbie the Love Bug," the Ragster gives the cuddly car an aggressive appearance with a street-rod-style roof chop. Press a button on the steering wheel and the cloth top lowers back, leaving the arced roof structure intact. Slight changes to the front lamps add to the snarky appearance, with the headlights taking a more oval shape and the turn signals being wider and flatter. Redlined tires and massive 19-inch wheels give it a decidedly Hot Wheels appearance. More than an auto show toy, Volkswagen claims to be considering such a variant. Click here to view a full photo gallery.

One of the most striking cars of the show was unquestionably the LF-A sports car. Toyota has been caught testing such a car, making this much more than a sheetmetal fantasy. Like the other LF concepts that foretell of the IS replacement, this supercar bears the exterior styling language known as "L-Finesse" that will shape future Lexus models. Rumors had been corroborated by official information that this high-speed wedge is powered by a 500-plus horsepower engine. Spies report that Toyota has been testing a V-10 engine, but a similar output V-8 is likely. "The LF-A is theoretically developed to run a parallel course to our company's efforts in Formula One racing," added Jim Press, Toyota Motor Sales executive vice president and COO. "It would probably feature a powertrain and drivetrain configuration strongly influenced by whatever is being used in competition at the time." Although it is about five inches shorter in length than the Porsche 911 Turbo, its wheelbase is nine inches longer. At 48 inches, it is nearly identical in height to the Ferrari F430. And with a width of 73.2 inches, it splits the difference between the Mercedes Benz SL55 and the Aston Martin DB9. Heir to the Toyota Supra mantle? We expect so. Click here to view a full photo gallery.

Just as the West Coast is flooded by endless rain, Lexus rolled out a special RX 330 in Detroit, the Thundercloud Edition. Shown here in Thundercloud Metallic paint, this exclusive model will also be available in Flint Mica. Both body colors will be matched with light gray interior with leather-trimmed seats and black bird's eye maple wood trim. These sport/utes are further distinguished with a chrome grille, five-spoke aluminum wheels, and logos applied to the front doors and floor mats. Consumers can select from the traditional range of RX options for the Thundercloud models, including the Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS), Mark Levinson audio, and rear seat DVD entertainment system. Thundercloud models go on sale late January, with a planned volume of 6500 units. The cost for exclusivity is just $300 above the base MSRP of $35,775 for the two-wheel drive model, and $37,175 for the all-wheel-drive model.

Making good on the tired clich of "turning on a dime," Jeep wowed the media audience with its amazing Hurricane. This phase of a three-vehicle press conference began with a fellow driving an HPI Savage radio-controlled nitro truck up a ramp and up on stage. With a little ribbing from Dieter Zetsche about "what separates men and boys is the size of their toys," the Chrysler group CEO grabbed hold of an oversized controller. From behind the stage an engine rumbled to life, then a second. The massive, carbon-fiber-intensive Hurricane roared on to the stage, with its twin Hemi V-8 engines producing over 650 combined horsepower. Not needing a turntable, the Hurricane was able to rotate each tire enough to not only drive in a circle, but to spin on its own axis. Zipping `round and `round like a toy, it was clear this vehicle is definitely a big boy's toy. Radical approach and departure angles, obscene horsepower, 37-inch tires, and all-wheel-steer make this a true off-roader's dream machine. During the build-up, Jeep engineers registered several patents. While twin-engined sport/utes may not catch on, we expect development will continue on an answer to GM's QuadraSteer and hope it has application on an ultimate off-roader of the future. Click here to view a full photo gallery.

Not to be confused with the mighty FTX full-size truck concept from 2004, the midsize FT-SX was developed by Calty, Toyota's California-based design house, to explore a crossover niche between wagons and soft-roaders. The FT-SX also establishes a "T-Face" theme that will likely be applied to future Toyota products. Fender arches and taillamp sculpting give the exterior a cohesive, integrated look that also hints at things to come. The interior designers explored a greater use of wood than common, creating an interesting blend of planar surfaces, stark panels, and materials. The wood/metal juxtaposition continues in the cargo area, as seen on a sliding load tray that automatically deploys when the lower hatch is opened. The resulting living room feel could prove an interesting production theme, as we expect some, if not all, of this vehicle to reach the road. Click here to view a full photo gallery.

Suzuki pulled the cover off its first midsize SUV concept, as the Japanese manufacturer explores the potential for a lifestyle vehicle. Designers were tasked to reinvent the SUV from the ground up, and in the process they found their potential customers were most interested in: versatility; functionality; safety; "infotainment," a seamless blend of navigation, music, news and information; and performance. The resulting vehicle shown in Detroit is derivative of the vehicle is slated for production in 2006. Concept-X features an all-new 3.6-liter V-6 engine and a freshly developed 4WD system called "4GO." The sport/ute realizes its customer targets with such things as satellite television and DVD/DVR player with dual 12-inch LCD screens in the second and third rows; integrated Bluetooth technology for cellular phones, PDAs, e-mail, and navigation; and ABS, ESP (Electronic Stability Program) and curtain airbags for all six passengers. The coolest electronic feature is dual, heat-sensing perimeter CCD cameras with a warning detector to prevent driving over objects within the vehicle's proximity. Expect to see much of the Concept-X enter production in two years on an all-new model, while other aspects propagate throughout the line.

This car is brilliant, if it's as good as its maker claims. American Specialty Cars, maker of the convertible Toyota Solara, has chopped the top off a four-door Chrysler 300C with plans to sell the idea to any automaker that wants to build a modern phaeton. Typical of ASC, it's much more than a chop-job, with a lattice-like structure featuring a cross-car bulkhead and a transmission tunnel doubler, which necessitates turning the five-seat 300 into a 2+2 with a front- and rear-seat console. Trunk space is compromised, but the trunklid and its wide opening are maintained. It looks like a factory-finished car, top up or down. ASC says the structure is rigid and that the 300 gains no more than 300 pounds with the extra bracing. It can build "easily 10,000 a year" within 24 months, to sticker for roughly $4000 more than the tin-top. Any maker of large rear-drive sedans may apply, but if Chrysler doesn't bite, we may just have to take that Car of the Year trophy back.

With all the attention being given to the new Land Rover LR3 (Motor Trend's 2005 Sport/Utility of the Year) and the new Range Rover Sport, the Range Rover was in jeopardy of being ignored. To make sure that wouldn't happen, Land Rover decided to use the same supercharged Jaguar motor and six-speed transmission used in its high-performance sedans (and the Range Rover Sport) and offer it in the bigger and heavier Range Rover. Rated in its current form, the 4.2-liter DOHC supercharged V-8 produces 400 horsepower and more than 360 lb-ft of torque. Combined with the six-speed automatic transmission, this will be the most powerful and fuel efficient Range Rover to date. And to keep its premium luxury status, there are several interior and exterior design upgrades to keep this model fresh.

Besides the fact that it looks nothing like its namesake, what can be bad about a vehicle that has a refrigerator built right into the rear door? We suppose that depends on how you feel about being designated the official bartender at any future picnics you might attend. Calling its Fairlane concept a "new type of people-mover," Ford has actually created the ultimate tailgating vehicle, complete with flip-down utility area, fridge, cutting area, and utensils built right into the rear door. Said door also conveniently opens three ways (left, right, and down) for convenient access in any crowded parking lot. The Fairlane concept rides on an all-wheel-drive version of Ford's midsize CD3 architecture, and is powered by their 3.0-liter/210-horse all-aluminum V-6 Duratec engine mated to a six-speed transmission. Driver's zone features command seating and a low dash for greater visibility, thus ensuring safe transportation to any tailgating function. Click here to view a full photo gallery.

Claiming it built the SynUS to provide security and sanctuary from urban life, Ford's small but mighty B-sized concept takes its inspiration from bank vaults and armored cars, with a security mode that deploys protective shutters over the windshield and side windows and uses bulletproof glass in the smaller flank windows. Once locked safely inside, passengers can reverse their seatbacks to comfortably surf the `net or watch movies on the ginormous 45-inch widescreen liquid crystal display built into the tailgate. Should you need to make a speedy escape, Ford's 2.0-liter/134-horse turbodiesel and 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in P225/50-18 performance tires will ensure it is a fashionable getaway. Click here to view a full photo gallery.

Mercedes's Compact Sport Tourer "Vision B" debuted in Detroit alongside its bigger brother the Grand Sports Tourer "Vision R" as a showcase of two future models we can expect to see coming in the Stuttgart-based car manufacturer's line. The Compact Sports Tourer concept boasts the spacious interior expected from Mercedes sedans and wagons, but with compact external dimensions. Consider them luxury interpretations of a convergence vehicle that combines elements of a wagon, sport/ute, and minivan, similar to the Chrysler Pacifica that initially ushered this idea into production. Underhood, a new 138-horsepower four-cylinder diesel engine will mate to a newly developed Autotronic continuously variable transmission to produce impressively efficient fuel economy (Mercedes promises peak mileage of about 40 mph). Mercedes claims the new Sport Tourers will be equally suitable for commuting as it will be for schlepping to and from family outings or recreational activities.