Why It Was Built: According to GM, it's meant as a "youthful" Hummer for "entry-level buyers," but with a modular top system and removable doors and fender flares, it's also got a certain other 4x4 marque squarely in its sights.
What's Inside It: All-new everywhere, the HX rolls courtesy of a 304hp 3.6L flexfuel V-6 coupled to a Hydramatic six-speed. Four-wheel drive is full-time, with front and rear lockers and 35-inch Bridgestones on bead-locked rims. Suspension is independent front and rear, with Fox Racing piggyback coilovers at all four corners and CNC/billet control arms in the back; approach and departure angles are both over 50 degrees; six-piston-caliper front Brembos provide stoppage; and an integrated front winch is on call for retrievals. And this is supposed to be an entry-level trail rig?
What's in Store: With a few revisions-most likely to suspension design and componentry-it'll appear in dealer showrooms as the Hummer H4.
When Can You Get One: According to our sources, sometime by mid-2009.
Our Take: We hate to tip our hand so early, but can you say "2010 Four Wheeler of the Year" already?
Why It Was Built: Ostensibly, to emphasize Land Rover's new commitment to small-is-beautiful eco-consciousness, but in reality, as a hint of future product to come.
What's Inside It: Conceived as a two-door "cross coupe," the LRX relies on a U.S.-spec 2.0L biodiesel hybrid powertrain and all-wheel drive. Suspension is independent coil/strut at both ends, and Land Rover's quite-useful Terrain Response system recalibrates engine and drivetrain algorithms for off-pavement use. Green-friendly features include recycled headliner and door-insert materials, veggie-dyed leather for seats and trim (no chromium), and lightweight polycarbonate side windows and sunroof.
What's in Store: We can't be certain, but Land Rover doesn't usually spend time building concepts (this is only their second ever, and the first one became the Range Rover Sport). And since its wheelbase is identical to the LR2's, it's probably safe to say we'll see a two-door version-a Mini Rover?, a Range Cooper Sport?-coming down the production pike fairly soon.
When Can You Get One: Mostly likely, sometime by 2010.
Our Take: It's too low to the ground, and there's no low-range or diff-locks, but we dig the way it looks anyway. Land Rover admits it wasn't built with "ultimate off-roading" in mind, but that won't stop us from flailing one in the dirt the first chance we get.
Why It Was Built: Outsold last year by the Toyota Prius (!), Ford's former flagship SUV was already on life support.
What's Inside It: First and foremost, the new Explorer is a showcase for Ford's brand-new "Eco Boost" engine line, which will rely almost exclusively on twin turbochargers and direct injection to improve power and mileage while keeping weight (i.e., engine displacement) at a minimum. The Explorer-America runs a 350hp 3.5L V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission. Other cool stuff? Well, not a lot for 'wheeling or towing. The vehicle's a unibody now, suspension is all-wheel independent, and the rear minivan-style doors are sliders, not hinged. On the other hand, there are three rows of seats, and power steering is all-electric (no fluids).
What's in Store: If the Lincoln MKX-also unveiled this year at Detroit, and also sporting the new V-6-is any indication, the next Explorer will be an all-wheel-drive X-ute with no transfer case or low range.
When Can You Get One: Most likely, sometime in late 2009 for the 2010 model year.
Our Take: The end of an era, as the vehicle that launched the modern-day SUV craze goes the way of all crossovers. And since the next-gen Sport-Trac SUT would figure to share the same platform as the Ex-Am, we have to wonder if this doesn't also mean the end of the Ranger pickup too.