Detroit. You probably know it best for its cars and its cold, especially if you've never been there. But, for a couple of days a year, it's all autos, all the time. The auto show takes over, and the city buzzes with unveilings. Journalists from every crack and crevice of the world come to see what automakers from around the globe are showing off for the new model years. They also reveal cars and trucks that they think no other manufacturer could ever drum-up the brain cells to conceptualize (hey, buddy, look to your left). While there are a few other shows that are snagging some of the glory from Detroit-both Los Angeles and Chicago presented a handful of these anticipated vehicles-Motor City is still the biggest of the big. So here they are, the trucks and SUVs that resulted in the most gasps and hmms. And remember-don't send those cards and letters to us. It's the manufacturers that need to know what you think of these creations.
VarsityMeet Its Maker: Jeep.
What's So Good About It? There's Wrangler and Grand Cherokee inspiration. Varsity, capable be thy middle name. There's four-wheel drive, a transfer case with low range, and a built-in compass and altimeter.
Notables: Behind that familiar grille lurk independent front and rear suspension and the label "heavy-duty car," given by its birth parent.
Also included: A 3.5L V-6 that supposedly scoots to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, an automatic four-speed transmission, a backbone-style center console, a symmetrical instrument panel with large gauges and yellow-green backlights, and a custom setup of short and long arms and coilover shocks. The news in inches: 19x9 wheels, 109.6-inch wheelbase, 911/42 inches of ground clearance, and 28.4-inch front and 28.3-inch rear overhang.
Food for Thought: What?! This might be the redesigned Jeep Cherokee?Status: Concept.
MAXXcabMeet Its Maker: Dodge.What's So Good About It? It's considered a Passenger Priority Truck. They say "the Dodge MAXXcab is the first pickup truck to give the highest priority to the passengers," so it doubles as an office and a hauler. But just because its focus is on making passengers happy, it's still a truck-a 11/42-ton with a 52.7-inch longbed that's 24 inches deep and 56.7 inches wide, to be exact.
Notables: Try this on for size: "a luxurious front cabin with cream pillow-top leather-tailored seats, a sports-sedan-style instrument panel with brushed aluminum details, navy door inserts, adjustable pedals, and a child-focused rear cabin." Translation: In the back is a DVD player, Internet access, and a handheld sketch pad. The driver's "infotronic" system is equipped to handle office-type data, and the center console is geared for a laptop. Under the hood is a 4.7L Next Generation Magnum V-8 matched to a multispeed auto tranny for 238 ponies and 295 lb-ft of torque. Also worth mentioning: an independent front suspension with torsion bars, a custom design of independent short and long arms with coil-over-shocks at the rear, 18x11 wheels, 33-inch rubber, and a wheelbase of 132.3 inches.
Food for Thought: Um, what happened to the Power Wagon?Status: Concept.
ST-XMeet Its Maker: Subaru.What's So Good About It? The Subaru Truck X-perimental has a supercharged, intercooled 2.5L V-6 boxer engine and a 5511/42-inch longbed that can extend forward another 2011/42 inches (that's 76 inches without a bed extender!).
Notables: A dual-range five-speed manual transmission, a minimum of 811/42 inches of ground clearance, Yokohama tires, power-retractable rear glass, a motorcycle-inspired gas-filler cap, a functional hoodscoop, four-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel discs with ABS, and full-time all-wheel drive with a viscous-coupling center diff and a viscous limited-slip rear diff. It has a wheelbase of 104.3 inches and a towing capacity of 2,000 pounds.
Food for Thought: The goal of the ST-X? To "exceed current four-door pickups and appeal to sport-sedan drivers." Since this is pretty much a Legacy wagon, the ST-X seems very doable.Status: Concept.
AACMeet Its Maker: Volkswagen.What's So Good About It? The Advanced Activity Concept sure looks like perfection on paper-V-10, six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic (so you can actually row your own gears), four-wheel drive with two differential locks and low range, and... and... Oh, we think we just had one.
Notables: Independent wishbone suspension, and a twin-turbo diesel with charge-air intercoolers, a 13011/42-inch wheelbase, no B posts for a coupe look, three suspension settings, a navigation system with a color screen, 19-inch wheels with 285/55 tires, and 18-inch front and 17-inch rear disc brakes. In order to start the truck, you need the Communicator, a remote control that must be inserted into a special holder on the top of the dashboard. HAL, are you listening?
Food for Thought: Like the way this looks? Then you'll really like the SUV VW and Porsche are building. It'll be here in about two years.Status: Concept.
Hummer H2Meet Its Maker: General Motors.What's So Good About It? Remember when we told you a couple months back that GM now owns the Hummer brand name?
Notables: It's built on a GM fullsize-truck platform. There's an integrated winch up front, a one-piece windshield, high-intensity headlamps, thermostat-controlled articulating louvers in the hood for engine ventilation, and independent double-wishbone suspension (basically the two front halves of GM 1-ton truck frames welded together), as well as 19-inch wheels mated to 35-inch prototype Goodyear Wrangler all-terrains. A 6.0L high-output Vortec V-8 is hooked to a heavy-duty four-speed automatic trans and Autotrac four-wheel drive (with a lever rather than a push-button!). There's also a Central Information Center with a GPS, OnStar, a DVD player, Internet access, and a cell phone and laptop docking station. The H2 is narrower (by about 5 inches) and shorter (by 7 inches) than the Hummer H1 (the original AM General version). Ditto for the price tag.
Food for Thought: They say, "this is not a re-do of the Hummer. It's a call to more people to experience what Hummer is-the lifestyle, the philosophy, the confident attitude." So, it's like the toupee of trucks.Status: Concept.
XL6Meet Its Maker: SuzukiWhat's So Good About It? They say: "the latest, largest, and most luxurious Suzuki concept vehicle demonstrates an unsurpassed combination of versatility and style."
Notables: It's built on a lengthened Grand Vitara platform, has seating for six (via captain's chairs in the first two rows of seating and a bench seat at the rear), 18-inch wheels, air-conditioner vents for each passenger, loads of storage space, an integrated spare tire and roof rails, and a four-wheel-drive powertrain.
Food for Thought: The XL6 is said to closely resemble a production SUV coming from Suzuki by the end of this year.Status: Concept.
MonteroMeet Its Maker: MitsubishiWhat's So Good About It? It has been completely redesigned (finally!).
Notables: Four-wheel independent suspension (now with coils up front rather than torsion bars), a five-speed automatic trans with adaptive logic making for "manumatic" shifting, and a tweaked 3.5L V-6. The Active-Trac four-wheel-drive system has a 33/67 front-to-rear torque split in all-wheel-drive mode (it used to be 50/50), but all of the torque can go to the axle needed for traction. A limited-slip differential is standard on the LTD model and optional on the XLS, but a locking center diff comes on both. There's seating for seven (which means the wheelbase is a tad longer than the previous Montero), and the third seat can be stored underneath the floor for oodles of cargo space. Unibody construction is also new.
Food for Thought: Did you know that the Montero was a consecutive two-time winner of the Paris-Dakar Rally?Status: '01 model, and it's available now.
MountaineerMeet Its Maker: MercuryWhat's So Good About It? It doesn't look like a Ford, further differentiating it from that lineup.
Notables: The new Mountaineer is 2 inches wider and has a shorter front overhang than the existing model. The step-in area now has the rocker panel behind the lower door edge for easier entry and exit. The truck also has an aluminum-finished grille that hints at Cougar, and that same satin-aluminum finish appears throughout the body, from the wheels to the badging.
Food for Thought: It was designed for "a more mature, independent-minded customer." Also, it was designed, so forget those comments you're hearing about the impending death of the Mercury line.Status: Concept.
EscapeMeet Its Maker: FordWhat's So Good About It? Ford's E-named SUVs are getting smaller.
Notables: The line includes an all-new platform, two engines (the 2.0L Zetec inline-four from the Focus car, and a 3.0L Duratec V-6), five-speed auto and manual transmissions, MacPherson-strut front suspension and an independent rear, unibody construction, and rack-and-pinion steering. Also, four-wheel drive with 4x4 Automatic and Lock positions-the latter being for a 50/50 torque split for off-road or slippery streets-and optional ABS and electronic brake-force distribution for improved stops. Seating for five, air conditioning, and 15-inch rims are also included. There are XLS and XLT models.
Food for Thought: This truck kicks off Ford's move into the downsize-SUV segment, and not a minute too soon: Sales have doubled in that area in the U.S. within the last four years.Status: '01 model.
TributeMeet Its Maker: MazdaWhat's So Good About It? At last! Another SUV from Mazda!
Notables: The platform was a collaboration of Mazda and Ford. It sports a 103.1-inch wheelbase, an available 3.0L V-6, a multilink, tuned suspension, unibody construction, a flip-up rear window, available leather seats and overhead storage bins, and a 3,500-pound towing capacity (with the optional trailer tow package).
Food for Thought: They say "the Tribute's sophisticated, expressive style is right at home on date night at the jazz club."Status: '01 model.
EquatorMeet Its Maker: FordWhat's So Good About It? It features the F-150 wheelbase and the Super Duty F-350 width, so the passengers get roominess and the driver gets to tool around in something with a mighty stance. Also, it apparently "screams adventure."
Notables: An off-road-racing-inspired independent suspension with billet-aluminum upper control arms and steel lower arms with brand-new geometry for maximum travel. There's also Kevlar bumper, fender, wheelwell, and lower-trim panels, and the billet-aluminum wheels have a central tire-inflation system and bead locks. Inside are four leather contoured buckets, clamp-on gauges so that you can pick instrument location, a removable compass and floor, dual-zone climate controls, and a GPS in the visor. There is also a built-in first-aid kit and room for tools in the running boards.
Food for Thought: Ford says; "In order to maintain Ford Truck leadership in every major segment in which we compete, we need to be constantly innovating-giving the customer personalized transportation that exceeds even their highest expectations."Status: Concept.
KAI and ZXSMeet Their Maker: IsuzuWhat's So Good About Them? About the ZXS, Isuzu says: "The interior styling creates an atmosphere of relaxed elegance with avant-garde elan that comes into its own after five." About the KAI: "spiraling interconnectedness," "Japanese esthetics," "the texture of modern architecture," "striking proportions," "high-tech feel," and "cradled in a space created in harmony with the functional beauty of the exterior."
Notables: Let's start with the ZXS. It has the Rodeo chassis; an independent double-wishbone/torsion-bar front suspension and solid axle rear end; a 3.2 V-6 that makes 205 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque; and a four-speed automatic transmission with the Torque-On-Demand four-wheel-drive system. There's bucket seating for four, a wide cargo area, four-wheel discs, and leather upholstery. The KAI, with a name derived from the Chinese character kanji, ("a return"), has a 3.0L V-6 direct-injection turbodiesel engine, a bobbed overhang, 20-inch narrow rubber, a body-on-frame design, four-wheel discs, seating for four, a curved instrument panel, and a four-speed automatic tranny with that same four-by TOD system as the ZXS.
Food for Thought: Isuzu also lifted the cover on the VX-4 concept. It's essentially a four-door VehiCROSS, and four-doors are currently mo' popular with buyers than two-doors.Status: Concepts.
FrontierMeet Its Maker: NissanWhat's So Good About It? Holy Moly, a factory-installed supercharger!
Notables: Here it is, a new 'charged version of the 3.3L V-6 for both two- and four-wheel drive models designated SC; it pumps out 210 ponies and 240 lb-ft of torque. The other two mills are a 2.4L inline-four and a 3.3L SOHC V-6; the four-banger makes 143 horses and the V-6 produces 170. A fresh Xterra-esque exterior is also a big deal, with a taller hoodline, foglamps borrowed from the 2000 Maxima, mammoth headlights, and huge fender flares with visible divot holes and bolts holding the fenders to the body and headlining the at-a-glance changes. Out yonder are a new tailgate cover and a standard tailgate lock. Inside, there's a new instrument panel, new seat fabric and a chance for leather, a new steering wheel, and a newfangled audio system, including an indash six-disc CD changer. The SC has 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, body-colored fender flares, and titanium-colored gauges.
Food for Thought: There are now 14 different models of the Frontier, including Regular Cab, King Cab, Desert Runner, and four-door Crew Cab, and three trim levels.Status: '01 model available late this summer.
MD-XMeet Its Maker: AcuraWhat's So Good About It? It's Acura's first homegrown SUV.
Notables: Low exhaust emissions, a state-of-the-art four-wheel-drive system, 18-inch wheels, an Acura-signature pentagram grille, a huge moonroof, four bucket seats, a lightweight aluminum engine, a GPS, and cellular/Internet access. Of course, we don't want to leave out "hardwood flooring with integrated sisal accents."
Food for Thought: The MD-X "closely reflects the direction and focus of our new SUV." You'll see that vehicle this fall.Status: Concept.
What? There's More?Ford 24·7: This concept debuted in coupe, wagon, and pickup truck versions and was designed to be functional, as the saying goes, 24·7. So, it has e-mail access, a hands-free mobile phone, weather reports, and voice technology-it's meant to "connect you to life." The two-door, two-passenger truck also features lipstick cameras instead of side mirrors, a high-definition instrument panel, and a Focus platform lengthened by 2 inches.
Ford F-550 Super Crewzer II: This show truck is based on the Super Duty F-550 crew cab and has leather seating; an entertainment system with a video screen; integrated, lighted running boards; aluminum-trimmed bedrails; and a fifth-wheel hitch. The bed is lined in diamond plate and has a matching toolbox.
Nissan Pathfinder: No total redesign yet, but under the hood is what's garnering attention for '01-a 3.5L V-6 that's been much improved over the last-generation V-6. What's most impressive? It makes 250 horses versus the old figure of 170.
Suzuki Grand Vitara Platinum Show Vehicle: 'Nuff said.
Saturn CV1: This was Saturn's first try at a concept-it's an SUV/wagon with seating for five adults and two kids (via two fold-down jump seats), a 2.0L four-cylinder, and all-wheel drive.
Pontiac Aztek: We've told you about this one before, and now it's officially set for production as an '01 model. It features a 3.4L V-6, independent suspension, and on-demand all-wheel drive with sort of a poor-man's-Jeep Grand Cherokee torque-transfer system. Its biggest competitor will be the Ford Escape.