Each and every January, automakers from around the globe descend on Motor City to preview their new wares for the upcoming model year. Also seen were hints at the future direction of automotive design through concept vehicles. A shift in concept-vehicle philosophy was clearly seen in Detroit this year, as futuristic concept vehicles made of unobtanium have been dropped in favor of more realistic visions. Many of the concept vehicles this year seemed as production-ready as some of the '06 models on the floor. Read on to see which vehicles stopped us dead in our two-tracks and which vehicles traded in their low ranges for some so-called sophistication.
The '06 Hummer H1 Alpha finally answers the question enthusiasts have asked for the past several years: "When will the H1 get the Duramax?" In H1 trim, the Duramax makes 46 percent more horsepower and 18 percent more torque than the outgoing 6.5L mill, bringing the power to an even 300 horses and 520 lb-ft of torque. Also part of the deal is the exceptional Allison 1000 transmission and beefed-up driveline and brake components. To fit the new drivetrain, the body has been lifted by 2 inches, which also helps body panel clearances. In this win-win situation, fuel economy and emissions improve, while the 0-to-60 time drops by a full three seconds. The H1 Alpha will be on sale before summer.
For the lucky journalists who signed up, Ford Motor Company and the Henry Ford Museum offered a free pass to experience the Rouge Factory Tour, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at how the F-150 is manufactured at the new state-of-the-art Dearborn Truck Plant at Ford's massive Rouge Complex. The Rouge is now home to one of the most environmentally sensitive manufacturing facilities in the world and is a model of efficiency and modernization. The tour begins with a movie on the history of the Rouge and another show that walks you through the creation of the F-150 from design to rollout. Next, guests enjoy a 180-degree view of the Rouge complex from an elevated observation deck, before being turned loose on a self-guided tour of the factory floor from a raised walkway. Watching the F-150 come together is just about as interesting as it gets for a hard-core truck guy, and we highly recommend visiting the Rouge if you ever find yourself visiting Detroit. For more information on the Rouge Factory Tour, visit www.thehenryford.org/rouge.