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2002 Ford Explorer - 4X Word

Side View
Posted January 10, 2007

Honda Concept Targets GEN-XERS Seems like everyone's on the bandwagon these days, racing to see who can unveil the trickest, most futuristic SUV. Body lines are getting straighter, colors brighter, and ground clearance lower. Though Honda's latest concept is no exception to these standards, it's still pretty cool to look at.

Targeted at twenty-something, affluent buyers, the Model X concept vehicle blends the latest, greatest features of sport utes and pickups. It's said to be designed for active, young, college-age guys who need to tote their snowboards, surfboards, and mountain bikes and still have enough space to fit all of their people.

The body design is rather unique for an SUV but somewhat run-of-the-mill compared to minivans. It's chunky looking around the sides, but fairly beefy up front; an area the aftermarket is sure to whip up a brushguard for an even more aggressive demeanor. Designed without a B-pillar, the Model X features center-opening rear doors, giving it the wide open look of a sliding van door. Combined with a low, flat floor, the opening offers easy loading and unloading through the side. The Model X gets its pickup-esque qualities from the forward-sliding rear roof line, which, with the rear window in the down position and the tailgate dropped, offers a spacious rear loading area with the ability to carry objects that protrude above the roof line.

The interior carries on the rugged theme with resilient and washable features. A textured resin floor covers the wide cabin, while front and rear bench seats provide seating for four. The rear seat is easily folded out of the way, and the front bench can be converted to a rear-facing seat when the vehicle is stopped. A space-age instrument panel offers everything from a flip-up navigation screen to wireless Internet connections and a three-in-one stereo system equipped with MP3 player, a digital satellite radio, cassette, and CD player. When you are not busy checking your e-mail or playing video games and DVDs, a center console-mounted shifter can be used to operate the rally-style five-speed manual transmission. Power to the front wheels comes from Honda's brand-spanking-new, i-VTEC four-cylinder engine.

Though no four-wheel-drive version of the Model X has been mentioned, we figure one may come by demand, if the Model X ever makes it past the concept stage. Honda reports that if it's produced, the Model X should hit the roads in "a couple of years."

Willys Concept Mixes It Up Is it a blast from the past or the wave of the future? According to Jeep, it's a little of both. Dubbed Pure American, the Willys concept vehicle more closely resembles a lunar vehicle than a classic Willys, but it still possesses enough of the stereotypical Jeep characteristics to call it by its name. The seven-slat grille is what most Jeep enthusiasts will recognize first. After that, its size, shape, and rugged looks seem to say it all.

The Willys concept is similar to several of Chrysler's 2001 concept offerings because it uses an injection-molded plastic body, which is said to save as much as 50 percent in weight and manufacturing costs. In the Willys case, a one-piece carbon-fiber body is webbed to an aluminum frame. The long and wide body, along with the custom, independent short- and long-arm front and multi-link solid-axle rear suspension with coilover shocks all around, give the vehicle a squat look, suggesting a lower center of gravity. Even with the P235/840R560 PAX tires mounted on monster 22x9-inch custom wheels, the Willys still takes on a more tank-like look than that of its predecessor.

Proving that Chrysler did not put all of its thought into the body and suspension alone, the 160 hp 1.6L in-line four-cylinder sprints from 0 to 60 in 10.2 seconds. The peppy mill is backed up by a four-speed automatic transmission coupled to a shift-on-the-fly transfer case with full-time four-wheel-drive and Low-range modes.

The spacious interior offers seating for four and a sport cage and is accented with brushed aluminum and aqua and grey leather. None too fancy, aside from the Sirius Satellite Radio, because the Willys concept team didn't factor in a top. No word on whether this baby will make it into production or not, but it would definitely heat up the market, not to mention the aftermarket.

Fomoco: What a Concept Resting on 33-inch BFGs and a chrome-moly steel frame, the Ford EX concept vehicle is as extreme as it comes. This purpose-built two-seater features a full rollcage, independent front and rear suspension designs, with coilover remote-reservoir shocks at each wheel, and removable composite body sections for the ultimate off-road experience.

The buggy-style EX weighs 2,600 pounds with 50 percent of its mass up front and 50 percent in the rear. This even weight distribution was achieved by positioning the mechanical components further rearward or forward and is said to lend optimal traction in rugged terrain. A stout drivetrain is led by Ford's supercharged and intercooled SOHC 4.0L V-6, which spouts 375 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque and is cooled by an aluminum radiator equipped with dual fans. Dual, stainless steel exhaust pipes exit from the side, and a five-speed manual transmission, mated to a transfer case, powers all four 17-inch custom, cast-aluminum wheels. Four-wheel, 13-inch, four-piston caliper disc brakes offer the ultimate in stopping power, and four-point safety belts and dual airbags provide an added element of safety.

Perhaps one of the more unique features of the EX is its styling. The bronze-tinted windshield folds down Jeep-style and clips to the top of the hood, and the steering wheel and instruments are mounted on a steering mechanism that glides from side to side to allow easier entry and exit. Within the full rollcage, seats are covered with black and tan all-weather material, and the floorboards feature integrated, molded rubber, non-skid pads and drain plugs. Completing the EX's unique design is the honeycomb textured front grille stuffed with four round, high-intensity driving lamps.

We're pretty sure that Ford will never put this baby into production, but we are fairly confident that it would kick some serious tail on the trail.

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