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.
Explorer Sportsman Defines OutdoorsBased on the '02 Ford Explorer, the Sportsman Concept was built for the back-to-nature angler looking for the ultimate adventure and outdoor experience. The Sportsman features a classic exterior appearance with a low-gloss, satin metallic-green finish, an integrated hood and grille, and running boards, which deploy when the doors are opened and double as additional storage for fishing rods and other equipment.
Chrome skidplates in the front and rear serve to protect a new independent rear suspension as well as the tried and true IFS. A new all-aluminum V-8 engine offers 240 hp, an increase of 25 hp over the V-8 previously used in the Explorer, and the Control Trac four-wheel-drive system provides exceptional traction on and off the pavement. Additionally, the new AdvanceTrac interactive vehicle dynamics, available in late-2001 Explorers, combines sophisticated electronic braking and traction control with electronic stability control to assist the driver in any driving situation.
One of the most prominent features on the Sportsman is the fully detachable roof rack, which extends forward and folds down so that fishing rods, nets, and other items can be loaded from the side of the vehicle. The rooftop also includes modular attachments so that extra sporting equipment, such as bikes and skis, can be accommodated. In one configuration, the roof rack arms swing outward to form a basket for even more storage. A unique porthole-in-frame design, allowing for a lower step-in height, and 17-inch custom-designed alloy wheels, round out the exterior package.
Between the doors, the instrument panel features a GPS screen operated by an onboard mouse, and the seatbacks have detachable carry packs that deploy to function as workbenches for fly-tying. The benches are also removable so they can be used at the campsite. Proving that it's the ultimate fishing companion, the rear of the Sportsman is equipped with a 30-gallon live fish tank, which locks into position and has rollers for easy loading and unloading. The entire interior is highlighted with pebble-worn leather and rich, authentic bloodwood.
Though the Sportsman will exist solely as a concept, it borrows many of its features and improvements from the all-new 2002-model Ford Explorer, which has been redesigned from the ground up, with major improvements in the package, such as suspension, powertrains, and safety.
Dodge powerbox offers clean air and muscleNot to be left in the cold, DaimlerChrysler stepped up to the concept plate this year with something a little different from what the others had to offer. The PowerBox hybrid concept is an eco-friendly SUV, achieving 60 percent better fuel efficiency than a comparable SUV, and spewing near-zero emissions. How did they do it? By using a combination of a supercharged V-6 engine that runs on compressed natural gas (CNG) and an electric motor for added power in acceleration and passing.
With classic Dodge exterior stylings, such as its large, separate drop fenders, based on the '46 Power Wagon, and its cross-hair grille, the PowerBox offers seating for eight and goes 0 to 60 mph in about 7 seconds. That's no easy feat considering its size (slightly larger than the Durango) and its lack of a big displacement engine. The PowerBox scores big points in fuel economy, too, achieving 25 mpg with a range of more than 350 miles.
The hybrid powertrain in the PowerBox concept draws from two different sources, a supercharged 2.7L V-6 and a Siemens Automotive electric motor. The V-6 drives the rear wheels, while the electric unit channels additional power to the front wheels. Fueled with CNG, the V-6 spouts 250 hp with an extra 70 hp coming from the electric motor. DaimlerChrysler insiders stated that if every SUV sold in America was equipped with this system, more than 142 million gallons of gasoline would be saved per year.
Other features of the PowerBox include the kneel-down suspension, which drops the vehicle 3 inches after the automatic transmission is placed in Park, and its swing-slide rear doors designed to maximize passenger accessibility. From what we hear, the PowerBox could find its way into production in the next few years. If it does, you can count on seeing a road test by our staff.
Surprise Canyon Closed to AllResulting from a lawsuit filed in the San Francisco District Court by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Surprise Canyon in Panamint Valley, California, closed to public use as of February 15. This is a big blow to four-wheelers everywhere because it not only keeps many out of a once-popular off-road destination, but, in turn, signals a trend toward the restriction of BLM lands for off-road use.
The BLM instituted an immediate closure and intends to have locked gates blocking access installed by May 1, 2001. Options concerning management of human access to the area beyond the gate are being evaluated, but the presence of 4x4s and enthusiasts is now only a memory to those of us who have had the pleasure of 'wheeling the canyon.
If this closure irks you in the least bit, we urge you not to take it sitting down. One of the biggest deterrents to the continuing closure of public land to 4x4s is making your voice heard. When's the last time any of us got really angry and sent a letter to our Congressman? Now is the time. Write a letter; write 10 letters; write as many as you can to tell your government representative that he or she won't be in office any longer if they don't do something about this situation. For more information about contacting your Congressman and ideas about what to say to him or her, check out the following Web sites: United Four Wheel Drive Associations, www.ufwda.org; BlueRibbon Coalition, www.sharetrails.org.
Herculiner Goes ExtremeHerculiner, of "Do-It-Yourself" brush-on bedliner-kit fame, announced that it would extend its special events and motorsports sponsorship program, including the TruxPo Truck Tour, the Professional Bull Rider's Association, and Extreme Team Monster Truck Racing.
The company's latest sponsorship is with Extreme Team Racing, which brings its Ford F-150 monster truck to monster truck shows, fairs, and special events held year-round across the United States. Extreme Team gives rides to plenty of enthusiasts each year. Fans can choose whether they want to ride in the cab or in the bed of the truck, which is coated with the Do-It-Yourself liner.
Where Pavement MeetsDirt: 2001Truckin' NationalsIf there was ever a place where street trucks and 4x4s could get along, it would have to be the Truckin' Nationals. Held every year at the Firebird International Raceway in Phoenix, the event features everything from drag racing to rockcrawling, with a few bikini-clad babes in between. Last year's event attracted hundreds of enthusiasts from all walks of hobby, which resulted in one of the largest gatherings of customizing genius ever. Street trucks dragged the pavement, monster trucks gave ride-alongs, and Jeeps and one-offs tested their skills in the man-made 'crawling pit. Off-road racing legend, Ivan Stewart, was even on hand to host a 4x4 clinic. Automotive enthusiasts from every niche are already gearing up for this year's gala, so don't be left out of what could possibly be the family event of the year.
For more information about the 2001 Truckin' Nationals, call: (602) 268-0200.
Industry NotesIt is the third-largest automotive manufacturer in the world, but DaimlerChrysler is on the verge of being broken up as pressure grows to revive what was once a thriving corporation. Analysts believe any breakup would involve Daimler splitting from Chrysler, leaving other leading automotive manufacturers to cherry-pick the company's best assets, including Mercedes and Jeep.
U.S. regulators issued a recall of 1.38 million General Motors light trucks and SUVs because of a potential problem with a brake system component. No reports of related crashes have been received, and dealers will make inspections and take corrective action if necessary. Vehicles covered in the recall include: the '99-2000 Chevrolet Silverado, the 2000 Chevrolet Tahoe, the 2000 Chevrolet Suburban, the 2000 GMC Yukon/Yukon XL, and the '99-2000 GMC Sierra.
DaimlerChrysler recalled 480 '01 Dodge Ram pickups due to a faulty bolt in the upper control arm. Dealers will remedy the problem.