2004 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
The long-rumored Jeep "Scrambler" was unveiled with other Chrysler convertibles as the Wrangler Unlimited. This 2004.5 model measures 15 inches longer than a typical Wrangler. The added length is split, with 13 inches more cargo space and two more inches of rear legroom, creating a more functional, more livable all-terrain sport/ute. This long-wheelbase model promises improved on-road ride quality, while retaining the legendary Jeep off-road prowess, as engineers were keen to retain a 20-degree minimum breakover angle. Powered by a 4.0-liter/190-horse inline-six, the Unlimited boasts a 3500-lb towing capacity, besting the regular Wrangler by 1500 lbs. The larger Jeep has a large cloth top for foul weather and security that features a large 45×23-inch center flap to create a massive sunroof. Look for this mighty Wrangler to reach dealerships in April.
2005 Ford Freestyle
The crossover segment is about to get as crowded as the "F" section of the Ford product catalog with the Freestyle nearing production. Blending attributes of a wagon, minivan, and sport/utility vehicle, the Freestyle offers command seating, three passenger rows, flexible interior, abundant storage, and Volvo-inspired structure. Cargo capacity rivals many SUVs, with 47.4 cubic feet behind the second-row, measuring 49.7 inches deep. The Freestyle features a single powertrain, a 3.0-liter/200-hp V-6 with a continuously variable transmission offered in choice of front or all-wheel drive. While numerous safety elements are standard, such as ABS, the standout protection can be found in an optional package with side airbags and Safety Canopy to protect all three rows. The Freestyle goes on sale in fall 2004.
2005 Lexus RX 400h
Lexus unveiled the production RX 400h luxury sport/utility vehicle, emerging as the first automaker to prove hybrid vehicles can be about more than near-zero emissions and high fuel economy. This new model features a more powerful, more advanced version of the hybrid drivetrain found in the 2004 Motor Trend Car of the Year Toyota Prius. While the 400h achieves 36 city/31 highway mpg and meets California’s Super-Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) requirements, it is the power and its delivery that excites us. The electric-enhanced V-6-based powertrain will produce approximately 270 horsepower, a full 40 horses more than the RX 330. Insiders confide that it is the torque that really impresses, giving the 400h the pull of a V-8. Further defying conventional wisdom, the all-wheel-drive variant reportedly recovers more energy (heightening efficiency) and delivers more acceleration. Beyond the powertrain, the 400h will Vehicle Dynamic Management (VDM), a more advanced version of the automaker’s stability control system. Throw in a 600-mile range, and the RX 400h makes being green more appealing than ever.
2005 Nissan Frontier
Nissan crashed the full-size truck party with the Titan, boldly confronting the domestic manufacturers with a powerful, aggressively styled truck that can hold its own. This same spirit, and even design flair, has been applied to the all-new 2005 Frontier. In fact, the Frontier borrows heavily from its big brother, with a fully boxed, all-steel frame; steel double-wishbone front suspension and rigid leaf rear suspension; factory spray-in bedliner; and convenient bed-rail system. For the new generation, the Frontier grows in length, and extends its wheelbase by nearly 10 inches. Also bigger is the powerplant, now a VQ-series 4.0-liter V-6 producing 250-plus horsepower and 270-plus lb-ft of torque. The DOHC engine will be offered with a five-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission. Basic truck configurations include King Cab and Crew Cab, each available in two-wheel and four-wheel drive. The 2005 Frontier will arrive at dealers nationwide in winter 2004.
The legendary Bronco is back as Ford re-explores the origins of the sport/utility vehicle in this concept. Key design features reminiscent of the original Ford Bronco include the boxy upright roofline, short wheelbase, round headlamps, a winch and guide rollers integrated into the lower fascia, and the Bronco nameplate milled into the modern three-bar grille. The roof features separate removable sections for open-air driving, giving the look and feel of the "Baja Broncos" of the early 1970s. Exterior details include exposed door hinges, cowl vents, flared wheelwells, and unique loop-shaped door handles integrated into the door. The Bronco concept mates a 2.0-liter/128-hp intercooled turbodiesel with six-speed PowerShift transmission and Intelligent 4WD system for a powerful, sure-footed off-roader, and adds nitrous-oxide injection for a temporary 50-horse burst of power at the driver’s fingertips.
Despite denials, rumors that Honda is developing its own version of a pickup truck were to be believed. In Detroit, Honda unveiled the SUT (sport/utility truck) concept, demonstrating its unique take on the pickup market. The development focus was the "active dad," translating into a family-focused vehicle that emphasizes car-like characteristics yet boasts truck-grade toughness for weekend adventuring. The unibody truck has seating for five, along with a five-foot cargo bed for toys like ATVs. The SUT is powered by a VTEC V-6, with output estimated to be in the 240- to 260-horsepower range. Ride and handling are aided by a fully independent suspension. On the safety front, the SUT concept features vehicle stability assist, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, and four-wheel ABS. Bed bonus points awarded for exterior speakers. SUT production at the Alliston, Ontario, plant will begin in 2005.
Designed to be a rugged search-and-rescue vehicle in the most extreme situations and unforgiving conditions, Chrysler says its five-seat Rescue concept is the ultimate execution of a Jeep off-road vehicle. Powered by a Cummins Diesel, the Jeep Rescue’s primary mission is rescue capability, and its list of high-tech rescue and safety equipment includes: AC electric power (10 kW) generation in the field; 3-D topographical mapping software and topographical navigation system; under-chassis, point-of-view cameras for avoiding danger in its path; passive, infrared cameras for search and rescue; satellite telephone, VHF radio, and digital video recorder with satellite transmission; high-tech lighting; and front and back remote-control winches. Built to survive anything in its way, Rescue rides on an 80-inch wide chassis with 123-inch wheelbase and 37-inch run-flat tires, and the front hydropneumatic suspension combines with the heavy-duty link-coil rear suspension to give the Rescue solid footing on all types of terrain. Forget the St. Bernard; bring on the Jeep Res
Mitsubishi Sport Truck
With the unveiling of its four-passenger Sport Truck concept, Mitsubishi has revealed its belief that a pickup truck can be both functional and fun to drive. Designed to appeal to urban customers who are always on the move, the Sport Truck Concept’s exterior styling is sporty yet rugged. Developed on Dodge’s next-gen Dakota platform, the heart of the Sport Truck Concept beats with a powerful V-8 engine mated to an electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission. The transmission features a dial-type shifter knob which, rotated into the D+ mode, allows for sporty paddle shifting through controls mounted on the steering wheel. Beyond the practical utility of a truck, the concept also features a four-wheel independent suspension and 22-inch custom alloy wheels for the sophisticated ride and performance more commonly associated with sport sedans. Large "barn-style" side doors open outwards to provide maximum access to an interior finished with chic, modern materials, and outfitted with an assortment of high-tech gadgetry and infinitely variable LED lighting.
Criticized for offering two-generations of not-quite-full-size pickups in a market segment absolutely dominated by the domestic manufacturers, Toyota has learned a lesson from the Nissan Titan — come out swinging. While the next-generation Tundra isn’t scheduled until 2006, the FTX concept truck is intended to make a strong statement that the next pickup will indeed be a big player in the high-volume category. Tundra to the extreme, the FTX is a huge machine measuring 19 feet long and nearly seven feet wide, with a bed edge that is eye-level. Ready for off-road adventures, this 4×4 wears 37-inch tires and isolates passengers from trail harshness with suspension-fitted seats. Retractable side step rails aid ingress/egress, and even cargo loading. A hidden ramp at the rear helps roll heavy items or recreation machines into the bed. This concept features a hybrid V-8 powertrain, reportedly under consideration for the next Tundra, though it will not be offered at launch.
Volkswagen concept T
True to tradition, Volkswagen used the Detroit show to unveil a surprising concept vehicle. For the concept T, VW designers looked deep into the company’s history, drawing inspiration from the Kubelwagen and the Beetle-based dune buggies, and then looked to the future to identify a micro-niche in the crowded SUV segment to shoehorn an innovative vehicle into. The result is an off-road coupe fitted with a 214-hp V-6, Tiptronic transmission, 4Motion all-wheel drive, and wild, Speed Buggy styling. The sweeping doors move outward and swing upward to aid ingress/egress. The roof is made of two removable parts to enable open-air beach cruising. The interior boasts latest technology with a Personal Mobility Gateway (PMG) wireless communication system. The PMG uses a portable PDA-like device that controls functions such as air conditioning and navigation system. VW officials suggest this concept is more than a fanciful design, leaving us wondering about the potential for a platform- and drivetrain-sharing sport/ute coupe.