Detroit Motor Show February 2008 - All that jazz


The last one
Mazda calls it the last of its line of new-age concepts that first began with the Nagare at the LA show in 2006, proceeding to the Ryuga in Detroit last year, the Hakaze in Geneva and the Taiki in Tokyo. With the Furai, the design language set by Laurens Van Den Acker completes a full circle. The fact that it took a Dutchman to remind the Japanese of their oriental design language is truly remarkable, just like the cars. The Furai is remarkable too. It’s based on a three year old, 450 bhp rotary-engined race chassis, but looks just as ready for 2008, as it is for 2010, 2012... (Okay, stop it! – Bijoy ). In fact from some angles, it reminds us of the McLaren F1 LM, which is not a bad thing actually. Now to see if it converts into a Mazda supercar or something for Le Mans in 2008 or ’09 or ’10...

Honda’s been lucky with diesels in Europe with the i-CTDi, but now they want to make a statement in the US with the i-Dtec. After all, Daimler have been toying with Bluetec for the American market, so it wouldn’t be long before others tried their hand too. With a 2009 stateside launch, Honda’s Acura division will be the lucky one to get the engine first. It is believed it will use piezoelectric injectors, but with no variable vane tech turbos. The engine might also feature a downstream NOx catalyst, instead of a urea injection system for reasons of cost. Cost engineering apart, it might also help Americans save a couple of greenbacks each year, thanks to the inherent efficiency of the common rail diesel. 

Audi gains some TTS
Twin turbos are driving the Germans to new levels of madness. The BMW 135i and the Audi RS6 for instance . Now, they’ve taken their unassuming 2.0 FSI, dumped two turbos, plonked the new unit in the Audi TT, and made every other person who bought the 3.2 V6 TT feel cheated. They surely would, because the V6 produces just 250 bhp. Besides, the TTS can do 0-100 kph in 5.2 seconds, some 0.7 secs faster than the 3.2, and has a torque rating of 35.5 kgm. We like the fact that you wait for the turbos to spool up, then when you hit that sweet spot, bang, the power and torque curves decide to take you for a ride. Too bad Audi might avoid getting it to India, because it needs to be homologated. Drat!   Pilot error
So the wraps were taken off the Honda Pilot prototype at last, and if we are to believe what Honda did with the Accord coupe concept, this one too could be close to the real thing. It features the same tech as the Accord, such as VCM, a cylinder deactivation system that shuts off half the cylinders, depending on the need. The Pilot seats eight, though we guess that means a foldable child seat at the rear at best. Our biggest complaint is those hallucinating eyes-like headlamps.That won’t get us to buy it just yet, Honda.

CTS-V for victory
Bob Lutz thinks he has the car that can finally stare down the Mercedes Benz E65 AMG and the BMW M5. The Cadillac CTS-V is his way of delivering an upper cut to the German big two. It’s got 550 bhp spewing out of the crankshaft and a napalm crushing 76 kgm of torque. Blame it on the supercharged 6200cc V8 and the rear-wheel drive for making it such a mind-numbing ride. After all, the 74 year old exec has been taking everyone at GM to task to improve the ‘fun’ factor of their cars. And if fun spells like 0-100 kph in about 4.5 seconds, and a top speed of around 300 kph, the CTS-V will enjoy a bright future. Caddy have given the car magnetic ride control with electronic sensors, a traction system that allows drivers to explore the car’s limits, 19-inch bone jarring wheels and a choice of automatic and manual (are you listening BMW, Merc?) gearboxes. It all sounds good on paper, but we’ll have to see if it can really rattle the Germans.

Fitter, funkier F-150
It’s got 10 per cent more torsional rigidity, but it won’t handle like the latest Mustang for sure. Ford have revealed yet another generation of its largest selling (and America’s largest selling) truck. Don’t discount the slab-like design, the gaping grille, et al, because underneath that huge mother of a bonnet lies yet another V8, except that it seems to improve efficiency by some 0.4 kpl. Not that it’s suddenly going to lead everyone who signed the Kyoto protocol to breathe a collective sigh of relief. There’s also another option to the economical 4600cc V8, a 5400cc one that might lead to inflamed speeches by Greenpeace activists. For Ford, the challenge will be to push even more units of its truck off the shelves as it battles Japanese pick-ups and dwindling sales at the same time.

Coupe that
Cadillac also previewed the CTS coupe, one we think makes the CTS-V look like  Bridget Jones’ Diary . Designed by a team headed by Ed Wellburn, their edgy two-door car looks stunning and as Ed puts it, resembles the Cadillac fin tails from the 1950s. The company has said that the same V6s and V8s from the saloon will feature in the coupe and it might even receive a diesel when the car goes into production.

Countdown to Zeo
It’s got 23-inch wheels, big enough to make West Coast Customs cars look like they’ve got scooter wheels. It also has an unheard range of 400 km for an electric car and has 268 bhp to drive two adults and children fairly quickly across the vast expanses of the earth. The Dodge Zeo thankfully is still a concept, but what a concept! How about a 0-100 kph time that’s less than six seconds, something rivalling only Dodge’s Hemi V8s, and regenerative braking to make the stopping ultra efficient. It looks more or less like current production Dodges, but if Chrysler does moot the plan of putting it into production, we might end up seeing a proper competitor to the Tesla motor at last.   GLK
After months of following spy pictures and trying to figure out what lay under the tarpaulin-covered test vehicles, the wraps have come off. Mercedes’ mini soft-roader, the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 rival, is now here, but the production versions are still some way off since these are just concepts. Called the Vision GLK Freeside and Vision GLK Townside, the new soft-roaders resemble the bigger GL and not the ML as was once perceived. The Freeside is oriented for some off-roading, with the Townside focussed on the urban ute market. Mercedes have so far shown a four-cylinder Bluetec diesel with 7-G Tronic, but it’s a matter of time before more diesel and petrol engines find their way under the bonnet.

Not for common Volks
It surely isn’t for common folks, because the Passat CC, Volkswagen’s newest baby, is a four-door coupe on the same lines as the Mercedes Benz CLS, and with a drag coefficient as low as 0.29. VW has fitted it with what it calls intimate seating, but we guess with a coupe like structure, intimate moments need no excuse. The rest of the interior kit includes plush and expensive material on the dashboard and seats and more high tech stuff like Lane Assist and Park Assist, something similar to the one on the Lexus LS range. Engines range from 2000cc 140 bhp petrol to a very nice-sounding 3600cc V6 FSI, making around 300 bhp. The rest of the package includes frameless doors, a guide system for the windows, an active climate seat package from the Phaeton, eight airbags and ABS. Now to look forward to the Phaeton four-door coupe...

Oh, yet another X5 for us, though this one is called the X5 xDrive35d (how does BMW expect one to remember that tongue twister?) It’s also blue with envy, as the tech for the US is called ‘blue performance’ thanks to the use of Ad Blue. Don’t ask us about the German obsession with Blue (Merc – Bluetec, VW – Bluemotion) and diesels, but this is BMW’s first attempt at pushing diesels since the 524td in the mid-1980s. Not just the X5, even the 3-Series carries the mantle of American BMW diesels. So what is this engine? Well, it’s the usual twin-turbo 3000cc diesel that does duty in Europe, this one tuned to produce a little lower 265 bhp. And Californians can rejoice, it’s available in their ultra low emission state as well.

SLK Operator
It doesn’t look too different from the existing SLK and it would take a really avid Merc fan to play ‘spot the differences’ and get even half of them. Just like the E-Class facelift, the new SLK features fewer exterior embellishments and more new stuff under the skin. Apart from the slightly revised nose and sharper front air-dam, the interiors get the NTG 2.5 electronics suite that alters audio and telematics, with a voice control system to change settings. The SLK 200K now gets 184 bhp, up from the current 160 bhp, and the SLK 350’s ratings go up from 272 bhp to 305 bhp. Torque receives a bump too while CO2 ratings go south. The car also features a direct steer system that makes the car sharper and more precise than the previous speed-sensitive system and is being billed as a landmark system. Of course, new landmarks mean higher prices, and we should see the changes soon enough on India bound cars.

Maranello Madness
So what’s the world coming to? We are already reeling under the R8 going diesel and the K’segg CCXR gulping down ethanol. Now, Ferrari is doing the same with the F430 Biofuel. Why, why? Well, it makes 10 per cent more horsepower (that means a true 500+ bhp, yahoo!) and five per cent better fuel consumption (if that helps the rich get richer). Though this one’s a concept, Ferrari insists that it will come into production to help reduce emissions by 40 per cent for 2012. Ferrari also have said that 2007 was a record year, with sales up by eight per cent to 6400 units and with numbers going up, there might just be more alternatively fuelled Ferraris up for launch.

HX on
Everyone’s calling it the purest Hummer since the H1. It also is the greenest, since it runs on E85, the wonder fuel that everyone in the United States is talking about. The HX concept is a 2+2 off-roader with removable panels, doors and even bumpers! But don’t be astounded, since it is not a desperate attempt to just reduce weight, since it’s a concept and the young designers from the College of Creative Studies were allowed to run riot with their imagination. The 3600cc V8 that nestles under the bonnet powers all four wheels through a six-speed automatic. The designers say the interiors have aircraft-like seats and an extruded aluminium cross-beam like the ones on aircraft. The floor is also rubberized and has ballistic nylon material covering the instrument panel, all with the idea to ape everything aeronautical. Thankfully it doesn’t have wings, because we wonder how the FAA would certify it? Flying bomber? Or personal four-seater aircaft?

Kinetic energy
Yet another Kinetic ideology based Ford design, the Verve sedan is a take-off on the hatchback we first saw at Frankfurt and the first of the saloons we saw in China. In fact, apart from a small facelift to what we saw in Shanghai, the external appearance of the car remains pretty much the same. The revised bits include a different looking grille and tail-lights and updated interiors. The US car will probably get a 1400cc EcoBoost mill, with a dual clutch gearbox called Powershift. It’s more like a shift of power towards smaller cars in the US now.

A-BAT out of hell
No important show is complete without a new Toyota hybrid. Since Toyota’s Tundra is the rage stateside, they decided to show another pick-up concept, but this one with the Prius motor. The four-cylinder gas engine at the front is mated to an electric motor, but that’s besides the point. With a name like A-BAT, expect Toyota to be novel and release it once the sun decides to light up another half of the earth. It’s already being hailed as the next possible compact pick-up. Some of the cool features include a unibody construction, solar panels atop the dashboard to power interior instruments and a retractable audio unit, while the load bay has a lot of places to store several different types of items. Batman’s next ride? Only if he has a contractual agreement to plug a Toyota.