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Video Reviews, Test Drives, and Opinion from VehicleVoice

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Video is rapidly becoming an important component for any new, magazine, or entertainment website. At VehicleVoice, we’ve been using video for nearly two years and we want to make certain you know how useful and entertaining our video stories can be.
Our video stories are typically fairly short, so you can enjoy them during a coffee break, or while waiting for that report to print. Two recent surveys show that more than three quarters of the people who use the Internet watch an hour or more of video every week. And, a huge percentage of that audience takes advantage of the lunch hour to enjoy the various video clips and stories now being posted everywhere from CNN to political campaigns to your own private website — to, yup, right here at VehicleVoice.

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Invisible Explorer

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Say it isn’t so! I sincerely hope that I’m wrong on this one, or at least over-reacting. Ford’s initial Press conference at the 2008 North American International Auto Show left me wondering, “”What about the Explorer?” Ford began the Sunday with Bill Ford, Mark Fields, Country music superstar Toby Keith, and enough fireworks and decibels to put a chill up your spine. We were shown the newly-redesigned F-150, the Verve Concept, and a herd of Mustangs. We saw the Explorer America Concept, or at least I think we did. It came on and off the stage faster than Charles Manson at a parole hearing. The pitch went something like this. “Unit body, 2.0 liter Ecoboost Engine, Adios!” I found this especially disheartening, because the vehicle looked so great. A forward-looking design that keeps real truck cues. Not another tall wagon!


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Mitsubishi RA Concept – North American International Auto Show

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Mitsubishi showed its RA Concept at the North American International Auto Show. The RA is a two-seat diesel powered sports car with styling cues that telegraph shapes to come from Mitsubishi.

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Designed by perhaps the tallest styling team in the industry, both the Chief Designer and Interior Designer are well over 6-feet 5-inches tall. Dave O’Connell, Chief Designer, who is about 6-feet 7-inches tall admitted they “kept shaving off height until the car looked fabulous”. And fabulous it is. Being height challenged I should be able to get into the RA without too much problem, but wouldn’t even venture it. Neither of Mitsu’s stylists would volunteer to get into their head turning cocept.
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All that said, the reason for a concept car is to elicit reactions from showgoers and to help get the brand and the car on consideration lists. RA does that. But, Mitsu management stress that the RA is only a design study that probably won’t be on the road any time soon. RA picks up Mitsubishi’s new face… a downward scowl that gives a shark-like front end appearance. This front end look premiered on the Mitsu Lancer and will go a long way at giving Mitsubishi products a readily identifiable look. The body contours now look very organic with fluid shapes providing muscular fender flares tightly wrapped around meaty tires.
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RA is Teaser for Next Generation Eclipse
Being a two-seater, the RA certainly isn’t a production proposition. Mitsubishi needs a product that can sell 60,000 units a year to be happy and a two-seater just won’t do it. Think of RA as showing us some of the shapes that may be seen on the next Gen Eclipse.
Now, about the next generation Eclipse. The present Eclipse is based on Mitsubishi’s large PS platform. So, Eclipse tends to be bigger and heavier than most would like for the small sporty car class. The next Eclipse may not be based on PS. The GS platform of the Lancer, Lancer Evolution X and Outlander could also provide the basis for the next generation Eclipse. This would give the Eclipse the hardware needed to be a truly world class sporty car. Most of those bits, of course, would come from the Evolution X.
We could conceptualize a 4-seat sporty car using RA styling and powered by a 2.4L 4-cylinder from Lancer, the 2.0L Twin Turbo from the Evolution X, and a 3.3L V6 from the present car. In that way, you’d have the secretary’s car, the boy racer and the luxo model. Add AWD and Mitsubishi’s outstanding paddle shift transmission and you have a winner.


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Lincoln MKT – VehicleVoice Best of Show

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Best of Show
You always go to an autoshow with the hope that there will be a truly outstanding example there. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific’s eight staffers at the 2008 North American International Auto Show were extremely impressed with the Lincoln MKT concept vehicle.

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A vehicle we will call a Crossover SUV, the MKT is in many ways similar to General Motors Lambda Crossover SUVs and especially the Buick Enclave. The thing that makes MKT special is its exterior styling which uses all six Lincoln design cues (although they say seven at the show, Peter Horbury, Ford’s head designer in North America says he only really uses six) which are critical to the definition of a Lincoln design. Wow, this thing is beautiful. From the bow wave grille to the relatively fast rear end treatment, MKT comes across as a premium, substantial vehicle worthy of carrying the Lincoln badge.
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Not only is the exterior stunning, the interior carries on new Lincoln cues which are very upscale, contemporary and modern. A four passenger concept with no pretense at transporting seven passengers, the MKT is decked out like a luxury business jet.
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Only Thing Wrong… The Name
A few years back, Ford made the unfortunate error of renaming Lincoln vehicles with alphanumeric names – MKZ (Zephyr), MKX (Aviator), MKS (Continental), and now MKT. Another great concept is the MKR flagship sedan. Better with a real name. Only the Navigator and Town Car have not succumbed to this folly. I guess MKT means Lincoln “Truck”. No, it’s really “Touring”… guess that fits better. Well, MKT certainly ain’t no truck. It’s really special and deserves better… a name.
[Even Mark Fields, Ford’s President of North American Operations, botched up the name of the MKS when he introduced it at the Los Angeles Auto Show. He first said “MKX”. If Ford’s biggies can’t keep ’em straight, think about salespeople at Lincoln dealerships and prospective buyers].
2009 Ford Flex Crossover SUV is Base for MKT
Based on Ford Flex (Ford Crossover SUV to be launched in mid-2008) underpinnings, MKT is powered by Ford’s 3.5L Twin Turbo GDI EcoBoost V6. This should give it enough punch to qualify as a high performance Crossover. In the MKT the 3.5L V6 has 415-horsepower and 400 pound feet of torque.
Only A Concept – Get them to Build It
In discussions with Ford design management, there was no confirmation that the MKT – codenamed D472 – has been approved for production. In fact, the designers contend that the MKT design has not even been proven feasible. The front fenders and rear quarters have a very crisp blade on the upper surface that would be practically impossible to stamp out of metal. MKT uses plastic to get around that particular problem.
In any event, write, email, telephone Ford to convince them to produce the MKT. If they give the vehicle the go ahead, we could expect to see it in 2010 as a 2011 model year vehicle.
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Ford’s press release on the Lincoln MKT Concept is below the fold.
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Mercedes-Benz Vision GLK FREESIDE: Baby Benz SUV

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Only the night before the official reveal at the 2008 North American International Auto Show, Mercedes-Benz borrowed Detroit’s Museum of Contemporary Modern Art for a media sneak preview of their Vision GLK FREESIDE. Presented by Daimler CEO Dr. Dieter Zetsche, the concept is not a hypothetical exercise. This C-Class-based small SUV will be in showrooms in January 2009. Dr. Zetsche reminded us the C-Class has grown up since the sedan was first known as the Baby Benz, but the GLK will be the baby of Mercedes SUV family. Pricing is far from decided, but expect it to closely overlay the C-Class.

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The Vision GLK FREESIDE is being shown with two different faces and different interior accents, though both have the same running gear and engine. There are also two colors, one a dramatic matte-finish white excellent for showing up the complex surfacing of this small SUV. Differences between the two Visions include front fascia, wheels, and interior trim. One conveys a more luxurious, sophisticated on-road personality while the other looks tougher and more capable, though still clearly a high-end compact SUV. The more capable-looking of the two is the one pictured here, and seems to be the favorite. It is possible that Mercedes offer both, in a strategy similar to offering both modern and traditional faces for the C-Class.
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Ford Verve Previews 2010 Small Car – North American International Auto Show

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Ford Targets Millenials with Verve
Ford will re-enter the small-car segment in the States, one they haven’t really played in here since the not-missed Ford Aspire (often referred to as the Ford “Despair”). If the Verve concepts are anything to go by, Ford is preparing a car that people actually may want to own. Ford of Europe has done well with its small cars, including the current Fiesta. But small cars have been notoriously unprofitable when built in the States where small cars are sold on (low) price alone. In Europe, they are more fully-featured and can command profitable prices. In today’s climate, it is time to take another go at small cars here, and Ford’s take will arrive for the 2010 model year.

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2008 Ford Verve Concept

At this year’s 2008 North American International Auto Show, we are actually seeing the third Verve concept. The first Verve concept was a three-door hatchback introduced in Frankfurt in September 2007. The first sedan was introduced in China in November. This January, NAIAS is home to the introduction of another sedan, much like the China car. Ford’s show stand will also feature the three-door. Europe is mad for hatchbacks and the three-door is a no-brainer there. By the same token, the sedan is a given for the States. Depending on Stateside reaction to the three-door, Ford may offer it alongside the sedan. It’s uncertain if it will wear the Verve name, but at least it is a good option.
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2007 Ford Verve Guangzhou Concept

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2007 Ford Verve Concept

And if you’re unsure who Millenials are, this is the group aged 13-28 – most call this age cohort Generation Y. Ford says 11,000 of them get their first driver’s license every day, and for most the first car is a small car. Giving this one styling cues that can appeal to kids who’ve never known a world without cell phones and adults who have forgotten such a world might allow Ford to meet the goal of making target customers from both groups happy.


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Saab 9-4X Concept: Finally, A Saab For the Times?

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The World Has Caught Up to Saab…Or So Saab Hopes
For years and years, Saab has been struggling to find a happy medium between maintaining its unique and renowned character and possessing enough mainstream virtues to appeal to an audience big enough to sustain profitable volumes. It’s lucky for them that consumer values may be shifting in ways that make traditional Saab values suddenly more relevant.
What has made a vehicle uniquely a Saab? This has generally meant unique (and sometimes quirky) style, rejection of excess, and small displacement engines with high output, often through turbocharging. Consistent with these values, Saab has rejected many attributes that were up till recently a given for success, such as big and beefy engines and SUV bodystyles (on both those counts, we’ll forget the Saab Bravada…er 9-7X ever existed).
Today, however, those Saab values might be a little more relevant. Ford and others are touting small displacement direct injected turbos, and small premium multi-use vehicles are popping up all over the place. Hmm…has Saab’s time to shine finally come?
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Posted in: Concept Cars, Saab

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Land Rover LRX Concept: Times are Definitely Changing

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LRX Demonstrates Atomization of the SUV Market
Not all that long ago, we (and most other pundits) would have prescribed a pretty failsafe formula for how to create a successful SUV. Make it big, make it really upright, and give it plenty of power, OPEC be damned. Sure, everyone knows now that fuel prices are high, driving demand for more efficient means of transportation, but there are plenty of other factors driving the atomization of the once cookie-cutter SUV market.
Whatever you want to call them – body-on-frame utility vehicles, crossovers, car-based utilities, whatever – SUVs as a genre have matured to the point where there is plenty of space and demand for unique niches within the larger segment. In fact, consistent with the greater overall consumer demand we see nowadays for tailored, unique products that fit every taste (how many ways can you have your Starbucks?), the SUV segment is quickly becoming as diverse as the passenger car market. So is there a market for a sustainable, eco-friendly coupe-like Land Rover? Even five years ago, we probably would have given the notion a big thumbs down.

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Seeking New Blood and New Concept Space

Land Rover’s LRX concept previews a niche luxury entry SUV product that we’re expecting to see within the next few years. This product would come in below the car-based Freelander, theoretically casting a wider net and providing a larger gateway to the Land Rover brand. We can see their logic here. Today’s oldest Gen Y buyers are coming of age and are starting to earn real money, and a huge number of them have grown up valuing prestige and premium branding. As a struggling brand (especially in Europe, where the traditional truck-based SUVs that Land Rover specializes in have become more irrelevant than ever), Land Rover has got to find some new blood – and the key hopefully lies in these young and open-minded buyers.
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Nissan Forum: When is a Minivan Not a Minivan?

When It’s a FORUM.
Nissan created the Quest for buyers who needed a minivan but didn’t really want to drive one. It was given an aggressive exterior supported by an odd and innovative interior, which took a major update that made it more conventional with the 2007 model year. But the Quest is too much for most minivan buyers, and sales have disappointed Nissan. Nissan must have done some things right, though; Quest owners gave it AutoPacific’s 2007 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Minivans.

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Despite lukewarm response to Quest, Nissan has not given up on the cool minivan concept, proven by this year’s FORUM concept. Jury’s out on whether FORUM succeeds with showgoers, but much thought and detail went into development and it sports features that would be appreciated in any minivan. The not-minivan FORUM’s angry-appliance looks would stand out in a sea of sameness.
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FORUM’s dramatic exterior is wrapped around clever features to keep all rows happy. There’s no doubt that FORUM explores features and style for a new Quest, but Nissan executives indicated that if they don’t think a new generation will be profitable, it won’t be built.


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Toyota A-BAT Concept – Toyota Makes a Prius Pickup?

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Toyota revealed their new ‘Advanced Breakthrough Aero Truck’ (or A-BAT for short) at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show. It’s not a smaller Tacoma. Think of it more like a small Toyota Ridgeline. It’s based on a unitized platform and swallows an inline 4 cylinder engine with Toyota’s Synergy Hybrid Drive.

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Concept
No, the A-BAT was not designed in the dark by Avalanche and Ridgeline ex-patriots. The A-BAT was developed by the TMS Advanced Product Strategy group and Calty. Kevin Hunter, president of Calty Design Research Inc. had this to say:
“We’ve taken Toyota’s truck heritage to a different level by envisioning a vehicle capable of maneuvering the suburbs as well as dirt roads. This compact truck is as comfortable for long commutes as it is for road trips. It can accommodate outdoor toys and home improvement supplies. Plus customers benefit from the hybrid powertrain’s low emissions and fuel economy.”


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