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Ford Explorer America – North American International Auto Show

Explorer America – A Sustainable Showcase
To help explain its vehicle sustainability strategy, Ford has created the Explorer America concept for the 2008 North American International Auto Show. Actually, the Explorer America tips Ford’s hand about the next generation Explorer due in 2010. Shifting from a body-on-frame traditional SUV to a unit body crossover SUV, Ford shows they firmly believe that crossovers are where the SUV market is headed.

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The key here is the style and the package Ford is showing. Still a Premium Mid-Size SUV, Explorer America picks up more adventuresome styling than any Explorer before. It has overstated wheels and tires, large wheel openings, a tough and rugged appearance and a lowered roof line. Hopefully, the lowered roofline will be raised by production because spaciousness and headroom are things that SUV-buyers covet.
On the driver side, Explorer America has two conventional sedan-style doors. On the passenger side, Explorer America has a conventional front door and a sliding rear door like a minivan. Sometimes, automakers use center-opening or sliding doors on concept vehicles to allow them to showcase the interior better, so it is not known if the slider would make it to production. Anyway, it is an interesting approach.
Showcase for EcoBoost 4-Cylinder Turbo Powertrain
From Ford’s early January press release….
The Explorer America concept delivers an approximately 20 to 30 percent fuel-economy improvement – depending on engine selection – while providing room for six and their gear, along with moderate towing and off-roading capabilities.
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A powertrain lineup includes a 4-cylinder 2-liter engine with EcoBoost technology delivering 275 hp and 280 lb.-ft. of torque or, as a premium engine, a 3.5-liter V-6 delivering about 340 hp. Depending on engine selection, fuel-efficiency will improve by 20 to 30 percent versus today’s V-6 Explorer.
Migration from current body-on-frame to unibody construction, reducing weight and delivering superior driving dynamics
A fuel-efficient 6-speed transmission with auto shift control, allowing the driver to select and hold a lower gear with just the turn of a dial when conditions warrant it
A weight reduction of 150 pounds for the V-6 version thanks to its downsized – yet superior performing – engine, as well as more lightweight materials, suspension and chassis components
Fuel-saving electric power assisted steering (EPAS) and other engine actions that deliver a fuel savings benefit of about 5 percent. Between 80 to 90 percent of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles will have EPAS by 2012
Aerodynamic and other parasitic improvements that add up to a 5 percent fuel economy gain
The production model of the Explorer changed the landscape when it arrived on the scene in 1990 as a 1991 model, delivering an experience as unique as the owners who would eventually shape the design of the Explorer America concept.
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Today’s Explorer leads the mid-size SUV segment in sales. Since its introduction 18 years ago, Explorer has sold more than 6.5 million vehicles.


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Cadillac Provoq – Detroit Auto Show Crossover SUV Concept

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With the North American International Auto Show still days away, information is leaking through sieve-like embargoes. Cadillac Provoq is a fuel-cell powered concept Crossover SUV that telegraphs cues for Cadillac’s future Crossovers like the next SRX. Of course, the first question is why Cadillac used a name for this concept rather than an alphanumeric like “TRX” or “URX” or “VRX”.
VehicleVoice will have more from the show floor next week when we can shoot the Provoq in the flesh.

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Cues from Future Generation Cadillac Crossover SUVs
Provoq has contemporary body surfacing with a bold contour swage on the bodyside initiating from the inevitable gill in the front fender. The grille texture is very similar to the new CTS and closely follows Cadillac’s present design language. So from a design standpoint, Provoq is more evolutionary than revolutionary. Nice looking in the way the new CTS is nice looking.
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The Provoq rides on a 110-inch wheelbase and has an overall length of 190-inches. So, it’s about a half-size smaller than the SRX (116-inch wheelbase and 195-inch overall length). Based on GM’s new compact crossover architecture, the Provoq has more to do with the Saturn Vue than the SRX.
Aerodynamics a Key to Improved Efficiency

The Provoq is optimized for low aerodynamic drag, with the front fascia featuring a computer-controlled grille that opens as cooling is needed. There is a wind-tunnel designed belly pan to smooth airflow beneath the Provoq. The functional rear spoiler helps reduce drag by smoothing airflow over the roof. In addition, the roof contains a solar panel for charging vehicle accessories.
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Powertrain – Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
The powertrain is the fifth generation version of General Motor’s hydrogen fuel-cell stack. (The fourth generation is presently powering a fleet of 100 hydrogen Chevrolet Equinox SUVs that GM has put into a testing rotation with people in California, New York, and Washington.)
This fifth-gen version is one-third smaller than what’s on the road now, and its hydrogen fuel cell can provide a continuous output of 88 kilowatts. Three electric motors are expected to deliver 0-60 mph times of about 8.5 seconds with a governed top speed of 100 mph. The hydrogen is stored in two 10,000-psi tanks that hold 6 kilograms each, and the quick-fill feature works similarly to the Equinox test fleet. Range is expected to be 300 miles. The Provoq is also a plug-in hybrid incorporating a plug-in feature to pre-charge the lithium-ion batteries from your home electrical system. The ports for the plug-in hybrid are conveniently located on both sides of the vehicle. Both the brakes and transmission incorporate drive-by-wire technology.
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While Provoq is a technology concept, think of it more as a styling and package concept for future Cadillac Crossover SUVs. When we see this styling on the road, it will be petroleum powered – either gas or diesel or maybe a gas-electric hybrid… but not a production hydrogen fuel-cell.

Posted in: Cadillac, Concept Cars

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LA Auto Show – Volkswagen space up! Blue – Deutschland In Da House Y’all

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Whether you’re tired of fuel prices creeping up to $4 dollars a gallon, uncomfortable with the idea that your money is making it’s way over to the Middle East or simply want the feel good endorphins to pump through your body as you are seen as a socially responsible human being, a hybrid may be the answer. They have become the American answer to slow all personal transportation energy woes and Volkswagen, no stranger to fuel efficiency, wants a piece of the action. The VW space up! blue plans to provide just that…


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Porsche Cayenne Hybrid Protoype

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The LA Auto Show was beginning to feel a birthday party for Ed Begley. Fuel cells, hybrids, bluetec, plug-ins, clean diesel. How about a brief introductory course in the “New European Driving Cycle”? While technology is making green more interesting all the time, you can’t replace horsepower with the warm and fuzzies of a green car. Thank God for Porsche. Certainly, our friends from Stuttgart won’t let us down. Wrong. Porsche came to the 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show with a green pitch, albeit somewhat tempered.


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2009 Kia Borrego: Expanding Kia's SUV Lineup

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Detroit Introduction Set for New Entry
Back in 2005, also at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, Kia showed a truck-based, mid-size SUV concept called Mesa. Disguised as a design study, three years later Kia is ready to show us the production version.

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2009 Kia Borrego

More details will come in January, but we know now that it will be built in Korea, named Borrego, and arrive at Kia dealers in 2008. See Kia’s release below the jump. This first image of the Borrego shows a much more realistic product than Mesa was, but one that carries a very traditional SUV shape.
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2005 Kia Mesa Concept

Is Timing Right?
When we first saw the Mesa concept in 2005, we asked if this was the right product at the right time. Three years later, it is still a valid question. Especially if you believe the media hype, the trend now is to socially responsible vehicles as small as you can get for your needs. General Motors and Ford are both set to walk away from truck-based mid-size utilities, as either car or new purpose-built platforms are better suited to the real-world jobs these vehicles are actually asked to do.
Customers, the ones who really matter, get to decide late next year the answer to this question.


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Suzuki Kizashi and Kizashi 2: A Brand Looking to Grow

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Concepts at Frankfurt and Tokyo Foreshadow Suzuki’s Mid-Size Intentions.
The Kizashi at the 2007 Frankfurt show and the Kizashi 2 a month later at the Tokyo motor show, according to Suzuki, “illustrate Suzuki‘s progress toward developing a D-segment entry.” For American buyers, those are cars similar in size to the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Hyundai Azera. Suzuki’s GM-Daewoo-supplied Verona tried to compete here, but was not a particularly good example of a family sedan, expensive for the Suzuki franchise, and it was dropped from the range after a short sales run in the USA.

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Among the interesting elements of these two international concept cars is that both carry a wagon bodystyle; Suzuki is due to show a third development next year in the United States and it would be a good bet that that car is a sedan and closer to what the production vehicle will be. Suzuki is well aware of the need for the production car to at least include a sedan, having indicated that they are planning a new flagship sedan, despite theses wagon concepts. In the States, four-door sedans dominate car segments. Few wagons survive for long in the cutthroat U.S. mid-size market, and those that do sell a fraction of their sedan counterparts. Wagons fare much better in international markets, where buyers did not take SUVs to heart quite as deeply as Americans. Simply, in the USA, SUVs killed the idea of a conventional station wagon.
The Kizashi 2 in Tokyo takes more aggressive, nearly SUV cues, compared with the sleek Kizashi, but it is still a wagon. Suzuki is looking for a D-segment entry that focuses on status and signals the maturity of the brand.
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BMW Concept X6 and X6 ActiveHybrid: BMW X DNA Defined

At the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show, BMW Introduced The “First” Sports Activity Coupe
Technically, BMW is right. This is the world’s first Sports Activity Coupe. But that seems a matter of degrees, as Infiniti’s FX is really the world’s first SUV Coupe (and that was introduced back in 2003). The difference between an SAV and an SUV is in the mind of BMW, not the mind of the consumer.

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Claims to world’s first aside, two X6 Concepts, one with an undefined but implied large conventional powerplant and another with BMW’s also largely undefined two- mode hybrid powertrain, were shown at the 2007 Frankfurt show in September. The X6 Concept and X6 Concept ActiveHybrid preview a vehicle we’ll see on the roads in 2008, built alongside the X5 at the company’s Spartanburg plant. Both gathered strong interest at the show, though the real test will be seeing the X6 on the autobahn, freeways, and suburban and city roads next to everything from the most sedate family sedan to the largest SUV to the smallest sports car. Will its striking roofline be enough to draw attention and appreciative looks or just look out of place? Though given graceful and dynamic surfacing, below the beltline the X6 looks every bit the SUV it is.
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The X6 and X6 ActiveHybrid Concepts show what to expect from the exterior, though the interior and powertrain and mechanicals details are yet under wraps. We expect conventional X6 powerplants to be pulled from the X5, and the ActiveHybrid Concept confirms BMW’s intent to offer the jointly developed two-mode hybrid system (after the fragmenting of DaimlerChrysler, this is a four-way venture between GM, Daimler, The Chrysler Group, and BMW). BMW will use their own engines with the two-mode hybrid system, as do the other partners, and may call the system ActiveHybrid in production.
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Volvo C30 Recharge: GM Is Not Alone with Flexible Platform Concept

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Not at all unlike the GM E-Flex platform in concept, shown first under the Chevrolet Volt and in Frankfurt under the Opel Flextreme, the Volvo Recharge at the 2007 Frankfurt show used a lithium-ion battery pack to power individual electric wheel motors. (Follow this link to see Volvo’s press conference.) The internal combustion engine on board is used for backup and battery recharging only, and has no part in moving the vehicle. The Recharge was designed for plug-in application, with Volvo estimating about three hours for a full charge. Volvo estimated the electric-only range to be about 62 miles, leading the company to note that Recharge would be best suited for those with daily round-trip commutes below that distance. While GM has shown its E-Flex platform with concept-car bodies above, Volvo put their new C30 on top of the Recharge platform.

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2007 Frankfurt Motor Show: Toyota IQ

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Is Small Beautiful Again?
At the 2007 Frankfurt auto show this month, Toyota showed a concept version of a vehicle expected to be available in Europe in January 2009. The IQ, shown in brilliant white with purple metallic flakes in front of a swirling purple tie-die type background, is shorter than the smallest Toyota, the Aygo, but about as wide and tall as the Yaris. This footprint allows for maximum interior space and minimum exterior space.

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The IQ wouldn’t meet Japan’s keijodisha requirements, the segment there which requires that vehicles be no longer than 3300mm nor wider than 1480mm and use an engine with displacement no larger than 660cc nor delivering more than 64PS. The primary benefit of buying a kei-car is lower automobile taxes, as well as generally being more fuel efficient and often less expensive. The kei-car segment is the only one in Japan in which Toyota does not directly compete, though their affiliate Daihatsu makes several.
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Toyota IQ and Yaris

At 2980mm long and 1680mm wide, IQ is a bit larger than the smart fortwo, but the benefit of this space is the ability to carry more people. smart’s fortwo only carries two, but Toyota says the IQ can carry three if needed. Toyota makes room for the third person in a configuration they call 3+1. In normal driving situations, the driver and front passenger sit side-by-side. When room for a third adult or child is needed, the front passenger seat is moved forward; this is possible in part by a dash that swoops away from the front passenger and allows more space. To help ensure passengers don’t feel cramped in such a small vehicle is a glass panorama sunroof.
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2007 Frankfurt Motor Show: Kia Kee

The Key to Kia’s Design Future
Last year, Kia scooped up Volkswagen AG designer Peter Schreyer and opened a European design studio in Frankfurt. Schreyer, during his tenure at Audi and at VW, is credited with the first TT concept, Audi A6, and VW Concept R. With credentials like these, Kia expects Schreyer to liven up their design. In a market filled with many competitive entries and lots of noise, Kia cannot afford bland design.

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At the 2007 Frankfurt auto show, Kia showed off one the first efforts to be led by Schreyer, a two-plus-two sports coupe called Kee; the concept is touring upcoming auto shows as well, and this tour will include at least one appearance on the U.S. circuit. Kee’s name was inspired by both the idea that it is key to the brand’s design future and by the Chinese and Korean “cultural concept” for spiritual energy or life force. They’d have been better off spelling it Key or K; while the pronunciation of Kee is pretty obvious and the inspiration strong, it looks odd and contrived.
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