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Lincoln MKR Concept Revealed

Build It, Build It NOW. The Lincoln MKR could save Ford’s Lincoln brand.
Images of the Lincoln MKR concept car to be revealed at the North American International Auto Show in mid-January have leaked to the net. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific staffers have seen the car in person in Detroit and this is a car that Ford should approve immediately and get into production ASAP.

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Ford’s North American design boss, Peter Horbury, took us through the basic elements of Lincoln design. He contends that there are seven design elements that have defined Lincoln styling over the years and that each future Lincoln will have at least three of the seven cues. The MKR concept, however, has all seven and they work awfully well. The last time Lincoln showed a truly mind blowing concept was Gerry McGovern’s 2002 Lincoln Continental Concept Car.
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Gerry McGovern’s 2002 Lincoln Continental Concept Car

The MKR concept rides on a platform derived from the present Mustang which, of course, was derived from Ford’s DEW98 platform that underpinned the Lincoln LS and the present Jaguar S-Type. Adding the independent rear suspension forgone by Mustang, and voila we have a chassis for the MKR. But, apparently, this is not the final chassis for the car. That will be found in the platform being developed for the Ford of Australia Falcon.
MKR uses the upcoming Lincoln 3.5L V6 with twin turbos putting out about 415 horsepower. We’d rather have a V8 for the range topping Lincoln and that may come by the time the MKR gets on the road.
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Gorgeous interior.

MKR is Not Perfect… Let’s Play Product Planner

So, what would we change? Since this is the Lincoln range topper, we’d give it more interior room. The present roofline is beautiful, but MKR will suffer from the Mercedes CLS disease if they produce it in its four-door coupe form. Make it easier to get into and out of, make the rear seat more spacious, sacrifice a little style for a lot of function. Of course, we’d opt for a V8 as the standard powertrain and a V8 that puts out more horsepower than a Honda Odyssey (the present Town Car still lags Honda’s minivan in the horsepower department). And, of course, we’d immediately abandon the alphanumeric “MKR” and return to a classic Lincoln name like Continental or Premier.


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Join Us for 2007 Detroit Auto Show

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Detroit Auto Show

Based on the traffic we have been receiving, we know that you have followed the VehicleVoice and AutoPacific coverage of the second Los Angeles Auto Show for 2006. The next big auto show is the 2007 North American International Auto Show… better known as the Detroit Auto Show.
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The VehicleVoice crew will wing our way from balmy Orange County to nippy Detroit on January 6 to join our Detroit-based staffers in covering the Detroit show. The major press days are on Sunday, Monday and half of Tuesday – January 7th through 9th.
Plan on reading our reviews of new concept cars and trucks and new introductions every day and for days after the show closes. Also, we will be creating video podcasts that you can access directly from VehicleVoice or through the Apple iTunes Store.
Send us comments about what you would like to see covered in depth.


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LA Auto Show – Mazda Nagare Concept

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Acura (click here for our story) wasn’t the only manufacturer exploring themes for more than ten years out at the November 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show, and not the only manufacturer who may have missed the mark.
Mazda developed the Nagare (pronounced na-ga-reh) concept to describe their future design themes, as an expression of where Mazda styling might be in 2020. Nagare is not only the name of this concept, but the name of Mazda’s future design language. The word, according to Mazda, is Japanese for flow and the “embodiment of motion.” Nagare is the first of several show properties being prepared for this year’s auto show season that will explore this new surface language, each of which will take a different interpretation. Mazda promises some of the concepts we see this year will be closer to production; this Nagare is a design rather than a production expression.

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Form Follows Function? Not Here
Nagare has a sleek, aerodynamic shape, but one that is difficult to reconcile with the concept of an “urban cruiser” for 2020 or any other decade. For one, the extreme aero look didn’t leave much room for people, the most basic reason for having a vehicle. Placing the wheels at the extreme edges of every corner does promise strong and nimble handling and give the concept an aggressive stance. This concept stressed the soul of the sports car over the ability for people to ride in it. Though Mazda didn’t actually show the concept property with doors open, it is designed with two forward-hinged double-length doors that open like butterfly wings. Nice and pretty and a configuration found on lots of concepts, but one that is rarely used in production, and even then typically for low-volume sports cars.


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LA Auto Show – Honda FCX Concept

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Since the late 1980s, Honda has been evaluating, exploring, and testing fuel cell solutions. The 1999 FCX-V2 and 2001 FCX-V3 prototypes began testing on public roads and in everyday driving conditions. In December 2002, the City of Los Angeles was the first to lease a fuel cell vehicle, in the form of the 2003 FCX, followed by San Francisco and testing in the state of New York. In 2005 the first FCX was leased to a family. Further driving hydrogen expansion in California is the government initiative for installing hydrogen stations around the state’s highway system, known as California’s Hydrogen Highway.

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At the L.A. Auto Show in November, Honda introduced the next step in their fuel cell, hydrogen-powered vehicle development. The FCX Concept is a four-door sedan and previews the car that will be on sale in 2008 (2009MY), albeit with a limited roll out. The FCX takes Honda’s traditional look and rachets it up at notch. Aside from the cutting edge propulsion system, the sedan just looks great.
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LA Auto Show – Acura Advanced Sedan Concept

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Honda‘s design facility in Torrance, California, has developed much of Acura‘s current lineup, including the TL, MDX, and RDX. And as Acura moves forward to become a global brand instead of only a North American one, Honda opens an Acura advance design studio in Pasadena, California, in 2007. It was that team that brought us the Advanced Sedan Concept at this November’s Los Angeles Auto Show, and the studio that will be responsible for Acura’s future design. The Advanced Sedan Concept is the first look at some of the studio’s thinking.
ASC: A Controversial and Amateurish Cartoon of an Acura Flagship
The Advanced Sedan Concept is a possible direction for “the biggest and baddest luxury/performance sedan we could possibly” build, according to head of the new Advanced Design Studio Dave Marek. No specifications were given for this pure design study, which did not have a finished interior or running gear, but its proportions indicated a possible front engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. As a dream of a car that maybe twelve years from now could rival Bentley or Maybach for presence as well as performance, a rear-drive orientation is the one expected by those buyers.

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Though the most controversial design execution at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the Acura ASC lacks maturity needed for a range-topping flagship. Even though it hints at an urgently needed rear-wheel-drive V8-powered platform that could propel Acura into the top tier of luxury brands along with Lexus and Infiniti, the design cues are amateurish at best. The grille is almost cartoonish. Perhaps Acura designers have overcompensated for past milquetoast efforts here.
In fact, this concept could be qualified to appear in the VehicleVoice “What Were They Thinking?” category.
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LA Auto Show – Honda REMIX Concept

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Yet another sport coupe was announced at the LA Auto Show once again answering questions no one is asking anymore. We can’t help but think that these sporty cars and coupes are ego boosts for young designers wanting a notch in their resume. From a business perspective, the market for low slung coupes is thin. The days of folks traveling as couples is done. Now it’s traveling in groups. Hence the dramatic swing from two-door bodystyles to 4-door SUVs and XSUVs. The days of wanting to sit low to the ground and have obstructed visibility are over. So, what value would a concept like the Remix actually have? It can go a long way at validating the talent of a young designer and can also test new design themes. But, please, no more coupes!
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Honda used the Los Angeles Auto Show as the world debut venue for its Honda REMIX small sport concept vehicle. The REMIX explores the shape and design of a two-seat sports car focused on agile and fun-to-drive performance that can also provide exceptional practicality as a daily driver. [This sentence could be from any generic auto press release. Insert appropriate name for REMIX].
“The REMIX blends familiar Honda themes into a new, fresh design,” said Ben Davidson, REMIX lead designer, Honda R&D Americas, Inc. “Smooth and fluid surfaces provide a sports car identity to the geometric shapes that form the functional aspect of this vehicle.”
REMIX Pretty Conventional – Uses Small Car Platform – Nothing Exotic
Sports car in shape and design, the low-slung REMIX features a wrap-around canopy that adds a fighter jet-feel to the driving experience. The aluminum-color exterior accentuates every line and curve in the geometric, yet fluid styling. Capable of delivering more than just driving performance, the rear storage area supplies generous cargo room. Purely a design concept, the vehicle is fashioned around a front-wheel drive small car platform with a 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed manual transmission. A sport suspension, along with aggressive tires and brakes, further supplement its performance side.
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“Pure Honda to the core, the REMIX concept vehicle focuses on a simple, lightweight and fun-to-drive philosophy,” said John Mendel, senior vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “The concept balances sports car virtues with real-world practicality.”
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The REMIX Small Sport Concept was designed by Honda R&D Americas, Inc., Advanced Design Studio in Torrance, California.


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LA Auto Show – Honda Step Bus Concept

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Honda Tries to Out-xB Scion with Step Bus
Shown at the LA Auto Show on Wednesday, November 28 the Honda Step Bus Concept appeared to be a clear appropriation of the Scion xB rolling box. Maybe it can thought of as a mix between the Honda Element and the Honda Fit… both of which have solid followings in the USA. The VehicleVoice and AutoPacific crew were on hand when the Step Bus was unveiled.

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Man Maximum, Machine Minimum
With a mid-mounted engine and a wide-opening sliding side door on the driver’s side of the concept (clearly built for the Japanese domestic market with right hand drive), Honda positions this vehicle as “man maximum, machine minimum”.
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LA Auto Show – Giugiaro & Mustang – a Spaghetti Western

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There he was, Fabrizio Giugiaro himself taking over intro duties from Ford’s J Mays. English with a heavy Italian accent, Giugiaro went on about how Italian design could influence the American icon and how American styling themes were a bit away from current Italian thinking. “But I will try to make a silk purse out of this sow,” you could almost hear him uttering under his breath. Ah, yes, a spaghetti western worthy of Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone.

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Giugiaro and Ford Yield Italian Pony Car Concept
Ford retained Giugiaro’s Italdesign-Giugiaro S.p.A to create a modern (and somewhat Italian) interpretation of the iconic American sporty car.
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Crammed into a small venue in trendy north LA, Ford trotted out hors d’oeuvres and rent-a-talent to showcase their new concept car. Forgetting the tongue-in-cheek comments it could be that a cue or two from the Giugiaro Mustang concept could find itself into future Mustang designs.
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Dueling Auto Shows: Detroit and LA Still Fighting for Attention

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While the LA Auto Show opens to the public at the beginning of December, Detroit’s North American International Auto Show is also just around the corner, in January 2007. With the holidays, it’ll be here before you know it.
Detroit’s show has long been the most important in North America, in terms of media attendance and coverage as well as industry attention and presence. By comparison, the other U.S. shows are but a blip in the media clip file. But several others claim more consumer attendance, and Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York rank as significant events in the U.S. automotive calendar.
In past years Detroit and Los Angeles started within days of one another, and while manufacturers are drumming up news with the closer Los Angeles show, several strategic announcements are being made about what we’ll see in Detroit as well.

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Just this week, the Chrysler Group released sketches of two of its 2007 concept vehicles, the four-door coupe Chrysler Nassau and what looks to be an ultimate Jeep in the TrailHawk. Chevrolet has announced we’ll get our first look at the 2008 Malibu in Detroit (and released a photo of the interior as a tease).
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Hyundai announced the Veracruz will be in Detroit, seemingly ages ago (click here for our Veracruz story). We’ve already commented on Nissan’s Rogue (and its European sibling Qashqai), scheduled for Detroit as well (click here). Cadillac will show the updated 2008 CTS, Hummer is rumored to be showing a concept H4 that could take aim at the Wrangler about 2010MY (if they can find a platform), Infiniti may show the G35 coupe, and Mitsubishi will show their Lancer (though we will have a drive review available ahead of the reveal). Though MINI revealed the latest Cooper in Paris in September (click here for our story), U.S. buyers get their first look in Detroit.
The winner here? You, the consumer, with lots of new products coming down the pipe and exciting new vehicles to see when it comes time for your local auto show, even if you can’t get to the big events.
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Nissan Qashqai: A Rogue In European Clothing?

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At the Paris auto show this September, Nissan revealed the newest addition to their European lineup, and VehicleVoice and AutoPacific were on hand for the introduction. The Qashqai four-door crossover SUV goes into production at Nissan’s plant in Sunderland, U.K., in December 2006 and on sale in Europe in early 2007. A version known as Dualis will go on sale in Japan during 2007 as well, and if the illustration Automotive News has published of the Rogue’s rear taillight is any indication (click here), the vehicle joining Nissan’s 2008 U.S. lineup is very much like the Qashqai, if not identical. Nissan USA has announced that a U.S. small crossover, with at least the concept wearing the name Rogue, will be revealed at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in January.

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We had the opportunity to take an up-close look at the Qashqai in Paris. Though taking photos at show stands can frequently be challenging, the Qashqai was among the most mobbed cars at the show, for reasons I’m not sure I get. It was never without lots of people checking it over top to bottom and inside out, with Nissan having several examples on the stand and giving easy access to them. Though clearly lots of folks were interested, I didn’t think styling was impressive in person. The interior is nicely laid out and promises to help reverse Nissan’s reputation for new models with poor interior materials.
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Renault is also planning to offer a version of this vehicle, which has a joint Renault-Nissan platform underneath, and the Renaul Koleos concept seemed to have more presence in the tin than Qashqai. Of course, the Renault was shown in concept form and is likely to be toned down for production.
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