North American International Auto Show brings out
the Pony cars
Hands up all those who remember the Pony car era of
the late 60’s and early 70’s. The Mustangs, the Z28 Camaros and
the Dodge Challenger all at it head to head. Well it looks as if they
are going to re-run those years at this month’s North American
International Auto Show, with the new Camaro and new Challenger being
However, this time both vehicles are concepts. But
the Pony cars with their high horsepower front engines, rear drive,
retro-styling are picked to be the hits of the show.
Other new or redesigned production vehicles for
Detroit include the redesigned 2007 Toyota Camry and 2007 Lexus LS 460
sedans; and Honda’s new entry-level car, the 2007 Fit.
Then there’s the Geely 7151 CK. Geely will be the
first Chinese carmaker to exhibit at a North American auto show. The
Chinese manufacturer intends to enter the United States in 2008 or
2009. The Chinese are coming. Be warned! Or perhaps, be alarmed!
A few of the other releases include BMW’s latest
take on the Z4 roadster and Z4 M roadster will debut, along with a new
family of engines. The Z4 roadster receives BMW’s new 265 hp, 3.0
liter inline six cylinder engine, while the M version gets the new 330
hp, 3.2 liter six cylinder engine.
Ford also will unveil production versions of the
2007 Ford Shelby Cobra GT500 coupe and convertible. The special
edition Mustang is engineered by Ford’s Special Vehicle Team and
will go on sale in late spring. It marks the return of SVT products to
the market after a two-year absence. The GT500 is powered by a
supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 that will produce at least 450 hp.
Honda is bringing to North America what we call the
Jazz, but named “Fit” in Japan. The version the Americans will get
is the 1.5 liter twin cam with five speed manual or five speed auto
boxes. Being engineered to fit the market in a certain price bracket
has meant that the US versions are behind the local Thai versions in
Lexus will show the latest (and largest) Lexus, the
LS 460 sedan in Detroit. Due for sale later in the year, this car will
use Toyota’s new 4.6 liter V8 engine. Executives say a hybrid model
will also be offered that could have the equivalent power of a V12
without sacrificing fuel economy. That is some claim!
Jaguar will have the 2007 XK concertible, and this
looks like putting new life into Jaguar, and not before time, says
FoMoCo, these days the owner of the under-performing marque. Ian
Callum, the stylist, has produced a winner here for my money.
Mercedes-Benz will unveil the 2007 GL, a
seven-seat, full-sized SUV with a 335 hp, 4.6 liter V8 engine mated to
a seven-speed automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel drive.
BMW’s Mini group look as if they will go into
production with the Mini Traveler. Remember the original Mini van with
windows and some lumps of wood on the sides? The new one is definitely
not like that, according to the Mini people. Concepts were displayed
displayed at the Frankfurt and Tokyo shows.
Mitsubishi will show their hybrid concept called
the Concept-CT MIEV. This is smaller than the Lancer sold here, but
has four doors, all wheel drive and a 1.1 liter petrol engine.
However, that is not the real power source for this car. Each wheel
also has its own electric motor. This is another development of the
hybrid theme, but it has to be said that the originator of this idea
was Dr. Porsche in 1902 with his Lohner-Porsche. The gasoline
engine ran a generator to provide power to the wheel hub motors.
Toyota’s top-selling model in North America is
the Camry. So it is no surprise that the redesigned 2007 model
debuting in Detroit follows an evolutionary design approach, rather
than revolutionary. The 2007 Camry sedan shares a front wheel drive
platform with the Avalon. A new V6 is available, and Toyota will also
be releasing a hybrid model teamed with the current four cylinder
Another concept that is almost certain to make it into production
is the funky Volvo C30 hatchback which will appear in Detroit. The C30
is based on the front wheel drive S40/V50 platform, though its
wheelbase is about 200 mm shorter. The engine should be turbocharged
five cylinder so it should have more than enough power for a small
car. Let us hope that Volvo gets the chassis dynamics right this time.