The 2003 Detroit and Los Angeles Motor Shows - January 2003
2003 kicks off with two large US motor shows - the first is in Los Angeles, California, the spiritual centre of the car in the USA. The second is in Detroit, the physical centre. The 2003 shows are full to the brim with new cars and new concepts from the US manufacturers in particular, though you will note that many of the important new cars have recently been seen in Europe at the Paris and Birmingham motor shows.
Well, now that the press days are over we can bring you more news and photographs. What a show! Take time to look through the huge array of cars on display below. Where do I begin?
Our American readers are used to the Acura tag. It is Honda's luxury brand in the USA. The big news at the show was the launch of the Acura TSX. As you can see, it is a re-badged Honda Accord. Honda has high hopes for this car in the States, and they have a right to. The Honda Accord has consistently been one of the top selling cars in America.
Think of a superlative and hurl it at Aston Martin's latest concept car - the delectable AMV8 Vantage Concept. This is the new Aston Martin - light, nimble, but still unmistakably muscular and most definitely a real Aston Martin. However, assuming that Ford will allow this car to be made (we think they will) you may not need to rob a bank to buy it. It is aimed squarely at the Porsche 911. Rumour has it that it will be a serious match for the German too.
We received the press release about Audi's Pikes Peak concept before seeing any pictures. I must admit that it sounded tantalising, with 500bhp and "all-terrain ability". Then the photographs turned up. Oh dear. Now, I realise that this is a US show, and that SUVs are much bigger (in every way) in the States, as are automatics (take a look at the interior shot). However, can you honestly imagine ANY potential owner of this car driving anywhere dirty, never mind on the treacherous Pike's Peak?! I don't think those polished alloys and that baby blue paintwork would be up to it somehow. So basically, Audi got the name wrong. I'd like to hear your suggestions for an alternative name. Meanwhile, expect to see a slightly less tarted-up version of this car in US showrooms in the not too distant future.
In December, we previewed the BMW xActivity concept. Chris Bangle has obviously not been turfed out after his hideous 7-series design. Admittedly he redeemed himself with the unique Z4, and the xActivity looks good too. The roof arrangement may be a little tricky to make production, but I would expect to see a new SUV called the BMW X3 based on the styling of this concept.
I seem to remember an announcement that the Buick brand was being killed off a few years ago. However, it is still alive and kicking. Well, twitching anyway. The new Rainier SUV is big and ugly and thankfully will not be coming to the UK. The Centieme concept SUV is a little better, in that it is still big (very), but at least it has some style. The interior in particular is worth checking out.
The Car Enthusiast is not usually a Cadillac kind of magazine. However, of late, funny things have been happening at Cadillac - in particular a renovation of the brand lead by radical styling. At the show was the XLR sportscar, which is a pretender to the Mercedes SL throne. Alongside is the SRX (they really need better names) SUV, which continues the sharp-edged design theme. These production cars are invisible though, as they, and most other cars at the show are eclipsed by the sensational Cadillac Sixteen concept car. It is a truly beautiful piece of automotive art, and is powered by a preposterous V16 engine. It may never get made, but it will certainly put a smile on many a face.
From some angles, the Chevrolet SS concept is a little out of proportion. The side view looks elongated for instance. In case you didn't notice, this is to fit in a second set of doors. It looks to me as if Mazda's RX-8 has influenced the Chevrolet designers. No prizes though for the inspiration for the rear of the SS - pure Corvette. I hope some aspects of this car make production, though I cannot help but think that there is a limited market for sports cars with four doors and four seats. We will see.
Also on the stand were the obligatory trucks. The 2004 Colorado was introduced, as was the sleek 2005 Equinox compact SUV - looks good. A surprising show star cam in the form of the Cheyenne concept truck, which was awarded the "Best of Show" in the "Eyes on Design" competition. I can't personally see the attraction.
Quite a few concepts appeared on the Dodge stands. Most of them are SUVs or Crossover concepts, such as the Magnum SRT8, which looks suspiciously similar to GM's Vauxhall/Opel Signum, though with over the top styling. The Durango Hemi is surely a thinly disguised production car. The detailing is good on the exterior, but not too radical to exclude it from likely production. The same could be said for the Kahuna - a modern surf mobile. Nice execution but the surfing image may not be properly catered for by this. And who exactly does the outrageous Tomahawk bike appeal to?! Everyone - it is so far-fetched that you can't help but love it. 420mph anyone? That is the theoretical top speed from its Dodge Viper-sourced V10 engine. And I thought that the Cadillac Sixteen was over the top...
It has been widely publicised that the Ford Motor Company was in financial excrement in 2002. Their revitalisation plan though must be product lead. Ford showed no fewer than 15 new cars and concepts. Some of them are shown below. The Faction concept car is a sporty SUV, with looks created by mixing the Ford Focus with Audi's TT. The Supercharged Thunderbird was on show, in a classy grey hue. Surprisingly, it is tagged a concept car. There have been detail changes to the styling, which look nifty in isolation, but the car is still a large whale of a car. We will not be driving it in the UK. In complete contrast, and very much at the top of my driving wish list is the Mustang GT concepts - in coupe and open-top formats. It really is about time Ford made more use of the Mustang heritage. The current car is a little mundane on the styling front. I would hope to see the new appearance launched this year, coinciding with Ford's 100th birthday. I particularly like the coupe, though it looks a lot smaller in the photographs than it really is. The luxury concept on offer was the 427. Understated on the outside, and beautifully appointed on the inside, this car could well make production in a toned down format. Ford claim that the Freestyle FX is the first ever purpose-made crossover concept. It is neatly executed, but breaks no style boundaries. Unlike the Model U, which, as the name suggests, is supposed to follow on where the Model T left off... I wonder what Henry Ford would have thought about Internet access for every passenger.
Of production interest is the new F-150 truck range. Over here in the UK, pick-ups are mainly utility vehicles only, with a minority now buying them as practical leisure vehicles. As you know, the US is a little different - pick-ups regularly out sell regular cars. The F-150 is a very important launch to Ford. Of more interest to us enthusiasts though is the SVT Lightning concept. Just look at the engine if you don't think this truck is worth taking a closer look at!
Small vans are the next big 'thing' according to Honda. They will launch their new Element in the States soon. At the show was the Element Studio E concept, which is a mobile disco/recording studio. Strange, but true.
The USA is Jaguar's most important market, so the launch of the new XJ saloon is critical to the company's success. The XJ8 was launched at the show, and went down a storm.
Continuing the SUV theme, Lexus showed their new-look RX330 (RX300 in the UK). The looks are evolutionary, but the car is a new one, including interior and engine upgrades. As SUVs go, it is a pretty looking one, and you can be sure that it will reliably get you to those all important surf competitions every time.
The Kubang is ugly. Giorgetto Giugiaro may be a great name in car design, but this car is a big mistake. Yes, Porsche has managed to make a production SUV, and it will no doubt sell even though it looks wrong, but this is Maserati. A once great, and more importantly, Italian sportscar marque. Nearly 400bhp does not lead me to forgive it. Need I say anything more?
Maserati's press release
Just click on the thumbnails to view a high-resolution image.