By Roger Boylan
The Dodge Dakota is the almost-Ram. It’s the biggest truck in its “midsize” category, but it may also be the only one in that category: bigger than a Tacoma, smaller than a Ram, it’s an anomaly, but not a bad truck. In fact, after driving a 2010 Dakota TRX4 Crew Cab for a week, I came to like it quite a lot. The most annoying thing about it is the way the gearshift lever, when in Drive, completely blocks the view of the dashboard-mounted knob that controls the fan speed. Get it right, guys: do the design, then test it out in the real world, OK? But that’s all.
Oh, no, wait a minute. There’s also the dashboard itself, an incomprehensible backwards leap into rental-car cliches of Chrysler Corp.’s unlamented past: a vast expanse of cheap, hard plastic. But that’s it.
Our writer’s final observations of his trip to the Detroit Auto Show this year.
By J. Smith
Unfortunately, most of the guys at the auto show are some combination of middle-aged or older, overweight, bald and not altogether attractive. There were, however, some exceptions.
By Chris Haak
With the 2010 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in our rear-view mirror, let’s take a look at some of the vehicles deserving of kudos. Also, in spite of what the seventh-place ribbon you won at field day in sixth grade, not everyone can be a winner all the time, so we’ll also look into some models that need a kick. Some vehicles might fall into both categories simultaneously. Let’s begin.
KUDO to Volkswagen’s New Concept Coupe (NCC), which showcased an attractive design direction for VW’s bread-and-butter Jetta in the US. The NCC also added a first-for-VW hybrid drivetrain. Could the maker of diesel vehicles change its tune in the US market and offer hybrids instead of (or in addition to) diesels toward its goal of doubling US sales in the next three years? Subaru outsold VW in the US last year, and Subaru proudly embraces its niche brand status. It seems that the largest European automaker may not be quite aware of its own place in the US.
By Chris Haak
This morning in Detroit, about 6:45 in the morning, Cadillac revealed its XTS Platinum concept on the local NBC newscast amidst traffic and weather reports. Then, just under two hours later, they officially unveiled the car at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. So much for the art of the surprise. So much for suspense.
The car’s reveal was very non-specific – which is OK for a concept car, I suppose – but fortunately, many of the details were subsequently filled in by the press release. Actually, the embargo lifted last night and many media outlets were able to cover the car prior to its official press conference this morning. Most of the talk about the car from Brian Nesbitt, the former designer and current Cadillac general manager, centered on the car’s design details both inside and out. It certainly looks to be very close to production-ready, although it’s likely that features such as lighting and certain infotainment touches will have to disappear as the car enters production.
By Chris Haak
Taking the 500-car Mini E test program to the next logical step, BMW’s 1 Series-based Concept ActiveE, which made its world premiere in Detroit yesterday, will undergo a similar consumer-driven field test over the next several months.
Unlike the Mini E, which lost its back seat in the conversion from a gasoline-fueled subcompact car to an electric-powered test bed, the Concept ActiveE will boast four seats with about 7 cubic feet of trunk space. The car is expected to accelerate from 0-60 miles per hour in about 8.9 seconds, a top speed of about 90 miles per hour, and a real-world range of about 100 miles.
BMW has bestowed the Concept ActiveE with a Toyota-like driver-selectable Eco mode to extend the vehicle’s range. It will also have the capability of receiving a full charge in about five hours using a standard residential-grade high-amperage power supply. Some Mini E lessees were frustrated by difficulties in installing the apporopriate charging hardware in their homes, only to find out that on standard 110-volt household current, the Mini E took more than 24 hours to charge, rendering the car theoretically useless for a full day’s worth of driving, since folks usually need their car sooner than 24 hours after their last trip.
By Chris Haak
Volkswagen yesterday revealed its terribly-named New Compact Coupe concept car in Detroit. The car’s name is on par with the company’s so-called New Midsize Sedan, which has been shown over the past few months in renderings, but never in the metal. The NMS is slated to be produced at the company’s all-new Chattanooga, TN assembly plant upon the plant’s opening next year.
The NCC is a remarkably production-ready-looking vehicle for a concept car. Volkswagen chief designer Walter de Silva described the car’s design as combining a coupe’s more graceful forms with the interior space and functionality of a comparably-sized sedan. Mercifully, Mr. de Silva decided to explain the car’s design in English this year rather than slipping into his native Italian as he did last year when describing last year’s BlueSport Roadster.
By Alex Kalogiannis
The Lincoln MKX, constantly in the shadow of its close cousin, the Ford Edge, steps into center stage by itself for 2011, with a complete refresh inside and out. The MKX will also feature the first application of the MyLincoln Touch, the driver interface that will be featured in all upcoming Ford vehicles.
The front end has been updated with a split-wing grille. A set of prominent wheel arches to house the 18- to 20-inch wheels are another of several exterior tweaks the MKX has received in an effort to turn heads on the dealer floor. The rear taillamps employ an indirect LED system that hides the light source while allowing the light intensity to shine through. This means the LEDs point inward and is reflected back instead of directly beaming outward, giving the lamps a more stylized and distinct look. All this rounds out with 4-inch oval exhaust tips to complete the expressive redesign.