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Conceptually Speaking: A Look at What's Likely to Come

Volvo C30 ConceptWHAT IT IS: Volvo’s first ever entry into the C-segment class slated to hit European showrooms late this year and arrive in the U.S. in early 2007.CLEVER FEATURES: Riding on the C1-platform shared with the European Ford Focus, Volvo S40 and Mazda3, the C30 is powered by an in-line 5-cylinder 2.4-liter turbocharged engine which delivers 260 hp at 5,500 rpm along with a 6-speed manual transmission, both of which help move the C30 from 0-60 mph in 6 seconds.IMPLICATIONS: The sporty two-door, four seater—the first vehicle to debut under the direction of Volvo’s new design boss Steve Mattin—features styling cues taken from the 2001 Volvo Safety Concept Car, including the glass tailgate and tail lamp design.

Volvo C30 Concept

WHAT IT IS: Volvo’s first ever entry into the C-segment class slated to hit European showrooms late this year and arrive in the U.S. in early 2007.

CLEVER FEATURES: Riding on the C1-platform shared with the European Ford Focus, Volvo S40 and Mazda3, the C30 is powered by an in-line 5-cylinder 2.4-liter turbocharged engine which delivers 260 hp at 5,500 rpm along with a 6-speed manual transmission, both of which help move the C30 from 0-60 mph in 6 seconds.

IMPLICATIONS: The sporty two-door, four seater—the first vehicle to debut under the direction of Volvo’s new design boss Steve Mattin—features styling cues taken from the 2001 Volvo Safety Concept Car, including the glass tailgate and tail lamp design. Inside the C30 features Volvo’s signature floating center stack, while rear seat occupants are coddled in two individual rear seats. Could this expressive Volvo give Mini a run for its money?

 

Ford F-250 Super Chief Concept

WHAT IT IS: A behemoth full-size truck that incorporates signature American design with luxury.

CLEVER FEATURES: The Super Chief is the first vehicle to feature Ford’s Tri-Flex fuel capability, allowing the V-10 engine to run on hydrogen, E85 or gasoline. The automaker says this 265-in. long beast can travel more than 500 miles on a single tank of hydrogen. The transition from the various fuel types is handled through a dashboard-mounted switch, although moving from either gasoline or E85 to hydrogen requires the Super Chief to be at idle to engage the supercharger, which only operates when the truck uses hydrogen power.

IMPLICATIONS: The F-250 Super Chief Concept is big, brawny and excessive (and rumored to be a sign of the future design for conventional F-Series pickups) and inspired by the American Super Chief locomotives from the mid-to-late 1930’s. The Super Chief seems like an oddity at a time when “small is big” in the U.S. market, yet it could become a bid to take some air out of the sales of fully loaded Escalade EXTs.

 

Ford Reflex Concept

WHAT IT IS: Ford’s attempt to bring American styling to the compact vehicle segment.

CLEVER FEATURES: While the exterior of the Reflex is a clear departure from Ford’s European-inspired design theme, it’s the interior that makes waves thanks to its mesh seat coverings and “love seat” in the rear passenger compartment that can be configured to accommodate either two children or one adult via a divider bar that rises through the seat bottom dividing the mesh fabric from one seat into two. The Reflex is powered by a 1.4-liter Duratorq diesel-electric hybrid powertrain system capable of achieving 65 mpg. The hybrid system includes a new-generation lithium-ion battery pack with solar panels integrated into the headlamps and tail lamps to recharge the battery system. Ground rubber scrap from athletic shoes is used for insulation and improved noise and vibration characteristics.

IMPLICATIONS: Providing a vision of where Ford plans to take its compact vehicle design in the near future, the Reflex could shake-up a segment that domestics have left behind.

 

Buick Enclave Concept

WHAT IT IS: A thinly disguised look at Buick’s future Lambda-based cross-over utility vehicle (CUV), replacing the Rendezvous and arriving in showrooms in 2007.

CLEVER FEATURES: A unique DVD entertainment system enables passengers to view up to four different DVD selections simultaneously. For added ambiance, there is a skylight that extends the entire length of the passenger compartment. Enclave is Buick’s latest attempt to build a cohesive design theme for the brand, picking up on some design cues from the Lucerne sedan, including the waterfall grille and portholes (which are nicely integrated into the hood).

IMPLICATIONS: The Enclave will share its Lambda underpinnings with the Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia that will be released in late ’06 and ‘07. The real story here is the platform, which is expected to be leaps-and-bounds ahead in terms of ride and handling versus the outgoing GMT-201 U-body minivan platform used in the Rendezvous and much-maligned Pontiac Aztek. This enables GM the opportunity to fill a noticeable void in its lineup, providing customers with an alternative that is stylish and more manageable than traditional full-size SUVs, with all the functionality and flexibility and passenger room of the big boys.

 

Audi Roadjet Concept

WHAT IT IS: The world’s first glimpse at Audi’s Q5 CUV, a smaller alterative to the Q7, slated to debut in 2007.

CLEVER FEATURES: Roadjet features an updated version of Audi’s Multi Media Interface system, complete with a 10-in. screen, which is accompanied by 7-in. displays fitted into the back of the front seats for rear occupant entertainment. On the safety front, Roadjet includes a WLAN-based car-to-car communications system with data transfer capabilities, providing real-time traffic information and warning of potential road hazards. Seating in the concept is a 4-plus-1 configuration, complete with a built-in baby seat positioned behind the two rear passenger seats.

IMPLICATIONS: Audi design boss Walter De Silva’s latest creation provides the first harmonious fusion of the Audi horse collar grille with shapely bodywork in a compact 5-door package that features a more pronounced wedge-shape. The Roadjet’s cabin is rumored to be a strong hint of future Audi interiors, with a focus on minimalism and high-tech touches.

 

Aston Martin Rapide

WHAT IT IS: A return to the sedan segment for Aston Martin and a resurrection of a moniker that debuted in the 1930’s under the Lagonda brand.

CLEVER FEATURES: Based on the VH vehicle architecture shared with the DB9, the Rapide is 11-in. longer than the DB9 and features a rear hatch design similar to the Vantage. The roof is made of an ultra-light polycarbonate—a first for Aston Martin—providing a more open-air feeling in the passenger compartment. The interior also features an integrated chiller cabinet in the rear, shaped to hold a magnum of champagne along with four flutes.

IMPLICATIONS: Make no mistake, the Rapide is destined for production. Insiders say Aston Martin plans to build a few hundred per year beginning in the next 12 to 18 months. This is the latest sign that ultra-sport sedans are alive and well and the Rapide is likely to give the Mercedes CLS and Maserati Quattroporte a run for their money.

 

Lincoln MKS

WHAT IT IS: The replacement for Lincoln aged Town Car flagship sedan, slated to debut 2008.

CLEVER FEATURES: MKS debuts the Lincoln Mobile Media System, a touch-screen interface incorporating audio, climate and navigation controls into a single unit, along with Bluetooth device connectivity. Adaptive front lighting improves on current cornering systems by using two light sources, consisting of high-output halogen projection main beams assisted by a row of light emitting diodes that illuminate as needed. Power on the concept is provided by the 4.4-liter V-8 Yamaha engine found in the Volvo XC90. Inside, the instrument panel features a slender ribbon of Silvered Birdseye maple with a suede covered center console, while the gauge cluster design was inspired by sports watches.

IMPLICATIONS: Riding on the Ford Five Hundred/Mercury Montego platform, the MKS scores more points on the styling scale than the current Town Car, although the switch to a front-wheel drive platform marks a somewhat questionable shift at a time when rear-drive sedans are the rage. Lincoln hopes to counter this by providing the MKS with all-wheel drive.

 

Hyundai HCD9 Talus

WHAT IT IS: A 2+2 concept that could slot in Hyundai’s lineup above the Tiburon, providing unique functionality in the sports vehicle market.

CLEVER FEATURES: The Talus features wireless internet connectivity for surfing the web while cruising the highway, along with night vision and a shift-by-wire 6-speed automatic transmission. The cargo area features a clamshell design that can be configured in three different ways, while additional storage space is available via a locker beneath the typical load floor.

IMPLICATIONS: The Talus is the second Hyundai concept vehicle to feature a V-8 engine—the first was the Neos III concept shown at Tokyo in October 2005. The 4.6-liter engine is capable of producing up to 340 hp. Another important piece is the Talus’s rear-wheel-drive configuration. Could this mean the Koreans have a pickup coming just around the corner?