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L.A.: Cars, Crossovers & Concepts

The Los Angeles International Auto Show made a calendar change for 2006 so that it would precede the North American International Auto Show in Detroit by some two months, thereby providing an opportunity for some vehicle manufacturers to get a jump on revealing new, shiny sheet metal.

The Los Angeles International Auto Show made a calendar change for 2006 so that it would precede the North American International Auto Show in Detroit by some two months, thereby providing an opportunity for some vehicle manufacturers to get a jump on revealing new, shiny sheet metal. Here’s a look at some of the introductions.

 

Mazda Nagare Concept

Want to know where Mazda design is headed in the future? Look no further than the Nagare (pronounced “na-ga-reh”) and its unique surface language, which is meant to register a sense of motion even as it is standing still. “We began by studying motion and the effect it has on natural surroundings: how wind shapes sand in the desert, how water moves across the ocean floor, and the look of lava flowing down a mountainside. Natural motion registers an impression in your brain and that’s what we hoped to capture with the new Nagare surface language,” said Franz von Holzhausen, Mazda North American Operations’ Director of Design. However, keep in mind that the future of this design language may not make it to vehicles until after 2020.

 

Volkswagen Tiguan Concept

Trying to gain a foothold in the compact crossover market, VW debuted the Tiguan, which is expected to hit the pavement sometime in the ’09 model year. Taking exterior styling cues from the Touareg, the design features aggressive wheel arches and smooth flowing lines. “It was very important to us to have the car appear powerful. Muscular. For us that had a higher priority than anything else,” explained Klaus Bischoff, head of the Volkswagen Design Center in Wolfsburg. The cockpit concentrates more on the functional than the muscular, such as through the use of large round knobs. Expect the Tiguan to come in at the mid-$20,000 range available in two- and all-wheel drive configurations.

 

Ford Concept Mustang by Giugiaro

According to folks close to the situation, the famed Italian coach builder Italdesign-Giugiaro S.P.A. approached Ford in early 2005 requesting the opportunity to design a concept displaying their interpretation of the Mustang. After hours of styling, metal bending and sewing, the result is a contemporary take on the muscle car. Fabrizio Giugiaro personally oversaw the design, which is much cleaner than today’s car and has one special touch: seats upholstered in horsehides. “The Mustang by Giugiaro drives as good as it looks,” said Fabrizio. “After taking it to the limits on streets outside of Turin, I can honestly say this car was well worth the 30,000 hours of blood, sweat and tears that we invested to create a modern performance classic.”

 

Honda Remix Concept

Created at Honda’s California design center, the Remix was designed to provide a template for the design team in their explorations of unusual shapes and surface treatments for a coupe that’s both expressive and affordable. Utilizing Honda’s front wheel-drive small car platform, the Remix pushes the design envelope, particularly on the rear-quarter, which looks like it would take an act of God to put into production. “Smooth and fluid surfaces provide a sports car identity to the geometric shapes that form the functional aspect of this vehicle,” said Ben Davidson, Remix lead designer.

 

Hyundai HDC10 Hellion Concept

“A diesel-powered rally-racer with an attitude” is the best way to describe the Hyundai HDC10 Hellion Concept vehicle. The exterior is characterized by short overhangs and a menacing face, which could appear on a future—hint, hint—Hyundai truck. A cloth panel covers the roof structure, which provides a unique appearance when the roof is open, along with exposing the innovative interior which carries on the stretched surface found on the exterior. Among the innovations: seat-mounted backpacks that can be removed and used on the trial and a hydration station built into each seat, complete with refillable reservoirs with pump-assisted straws. “The HCD10 Hyundai Hellion was designed to appeal to a diverse individualist customer,” said Joel Piaskowski, chief designer at the Hyundai Design Center. “It’s the sibling who’s a bit mischievous and always outspoken.”

 

Buick Enclave

After months of teasing, Buick has finally delivered on its promise to develop a mid-size crossover vehicle with some style. Looking virtually identical to its namesake concept that debuted at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show last year, the Enclave is the most stylish member of GM’s Lambda crossover platform. The best part about the arrival of the Enclave later this summer will be that it signals the clear demise of the botched Terraza minivan, providing an alternative that builds on Buick’s heritage thanks to its side portholes, along with new themes including the V-shaped waterfall grille.

 

Honda Step Bus

Honda’s Step Bus seems to be a minivan sent through the Shrinky Dink oven. Although it may seem small, credit must go to the design team for maximizing use of space, including the decision to use only two sliding doors for entry and egress. The mid-engine, rear-drive architecture gives way to a flexible interior, complete with tracks built into the doors that can be configured with cupholders, cell phone holders and flat screen monitors. All four seats can fold flat, creating a bed. While it is unlikely the Step Bus will make it to U.S. roads anytime soon, odds are better it will appear in Japan.

 

Saturn Vue

Saturn debuted its PreVue concept at the New York Auto Show in April 2006. Styling was in keeping with the new Saturn theme—bold, chiseled with a top-notch cockpit. Alas, the production-scheduled Vue has styling that’s more akin to that of the rest of the crossover pack. Developed from GM’s Theta platform—shared with the Opel Antara and Chevrolet Captiva—the Vue was designed in conjunction with staff from Korea, China and Europe, which may be why it looks like something that you might find in a Korean showroom.

 

Chrysler Sebring Convertible

Admittedly, the styling of the ’07 Chrysler Sebring has caused many to wonder what happened to the progress Chrysler had made on the design front after such hits as the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans. Trying to show the world that the design theme makes sense, Chrysler has revealed the ’08 Sebring convertible, complete with a choice of three top configurations—cloth, vinyl and hardtop. While the car looks a bit better in a two-door configuration, the Sebring still lacks design harmony.

 

Kia Rondo

While it’s been on sale in Korea for a few years as the Carens, the folks at Kia decided it would be interesting to see just how successful a mini-minivan would be in the U.S., thus the arrival of the Rondo. Trying to ride on the back of the success of the Mazda5, the Rondo tries to discard with the negative stigma of the minivan set, while keeping all of the functionality of the family haulers. Available in either a five- or seven-passenger configurations, the Rondo arrives on U.S. shores within the next few months.