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Drives: The Next Generation

Hybrids, military styles, and pickups were all the rage at this year's auto show in Detroit.

After two days of strolling among elaborate unveiling platforms, smoke machines, and neon lights at the North American International Auto Show, it hit me: There are just too many vehicles out there. It’s a wonder any car makes a dent in the overcrowded marketplace, especially since a vast number of the new models look interchangeable when they’re lined up one after another. Still, I saw a few autos of note headed for the roads, as well as a few concepts headed for the roads to nowhere. Some observations from Detroit:

  • Hybrids are in for the long haul. Every maker seems to have new models in the works, including Ford, Mercedes, Lexus, and GMC, which showed the Graphyte-a concept SUV that makes enviro-driving cooler by means of poor spelling.
  • The military is hot for 2006. Jeep’s Gladiator, a truck concept that seems ready for production, looks like it rolled right off the battlefield. It features a moveable midgate between the truck and cab that adds a foot to the bed, with fold-down jump seats, a side-mounted tire, and a doggy door (for snipers perhaps?). Also from Jeep is the far-from-reality Hurricane concept.
  • Everyone wants to play pickup. Lincoln is making the luxury Mark LT, a truck that will soon either prove that the elegant pickup niche is underserved or cannibalize the parent company’s perennially best-selling Ford F-150. Honda plans to launch its maiden pickup, the Ridgeline.
  • Ferrari is trying to get on our good side. The Superamerica, one of the finest imports since we borrowed Amerigo from Vespucci, is a 540-hp V-12, 200-mph convertible based on the 575 coupe. There will be only 160 of the vehicles in North America this year, so act now and a $300,000 slice of Italy is yours.
  • Motown has a sense of humor. The Ford SYNus is sort of a Brinks truck hammered out by Fisher-Price. When it’s parked, you can watch movies on a 45-inch flat-screen LCD on the inside rear door panel. When you’re driving, the screen works with cameras to function as the rear window-because, you know, having an actual window is too 'burbs for city living.
Last updated: Feb 23, 2005

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