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2008 NAIAS

19th January 2008

The Slandy Report® 2008

The new Slandy Report is here!! The new Slandy Report is here!! Boy, I wish I could get that excited about nothing. Nothing? Are you kidding? Page 73 – Johnson, Navin R.! I’m somebody now! Welcome to the 6th annual Slandy Report, a look at the North American International Auto Show, held each January in Detroit, Michigan. The total economic impact for Detroit is estimated at $500 million, so y’all come on down and spend your money, ya hear? If you can’t make it to Detroit for the show, you can watch it on NBC January 20 at 3pm Eastern.

2008 NAIAS Must-See Cars and Trucks

Take a walk around this year’s show and the most obvious trend is green. Not paint, but “being” green. I lost count of the number of alternately fueled vehicles and concepts. There are electrics, plug-in hybrids, Diesel hybrids, fuel-cell hybrids, ethanol, etc. from every manufacturer (well, almost).

Ford Motor Company
Ford
==> 2009 Flex – besides the bad name and the awkward looks, I think this new crossover has potential. Looks like a giant Mini Cooper. Now it looks goofy, but you’re gonna love it in 2013!
==> Explorer America Concept – styling exercise showing what a future Explorer might look like. Unlike all Explorers you’ve ever seen, this one is based on a car (not a truck) platform.
==> Verve Concept – yet another subcompact teaser from Ford, this one a DDG (Drop-Dead Gorgeous). Maybe if they ever actually make something like this, sales will improve.
==> Sync Focus – as reported last year, Ford has exclusive rights to the Microsoft Sync system, which is a hands-free iPod and phone interface. Sync will also read text messages to you (including profanity), and has a list of standard responses to a text message that you can scroll through for a quick response. This year, you can sit in a Focus and get a complete demonstration from a knowledgeable Sync-person.
==> 2009 F-150 – Ford and others are saying that this is a significant makeover. Maybe from an engineering view, but not from a customer/visual view. They’ve changed many details, but to the casual observer, it’s the same. The new version, Platinum, is ultra-luxury and coincides with the rumored demise of the Mark LT. Coincidence?
Lincoln
==> MKS – shown as a concept in prior shows, this is the read deal. Due out this summer, this is a really nice car. The silhouette reminds me of the previous Chrysler 300M (not the gangsta-mobile that is sold today). It will have an adequate, 270hp, 3.7L V6 engine at launch, but my sources tell me that the Eco-Boost engine will show up a year later sporting 350-360hp!
==> MKT Concept – this is an all-wheel drive crossover that rides on the same platform as the Ford Flex. This is not just a rebadged Flex, however, it has completely different profile and sheetmetal. It really pushes the concept of a crossover. The question is, “Will it grow on us, or will we think it’s just goofy?” Due out sometime next year.
Volvo
==> Recharge Concept – this is a Swedish Volt. Runs on a Diesel as its “range-extending power source”.
==> C70 – hard-top convertible based on the very attractive S40. Very nice.
Land Rover
==> LRX Concept – sporty SUV from Land Rover? Yep. It’s a 3-door a little smaller than the new LR2. Might be a hint of a future production model.
Jaguar
==> XF – this was last year’s C-XF Concept (hey, maybe that’s what the “C” stood for – but don’t tell Cookie Monster). This is a beautiful car, which might just turn around Jaguar’s fortunes – just in time for Ford to sell it off.

General Motors
Chevrolet
==> Corvette ZR1 – so you bought that Corvette Z06, thinking that you have the baddest boy on the block? Not so fast my friend (literally): here come the ZR1. It looks pretty close to any other Corvette, but it has a supercharged, 6.2L V8 making over 620hp. It will cost $100,000, but meets or exceeds the performance of cars costing 3-4 times as much. Like all other Corvettes, it’s expensive, but a great bargain by any objective measure against its competitors.
==> Tahoe Hybrid – 1st full-size hybrid, almost on sale. Achieves the same fuel economy as a 4-cylinder Toyota Camry (21 MPG city). Chevrolet would be wise to shout this fact to the world when they start advertising this big boy. They are already shouting the hybrid thing – “hybrid” is on it in 9 places.
Pontiac
==> Solstice GXP – 260hp LNF engine and still gets 19 city, 28 highway per gallon. Fun, fun, fun!
==> G8 – Pontiac says this is the “most powerful car under $30,000”. The V6 is around $27K, while the V8 starts at just under $30K. Very aggressive, alpha-male styling, this is a legit sports sedan.
Buick
==> Riviera concept – styled in China (and even sports a badge in Chinese characters), this may indicate the styling of future Buicks. Buick is very successful in China, where Buick sells more that in the US.
Saturn
==> Astra – new 3 or 5-door compact imported from Europe, where it is known as an Opel. This is an attractive, sporty car that will start at $16K.
==> Flextreme Concept – another plug-in hybrid that has a “range-entending power source”. In this case, it’s a turbo Diesel engine that GM uses in Europe. This car also hints at future Saturn styling.
Cadillac
==> CTS Coupe “Concept” – this is officially a concept, but look for it soon. This is a really great car. The scuttlebutt is that it will be followed by a CTS wagon also.
==> CTS-V – a 550hp sedan? Yes sir, that’s my baby!
Hummer
==> HX Concept – this seems to be a hint at the long-rumored Hummer H4. HX tries to out-Jeep Jeep. It has removable doors and a reconfigurable rear roof panel that can dramatically change the look and personality in the blink of an eye. Has the 300hp V6 engine also used in the CTS.
Saab
==> 9-4X Concept – ethanol-powered turbo I4 engine that makes 300hp! Check out the looks, as Saab will have a production model that looks like this in the next couple of years.

Chrysler
Chrysler
==> ecoVoyager Concept – futuristic minivan-like styling. Powered by a fuel cell and lithium-ion batteries. Says it has a “range-extending advanced hydrogen fuel cell”.
Dodge
==> 2009 Dodge Ram – not much visual change at first glance, but many of the details are different. Sports a new interior, but the inside looks cheap to me. 1 cool new feature is the Ram box – a pair of lockable, watertight storage bins on the rear fenders.
==> 2009 Journey – new crossover that looks nice, but the interior is flimsy and cheap, especially the center console and glove compartment (a bad pattern is developing here). Has a 3.5L V6 engine or a 2.4L 4-banger. Starts at $20K. Most obvious competitor is the Ford Taurus X. Which Journey song do you think they will use in the ads? I think “Any Way You Want It”.
==> Zeo Concept – great-looking rear-drive electric powered sports coupe. Pure fantasy at this point.
Jeep
==> Renegade – another electric with range-extender. This one is a Diesel.

Toyota
Toyota must be feeling “eco-pressure” from the other manufacturers. No longer the only one with hybrids, and now getting some heat from the extreme left environmentalists for their new big truck and for opposing CAFE increases, Toyota felt the need to label just about everything in its display with environmental signs. The carpets, benches, turntables all have signs telling us how much was recycled, etc. I felt like I was in kindergarten again (where the chairs are labeled “chair”).

Toyota
==> Venza – I didn’t get a great look at this one, as some Toyota big shot just had to look at it with his posse, just as I got there. Toyota calls this a crossover sedan, which makes no sense. To my eye, it is a Ford Edge/Mazda CX-7 competitor. Based on the Camry guts, it will be built at their Kentucky plant later this year.
==> A-BAT Concept – imagine, if you will, a Honda Ridgeline and a Toyota Prius engage in extra-curricular activities one night. Several months later, the A-BAT is born. It has its father’s (Ridgeline) looks, only smaller. It has its mother’s (Pruis) frugality – the hybrid powertrain. That’s pretty much it.
==> Prius plug-in Hybrid – after publicly bashing GM about the Volt last year, Toyota comes out with this, using GM’s exact words to describe the power of this new idea for Prius: “range-extending power source” & “advanced batteries”. A few months ago, Toyota said such batteries were still a long way off and that they were dangerous and prone to overheating/fires. Toyota should have egg on its face for this, but only The Slandy Report calls them out.
Lexus
==> LF-A Roadster – has the looks of an old Celica or Supra, only this delinquent has a 500+ horsepower V10. Could do without the boy-racer uber-wing.

Nissan
Nissan
==> GT-R – high-performance sports coupe. On sale this summer, the GT-R is powered by a 480hp 3.8L twin-turbo V6. Goes from 0-60 in 3.3 seconds. Expected price is $70,000. A new version of a car already sold in other markets as the Skyline GT-R.
==> Forum Concept – at least I hope it’s a concept. Future styling of a minivan? Maybe, but it’s fugly.
Infiniti
==> EX35 – this is the FX SUV’s little bro.

Honda
Honda
==> Accord – already out, but when Honda introduces an all-new Accord, it’s worth a look.
==> Pilot Concept – though a concept, this is supposed to look just like the “real” on to be on sale later this year. Though the details are all different, the Pilot retains the same basic look. It’s bigger and seats 8. Nice, but not very exciting.
==> FCX Clarity – the first real fuel cell car for lease (this summer), if you live in Southern California. It runs on hydrogen. You might ask, “Where do I get hydrogen?” Honda has also developed an in-home energy station that uses the natural gas from your home to make hydrogen for the FCX, which can also provide heat to your home and act as a generator.
==> CR-Z Concept – a hybrid that reminds me of the old CRX. No announced plans to sell this.

Volkswagen
VW
==> Passat CC – Phaeton was a big mistake (see prior Slandy Reports) and has been cancelled. The idea wasn’t bad to try to move the VW brand upscale, but they went (way) too far, as predicted here. This is an attempt to do what the Phaeton should have been – go a little upscale. Don’t let the name fool you, though. This ain’t a Passat. Look at it next to a real Passat and you’ll see.
Audi
==> R8 V12 Turbodiesel – the mid-engined supercar adds a 500hp, 738 pound-feet torque. 0-62 mph in 4.2 seconds from a Diesel! Same technology that Audi has used in its Diesel racecars.
==> TTS – the TT isn’t a chick car anymore (at least, not much).
==> A4, A5 and S5 – beautiful new cars. The A5 & S5 are coupes based on the A4, which will be out with new versions later this year.

BMW
BMW
==> X6 – this one is hard to describe. Think of the child of a BMW M3 (300hp and 400hp engines) and a Mazda CX-7 (aggressive SUV/crossover body shape). BMW calls it a sport activity coupe. Go figure.
==> 1-Series – the smallest “regular” BMW introduces a convertible starting at $33K. Coupe is $28K.
MINI
==> Cooper Clubman – this is a slightly bigger Mini, with a rear-hinged “Clubdoor” on the passenger side to give better access to the rear. Where the regular Mini has a hatch in the back, the Clubman has barn doors that swing out to the sides. All in all, a clever extension of the popular, cute Mini brand.

Mercedes-Benz
==> Vision GLK Concept – a production version of this small, off-road capable SUV will be out next year. This is one I don’t get. Budweiser used to ask, “Why ask why?” Here’s why – maybe you won’t get stupid products like this if you ask, “Why should we build this?” This is the answer to the question nobody was asking, except maybe, “What would a Subaru Forrester look like with a Mercedes-Benz badge?”
==> SLK, CLS, SLR – on the other hand, these M-B products are amazing.
smart
==> fortwo – as the name implies, this is a 2-seater that smart has been teasing us about for a few years. If you’re not familiar with this, it’s the smallest car you’ve ever seen. It’s 98” (250cm) long, and can part straight into a parallel parking space. On sale now!

Hyundai Group
Kia
==> Borrego – new mid-size SUV that seats 7 in 3 rows. This is a true truck-based SUV with a V8.
Hyundai
==> Genesis – a rear drive Hyundai sedan with a V8 and 289 hp? On sale this summer. Nice looking, but as noted in the report in prior years, the Koreans like to “borrow” styling from others. In this case, it’s the Lexus LS.

Others
==> Suzuki X-Head concept thing – I only include this because I have no idea what it is. If you know, please let me know at slandyreport@yahoo.com.
==> Fisker Karma – to imagine what this looks like, think of a 4-door BMW Corvette. It’s a plug-in hybrid slated to go on sale in late 2009. Expected price is $80,000.
==> You know that environmentalism is the big thing when Ferrari (Ferrari!!) shows a 599 GTB Fiorano with a big, bold “Bio Fuel” decal across the hood!
==> Mitsubishi Concept R-A – an aggressively styled sports coupe with a Diesel engine.

And finally, The Slandy Awards® 2008

Slandy Best in Show Fisker Karma
Honorable Mention Corvette ZR-1, Jaguar XF, Cadillac CTS Coupe
WATT? Award Mercedes-Benz Vision GLK
Ho-Hum Award Honda Pilot
Bet the Farm Award Jaguar XF
Uh-oh! Award Hyundai Genesis
Most Annoying New Trend Everybody is copying last year’s Slandy Best in Show, the Chevrolet Volt. The vehicles the used the exact same wording as Chevrolet used last year to describe the Volt’s system (“a range-extending power source”) are noted in the write-up with ““.

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