Date: January 16, 2008 21:08
2009 Honda Pilot Prototype
Based upon what was revealed on Sunday, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that the '09 Pilot's key selling point won't be its styling. Ironically, by shunning the softer on-road look that many of their competitors have successfully adopted, Honda could be viewed as the big risk taker in the segment by sticking with more traditional truck shapes. That's not to say that the Pilot will be a sales flop - from a product standpoint it appears that Honda's team has put together a compelling package and have placed a big focus on function over form. As long as it drives well, delivers competitive fuel economy, performance, and value, it should perform well in the showroom. We'll have a better picture when we get our first drive in the '09 Pilot in the coming months.
Though we've already seen this car at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show, the way Honda's display was set up at Makuhari Messe made it difficult to fully appreciate it. Thankfully, it's sitting at floor level in Detroit so I was able to walk around it and take it in from every angle. In this light, I'm liking the car even more. While Takeo Fukui mentioned in his speech that the CR-Z is headed for production, in speaking with folks at American Honda, they claim that it is not yet certain that the CR-Z will be sold in OUR market, though it wouldn't seem logical for Honda to skip the USA with it. So far, the only drivetrain talk about the car has been focused on a hybrid setup, but we're holding out hope that it will be offered with a standard powertrain as well. To be a true successor to the CR-X, there needs to be an Si model (a K20Z3 would suit it well), and the hybrid powertrain could revive the HF badge. While the HF would be a real mileage champ, the Si would be no slouch in that respect and would deliver excellent performance and driving enjoyment.
2009 Hyundai Genesis
I've been watching the (ahem) genesis of Hyundai for the past few years, and when rumors surfaced several years ago that they were planning on introducing a FR V8 sedan (a flarepoint amongst Acura supporters and detractors), that really grabbed my attention. Judging by the crowd of competing engineers and product people that I had to fight through just to get close to the Genesis, it seems that it has grabbed the attention of much of the industry as well. Styling-wise, the Genesis borrows heavily from several of the German sedans that it is gunning for. It is a little bit generic, but overall I think the designers did an excellent job and have created a very handsome vehicle. The interior is trimmed rather nicely, with leather and wood on the dash and a pleasing overall look and feel. The drivetrain choices include 2 V6s (a 263hp 3.3L and a 290 3.8L) and a 368hp 4.6L V8. All motors are coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The most impressive part of all this is the price - V6 models will reportedly start at under $30k and the V8 model will top out under $40k. What's unknown at this point is how well the car will drive, but if it's anything like the latest Hyundais (I've recently driven the Veracruz, Sonata, and Azera), expect it to drive more like a Lexus than a BMW or Infiniti. In other words, I expect it to be comfortable and confident, but not necessarily engaging to drive. If the market is ready for a $40000 Hyundai, the Genesis could rattle the cages of quite a few high-dollar marques. The Genesis Coupe Concept that was shown looked pretty hot and could challenge the G37/3-series.
Lexus LF-A Roadster
Lexus' level of commitment to their upcoming supercar is impressive. The styling is interesting, if not sexy or handsome, but it does project an image of potency, and is sleeker than the anvil-like GTR. Now that Nissan and Toyota have played their cards, Acura knows exactly what it's up against when putting the finishing touches on its next-generation supersports car (another source of controversy).
Audi R8 V12 TDI Concept - I wasn't all that jazzed by the R8 when it first broke cover several years ago, but the more I see these overwrought FR designs coming out of Japan, the more I'm liking Audi's MR design and manageable curb weight. This particular R8 packs a new 6.0L V-12 TDI diesel motor. This 6.0L utilizes a 60-degree vee-angle and delivers 500hp and 722lb-ft of torque. Audi claims decent, but not stunning performance - 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds and 23mpg. Thanks, but I think I'll stick with the petrol V8, or better yet, maybe they could buy Honda's upcoming V10 and stick it in there.
Mitsubishi Concept-RA - Mitsubishi showed off its coupe concept, which features a 202hp 2.2L turbodiesel coupled to its S-AWC (Super All Wheel Control) all-wheel-drive system which provides advanced yaw and braking control functions. Some journalists have speculated that the design of this concept is a preview of the next generation Eclipse.
Acura i-DTEC - Acura announced that they would be introducing Honda's next-generation diesel technology in 2009. They did not say which Acura model would be getting it, but since the motor is a 2.2L 4-cylinder, the most likely destination is under the hood of the next-generation TSX. Unless something changes, this motor is expected to deliver around 180hp, which would put it on the lower end of the competitive scale.
One of my favorite cars of the show was this Mazda Furai. I had heard about it in advance of the show, but I wasn't prepared for the sexiness of this racer concept. Powered by a 450hp rotary, the Furai's stunning body work is draped over a Courage LMP2 chassis.
The RX-8 has been mildly revised for 2009, but its base design hasn't aged too well - a fate that tends to plague Mazda designs in general. The RX-8 is an interesting package, but it's time for an FMC.
If Honda fans are bemoaning the '09 Pilot Prototype's styling, I wonder what Benz fans are saying about this little tragedy. I'm struggling with coming up with anything nice to say about this compact SUV/CUV, so I'll leave it at that.
The über-Aztek has landed. I may be alone, but I feel that the X6 ranks up there as one of the most ill-conceived ideas in the history of automobiles (Yes, even worse than the X5, which ultimately led to a Porsche SUV, for god's sake). Sadly, it will probably sell like hotcakes. Honestly, it does look better in person than in most photos I've seen, but that doesn't make me hate the idea any less. I still have a great deal of respect for some of BMW's other products, however.
VW Passat CC
It seems that VW liked the Mercedes-Benz CLS so much, they decided to build their own. The big problem was that they based it upon a chassis with a transverse mounted front-wheel drive layout, which makes for an unfortunate and homely front overhang. Despite its sedan-like 4-door configuration, VW refers to the CC as a "coupé". Charming. The US version will be offered with the VW-standard 2.0T motor (200hp, 207lb-ft) with either a 6MT or 6-speed automatic transmission. Also available is the same 280hp 3.6L FSI V-6 that powers the standard Passat. This motor is only offered with a 6AT and VW's 4motion all-wheel-drive system. In Europe, there's a 300hp version of the 3.6L motor available, along with a DSG transmission. This combo is claimed to be good for a 0-60 time of 5.6 seconds, while the quickest US configuration (280hp, 6AT) takes a more leisurely 6.6 seconds, and the AWD system will undoubtedly suck the life out of that V6 with the square of speed.
The Chinese Contingency
While there have been a few appearances by some of the Chinese automakers in years past, this year saw a much larger presence, with Geely, Changfeng, BYD (Build Your Dreams) Auto, CHAMCO Auto, Tang Hua, and ZX Auto. After sitting in a number of these vehicles, it's clear that the Chinese have a lot of catching up to do before they match even the worst vehicles currently on offer in the US market. But this is similar to how Japanese and more recently, Korean automakers got their start. Will the Chinese be able to repeat what the Japanese and Koreans have done before them? At this point, I wouldn't bet against them. I thought it was a bit interesting that BYD Auto was showing off a plug-in hybrid. I don't know if it actually WORKED, but they were showing one. And Tang Hua had the funnest vehicles of the bunch, with goofy looking little yellow EVs - my favorite being a 4-passenger amphibious vehicle. The Changfengs cracked me up too - they were badged with alphanumeric strings that were so long that I couldn't tell if they were model names or RNA sequences ("Hey Bob, I just love your new Changfeng CFA6422A!").
Last edited by JeffX on
January 17, 2008 00:01