Sunday, January 4, 2009

2008 Gmc Denali Xt Concept

GMC will show the Denali XT concept at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show to gauge reaction. Our guess is the response will strong. This will be one of those concept vehicles that will be polarizing-some will think it's a great idea, while others won't understand it. Among its biggest assests, it offers a 50-percent increase in combined fuel economy over comparably-sized midsize pickup trucks when running on gasoline, as well as giving an early look of some new GMC truck design language that could show up in some form on future GM pickup trucks. The bottom line is that this is the kind of little truck GM needs to compete with vehicles like Toyota's futuristic A-BAT, Honda's Ridgeline, and the coming Chinese and Indian compact truck invasion. The Denali XT has a unibody architecture and is rear-wheel drive but falls into the Sport-Utility Truck (SUT) category, meaning it straddles the lines between a traditional SUV and pickup truck. Think a flatter, more nimble Honda Ridgeline or Explorer Sport Trac. Denali XT's new, more efficient 4.9L version of GM's small-block V-8 features fuel-saving technologies such as direct-injection technology and Active Fuel Management. The new engine is matched with GM's unique two-mode hybrid propulsion system, giving the SUT good overall fuel economy, which includes an all-electric drive at low speeds. With its unibody structure, the Denali XT is lighter than conventional body-on-frame trucks, with better ride-and-handling characteristics. Likewise, the Denali XT is filled with technologies and features that maximize its flexibility, including a cargo space-enhancing Midgate(r) and height-adjustable suspension. The Denali XT's proportions are framed around a high cowl and 123.4-inch (3,134 mm) wheelbase. As you might have guessed, the design and construction were spearheaded by Holden Design, within the Australian arm of GM's global design and engineering network. Based off the Holden Ute, we've heard it reported from several sources that this vehicle will be the precursor to a Pontiac midsize SUT, due out by 2010. GM calls this their "muscular form, firmly planted" to give the Denali XT a confidently road presence. Minimal overhangs, large wheels, sleek headlamps and a low roof profile deliver an aggressive appearance. "It is a robust yet tailored design statement that is unlike anything else on the road," said Ed Welburn, vice president, Global Design. "It has the youthful look of a custom automobile that incorporates the capability customers expect from a truck." Inside, the Denali XT blends mechanical functionality with leather-trimmed comfort. Billet-metal surrounds, controls and instruments convey the cold precision of an aircraft cockpit. The Denali XT seats four. The high-cowl vehicle architecture enables higher seating positions, allowing the couple distance between front and rear occupants to be reduced without compromising knee room. This packaging efficiency creates generous interior and cargo bed dimensions within a more compact package. The Denali XT uses a unibody structure more akin to a strong car chassis than traditional body-on-frame pickup trucks, the consequence of which are twofold. First, payload and towing capacity are less than most other vehicles of this size, offering what could be the smallest towing capacity for any V-8 offered in the U.S. With that said, the second (and probably more important) consequence of using a unibody chassis, the four wheel independent suspension with its lower center of gravity and quick and responsive capability will have one of the most performance-oriented driving feels of just about anything out there. Up front, we're told the multilink front suspension features a forward-mounted steering rack and dual lower links with ball joints, providing sharp responses to driver input. At the rear, a four-link suspension design uses coil-over shocks and a decoupled stabilizer bar to enhance cornering control and reduce body roll. In short, it's a truck wanting to be a sports sedan. The rear cargo area is wide, deep and flat, with no suspension or wheelhouse protrusions into the bedbox.

The Denali XT utilizes a Midgate (just like the Avalanche, Cadillac Ext, and Hummer H2) that can be lowered over the rear seats to extend the cargo-carrying capacity from inside the vehicle into the bed. The rear seats fold flat to provide a longer floor for carrying items such as skis, surfboards or wood from the home improvement store. A fixed rear window allowed engineers to retain the vehicle's structure, reducing mass and complexity. The Denali XT has an estimated payload and towing capacity of 1,100 and 3,500 pounds, respectively, certainly good when compared to other compact pickup trucks, but does fall a little behind when compared to a midsize or SUT-type trucks. Probably the most interesting aspect of the Denali XT, beyond the fact that it's the wildest SUT we've ever seen, is that new rear-wheel-drive two-mode hybrid transmission is paired with a smaller-displacement version of GM's small-block engine. The new V-8 4.9L E85-capable engine powers the Denali XT with an estimated 326 horsepower. Additionally, it uses direct-injection technology to produce the power of a larger engine, but consumes less fuel and produces lower emissions than a comparably-sized powertrain. Also, the functionality of GM's Active Fuel Management system has been expanded through the use of hybrid technologies, enhancing the cylinder-deactivating feature to further improve fuel efficiency. Additional powertrain technologies have been integrated here as well, including Active Thermal Management, which transfers thermal energy from one driveline component to another to improve efficiency; and a high-efficiency axle configuration, which fundamentally reduces the losses normally associated with conventional axle configurations. Similarly to the Tahoe, Sierra, and Escalade 2-Mode Hybrid systems, the Denali XT's two-mode hybrid system is partnered with the 4.9L engine, using an electrically variable transmission for better city and highway fuel economy. In city driving, all-electric propulsion is used at low speed up to 30 mph, with the dual-mode, two-motor electric variable transmission working at highway speeds. Additionally, during towing or heavy-load carrying, a set of four fixed gears can be used. Here's what GM says: "The specific characteristics of the Denali XT allowed the synergistic evolution of GM's small-block V-8 and two-mode hybrid beyond the recently introduced in GM two-mode hybrid products, such as the GMC Yukon Hybrid and Sierra Hybrid. The integration of the advanced internal combustion engine technologies and two-mode hybrid system on the Denali XT reinforces GMC's Professional Grade position as a brand that continues to exceed customer expectations." Is this the next wave in pickup truck technology? No doubt there is some amazing technology here that will make it into a truck we'll be seeing in the next few years, but whether or not people are looking for pickup truck that's really not a pickup truck; or the reverse-are car sedan people really looking for their cars to do more truck things? This all remains to be seen. Certainly the Honda Ridgeline and Ford Explorer Sport Trac sells pretty well, but whether or not GM can succeed by bringing back the El Camino or Cabellero has to be considered a long-shot at best. If nothing else, seeing a Holden Ute in this country with a Corvette motor and optional 6-speed manual will be fun to romp around on our test track.

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2009 Mercedes-Benz SLR Stirling Moss

There may be no better way to pay tribute to the end of the modern SLR - as well as its racing forbears - than with the new 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLR Stirling Moss. As the presence of Sir Moss' name suggests, the latest iteration of the SLR is a direct tribute to the 300 SLR raced by the likes of Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio in the late 1950s. Certainly, it looks like a road racer - apart from two small screens on the cowl, there is no windshield. Likewise, there are no windows and no top, unless you consider a split tonneau cover to be valid protection from the elements. But the SLR Stirling Moss is more than just a topless SLR. We're most impressed at just how many design cues from the original 1955 300 SLR made their way into the new car. The double-bubble headlamps are replaced with single ovoid units, which - along with exhausts exiting through fender vents and stylish rollover bars - are fairly faithful to the original racer. So too is the spartan interior, which eschews techno-baubles like an audio system and navigation in favor for aluminum accents and plaid seat inserts. Though it looks like the racer of yesteryear, Mercedes notes it's not exactly a race-prepped vehicle. That's not to say the Stirling isn't quick - using the same 650-hp supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 found in the SLR McLaren 722 Edition, it moves from 0 to 62 mph in a scant 3.5 seconds. Wanting one is natural, but acquiring one will be difficult. After production of the SLR Roadster ends in May 2009, the production line in Woking, England, will shift to building the SLR Stirling Moss. Only 75 examples - each carrying a sticker price of approximately $1 million - will be built between June and December, but sales will be reserved for "loyal" SLR customers outside of North America.

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2010 Cadillac SRX

Cadillac makes no bones about attempting to set a new design standard for every segment it competes in, and the 2010 Cadillac SRX aims to up Caddy's style game in the all-important luxury crossover business. Its sights are set squarely on the Lexus RX350 this time around, and the proportioning has been altered toward that end. Gone is the third-row seating option that gives the current-gen SRX a slightly stretched look. Also gone is the rear-drive architecture. Underpinning this reinterpreted SRX is a mixture of Theta (Chevy Equinox) and new Epsilon (Buick LaCrosse) transverse-engine front-drive hardware, so there goes the long dash-to-axle look. You may not miss it. The styling is dramatic, with all the trimmings we're coming to expect: a dihedral grille with jumbo wreath and crest flanked by jewellike Xenon projector-beam headlamps in front, body creases flowing back from a vertical faux air exhauster just aft of the front wheel, a coupelike side-window opening shape, tall vertical taillamps, and a sharp trouser crease running up the hood, down the dash, and right back to the tailgate. The sleek shape also improves SRX's drag coefficient from above 0.40 to 0.36. It may even be dramatic enough styling to make you forgive losing 9.5 cu ft of useful seating room (most notably an inch of front and 4.7 in. of rear legroom), and 8.3 cubes of overall cargo space (3.2 cu ft when the rear seat's up). It's to be expected, since the vehicle loses 4.8 in. of length, 2.2 in. of height, and 5.5 in. of wheelbase. Overall body and track widths are up roughly two inches. Of course, striving for global five-star crash ratings and providing the creature comforts demanded in this class conspire to inflate curb weights slightly (60-70 lb relative to the '09 V-6 SRX). Speaking of engines, the new world order demands frugality, so two sixes are offered: a direct-injected 3.0L (basically a debored and destroked 3.6) producing 260 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque, and a 2.8L turbocharged unit (Caddy's first domestic turbo) borrowed from Saab/Opel, producing 300 hp and 295 lb-ft. The former boasts variable valve timing on both cams and burns either regular or E85 fuel, while the latter drinks premium and injects it at the intake ports. Both are mated to a six-speed automatic paddle-shifted transmission that helps boost base V-6 fuel economy by 10-15%, and highway fuel economy "in the mid-20s," for all, which would be a step up from the current model's 20-23 highway figures. The 3.0L can tow 2500 lb, the turbo 3500.
Optional all-wheel drive is provided via a Haldex electronically controlled power-takeoff that distributes torque fore and aft according to driver inputs and driving conditions, and an electronic clutch-pack in the rear differential apportions torque left and right to the wheel with the best grip. Chassis control is further enhanced with a real-time damping system on AWD models that reacts to smooth the ride while eliminating float or bouncing. Base SRXs will roll on 18-in. wheels, with 20s optional. Interior style and craftsmanship continues GM's march upscale, with hand-cut and sewn material covering the dash and ambient lighting that mimics that in high-end hotel rooms. The CTS's popular pop-up nav screen is employed here and displays directional lines on the rearview camera screen. A dual-screen rear entertainment system, adaptive front lighting, and a sound system with USB MP3-player interface are offered. An electric parking brake frees up valuable center-console real estate and saves mass. Based on our early static preview, we'd say its potential to dent RX350 sales is pretty good, providing credit is flowing by mid-2009 when SRXs hit dealerships. And we hope Cadillac wastes no time adapting the Vue's two-mode hybrid system to the SRX so it can challenge the RX 400h's stranglehold on the Smug Utility Vehicle crossover class (it fits just fine).
Body style Front-engine, FWD/AWD, five-passenger, five-door SUV
Engine 3.0L/260-hp/221-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6; 2.8L/300-hp/295-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve turbocharged V-6
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight 4300-4600 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 110.5 in
Length x width x height 190.2 x 75.1 x 65.6 in
Headroom, f/r 39.7/38.4 in
Legroom, f/r 41.2/36.3 in
Shoulder room, f/r 58.3/56.2 in in
Cargo volume, behind f/r 61.2/29.2 cu ft
EPA city/hwy econ N/A
CO2 emissions N/A
On sale in U.S. Summer 2009


2010 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, 540 hp 5.4-liter supercharged

While the finishing touches were being put on the 2010 Ford Mustang, Carroll Shelby and the folks in the SVT stable were putting together a more powerful and more refined Shelby GT500. A glance at the front end will reveal larger upper and lower air intakes that appear ready to swallow any obstacle whole. Ford says the new front end takes styling cues from the Shelby AC Cobra 427s of the early 60s, although we'd say the resemblance is not immediately apparent. Regardless of what it looks like, the new design should be as functional as it is aggressive. The taller powerdome hood is mounted flush and features functional extractors that bring cool air into the engine bay. The nose also boasts a new front splitter that increases downforce and reduces drag. Out back, the rear spoiler is also improved to reduce drag and contains an integrated Gurney Flap to provide downforce. When it came to the powertrain, Ford capitalized on the advancements made with the 40th anniversary edition Shelby GT500KR. The output of the 2010 Shelby GT500 is expected to match the 540 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque generated by the KR. The downside is all that muscle from the 5.4-liter supercharged V-8 will still be channeled through a muscle-car-era solid rear axle. The new Shelby GT500 is able to churn out the extra power compared to the previous model with the help of revised ignition and throttle calibration and a cold-air intake. The new intake uses a conical filter and a front grille snorkel, whose placement sent the trademark cobra badge slithering over to the other side of the grille. Though a few folks at Ford were afraid the change would offend Shelby, the resulting performance increase made him quite happy.

The issue of the pronounced clutch that made the former car a less-than-favorable daily driver has been addressed. Ford also attempted to tackle the Shelby's slightly lacking acceleration and poor fuel economy with taller fifth and sixth gear ratios and a lower 3.55 final drive. The changes should improve acceleration in lower gears and add 2 mpg during highway cruising. Taking another page from the KR's book, Ford enhanced the suspension with new springs and dampers to promote primary body control. To further improve handling and grip, the Shelby GT500 coupes will wear new Goodyear F1 Supercar tires mounted to forged 19-inch wheels. Meanwhile, the upgraded rubber will come standard on 18-inch wheels on the convertible. The new Shelby GT500 seeks to improve upon its predecessor's lackluster interior with a cabin that is unique and unmistakable. Occupants will know they are in a Shelby by looking at the racing striped seats which are wrapped in real leather with Alcantera inserts. The suede-like material also accents the steering wheel's appearance and makes it easier to grip. Real aluminum is used for the center steering wheel badge and the dash panels which have a unique texture that was supposedly inspired by clutch plates, braided hoses and cross-drilled racing brake rotors. More stripes can be found on the classic white shift knob whose H-pattern is bisected by two parallel lines that wrap completely around. Overall the new Shelby GT500 is more functional and refined and offers some of the performance goodies of the $80,000 KR. On the other hand, one attribute we hope the new car will not inherit from the KR is its price. Instead we expect the coupes to retail in the mid $40,000 range and convertibles to start around $50K. Fortunately, if the new car market is anything like its present state when the 2010 Shelby GT500 hits dealerships this spring, dealers that marked up the last generation model will be forced to sell the new car at a price closer to MSRP.