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In Big Apple, cars ripe for the viewing

At last month's auto show in New York, Mercury unveiled the Mariner, its new SUV, and Mitsubishi displayed three new or redesigned models.

May 21, 2003|Jim Mateja and Rick Popely | Chicago Tribune

NEW YORK — Mercury will add a small sport utility vehicle for the 2005 model year, a derivative of the compact Ford Escape called Mariner.

Mariner is one of four new Mercury models planned in the next three years. The others are the Monterey replacement for the Villager minivan coming this fall as an '04; the mid-size Montego sedan companion to the mid-size Ford Five Hundred that comes out for '05; and a replacement for the mid-size Sable for '06 that has not been named.

The Mariner unveiled at the New York Auto Show last month will be offered in front-wheel- or all-wheel-drive with a choice of 2.3-liter 4-cylinder or 3-liter V-6 engines with a 4-speed automatic with floor-mounted shifter.

It also features color-keyed body-side cladding; redundant turn-signal lamps mounted on the fenders; cast-aluminum wheels with a satin finish; and wood grain, satin aluminum and chrome accents in the cabin. It also features front air bags as standard, side-impact bags and side curtains as options.

Ford also unveiled the 2004 gas/electric hybrid Escape, coming out this fall for commercial customers and early next year for retail buyers. The hybrid promises 40 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving.

Lincoln displayed a concept Lincoln Navigator K powered by the high-performance 5.4-liter, 385-horsepower V-8 offered in Ford's F-150 Lightning pickup. The K is under production consideration based on consumer feedback from the show.

Mitsubishi lineup

Three 2004 Mitsubishi models debuted in New York -- the redesigned Galant, the restyled Diamante and the new Lancer Sportback, a four-door hatchback.

The Galant sedan has sportier styling and a new lineup. The DE and ES models will use a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder with new variable-valve timing. The LS luxury model and new GTS sport version will come with a 3.8-liter V-6 and Sportronic automatic transmission with manual shift mode. The engine and transmission are new to the Galant line.

Changes on the Diamante are less extensive, consisting mainly of new front styling that adopts the split grille that Mitsubishi will use on all models. The Sportronic transmission becomes standard on 2004 LS and VR-X models.

The Sportback is a hatchback companion to the Lancer sedan, and it wears the same front styling as the 2004 sedan. The Sportback will come in a base ES and a sportier Ralliart version with a firmer suspension and front and rear spoilers.

Kia steps up

South Korean brand Kia will add a larger, more luxurious sedan for 2004 based on the Hyundai XG350, though it will have different styling and larger dimensions.

Called the Amanti, it is 196 inches long, 4.5 inches longer than the XG350.

Front styling on the Amanti is dominated by oval headlamps and a large, crosshatch grille. Primary targets are the Toyota Avalon and Buick LeSabre, but Kia says it expects to undercut both in price.

Shedding light on Solara

The Toyota Camry Solara coupe, a two-door spinoff of the Camry sedan, debuted in New York.

Due to go on sale in the fall, Solara uses the sedan's front-wheel-drive platform and mechanical components but has different styling. A convertible version is due in 2004.

Toyota redesigned the Camry sedan for 2002, but the Solara coupe and convertible continued with the previous design.

Ascender rises

Isuzu introduced a five-passenger version of the Ascender SUV, a clone of the Chevrolet TrailBlazer/GMC Envoy.

The five-passenger Ascender goes on sale in January as a companion to the longer, seven-passenger model that debuted in the fall.

Also coming from Isuzu is new engine technology that the company says will boost horsepower and fuel economy while reducing emissions.

Mazda3 preview

The Mazda MX Sportif concept also made its U.S. debut.

The MX Sportif, a four-door hatchback, foreshadows the styling of the Mazda3, a compact car intended to replace the Protege in the 2004 model year.

Mini power

The Mini will introduce a higher-performance version of the Cooper S that goes on sale this spring.

It is called the John Cooper Works package, after the namesake of the Cooper and Cooper S models.

It includes a different cylinder head, supercharger and electronics that boost horsepower to more than 200 from 163.

New 911

New York was the first North American showing of the Porsche 911 GT3, a 380-horsepower sports car with a 190-mph top speed and a $99,900 price tag. It goes on sale this month.

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