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Hurricane runs circles around other SUVs

NOTES FROM DETROIT

January 26, 2005|Jim Mateja and Rick Popely | Chicago Tribune

DETROIT — Chrysler unveiled a stunning concept Jeep Hurricane at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last week, an all-wheel-drive sport-utility vehicle about the size of a Grand Cherokee.

With all-wheel steering, you can turn front and/or rear wheels in or out and drive in a perfect circle. While an unlikely feature for the highways, it would be ideal for military application.

"It would be a very desirable supply hauler or even a combat vehicle" because the steering allows it to climb up and over obstacles or steer around them, said Eric Ridenour, executive vice president of product development for the Chrysler Group. "We kept Hurricane a secret before unveiling it at the auto show and didn't talk with the military beforehand. But we are now."

The Hurricane also features a pair of 5.7-liter, Hemi V-8s -- that's right, two engines -- one front and one rear, each developing 335 horsepower and 370 foot-pounds of torque.

Chrysler calls it "the most maneuverable, most capable and most powerful 4x4 ever built." The vehicle's dual engines give it 670 total horsepower -- enough to leap from zero to 60 mph in under five seconds.

The concept car features split solid axles and can run in four-, eight- or 16-cylinder mode.

In other news out of the Detroit show, Honda Chief Executive Takeo Fukui said a second-generation Civic Hybrid coming in the fall has "significantly higher fuel economy and performance" than the current model, but he did not elaborate.

The current Civic Hybrid has a combined EPA city/highway mileage of 47 mpg; the Toyota Prius is rated at 55. Civic is being redesigned for the 2006 model year, and it may bow at the Chicago Auto Show in February.

Fukui also said that Honda is considering a hybrid SUV for the U.S. but that no decision has been made. Honda's U.S. sales unit is asking for one to counter the hybrid Toyota Highlander and Lexus RX models coming this spring.

"I think there is a very good possibility that U.S. customers want such a vehicle," Fukui said, rebutting recent reports from Japan that Honda doesn't see demand for a hybrid SUV.

Subaru continues to move into higher-priced territory with the B9 Tribeca, a car-based SUV that goes on sale in the summer in five- and seven-passenger versions. Executive Vice President Fred Adcock says prices will range from $32,000 to $38,000. The most expensive Subaru now is the Outback VDC Limited: $33,395, plus $575 for freight.

All-wheel drive, stability control, side air bags and curtains are standard on the B9 Tribeca, the first model to show Subaru's new front styling theme, including a large oval grille flanked by horizontal bars.

Subaru will build the B9 Tribeca at its Lafayette, Ind., plant. Saab gets a version in 2006. Saab now offers a 9-2X, based on Subaru's Impreza.

Meanwhile, Hyundai and Kia are packing safety features on new models.

Hyundai's 2006 Sonata sedan, due this summer, will have standard stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, side air bags for the front seats and side curtains front and rear.

Chief Executive Bob Cosmai says the base price will be "well below $20,000" for a four-cylinder model.

The new Sonata grows to large-car status from mid-size based on interior volume.

The 2006 Kia Rio subcompact sedan arrives in summer with side curtains and standard side air bags for the front seats. Base prices will be close to the $10,000 to $12,000 of current models.

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