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Concept cars put design pedal to the metal

Concept cars put design pedal to the metal

Concept cars introduced this year provide a glimpse of tomorrow's production vehicles. Some even successfully blend classic design from the past with the technologies of the future.

Ford's new GT40 concept car is a revved-up re-design of the classic GT40 that became a racing favorite in the 1960s. But the new GT40 has even more horsepower than the original.

New concept cars from General Motors include the Pontiac Solstice Roadster. "This car went from the first sketch to a vehicle we could drive in under four months," says Pontiac spokesperson Mary Henige. "That's lightning fast."

The Audi Advantissimo puts all the car's information and communication systems within the driver's reach in ways the company describes as "instinctive" and "exceptionally easy to use." Strategic placement of the controls is important to the safe integration of Internet-enabled technology into the dashboard that they won't distract the driver.

Other new concept cars feature original approaches to the way we think about the interior and exterior of cars. Mitsubishi uses door panels and seatbacks as removable storage units, creating more room inside the car for passengers and their stuff. Saab uses a cargo floor that extends electronically in its 9X concept car. And Johnson Controls introduced new automotive interior components-switches for doors and climate controls covered in fabric-in its Ariston.

New exterior concepts include the bi-folding tailgate on the Nissan Quest. The SUV's glass roof also has a pop-up roof rack.

Glass on the roof of the Vision GST from Mercedes-Benz is electrochromic. Occupants vary the tinting depending upon the intensity of sunlight.

Pontiac Solstice

Noteworthy: Solstice's engine is mated to a Borg-Warner six-speed manual transmission and the supercharger is an off-the-shelf unit from the GM Service Parts catalog.

Body/chassis structure: Front engine, rear-wheel drive

Engine: Modified, supercharged EcoTec L850 4 cylinder

Maximum Horsepower: 240

Maximum Torque: 225 lb-ft

"We used mostly existing components from GMC and combined them into a compelling roadster that sells for about $20,000, something most people could afford," says Pontiac spokesperson Mary Henige.

Mercedes-Benz Vision GST

Noteworthy: A new high-pressure braking system in the GST uses large brake discs made of carbon fibre-reinforced ceramic.

Body/chassis structure: alloy steel with high tensile strength

Engine: 5.5-liter V8

Maximum Horsepower: 360

Maximum Torque: 390 lb-ft

With the Vision GST, Mercedes-Benz introduces a new six-seater concept with electrochromic glass that runs from the front windscreen to the rear of the vehicle. Occupants vary the tinting depending upon the intensity of sunlight.

Ford GT40

Noteworthy: The V8 in the GT40 has aluminum four-valve heads, forged crankshaft, forged rods, aluminum pistons, and is fed by a supercharger. The car is based on the '60s racer.

Body/chassis structure: Aluminum space frame, unstressed composite body

Engine: 5.4-liter, 32-valve supercharged and inter-cooled V8,

Maximum horsepower: 500

Maximum Torque: 500 ft-lb

"Anyone can do technology showpieces," says Chris Theodore, Ford's vice-president of North American product development. "But there's much more to a GT40. There's heritage and heart."

Cadillac Cien

Noteworthy: The car's V12 engine meets the packaging requirements and fuel economy of a V8.

Body/chassis structure: Carbon fiber, composites, and aluminum

Engine: 7.5-liter V12

Maximum Horsepower: 750

Maximum Torque: 450 lb-ft

"With the Cien, we've created the ultimate expression of design using dynamic lines to achieve geometric forms," says Simon Cox, executive director of the advanced design studio for Cadillac. Cien means 100 in Spanish. The car's introduction coincides with Cadillac's 100-year anniversary.

Lincoln Continental

Noteworthy: Built-in laptop tables stow in the car's console. The instrument panel is built around reconfigurable screens that display the vehicle's telematic systems.

Body/chassis structure: Aluminum and composite body-on-frame construction

Engine: 6.0-liter V12

Maximum Horsepower: 414

Maximum Torque: 413 lb-ft

"The Continental is lithe and alive, but simplicity and elegance define the design," says the car's design director Gerry McGovern.

Audi Avantissimo

Noteworthy: Avantissimo uses two small turbochargers rather than a single large turbocharger.

Body/chassis structure: Aluminum body with air springs at all four wheels

Engine: 4.2-liter V8 biturbo

Maximum Horsepower: 430

Maximum Torque: 442 lb-ft

Audi introduces its new multi-media interface in the Avantissimo. All main functions are directly accessible by pressing buttons. Selection within each menu is by means of rotary switch and the pushbuttons surrounding it.

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