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Published: 1/13/2005

Automakers take cues in body styles, engine power from vehicles of past

BY JENNY MOUNT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The 10-cylinder engine that will go into BMW's new M5 follows the move to increased power. The 10-cylinder engine that will go into BMW's new M5 follows the move to increased power.
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DETROIT - Two side-by-side cars symbolize a major theme at this year's North American International Auto Show - and the vehicles bear the same name.

The 1936 Lincoln Zephyr sits fender to fender with the newly introduced Lincoln Zephyr luxury midsize production sedan. The bottoms of their side windows are on nearly the same plane.

A styling shift that borrows heavily from vehicles made from the late 1930s to the early 1950s has swept through the auto industry. The metal on the sides of the cars has increased in height, making for shallower side windows.

Something else borrowed from the past is evident at this year's Detroit auto show: unabashed displays of muscle. High-horsepower engines, even with today's high-priced gasoline, have become popular.

In the Dodge Magnum production wagon, the styling and power trends merge. The doors are mostly metal and little glass, and under the hood of the SRT8 version is a 425-horsepower Hemi V8.

The more than 700 vehicles in nearly a million square feet of space in Cobo Center in downtown Detroit provide car shoppers with a one-stop view of all the market has to offer and give car aficionados a glimpse of what the future may hold. The show opens to the public Saturday, and runs through Jan. 23.

Early to the narrower side-window look were the Cadillac STS and CTS two years ago. But this year, several cars and concept vehicles have the look.

One is the Chrysler 300, named this week as the North American car of the year. But the change in styling is evident in production models ranging from the redesigned Toyota Avalon, Volkswagen Jetta, and Mercedes-Benz M-Class to the new-to-the-market Ford Fusion, Subaru B9X, Pontiac G6 coupe, and Dodge Charger.

Concept models on display at the show offer greater extremes: On some, such as the Nissan Azeal roadster, the windows are only about one-fourth of the door's height; on others, including sport-utility vehicles Acura RD-X GMC Graphyte, Suzuki Concept X, and Kia KCD2, the side windows occupy about a third of the vertical space.

A resurgence of big-time engines is best illustrated at the show in a Dodge gallery of disembodied truck and car engines ranging up from 235 to 500 horsepower; the engine in a basic Toyota Camry is 160 horsepower, that of a Jeep Liberty is 210, and in a Ford Freestyle minivan is 201.

Corvette's new Z06 claims 500 horsepower and a 0 to 60 mile-per-hour acceleration time of less than four seconds. (That's in the same league as a Maserati.)

Lexus' next-generation GS offers an optional 300-horsepower V8, and the Toyota luxury line's LF-A concept is envisioned at 500 horsepower, with a top speed of 200 mph.

BMW has further souped its M5 performance sedan with a 10-cylinder engine.

The show has sights that can stop visitors in their tracks, and three of those are at Ford.

Polished aluminum that forms the skin of Ford's Shelby GR-1 becomes a beacon of brightly reflected light drawing viewers to the concept sports car.

Across the aisle is the SynUS concept, a box on wheels with a 45-inch flat-screen monitor on the inside of the rear door.

And a few feet from the Shelby is a GT that has been cut in half lengthwise and mounted a few feet above the floor on clear plastic for a walk-through experience of the workings of a car, from tires and frame to interior.

Volvo's stand includes another uncommon sight, the car as multiscreen TV. The windows of a station have been converted to project video of the Swedish brand's safety features.

Jeep, Mercedes' Smart brand, and Mini all are attracting attention by hanging cars from vertical walls.

At the Chrysler display is the colossus of full-size vans, the Dodge Sprinter, making its first public appearance. This version has four rows of seats.

Attendees devoted to the amusement-park aspect of the show can find features to their liking as well. Jeep's computer-controlled waterfall is back, and at its feet is a row of Tony Hawk video games that young visitors can play while their parents try out the Chrysler Stow 'n' Go seat demonstrator.

Still under construction by GM during the media preview week was an area the company has designated a theater, which also will showcase hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles.

Contact Jenny Mount at:

jmount@theblade.com

or 419-724-6060.



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