Toyota Tundra Double CabClick to enlarge picture

The Toyota Tundra Double Cab offers four full-size doors for passengers or cargo, a vertical-sliding powered rear window and folding rear seats.

At the first press conference of the show, Toyota debuted a four-door Tundra and officially confirmed a long-standing rumor—an entry into NASCAR racing.

Toyota Division senior vice president and general manager Don Esmond referred to the new Tundra Double Cab as a "big rig." This larger Tundra, due in showrooms this fall, has four forward-hinged full-size doors and will feature a segment-first vertical-sliding powered rear window, similar to the rear window of the Sequoia sport-utility vehicle.

The Japan-based company's other truck announcement was even bigger than the Tundra Double Cab: Toyota trucks will make their NASCAR debut in February 2004 at Daytona International Speedway. NASCAR president Mike Helton was a surprise guest at the press conference, since speedweeks were currently underway in Daytona.

"Everyone at NASCAR is looking forward to Toyota's participation in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series," offered Helton. "There are many NASCAR fans working in Toyota facilities, manufacturing plants and dealerships throughout America. We know they're thrilled at the prospect of a Toyota Tundra showing up in NASCAR victory lane in 2004."

Toyota expects up to six Tundra entries in the 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, beginning with the first race of the 2004 season at Daytona International Speedway.

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Chevrolet Debuts Entry and Performance Models
Chevrolet debuted the Aveo, a new subcompact model line with a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback, designed by Giugiaro's Italdesign studios in Italy.

Aveo is powered by a 1.6-liter engine producing 105 horsepower, with a 5-speed manual transmission and an optional 4-speed automatic. Due to arrive in Chevrolet showrooms in early 2004, the Aveo will be built in Korea and will compete with the Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio.

At the other end of the spectrum, Chevrolet will add two supercharged SS models, the 2004 Impala SS and the 2004 Monte Carlo Supercharged SS. Both will have a supercharged 3.8-liter V6 engine producing 240 horsepower.

The new SS models are modern interpretations of Chevrolet SS models of the past, with 17-inch diamond-cut cast aluminum wheels, bright stainless steel exhaust tips, fog lights, a six-gauge instrument cluster and SS badging. The Monte Carlo Supercharged SS also includes a race-inspired rear spoiler.

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Volkswagen Unveils GTI 20th Anniversary Edition
Volkswagen is celebrating 20 years of the its GTI with a GTI 20th Anniversary Edition unveiled at the Chicago show.

Flanked by a 1983 Rabbit GTI, the original, and a 2003 GTI VR6, the GTI 20th Anniversary Edition burst from behind the stage amid sounds of screeching tires.

The limited-edition GTI 20th Anniversary Edition features a 6-speed manual transmission and a 1.8-liter turbocharged engine producing 180 horsepower. Styling cues include a red GTI badge reminiscent of the first GTI, but modern performance will come from a lowered sport suspension, 18-inch Z-rated performance tires, vented disc brakes with red calipers, and 15-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels.

The GTI 20th Anniversary Edition will be available in three exterior colors: Black Magic, Imola Yellow and Jazz Blue. Exterior styling includes a black headlight surround, body-color bumper and chin spoiler, black side mirrors, body-color side valances, a rear spoiler above the rear hatch, and a larger-diameter polished exhaust outlet.

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Mitsubishi and Subaru Add Performance
Mitsubishi introduced the new 2004 Lancer Ralliart sedan, the first of a series of new Ralliart performance versions. The Lancer Ralliart is designed to deliver improved acceleration and sharper handling in an affordable package, slotting in between the Lancer OZ Rally sedan and the Lancer Evolution with supercar-level performance.

The Lancer Ralliart shares styling with the redesigned 2004 Lancer models, including an extended front fascia, revised front end with a split grille, and new sculpted headlights. The Ralliart rear styling includes a revised decklid, clear taillight lenses and a unique aerodynamic package with a new rear wing. The Ralliart is powered by a high-output 2.4-liter 160 horsepower and standard equipment includes 16-inch 5-spoke aluminum wheels.

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Subaru introduced the 2004 Forester 2.5 XT, powered by a 210-horsepower turbocharged and intercooled boxer flat 4-cylinder engine. The XT adds additional performance to Subaru's Forester lineup. The Forester 2.5 XT utilizes engine technology from the recently introduced WRX STi to develop strong torque at low engine speeds.

Exterior styling unique to the Forester 2.5 XT includes a functional hood scoop that directs air to the intercooler, body-color side cladding, natural aluminum roof rails, 6-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels, and a chrome exhaust tip.

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Mercury Unveils New Minivan and Announces Sedan
The all-new Monterey is the first full-size minivan to be offered by Mercury. Taking many of its styling cues from the Mountaineer SUV, Monterey will combine luxury, modern design and utility. It is the first of four new products expected to come from Mercury in the next three years.

The Monterey will offer improvements such as rear and front parking assist, a third-row seat that folds flat into the floor, heated and cooled front seats, three-row curtain airbags, and structural reinforcements for offset frontal crash performance. The standard engine will be a 4.2-liter V6 with the most available torque in its class. A premium audio system, 6-disc CD changer, and rear-seat DVD entertainment system will be available.

Mercury also showed a drawing of its next new vehicle, the Montego sedan. Taking an important name from Mercury's past, the Montego will be a full-size contemporary sedan with space, style and a seating position that will inspire confidence, according to the automaker. Montego will be available with both all-wheel-drive and a continuously-variable transmission.

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Mercedes-Benz Debuts E55 AMG Sedan
Mercedes took the wraps off its next-generation E55 AMG sedan in Chicago. This big E is powered by a 5.5-liter V8 that uses a Lysholm-type belt-driven supercharger to develop 469 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, making it the fastest Mercedes sedan ever.

Jean Alesi, a former Formula One star who currently drives a Mercedes for DTM in the German Touring Car Championship, helped introduce the fastest Mercedes sedan to the assembled media in Chicago.

The performance of the E55 AMG is enhanced by sport exhaust, Formula One-style shifting with steering-wheel-mounted gearshift buttons, AMG-developed four-stage Airmatic air suspension, and AMG 18-inch twin-spoke polished alloy wheels. The E55 AMG also includes cutting-edge safety technology such as electronic braking, ESP stability control and a rollover sensor.

The Kompressor V8 in the E55 AMG includes a specially developed air-to-water intercooler located in the V of the engine block to reduce intake air temperature. Other advancements include electronic throttle, revised cam timing, high-rate valve springs and lightweight valves.

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Suzuki Takes Aim at Mainstream Markets
Suzuki introduced two new sedans in the Windy City, aimed at the mainstream U.S. markets currently dominated by Honda and Toyota. The new Forenza will contend with the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, while the Verona has its sights set on the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

Described by Suzuki as an affordable premium compact sedan, the Forenza was developed in part by Italian design firm Pininfarina and will offer standard features that include an AM/FM/CD/cassette audio system with eight speakers, 4-wheel disc brakes and a 2.0-liter 16-valve engine that produces 119 horsepower.

The Verona is Suzuki's first midsize sedan and is designed by Italdesign in Turin, Italy. Verona offers power and performance usually associated with higher-priced models, and will offer a standard inline 6-cylinder engine. Both Verona and Forenza will go on sale in the U.S. by early 2004.

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Ford Freestar Minivan and SVT 10th Anniversary
Ford revealed the Freestar minivan, due to replace the Windstar in the fall as a 2004 model. While the exterior styling is similar to the Windstar, the Freestar moves forward with advances in safety, interior design, fold-flat seating, and new engines.

The 2004 Freestar will feature an available Safety Canopy side curtain airbag that offers protection for all three rows of seats and is a segment exclusive. Access to the third row seat is improved and the seat folds flat into the floor without removing the headrests.

A new 4.2-liter V6 will be available with 201 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque, the most available torque in the class, The standard engine will be a 3.9-liter with 200 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque, and both engines will be combined with a new 4-speed automatic that uses new hydraulics for improved shift quality and response. A power liftgate will be available later in the 2004 model year.

Ford also announced several new additions to the Special Vehicle Team (SVT) line of high-performance vehicles. SVT was officially launched with the 1993 SVT Mustang Cobra and the 1993 SVT F-150 Lightning pickup. To celebrate the anniversary, Ford will produce 2003 units of the SVT Mustang Cobra with a 10th Anniversary Package. Other SVT highlights for 2003 include the addition of a 5-door Focus SVT, an optional European Appearance Package for the 3-door Focus SVT, and updates to the SVT F-150 Lightning.

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2004 Volvo S80: New Look, Active Suspension, and AWD
The 2004 Volvo S80 receives a number of exterior upgrades including new front and rear fascias, a new grille surround and air intake, a redesigned trunk lid, smaller taillights with LED brake lights, and a new rear bumper. Inside upgrades include redesigned door panels, new gauges and interior trim, and an optional 3-spoke wood sport steering wheel.

The S80 will be available with the Four-C (Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept) actively controlled chassis—the same chassis system used for the high-performance S60R and V70R. The Four-C allows the driver to select between Comfort and Sport settings while the system electronically regulates each of the shock absorbers individually.

The 2004 S80 employs Volvo's 5-cylinder light-pressure turbo engine and is available with all-wheel drive—both firsts for the S80. The AWD uses an electronically controlled Active On-Demand (AOD) system that delivers power primarily to the front wheels until the tires slip and then instantly redistributes the power to the wheels with the most grip.

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BMW 7-Series Sport Package
In Chicago BMW announced a sport package for the 745i and the 745Li, tailored to the taste of driving enthusiasts. The Sport Package includes sports suspension, new 19-inch alloy wheels, and mixed-size performance tires; 245/45R19 for the front and 275/40R19 for the rear.

BMW also announced a return to sports car racing. The Prototype Technology Group, veteran BMW racers, will enter two M3 coupes in the GT Class of the 2003 SPEED World Challenge Championship Series.

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Ram SRT-10: Sport Truck With Viper Power
Dodge unveiled the production version of the Ram SRT-10, referred to by Chrysler officials as the "Viper of Trucks." Powered by the same 8.3-liter V10 as the 2003 Dodge Viper sports car, the 2004 SRT-10 will deliver outstanding performance.

The number 500 was an important target when designers and engineers created the ultimate high-performance pickup, which boasts 500 horsepower, 525 lb-ft of torque, 505 cubic inches of engine displacement and even a 500-watt audio system.

The SRT-10 also delivers in the handling department, with unique 22-inch polished aluminum Viper-style wheels, Bilstein shocks, performance-tuned springs and 305/40YR22 Pirelli Scorpion tires. Brakes are upgraded with 15-inch front rotors, 14-inch rear rotors, red calipers, and brake ducting from the front fascia for brake cooling.

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Flagship 2004 Acura 3.5 RL Sedan
Acura pulled the wraps off the next-generation RL sedan in Chicago, featuring XM Satellite Radio and the Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition as standard equipment. The 2004 RL also receives interior enhancements that include an upgraded sound system, power driver's side lumbar support, redesigned center console, new steering wheel, brushed metal and chrome interior trim, and a wood-pattern shift knob.

Acura also rolled out an RSX Type-S with a Factory Performance Package that includes tuned shocks and springs, lightweight aluminum alloy wheels, and 17-inch high-performance tires.

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Studebaker Returns as an Extreme SUV
The last press conference ended the Media Preview with more big truck news—it's tempting to say bigger big truck news. The Studebaker name returns market with the introduction of the Studebaker XUV, a massive sport-utility vehicle referred to by Michael Kelley—chairman of Avanti Motor Corporation, the company that will build the vehicle—as an Extreme Utility Vehicle.

The Studebaker XUV is 216 inches long and 80 inches wide. It will be powered by either a 6.0-liter Power Stroke V8 turbodiesel or a 6.8-liter Triton V10 gasoline engine. A standard, powered, sliding rear roof section expands the cargo area, and the rear passenger doors also slide. Although the appearance and exterior are aggressive, the interior features leather trim and state-of-the-art electronics.

The Studebaker XUV generated controversy immediately after being unveiled—due to its resemblance to the Hummer H2, General Motors announced plans to file a lawsuit blocking vehicle production.

Avanti Motor Corporation builds the Avanti, a custom-built, handcrafted car first introduced by Studebaker in 1963.

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