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The first pickup truck Kia has ever shown in the U. S., the KCV4 "Mojave" concept features a number of cargo-carrying innovations.

However, more space is still required. With auto displays becoming larger and more elaborate, the Chicago Automobile Trade Association (CATA) announced the show would expand to 1.2 million square feet in 2005.

2004 Chicago Auto Show Photo Gallery

During Media Preview days on February 4th and 5th, attending journalists saw more than a dozen new vehicles debut. Here's what's new:

Toyota
As it does every year, Toyota hosted the first press conference of the Chicago show. Seven years ago at this show the company took the wraps off the Solara Speedster concept. This year it showed the real thing—the all-new 2004 Camry Solara Convertible.

Joining the Solara coupe which went on sale just six months ago, the new convertible features a glass rear window, a 225-horsepower V6 engine and a power convertible roof that opens or closes in just ten seconds.

Designed specifically as a convertible, the Solara will be produced exclusively at Toyota's manufacturing facility in Georgetown, Kentucky. The 4-seat convertible will arrive in showrooms next month.

The redesigned 2005 Tacoma will arrive later this year. The first version of the new Tacoma will be the high-performance X-Runner. Featuring all-new styling, the X-Runner has a longer wheelbase and wider track than the previous-generation S-Runner, providing increased interior, shoulder and hip room.

The X-Runner will ride one inch lower than a standard Tacoma, and features a reinforced frame, firmer springs, specially tuned shocks and 18-inch wheels with V-rated performance tires. Don Esmond, Toyota Division senior vice president and general manager, told the assembled journalists that the Nissan 350Z sports car was used as the benchmark of performance and handling for this truck.

Powering the X-Runner is a 240-horsepower V6 engine; however, a factory installed and warranted supercharger system can boost power to around 300, pushing this truck to 60 mph in less than six seconds. Handling is also impressive—Toyota claims the X-Runner can hold the road in excess of .9 g of lateral acceleration.

The X-Runner will arrive in showrooms in August, followed shortly by the rest of the next-generation's Tacoma lineup.

Dodge
Toyota wasn't the only manufacturer showing off a new, larger truck. Dodge took the wraps off its redesigned Dakota pickup. The first "midsize" pickup truck, the Dakoka is now the largest in its class. It's 3.7 inches longer and 2.7 inches wider than the truck it replaces. Much of the increased length is ahead of the front axle, providing a better crush zone for improved impact performance.

And speaking of performance, this Dakota offers best-in-class towing, made possible by a high-output V8 engine. Two V8s are available, as well as a standard 3.7-liter Magnum V6. Ride has also improved via new front and rear suspensions, a stiffer frame and standard 16-inch wheels.

Dodge also announced that the new Ram SRT-10, with its 500-horsepower V10 engine, set the Guinness World Record for Fastest Production Pickup Truck. The SRT-10 averaged 154.587 mph over two opposite-direction runs.

Kia
In a similar performance truck vein, Kia showed a pickup truck concept in the U.S. for the first time. The KCV4 "Mojave" is a great-looking truck with a wide stance—it's about as long as a Ford Ranger, while its width, height and wheelbase are closer to that of a full-size Toyota Tundra.

The Mojave boasts a number of innovations, including a special tailgate that remains flush with the cargo bed for a smooth load floor; a step built into the side of the truck bed for easy access to cargo at the front of the bed; and a power-operated rear wall that, when the seats are folded, can slide forward into the passenger area to provide additional cargo space.

Designed at the Kia/Hyundai Research and Design Center in Nam Yang, South Korea, the Mojave was created to assess consumer demand for such a vehicle from Kia. According to Peter Butterfield, president and CEO of Kia Motors America, "Despite the fact that we do not currently have a factory with the capacity, or the location, to manufacture this truck, the Mojave is an outstanding example of what Kia is capable of delivering."

Mercury
Ford Motor Company continued its Year of the Car with the introduction of the Mercury Montego. Bill Ford, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Ford Motor Company, was on hand to debut one of eleven new vehicles that will join the Lincoln-Mercury lineup in the next four years.

The sister car to the Ford Five Hundred, which was shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Montego features a new continuously variable transmission, class-leading interior room and available all-wheel drive.

The four-door sedan sports the trademark Mercury "waterfall" grille that was originally seen on the Mercury Mountaineer. Inside, the driver sits about four inches higher than most midsize sedans, and rear-seat passengers enjoy more legroom than that found in a Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Montego will be available in Luxury and Premier trim levels when it goes on sale later this year.

Ford also announced that another of the eleven new models will be the first Mercury crossover, based on Ford's new Freestyle.

General Motors
General Motors had a number of new models being shown for the first time in Chicago, but most attention was centered on a new sedan from Buick.

The all-new LaCrosse has a more modern look than the rest of the Buick lineup, and it will replace the Century and Regal when it goes on sale this fall. This is a big deal for Buick, since the Century and Regal together make up half of the brand's current sales.

The LaCrosse also benefits from what GM calls "Quiet Tuning." Acoustical laminate on windshield and front side glass, extensive use of melt-on sound deadener, sound-absorbing interior carpet backing and a sound-absorbing layer under the instrument panel are just some of the enhancements that make this car very quiet.

LaCrosse will be available in three trim levels: CX, CXL and CXS, when it goes on sale this fall.

In addition to the LaCrosse, General Motors debuted the Chevrolet Uplander and the Pontiac SV6 (what the company refers to as "crossover sportvans"); the revised 2005 Pontiac Vibe; and Denali versions of the Sierra 1500 and Envoy SUV.

Subaru
Subaru also had news to announce in Chicago. The only company to feature all-wheel drive as standard equipment on every vehicle it builds, Subaru unveiled the third-generation Outback wagon.

The new Outback features all-new styling, more powerful engine options, and a decidedly more premium interior treatment. Wheelbase is slightly longer, while the overall length has been increased by less than two inches. Safety has been enhanced with standard side airbags and side airbag curtains to protect both front- and rear-seat passengers.

Also new for 2005 is the Outback's classification—it is now considered a light-duty truck by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). This is largely due to the Outback's increased ground clearance—increased to 8.4 inches (8.7 inches on the XT) and higher towing capacity—up to 3,000 lbs. with the 6-cylinder engine. Subaru says this was done to meet consumer demand for more SUV-like attributes.

Outback will be available in a number of trim levels ranging from the base-level 2.5i to the top-of-the-line 3.0 R VDC Limited. Three different powerplants will be available: a 2.5-liter 168-horsepower H4, a 3.0-liter 250-horsepower H6 and the high-performance turbocharged 2.5-liter engine producing 250 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque. The new Outbacks will begin arriving in showrooms in June.

Volvo
Also featuring all-wheel drive are the newest offerings from Volvo. The S40 and V50, which debuted just a few weeks ago at the NAIAS 2004 in Detroit, were shown for the first time with all-wheel drive. Featuring the same Haldex system used in the XC90, the new fun-to-drive sedan and wagon will hit the market this summer.

The new models are actually shorter in length than the previous generation; however, being wider and taller creates more interior space, as well as a more athletic stance. Front-end styling is more in line with the rest of the Volvo sedan lineup.

In addition to the added safety of all-wheel drive, the new S40/V50 features collapsible pedals, dual-stage airbags, Side-Impact Protection System (SIPS), Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS), anti-lock brakes and Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD).

Two engines will be available, a 2.4-liter inline 5-cylinder and a 218-horsepower turbocharged T5.

All-wheel drive will be available on both sedan and wagon, but only on the high-performance T5 trim.

Hyundai
Hyundai debuted its second SUV to be named after a city in the southwestern U.S. The Tucson is the company's first entry into the small SUV segment, designed to compete against vehicles such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Mitsubishi Outlander.

With styling similar to the larger Santa Fe, the Tucson will be available in three trims: GL, GLS and GLX. Pricing has not been set; however, this well-equipped SUV will continue in the Hyundai tradition of high value with prices expected to range from $17,000 to $22,000.

The Tucson is the first of many new products expected from Hyundai. Robert Cosmai, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America, told the assembled media that the company plans at least one new product every six months until at least 2007.

MINI
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of a Mini winning the Monte-Carlo Rally in 1964, the maker of fun little cars is producing a special-edition Cooper S.

That win forty years ago made the Mini a true motorsports legend. Competition consisted of much more powerful cars from Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Saab and others; however, Paddy Hopkirk drove his Mini to victory through all sorts of challenging conditions. The Mini's nimble handling overcame the fact that it only had 70 horsepower and a top speed of just 99 mph.

Paddy Hopkirk was in Chicago to introduce the car that commemorates what he did forty years ago. The Cooper S MC40 is adorned with the same color and similar markings that were on the original rally car. Chili Red with a white top, the MC40 features special anniversary graphics, distinctive 17-inch alloy wheels, rally-style driving lights and a magnetic door plaque displaying No. 37—the number on Paddy's Mini. The magnetic signs can be removed; however, they will stick to the car at speeds up to 100 mph.

Only 1,000 copies of this special edition Cooper S will be produced, with pricing expected to be around $27,000.

Exotic Performance and Luxury
In Chicago Jaguar unveiled its most power road-going convertible ever. The XK-RS concept car was developed in conjunction with Rocketsports Racing to demonstrate how the company's luxury GT car could be changed into a 200-mph supercar.

Paul Gentilozzi, owner of Rocketsports Racing, is quite familiar with the Jaguar XKR—his team has won the Trans-Am Manufacturers Title twice with a racing version of the XKR.

To create this beautiful XK-RS concept, the Trans-Am racing engine was adapted with an Eaton supercharger to produce an estimated 550 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque. This provides enough power to accelerate to 60 mph in less than four seconds, with a top speed of 200 mph.

If that doesn't seem fast enough, perhaps the revised 2004 Saleen S7 better fits the bill. Already an extreme machine, the Saleen received a power boost to 575 horsepower with torque rated at an amazing 570 lb-ft. At the same time, the rear spoiler and rear diffuser (which channels air from under the rear of the car) were adjusted to increase downforce while reducing drag.

All of this has resulted in what company president Steve Saleen calls the fastest production car in the world. The stats back him up—60 mph in just 2.9 seconds, 100 mph in 6.5 seconds. This impressive performance can be had for a mere $430,000.

If luxury is more important than speed, then the new special edition of the Bentley Arnage might be the ticket. The Arnage R is already an exclusive automobile with nothing but the finest quality interior materials; however, there will be 26 special Arnage R models styled by Mulliner.

A customer who purchases one of these ultra-luxury sedans can have the car customized specifically to his or her tastes. Priced at $212,990, there are a few of these beautiful automobiles still available.

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