8 most anticipated vehicles of 2004
They're the motoring equivalent of the summer movie
They're mostly big and splashy, full of the fancy frills
and thrills that make them the high-tech auto version of the latest
They are the cars, trucks, vans and SUVs that almost
everyone wants to see and be seen in -- the most anticipated new vehicles
The prices, styles and features vary enormously on this
hot new bunch. At least one new vehicle carries a price tag of $75,000.
But many others can be snapped up for less than half that amount.
All will be in dealers' showrooms by the time you read this. So drum
roll, please, as we count down the most anticipated vehicles of 2004.
Auto buffs are keeping close eyes on this vehicle because it's Nissan's
first full-size pickup truck. With a 300-horsepower, V-8 engine, it's
the largest Japanese-brand pickup truck ever made. Mike Quincy, automotive
content specialist for Consumer Reports Auto Test, says, "Ford,
GM and Chrysler so far have owned the full-size pickup truck market.
This is the first real competition from a foreign manufacturer."
The Titan, which will be available only with an extended
or four-door cab and five-speed automatic transmission, will cost
between $23,800 and $33,600.
If you're in the market for a $75,000 convertible, this puppy is for
you. It's Caddy's first attempt at a premium sports car since the
Allante debuted in 1987. The XLR is powered by a 4.6-liter, Northstar
V-8 engine, and has a retractable hardtop that folds away in less
than 30 seconds at the touch of a button. As you would expect from
such an expensive vehicle, the XLR offers as standard equipment every
option and feature known to GM, including heated and cooled seats;
built-in Bose speakers; a touch-screen activated DVD/navigation system
with a 6.5-inch color screen; voice-activated Onstar system; satellite
radio and a "heads up" display system which shows things
like speed, turn signals and cruise control status on the windshield.
"It's certainly one of the most anticipated cars
out there," says Steven Cole Smith, automotive editor for The
Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel. "The question is whether anybody is
interested in a $75,000 sports car."
BMW's new 5-series is the revered automaker's fifth generation of
the midsize cars that are the bread and butter of the Bavarian firm's
lineup. Brand-new from the ground up, these sedans represent perhaps
the greatest leap forward in technology for the 5-series since the
model first hit the market seven years ago.
With a starting price of $39,500 for the entry level
525i model with its 2.5-liter, inline six-cylinder engine, the new
5-series includes the midlevel 530i at $44,300 and the top-of-the-line
545i, which comes with a new 4.4-liter, V-8 engine that packs a walloping
Slightly larger with roomier interiors and trunks, the
new 5-series sedans also come with technology that isn't available
even on the 7-series, BMW's most expensive line of sedans. Among the
innovations being introduced on the 5-series is what BMW calls "active
steering," which varies the steering ratio on the basis of vehicle
speed and other driving conditions. It's designed to reduce the steering
effort required in parking maneuvers, U-turns and sharp, low-speed
"It's a very important car for BMW," says
Quincy. "There's a lot of pressure riding on the company to make
their new 5-series as good as the 2001 model, which was the best car
we had ever tested."
So why did BMW update something that seemed so perfect?
"The best companies are always looking at how they can stay on
the cutting edge," says Quincy.
Motoring enthusiasts are waiting with bated breath for this, the first
luxury-car-based SUV from General Motors. "Car-based SUVs are
quieter, more comfortable and get better fuel economy than other types
of SUVs," says Quincy. Cadillac's first luxury SUV, the pricier
Escalade, is a truck-based vehicle and ranges in price from $52,000
to $58,000. The SRX, priced at $37,000 to $48,000, will compete in
the heart of the luxury SUV market against such popular models as
the Ford Excursion and Chevy's Suburban and Tahoe.
The SRX has a powerful V-8 engine, a sporty handling
package, quick acceleration and a third row of seats, permitting comfortable
seating for seven or eight people.
It's no accident it's got a different name -- the folks at Volkswagen
wanted it to stand out. And they're getting their wish. The Touareg
-- the first SUV-like vehicle from VW -- is winning kudos from critics.
"It's a much better vehicle than anybody was expecting,"
says Smith. "For a little over $35,000, it's a great value, good
looking and offers a great off-road experience, where unfortunately,
only a few will ever venture." Quincy agrees. "It's very
luxurious and has a world-class interior," he says.
The Touareg is currently available as a 3.2-liter V-6
or a 4.2-liter V-8, both with six-speed transmissions. Oh yes, the
pronunciation: The Touareg is named after a nomadic tribe from the
Sahara and it's most commonly pronounced TOOR-egg, but we've also
heard variations that sound like Ter-egg, Twor-regg, Twahr-reg, Too-reg
and even Twah-ray. Suit yourself.
The stylish, new Quest minivan continues the company's design renaissance.
"It proves that the people at Nissan are risk-takers," says
With a 3.5-liter, 240-horsepower V-6 engine, the Quest
offers expansive interior room and advanced features like DVD entertainment
all wrapped in a slick outer shell. Although it will be built in Mississippi,
the new Quest heats up the minivan wars among the Big Three Japanese
automakers, adds Smith. "It's aimed directly at the Toyota Sienna,
which is aimed at the Honda Odyssey, which remains minivan king."
Think you've seen this one before? Well, you have. Pontiac is returning
to its glory days of yesteryear with this new version of the famous
GTO models. With its V-8, 350-horsepower engine, this car screams
Actually, the big new GTO is an American version of
the Holden Monaro from Australia. Earlier this year, General Motors
and its Australian subsidiary, Holden, completed an agreement to return
the legendary Pontiac GTO to U.S. highways in late 2003 as a 2004
model. Besides speed and power, the rear-wheel drive coupe will have
lots of exciting features including 17-inch alloy wheels, 2+2 bucket
seating and a premium sound system.
Kia says the Amanti -- which looks like the Mercedes-Benz E class
-- will compete in the same hot market as the Toyota Avalon, Chrysler
Concorde and Buick LeSabre. Kia believes it can attract buyers with
features such as a 270-watt Infinity sound system and a bevy of safety
devices. Traction control, electronic stability control and eight
airbags are all standard on the new Amanti. And if that's not enough,
the firm hopes buyers will continue to be enticed by the Kia's 10-year,
is a freelance writer based in Florida.
-- Posted: Dec. 9, 2003