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First look: Toyota's new Prius at New York

Triple treat: The Toyota Prius (top), Volvo's Urban Jungle Rider (left) and the Lexus HPX made their debuts at the New York motor show.

While other car-makers grapple with hybrids, Toyota presses on with Prius

25 Apr 2003

TOYOTA hopes the larger, more powerful second generation Prius revealed last week at the New York auto show will continue to broaden the appeal of the petrol-electric hybrid vehicle.

In Australia, some 300 examples have been sold here each year since its 2001 release.

The second generation is due on sale here in the fourth quarter, the new Prius five-door makes big gains in its wheelbase which is about 150mm longer.

In fact, it seems Prius has grown so much that the 2004 model is now classified as a mid-sizer.

On the technology front, electric power output has been increased from 33 to 50kW and Toyota now claims a 0-100km/h figure of around 10 seconds.

Fuel economy remains around 5.5 litres/100km while emissions of hydrocarbons are said to be some 30 per cent less than the previous Prius.

The new hybrid drive system has been dubbed Hybrid Synergy Drive, which will also appear in the Lexus RX hybrid on sale in the US next year.

Other new Prius features include a start button to replace the conventional ignition and a proximity sensor to replace the conventional key fob, while many systems are now electric, including the air-conditioning.

Toyota US hopes Prius will find some 36,000 new homes each year, almost triple the original sales forecast at its US launch in 1997.

Expect pricing to remain similar to that of the $39,990 sedan currently on sale here.

The Prius was far from all that was new at New York, here's some of the vehicles revealed.

Nissan 350Z convertible THE 350Z convertible made its world debut in New York and is expected to attract a price premium over Nissan's popular 350Z coupe when it goes on sale here as a single model around Sydney motor show time in October.

Featuring a power-operated cloth roof (with glass rear window) that raises or lowers in around 20 seconds, the topless Z is expected to account for 20 per cent of Z-car sales worldwide.

Nissan US will offer a Touring Edition and an Enthusiast Edition, ranging between $US34,000 and $US36,000.

Lexus HPX LEXUS may only recently have launched its first luxury soft-roader here, but the looks of the next generation RX have already surfaced in the shape of the HPX concept crossover wagon.

Yet to be confirmed for production, HPX is a California-designed, V8-powered concept that rides on an all-wheel-drive chassis derived from the current GS sedan's underpinnings.

The concept features adjustable ride height, three rows of seating for six passengers and drive-by-wire steering.

It was styled at Calty, Toyota's California-based design centre.

Camry Solara DESIGNED and engineered in the US, the all-new Camry Solara coupe is an oh-so-American derivative of the current Camry that has little relevance to Australia.

Four-wheel disc brakes and sports suspension differentiate it from cooking model Camrys, along with a full complement of airbags and three trim levels (SLE, SE and SE Sport).

Four-cylinder and 168kW V6 (with five-speed auto) versions go on sale in the US in August.

Subaru Baja Turbo SUBARU gave its quirky Baja utility the WRX treatment for New York. But with the original Subaru Baja utility off Subaru Australia's agenda because it is a left-hand drive US-only model, the Baja Turbo must be even further away from Aussie shores.

In this case the Baja Turbo "pickup" employs a 160kW turbocharged boxer engine, bonnet scoop and 16-inch wheels, along with the choice of two alternative all-wheel-drive systems, depending on which transmission is chosen.

Volvo concepts VOLVO took the unusual step of presenting no fewer than five concept cars in New York, each revealed on www.conceptlabvolvo.com, with the aim of gathering public feedback to help determine the direction of future Volvo products.

The Urban Jungle Rider is a compact all-wheel drive roadster with a glass roof that can be removed to expose the aluminium frame.

A four-seat hatch with short overhangs and the possibility of either three or five doors was also shown, along with a small SUV that featured a loading system integrated into its roof.

There was also a compact sedan using ultra-light construction and featuring many exposed, motorcycle-derived chassis and suspension components, while the final concept was a two-seater sports coupe employing zero-emission battery power.

Nissan Pathfinder Armada OF far less significance Down Under was the New York unveiling of what is being described as Nissan's first full-size SUV.

Designed as a larger alternative to the mid-sized Pathfinder, the US-only 2004 Pathfinder Armada is similar to its Australian namesake in title only, being based on the Titan commercial vehicle platform, and featuring seating for eight, no fewer than 14 cupholders and a 225kW 5.6-litre V8.

Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback ANOTHER Mitsubishi unlikely to make it to Australian is a new Lancer wagon, also making its debut in New York.

Appearing with a 120kW 2.4-litre engine mated to a four-speed automatic transmission, the new five-door Lancer wagon will eventually be joined in Mitsubishi America's line-up by a Ralliart version featuring a bodykit, sports seats and carbon-like interior trim.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia has previously toyed with the Lancer wagon concept, but says the arrival here of the compact Outlander SUV only diminishes the new model's import chances.

But MMAL has not ruled out the Lancer Sportback for sale here.

Check out the rest of our New York auto show coverage in the Future Models section, where we have already reported on Mitsubishi's facelifted Magna and all-new Galant, the all-new Saab 9-2, Chrysler's new 300C large sedan, the Cadillac CTS-v and the Ford Futura.

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