show season always reveals an abundance of concept cars meant to
provide insight into technologies or designs the manufacturers intend
to put into production somewhere down the road.
These cars are sometimes fanciful creations that seem so far-fetched it appears they might never see the light of day. Usually, however, underneath the science-fiction trim, exists real technology waiting to be developed for practical production. Other times, the cars appear to be almost-ready-for-production and are described as hints towards the actual styling of future models.
It's a complicated science to pick the jewels from the counterfeits, to determine which vehicles might actually see the light of day, and which ones will never be seen again. That decision is often affected by the response of the auto show attendees; when the feedback is extremely positive, manufacturers are more likely to push a vehicle into production. Sometimes, they are already racing to the finish line when the "concept" is put onto display.
At this season's Detroit and Chicago Auto Shows, we were shown two new hybrid truck concepts by two different manufacturers: The Toyota A-Bat was revealed in Detroit, and the GMC Denali XT made its debut in Chicago.
really striking pickup truck concepts, revealed a month apart - and yet
the pair looks amazingly similar, almost as if the two vehicles were
concept twins separated at birth. Read about them below, and check out
the images for yourself. It seems like too much of a coincidence that
they look and sound so much alike, but the two trucks have completely
different heritage. I was wondering if they might be a truckish
variation on the Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe product sharing, but I was
told they are completely unrelated. GMC's concept is a development upon
an Australian Holden model. The A-Bat is considered by some to be
Toyota's Ridgeline runner-up, and it could ultimately become a Scion,
if and when Scion decides whether it needs a truck.
If you could choose to bring one of these hybrid pickup truck concepts to production, which one would it be?
Toyota A-Bat Hybrid Concept
Toyota's A-BAT concept was developed by their Advanced Product Strategy group and Calty, Toyota's North American-based research and design center to appeal to a buyer group whose unique combination of lifestyle activities and vehicle needs required a vehicle that is not yet available in the marketplace. The team created a new compact vehicle with good fuel economy, advanced functionality, maneuverability, unique styling within its segment, and a durable package suitable for an active lifestyle.
The A-BAT concept is built on a unibody platform to offer car-like handling when navigating both city streets and crowded parking lots, and smooth ride quality for highway trips and the everyday commute. In addition, its lightweight package is combined with Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive(R) technology to deliver excellent fuel economy. Translucent solar panels in the top surface of the instrument panel capture sunlight and convert it into energy, showcasing the vehicle's "green" character.
"The bold grille showcases Toyota's reverse trapezoid and T-face theme in a new way," explained Calty Project Chief Designer Ian Cartabiano. "The bed is defined by the C-pillar and is clearly separated from the cab to allow it to stand out from the rest of the profile." "The image of a NATO all-terrain military truck inspired us to keep the occupants as far forward as possible to maximize rear bed capacity in this compact package," stated Creative Designer Matt Sperling.
The A-BAT features a four-foot bed, but has more flexibility than the standard pickup truck. A translucent roof panel slides open to allow for tall cargo in the cab. When the pass-through midgate is folded down into the cab the bed lengthens an additional two feet. An open tailgate provides an additional two-foot of bed length. The A-BAT offers customers the versatility of hauling a standard 4x8 sheet of plywood one day, then taking a family on a camping trip to the lake the next.
The bed promises features perfect for work and play. These include tailgate lighting for illuminating the load in the bed, a first aid kit and flashlight integrated into the tailgate, sliding tie downs, and an AC power outlet. Items such as sports and leisure equipment can be stored in the lockable drawers in the bed walls. The concept also has additional storage that is accessible through sliding doors conveniently placed in and outside of the truck bed. For even more storage capacity the A-BAT comes with a large sliding drawer beneath the bed, accessible without opening the tailgate.
The rigid, yet sculptured alloy center console runs between the two front seats and houses a portable power pack. The battery pack offers both AC and DC for a wide variety of applications including powering tools, electrical gear while camping, a laptop computer, small appliances or assisting a vehicle jump start. Solar panels on the dash recapture energy from the sun to assist in the charging of the navigation unit, portable power pack and backlit information displays.
"This concept is the next evolution of the compact truck," said Hunter. "We were able to create a compact truck that's utilitarian, has an original profile compared to other pickup trucks, has a 'small, but tough' character and is economical to operate. The A-BAT is a fun-to-drive, practical package that reflects Toyota's environmental sustainability message."
GMC Denali XT Hybrid Concept
GMC unveiled the Denali XT concept at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show. It promises a 50-percent increase in combined fuel economy over comparable small pickup trucks when running on gasoline, and it incorporates a new, muscular form in a performance-styled, hybrid sport-utility truck (SUT).
The Denali XT has a unibody architecture and rear-wheel drive, enabling its distinctive design and efficient performance. It builds on the equity of the Denali line and its reputation for advanced engineering and refinement, including the first combination of GM's two-mode hybrid system with an E85 ethanol-capable engine. Denali XT's new, more efficient 4.9L version of GM's small-block V-8 features fuel-saving technologies such as direct-injection technology and Active Fuel Management. The engine is matched with GM's unique two-mode hybrid propulsion system, giving the powerful SUT exceptional fuel economy and uncompromising capability - including all-electric drive at low speeds.
A muscular form and wide, firmly planted stance give the Denali XT a confidently capable road presence. Minimal overhangs, large wheels, sleek headlamps and a low roof profile deliver an aggressive, performance-oriented appearance.
"It is a robust yet tailored design statement that is unlike anything else on the road," said Ed Welburn, vice president, Global Design. "It has the youthful look of a custom automobile that incorporates the capability customers expect from a truck."
The rear cargo area is wide, deep and flat, with no suspension or wheelhouse protrusions; the cargo floor measures 55 inches long by 47.5 inches wide. It all adds up to the space to haul a wide variety of lifestyle accessories.
Its midgate can be lowered to extend the cargo-carrying capacity inside the vehicle. The rear seats fold flat to provide a longer floor for carrying items such as skis, surfboards or wood from the home improvement store. A fixed rear window allowed engineers to retain the vehicle's structure, reducing mass and complexity.
For the first time, GM's rear-wheel-drive two-mode hybrid transmission is paired with a smaller-displacement version of the small-block engine. The new V-8 4.9L E85-capable engine powers the Denali XT with an estimated 326 horsepower (243 kW). It uses direct-injection technology to produce the power of a larger engine, but consumes less fuel and produces lower emissions.
"Like all GMCs, the Denali XT is functional and capable, but it blends those traits with a more efficient, sporty driving experience," said Jim Bunnell, GMC general manager. "It is a vehicle that exemplifies GMC's engineering excellence, as well as GM's commitment to hybrid and advanced technologies."
By Brandy Schaffels