- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2003

Seven hundred new cars, trucks, minivans and sport utility vehicles from 37 manufacturers will be waiting for visitors at the 2004 Washington Auto Show, opening Dec. 26 at the Washington Convention Center.

The 62nd annual show, themed “History With a Future,” is sponsored by the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association (WANADA).

“The 2004 Washington Auto Show will celebrate many milestones. This will be our first auto show [in the new Washington Convention Center] and the first public show there. … We’re doubling the size of the auto show and extending the show’s run by three days this year,” says George Doetsch, Washington Auto Show chairman and president of Apple Ford Inc. “We’re treating our visitors to the best of both worlds — some magical memories from the past alongside the hottest new cars and trucks for 2004.”

The show will run from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 26 through 30 and Jan. 1 through 3, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 31 and Jan. 4. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for senior citizens and $6 for children ages 6 to 12. Children younger than 6 are admitted free.

For more information, call WANADA at 866/WASH-AUTO or 202/237-7200 or visit the Web site (www.washingtonautoshow.com).

For 2004, the selection of full-size pickups is an enormous, colorful palette of vehicles. In terms of luxury and performance, the picture is especially rich.

The luxury market’s image and vehicles have evolved well beyond the days of block-long sedans. Full-size pickup trucks are among today’s most popular luxury rides. These elite breeds lure demanding consumers with eye-popping performance and luxuriously appointed cabs.

Ford’s new-generation F-150 lineup offers models to satisfy anyone’s need for speed and pampering. Its SVT F-150 Lightning delivers impressive power and sporty handling. The Lightning highlights a performance-tuned chassis and supercharged 5.4-liter Triton V-8 that launches it with 380 horsepower and 450 foot-pounds of torque.

Luxury also is pumped up in the Lightning, which is upholstered with preferred suede trim and textured leather inserts. Ford’s top-line Lariat is outfitted with creature comforts rivaling those of a premium luxury sedan.

In all models, cab quietness, ride and handling are improved, and the Lariat offers heated dual-power leather captain’s chairs, and a “flow-through” console and floor shifter accented to match its expensive-looking dashboard.

Leading General Motors into the luxury pickup segment is the Sierra Denali. This showcase of “industrial precision” comes standard with a dual-zone automatic climate control, premium Bose audio system, 325-horsepower 6.0-liter V-8 engine, all-wheel drive and Quadrasteer four-wheel steering touting compact-coupe-like steering capability.

Chevrolet has claims to the sporty side of GM’s pickup line. It offers a souped-up Silverado pinned with Chevy’s legendary SS emblem. Stuffed under the hood of the short-bed Silverado is a 345 horsepower 6.0-liter V-8 engine. A full-time all-wheel-drive system sends its 20-inch wheels rolling to an estimated 0-to-60 mph time in the low seven-second range.

Merging attributes of a pickup and sporty roadster is Chevy’s SSR. This spicy two-seat, custom-look roadster’s voluptuous body rides atop a modified midsize Chevy Trailblazer EXT frame. SSR’s standard 5.3-liter small-block V-8 engine propels the rear wheels with 300 horsepower. Chevy’s “Ultimate Boulevard Cruiser” also touts a power-retractable hardtop.

For those wanting a hot-rod pickup with sports-car-inspired power, Dodge offers the Ram SRT-10. Rumbling under the hood is an 8.3-liter Viper V-10 engine. It launches the pickup with an earth-quaking 500 horsepower and 500 foot-pounds of torque.

Nissan, the full-size pickup arena’s newest player, introduces the Titan. This pickup looks formidable, with an elevated hood, square-shouldered front fenders and blunt nose wearing a massive chrome grille. Its imposing form doesn’t lead one to think it’s anything less than full-size.

Along with real full-size dimensions, serious truckers demand V-8 power that can handle heavy-duty work applications. Titan’s 5.6-liter Endurance V-8 delivers a go-for-it 300-plus horsepower and produces more than 375 foot-pounds of torque. Its trailer-toting capacity is a formidable 9,400 pounds.

Partnered with the Endurance V-8 is a five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. Power is sent to standard 17-inch or optional 18-inch wheels. Bringing Titan to a halt is a standard four-wheel-disc-brake system with anti-lock braking.

Inside the cabin, the goal is to convey a feeling of being big, assertive and organized. Front seating configurations are a choice of a three-place bench with column shifter or a pair of buckets flanking a large console with a segment-first gated floor shifter. Another segment first is the option of side-curtain air bags.

Toyota gets into the big-doors business with its new-for-2004 Tundra double cab. A giant step forward in rear-compartment comfort, the roomy double cab boasts full-size rear doors and the same seating and interior room as Toyota’s giant Sequoia SUV. Seating includes a pair of captain’s chairs up front and a folding 60/40-split rear bench.

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