- The Washington Times - Friday, February 21, 2003

More. That's what new-vehicle shoppers can expect in 2004 models that will be showing up in dealerships this year. More flexibility. More utility. More performance. More nifty features.
Pickup trucks and even sports cars are going to be more flexible and easier to enter and exit. To provide that flexibility, one thing that manufacturers have done is to target doors. The King Cab version of Nissan's new full-size Titan pickup truck has a "Wide-Open" rear-hinged rear door that swings open nearly 180 degrees, so that it rests against the pickup truck bed. Along with making it easier to enter and exit the rear seat, the Wide-Open door means not getting trapped behind, and having to maneuver around, partially opened doors.
Mazda's RX-8 four-door sports car has no center B pillar and features a "freestyle" door system with front and rear doors that open from the center, allowing easy entry and exit. Front doors are fully open at a hinge angle of about 70 degrees, and rear doors at about 85 degrees.
Nissan is boasting the widest-opening sliding door in its class for the new Quest minivan. Quest's sliding-door openings measure 33.8 inches more than 6 inches longer than the previous generation.
More horsepower and performance are on tap for consumers who care about getting there ahead of everyone else and having fun doing it.
Manufacturers are not only offering more horsepower, but six-speed manual transmissions as either standard or optional. Subaru is advertising its Impreza WRX STi with 300 horsepower compared with the 227-horsepower WRX as the most powerful Subaru ever offered in North America.
The Volkswagen Golf R32, the most powerful Golf ever, has a six-speed manual, as does the new BMW Z4 roadster, the new Nissan Maxima and Acura's new TSX sports sedan.
There is more power on the luxury end, too, with the 500-horsepower Bentley Continental GT coupe, the 543-horsepower Maybach "luxury jet for the road," the 493-horsepower Mercedes-Benz SL600 roadster, and the 400-horsepower Jaguar XJ luxury flagship.
Everything is bigger for the 2004 models as well. The Toyota Sienna's interior volume has increased by more than 44 cubic feet. Nissan is saying that its new Quest is the roomiest in the front-wheel-drive minivan segment. Ford's new F-150 has more spacious cabs. Its Regular Cab and SuperCab models have a passenger compartment that is 6 inches longer; and Regular Cab models feature new rear access doors that open up 13 inches of storage behind the seat.
The extended version of the Malibu sedan, the hatchback Malibu Maxx, has a great deal of flexibility built into its larger interior. Its wheelbase is 6 inches longer than the sedan's, allowing for greater versatility and flexibility in the rear compartment. Rear seats have 7 inches of travel for trading off trunk space for passenger space.
Two new minivans will offer even more flexibility. The new Toyota Sienna's third-row bench seat can be stowed into a well for a flat floor, and its 60/40 split makes it very easy to stow each side separately. Nissan's Quest features second- and third-row seats that fold flat, which means never having to remove its seats.
Rear seats will be more entertaining, too. The ultraluxury Maybach has a center console for the rear seats that houses a DVD player, but so will the much more affordable Malibu Maxx sedan and everything in between: the Cadillac SRX, the Quest and Sienna.
Automakers also are offering consumers more sky this year. In particular, Nissan is debuting its new "Skyview" roof glass panel system in the Quest minivan and Maxima sedan. On the new Maxima, the Skyview Roof is a single elongated glass panel from the front of the roof to the back. On the Quest it takes the form of four glass roof windows for the second and third rows, along with the sunroof in front.
Also, Cadillac's new SRX sport utility/crossover vehicle has Cadillac's "UltraView" roof, which provides 5 square feet of open air over the front and second rows. Vehicles with a third-row seat are available with "UltraView Plus," which includes a vented glass panel over the rear row, opening a total of 7 square feet of sky.

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