Shiny, happy fenders
After walking the length and width of the NAIAS show floor at least 50 times over 3 days, what may be the next big trend slowly took shape before my eyes.
What to do? Walk the floor for the 51st time and report the results.
The next big thing? Fender vents. Yes, I know, big, bad versions have graced the fenders of the current Mini Cooper, Buick Lucerne and Land Rover Range Rover the last few years, but the diversity and number of vented fenders is quickly growing.
In order of discovery, I noted that the 2007 Dodge Nitro, Aston Martin V8 Vantage, BMW 6-Series, Maserati Quattroporte, Mini Cooper, Cadillac Escalade, Pontiac Solstice, Jaguar XK8/R, Land Rover LR3 and LR2 were all sporting shiny vents.
And to help prepare for an even shinier future, I give you the 2008 Cadillac CTS, Ford Focus, Five Hundred, and F250/F350 (huge!), Mini Cooper, Buick Enclave, and Jaguar XF (in C-XF guise). Just for fun, check out the concept Jeep Trailhawk and Lincoln MKR for an even longer-range view.
The new Lexus IS-F has a big bold "F" right where the vent might be... maybe a subtle rebuke to this new trend?
So, what to think? I would be fine if all were authentic, but sadly this is not the case. When form follows function, I am proud to be in this industry. But when the 'vent' is nothing more than a bauble tacked to the fender like cheap plastic jewels stuck to a 13 year-old girl's cell phone, I think I am looking at 2007's version of "spinner hubcaps."
The tailgate Olympics
The process is so incredibly smooth, you wonder why more truck makers haven't done this. This is standard on all Tundra models.
Chevrolet offers an "EZ Lift tailgate" option on its new Silverado, designed to help raise the gate when it's down.
I walked around the show floor and did some heavy lifting to find out which tailgates required the most grunt. (I also haven't been to the gym for a few days, so I needed the exercise).
In alphabetical order, they are:
Chevrolet Silverado: The tailgate itself is very heavy but smooth in its motion. It also requires a lot of effort keeping it from slamming down with a crash. A Chevrolet spokesperson said that the EZ Lift was designed to assist raising the gate, not lowering it.
Dodge Ram: A very heavy but well-balanced tailgate.
Ford F-150: This one was moderately heavy, but operated smoothly.
Honda Ridgeline: This tailgate was heavy, stiff, and required the most effort of all.
Nissan Titan: An amazingly light and linear tailgate that is very well damped.
Toyota Tundra: (see Titan, above).
Admittedly, this comparison was less than scientific in approach. And, just for kicks, I tried Ford's new F-250 Super Duty. Nearly busted a gut hauling that one. (Here's a picture of Consumer Reports Senior Engineer Jake Fisher trying out the Super Duty's integrated tailgate step.)
The gold medal for the smoothest and easiest tailgate goes to the Nissan Titan. It's simply a marvel in simple to use engineering. The silver medal goes to the Tundra, and the bronze to the Ford F-150.
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