The 104th New York Auto Show
The New York Auto Show isn't known for world debuts of significant vehicles since it occurs so late in the year. Yet because it's in New York, it still garners its share of attention from the automakers and usually features the world debut of several styling exercises as well as new production vehicles. For sport truck enthusiasts, the offerings were limited to a few new SUVs.

New Saab 9-7X High-Performance Midsize SUV
Based on GM's Chevy Trailblazer/GMC Envoy, the new 9-7X is Saab's response to nearly a third of its customer base leaving the brand to buy an SUV. And clearly those buyers are looking at high-performance midsize SUVs because instead of re-popping another derivative traditional SUV, the company shunned the rugged off-road images and went for street-oriented performance with sports car-like refinement.

The exterior stands a little lower and sleeker than its GM counterpart, is cladding-free, and doesn't have the overhang and visual weight in the bumpers of its sibling SUVs. The 18-inch alloy wheels, blacked out D-pillars, and smooth one-piece front further the sporting image of this machine

Saab says its 9-7X is designed to be a driver's vehicle with great dynamic road manners and a comfortable, well-controlled ride. To achieve this, Saab 9-7X engineers put their tune on the Trailblazer/ Envoy chassis' double A-arm front suspension with front coil springs and five-link electronically controlled rear air suspension. The Saab 9-7X uses firm front and rear spring rates, a low ride height, a large front stabilizer bar, and stiff upper control arm bushings in the rear to control body roll. The road-tuned suspension and grippy Dunlop P255/55R18 all-season radials should deliver above-average cornering-handling capability.

According to the specs, the Saab designers even stiffened the front section of the frame and used stiffer steering rack mounts and other tuning techniques to enhance the steering feel, response, and precision of the quick 18.5:1 steering gear ratio box. In addition, the 9-7X gets big 12.8-inch ventilated rotors and aluminum calipers (front dual-piston) ABS brakes. Match the presumably good suspension with an advanced all-wheel-drive (AWD) system and the 9-7X looks to us to be a great all-weather road rocket.

The 9-7X is set to go on sale in the U.S. in early 2005, with an estimated price between mid-$30,000 to mid-$40,000. We'll bring you more on this hot-rod SUV soon.

'05 Ford Escape Hybrid Gets 38 mpg in Manhattan Traffic
The '05 Ford Escape Hybrid made its official debut after being driven nonstop for 37 hours as part of an extreme driving test throughout Manhattan. And get this: Even through the congestion of morning and evening rush hours, the all-new '05 Ford Escape Hybrid traveled an amazing 576 miles on a single tank of gas. That put, according to Ford, the Escape Hybrids average more than 38 miles per gallon. Just think of that when you're filling up at the pump. On second thought, don't; it'll just hurt too much.