From being a bit player on the world’s automotive stage, Suzuki is rising up the ranks to take one of the more principal roles. The excellent Kizashi mid-size sedan is currently its main act, but the company has been expanding its talents behind the scenes.
At the 2011 New York auto show, Suzuki pulled back the curtain on two new concept versions of the Kizashi, each occupying different ends of the gas-guzzling spectrum. One is called the EcoCharge. Finished in luminescent satin white and rolling on special lightweight aluminum wheels, this is a mild hybrid. It packs a two-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine good for 144 horsepower, plus a 15-hp electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack.
Thanks to features like regenerative braking, a start/stop function and this hybrid drivetrain, Suzuki claims the EcoCharge is capable of showing a 25-percent improvement over the conventional Kizashi’s fuel consumption on the highway. Even the interior uses seat materials that are eco-friendly, requiring 80 percent less energy to produce than those typically found in car seats.
The second concept is called the Apex and it’s just the thing for attacking the corners of a race circuit. At its heart beats a turbocharged engine that hikes the Kizashi’s output from the usual 185 horsepower to more than 275 hp. It has been developed for everyday use, however, and the well-tuned suspension of a stock Kizashi could easily handle that much extra power.
The car is covered in race-like livery and deploys a track-worthy wheel/tire combination, but it would still take some more development if it were to enter serious competition. In the meantime, it enjoys a business-like interior with sports seats, and a mix of black leather and blue Alcantara (the man-made suede-like material often found in racing cars).
Neither concept is a production possibility right now, but they each serve a purpose. “They represent what we are working on,” said Shamit Choksey, spokesman for Suzuki. “We know we’re a bit late to the hybrid party, but don’t count us out.”
COLIN RYAN has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.