The world's automakers have converged upon Geneva to display their latest sheetmetal at the 74th International Motor Show, Palexpo-Geneva -- more simply known as the 2004 Geneva Motor Show. From economical little city cars to full-size coupes and wagons, as well as futuristic concepts that swim, drive, and even fly, Geneva is like the United Nations of international auto shows, a venue where global manufacturers peacefully meet while attempting to demonstrate their automotive prowess over their corporate competitors.
As a deterrent to any type of journalista coup, show models everywhere sported dangerously pointed high heels said to be the height of Italian fashion; armed with such weaponry, these lovely ambassadors kept visiting delegates properly subdued.
Motor Trend's coverage of the show is now complete with more than 50 vehicles on the following pages. We'll be supplementing this coverage with additional galleries with expanded photos of your favorite show vehicles, so be sure to visit our related Geneva Motor Show polls to tell us which cars you want to see:
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Remember, you can click on auto show images to enlarge, click on underlined text links to reveal additional photography.
Mercedes proudly displayed the second-generation retractable-hardtop SLK, bearing more than a passing resemblance to the mighty SLR supercar. Beyond fresh sheetmetal, the new SLK boasts a more robust suspension, more powerful engines, and improved steering for heightened overall performance. New options include new head/thorax side airbags, neck-level heating system, bi-xenon headlamps with cornering light function, and the seven-speed automatic transmission 7G-TRONIC. Powertrains include a 163-hp supercharged four-cylinder, and a more exciting 272-hp V-6 that promises 5.5-second 0-60 mph times. Big news is the potent AMG 55 model shown here, complete with a V-8 engine and complete four-corner performance package. The 5.5L/360-hp V-8 will reportedly rocket the two-seat roadster from 0-60 mph in under five seconds.
Much anticipated, Mini unveiled a convertible variant of the pint-sized hatch in Geneva. With the top up, the Cooper Convertible casts a silhouette like the hardtop models. As the soft roof begins its 15-second transformation, the roof columns automatically retract and the rear side windows move down in unison, as the cloth top folds neatly behind the rear seats. For more hair tousling options, the Mini Convertible features an integrated sliding panel that can be opened up to 16 inches while the car is driving. Available in three colors, the top features a glass rear window with defroster. On the safety front, the Mini Convertible features a fortified structure, integrated headrests, front and side airbags, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), and Cornering Brake Control (CBC). Both the base Cooper and the supercharged Cooper S will be available in convertible form when the new model goes on sale Stateside late summer as a 2005 model.
To celebrate the company's 100th anniversary, Rolls-Royce presented an "experimental motor car," the second show car displayed since BMW acquired the British automaker. Based on a lightweight aluminium spaceframe, the 100EX is an open-top four-seater that shares hardware with the Phantom ultra-lux sedan. Power is supplied to the 21-inch wheels by a 9.0-liter V-16 engine. Beyond the engineering, the 100EX is a showpiece for 21st-century coach building, with painstaking attention to detail in the bodywork, aluminum trim, teak wood, mahogany, woolen fabric, and leather. There is no plan to produce the 100EX as a series model, but the process and styling will likely influence future models.
An all-woman team developed the YCC (Your Concept Car) as a rolling showcase for innovative ideas intended to make motoring more personal and practical. Right from the gullwing doors, its clear this coupe is different. The interior provides numerous storage locations for travel essentials, such as keys, phones, coins, and even laptop. More importantly, it can adapt the driver's body configuration by using a soon-to-be-patented Ergovision system. Ergovision takes the basic idea of driver memory functions to the extreme, beginning with drivers being scanned at a dealer. The proportions are stored on the key, which in turn tells the car to adjust seat, steering wheel, pedals, head restraint, and seat belt to suit the driver. The other standout technology is the parking assist, which combines a "space check" to ensure safe fit, then "Autopark" to help parallel park. The Autopark adjusts steering, while driver controls the accelerator, brakes, and gearshift. To reduce maintenance, there are exterior filler locations for fluids, and the automatic diagnostic system can schedule servicings when needed. An easy-clean exterior paint finish behaves rather like the coating on a non-stick pan - dirt finds it very hard to cling on in the first place and, if it does, it washes off very easily. The YCC is brimming with good ideas that may influence future products.
Chrysler has long suffered from lack of a full-sized sport/utility vehicle to compete in the hot, highly profitable segment. Hummer blazed the trail for large, off-road biased SUVs, making the Jeep Rescue concept a very natural counter to this GM offensive. The Rescue draws upon Jeep heritage to create a massive body-on-frame SUV that would position naturally above the Grand Cherokee and take on the H2. Ready to save lives in remote regions, or profile in Hollywood, the 80-inch-wide Rescue rolls on a 123-inch wheelbase (longer than Chevrolet Tahoe by seven inches). The suspension has adjustable ride height and an additional 4-inch lift available for fording. The massive 37-inch, run-flat tires can be aired down for increased, off-road traction, then pumped up with an on-board tire pressure control system for the ride home. Given the "rescue" theme, this concept truck features AC electric power (10 kW) generation in the field; 3-D topographical mapping software and topographical navigation system; under-chassis, point-of-view cameras for avoiding danger in its path; passive, infrared cameras for search and rescue; satellite telephone, VHF radio, and digital video recorder with satellite transmission; high-tech lighting; and front and back remote-control winches.
In an effort to propel its momentum as the fourth-ranked import brand in the United States, Hyundai has promised one new product every six months between now and 2007. The first volley of that barrage is the new four-door Tucson, scheduled to arrive in dealerships this summer as Hyundai's entry into the small SUV segment. Slotted to fit below the Santa Fe, the Hyundai Tucson is designed to compete with the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Mitsubishi Outlander. With pricing estimated to range from $17,000 to $22,000, it promises to be an economical and versatile playtime companion to a young buyer's sporty and active lifestyle. Base model GL is powered by 2.0L/140-hp DOHC four-cylinder engine paired with a five-speed manual or optional Shiftronic automatic transmission; Hyundai's 2.7L/173-hp DOHC V-6 and Shiftronic are standard in both GLS and LX models. Standard features across all levels include four-wheel disc brakes, on-demand four-wheel drive, 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, remote keyless entry alarm system, power windows and locks, and seat-mounted side-impact airbags for the driver and front seat passenger. Due in dealerships this summer, Hyundai aspires to sell 18,000 Tucsons this year, with annual production between 40,000 to 50,000.
Having started its production history as a Euro-inspired roadster in 1953, the Corvette is forever connected with top-down motoring. The tradition continues this fall, when the sixth-generation coupe is joined by a convertible for the 2005 model year. The base model features a manual cloth top, but a power-operated top option returns for the first time since 1962. With a single button push, the car transforms in 19 seconds from a quiet, closed cockpit to an open roadster. While many modern-day high-tech features can add mass quickly, the Convertible keeps a base curb weight of 3,199 pounds, 49 pounds less than the 2004 model. Even the optional power top mechanism only adds just 14 pounds to the car's weight and occupies no more trunk space than the manual version. Rear visibility is improved with the new model fitted with a glass backlight that that measures nearly 20 percent larger than the 2004 version. Like the coupe, the convertible features a 6.0L/400-hp V-8 LS2 engine. Production begins fall 2004.
Roads are tight and gas is expensive in Europe, so compact cars like the Renault Modus are dime a dozen; the goal in their design is to find space within the vehicle's microscopic footprint, and package it with enough personality to ensure a fun driving experience. Destined to arrive in Euro dealerships in autumn, the supermini Modus is a sporty alternative to the traditional B-segment hatchback slotted to sell above Renault's Clio. The interior feels super spacious thanks to a translucent roof that makes the cabin as bright as a much larger MPV, while its welcoming atmosphere features soft touch fabrics and surfaces in subtle gray color scheme. Its "Triptic" split-folding and sliding rear bench features a folding middle seat that can be adjusted to accommodate two or three passengers, and a split-opening tailgate provides a practical solution for access in tight spaces. Power is provided by a 113-horsepower, 1.6-liter 16-valve engine.
Nissan anticipates crossover vehicles will assume the market share previously occupied by hatchbacks, and strikes hard with its bold multi-function Qashqai, describing it as an "Urban Nomad" design study. Named after a desert-dwelling nomadic tribe living near the Zagros mountains in Southwestern Iran, Qashqai combines the sleek lines of a sporting hatchback with the attitude of a serious 4x4. Qashqai's four-by destiny is obvious in its 9.3-inch ground clearance, tall body (61 inches tall, 73 inches wide, and 169 inches long), jumbo 20-inch wheels wearing Michelin PAX run-flat tires, and extremely compact front and rear overhangs. Rear-hinged back doors open nearly 90-degrees for easy access to its four individual seats thanks to its B-pillarless design. Inside, full-length glazed roof panels give the cabin an airy feeling. Another interesting design feature are "invisible" LED headlamps covered in a "clear ink" paint that matches the car's body color, but disappears when light shines through.
Hyundai's latest concept emerges from the European Design Center in Germany designed from the inside out as a "way of evaluating and preparing to answer the demands and needs of customers who will be seeking more comfort...and less stress in future motoring." The medium-sized C-segment E Cubed concept car can seat four adults comfortably with multiple seating configurations and a spacious "walkthrough" front area accessible via doors that open a full 90 degrees. A VDO-designed instrument panel replaces conventional dials and gauges with a multi-function speedometer and a retractable center console featuring an LCD information screen. In back, an electrically operated bicycle carrier is integrated into the rear license plate mountings. Power is provided to this running concept by a modified version of Hyundai's 1.8-liter/137-hp gasoline engine. The 163-inch family car is not based on any current Hyundai platform, though its MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspensions are similar to current production models.
Built of a three-part carbon body structure (hood, passenger compartment, and engine) resting on a tubular chassis, Peugeot's 407 Silhouette concept is streamlined for the daredevil rider, endowed with aerodynamics designed for an intense driving experience. It's powered by a V-6 engine that promises more than 300 horsepower, mounted in the rear central longitudinal position and linked to a six-speed sequential shifter. The Silhouette's sporty interior is highlighted by red and black leather, and features a steering wheel that houses a color screen that displays temperature and satellite navigation system. The exterior is finished in metallic light gray paint, and wears a lion's head on each fender to remind of Peugeot's history.
Chrysler Group CEO Dieter Zetsche announced in Geneva a new initiative to expand the sales of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles worldwide. Part of that product offensive was launched in Geneva with the introduction of two Crossfire models, the Roadster, which was unveiled in Detroit and an expansion of the SRT brand with the announcement of SRT-6 versions of both the Coupe and Roadster. The stunning Roadster retained the art deco styling of the Coupe, while providing the means to store its automatic soft top underneath an integrated tonneau cover. The Crossfire Roadster will go on sale later this spring with the SRT-6 version to follow in the fall.
Given that its powered by the previous generation SLK 3.2-liter V6, it should come as no surprise that a high performance version, using AMG components, would follow the introduction of the coupe last spring. With its supercharged, hand-built 330-horsepower V6, the Crossfire now has the power on tap to take advantage of the car's outstanding handling characteristics. In Geneva, CEO Dieter Zetsche told journalists that SRT would stand as a brand of its own within the Chrysler Group as the SRT-6 is the first SRT branded Chrysler vehicle. When pressed for details of what's next for the SRT brand, Chrysler spokespeople like SRT Director Dan Knott were mum but we'd put money on an SRT-8 version of the Dodge Magnum sport tourer, with at least 400-horsepower to be next on the agenda.
With all the financial travail at Fiat and its relationship with GM somewhat cloudy, it appears that Alfa's return to the US anytime soon is in doubt. That's a shame, as the 156 sedan-based Crosswagon unveiled in Geneva would be a great foundation for its return to these shores. While the sleekly styled five-door offers some SUV attributes with its all-wheel-drive system, Alfa indicates that it's biased towards car-like handling characteristics. Like Pontiac's GTO, it won't make brand purists happy, but with 150 horsepower split by three differentials, and with torque biased to the rear, a revitalized Alfa, with the Crosswagon as its foundation, could be positioned as an Audi alternative in the entry-level luxury segment.
The production version of the Murciélago Roadster kept the Lamborghini booth packed for days after the cover came off on Wednesday. Expected to reach worldwide markets in the second half of this year, it continues the long tradition of Raging bull roadsters that started with the 350 GTS almost 40 years ago. Believe it or not, Lamborghini stresses safety in the design brief for the Murciélago as the front and lateral glass components have been designed like a crash helmet visor to best integrate with the vehicle. Powered by a 580-horsepower V-12 with a six-speed mated to permanent all-wheel-drive, the Murciélago epitomizes the masculine style for which Lamborghini is justifiably famous. Lamborghini suggests that, after removing the roof, speeds should be kept under 99mph; depending on its aerodynamic configuration with the top up, the Murciélago's top speed is "circa" 198 mph.
Although long absent from the US scene, Citroën is a major player in Europe and the C4 Sport rally car concept shows the shape of things to come for its popular Xsara range, a staple of the World Rally Championship scene. Citroën claims that the C4 Sport concept is not constrained by the limitations of sporting regulations and represents a bold stylistic development that offers a futuristic vision of post-Xsara WRC competition cars. The brand continues its strategy of renewal with the C4 Citroën Sport, a concept car that is more distinctive than ever and that clearly expresses the energy and drive embodied by motor sports. The profile is distinctive, with twin chrome chevrons at the front proudly identifying the brand. The roof extends right to the rear of the car, giving the C4 Sport a particularly lithe profile and enhancing aerodynamics. The passenger compartment is exceptionally bright and airy thanks to a totally transparent rear roof section that merges with the hatch window.
Europeans are getting a taste of Korean value as Kia continues its continental expansion using the occasion of the Geneva show to announce a new manufacturing facility in Eastern Europe -- Slovakia to be exact. With the capability to build up to 200,000 units annually, it will position Kia to sell up to 500,000 units a year in Europe by the end of the decade. One of the models it could build in that facility is the new Cerato, a C-segment family car that will be offered with two gasoline and two new common-rail diesel engines (1.5-liter/100 hp and 2.0-liter/110 hp), Kia's first such powerplants. While small by US standards, a version of the Cerato could serve as an entry-level vehicle in the North American market. Kia also showed a Cerato Green design study, an even more environmentally friendly concept version built by French coachbuilder Groupe Henri Heuliez SA in Cerizay.
With the Alessandro Volta, Toyota collaborates with Italdesign-Giugiaro to take the concept of a supercar into the hybrid era. Think of it as an exotic that can be parked in the garage of a Sierra Club activist. Alessandro Volta starts with Toyota's most advanced hybrid system, transplanted from the RX400h (also on display in Geneva). On the Alessandro Volta, the 3.3-liter V-6 is fitted behind the rear axle - it's not connected directly to the rear wheels. Motion comes from two electrically powered engines, one per axle providing all-wheel drive and pushing 402 horsepower to the pavement. This layout eliminates the traditional transmission and gearbox longitudinal components. The seating layout is three abreast; in Geneva that means three leggy models who dropped jaws of the predominantly male automotive press corps, in stark contrast to the goings-on over at the Volvo booth.
It's important to keep an open mind about the unusual concepts often presented at auto shows, case in point, Suzuki's S-Ride tandem two-seater. A lightweight compact car inspired from the basic layout of motorcycles, its aluminum outer shell holds two seats arranged in a tandem layout; the passenger rides in back with his legs stretched out astride the driver's, much like when driving a cycle or scooter. Entry is via a clear roof enclosure that lifts out of the way for step-in access. (Female passengers will want to avoid wearing short skirts...) Its engine is located amidships, towards the rear. Calling it "an active commuting car as an urban transportation tool," the S-Ride concept is targeted to young people and explores next-generation video telematics, with a "lover's sync" system that navigates the vehicle to the location of the people the driver is conversing with, as well real-time access to various town information. Blending the fun of bikes with the convenience of autos, Suzuki says its S-Ride points the way to a new direction for mini-vehicles.
Some cars aspire for high fuel economy and others strive to be high tech, but the Landbreeze (which makes its second appearance after its debut in Tokyo) is a compact SUV that strives to "employ advanced environmental technology to coexist in harmony with nature." Go figure. Built entirely of materials that are naturally recyclable (especially aluminum), and using non-petroleum-based tires, its technology is designed to contribute to a "better relationship between people and nature." Its hybrid powertrain utilizes a 40-cid (660 cc) naturally aspirated engine for low fuel consumption. Meanwhile, a dash-mounted three-dimensional information bubble adds fun to the great outdoors by projecting navigation information for the driver to cut down on unnecessary driving time, while simultaneously showing "nature information" to the passenger.
Volkswagen claims its lovely concept C is a design study that demonstrates the possibility for a hardtop convertible that could eventually be slotted above the New Beetle Convertible. Developed from the start to be a cabriolet, the concept C is also a full-fledged four-seat coupe thanks to an innovative electro-hydraulic folding steel hardtop with an integrated sliding glass sunroof. Positioned in the lower-mid-class segment, unlike many cars of this style, concept C promises easy-entry rear seats with a comfortable and ergonomic design for rear passengers and offers 14 cubic feet of stowage and room for skis with the top up. Motivation is thanks to a 2.0-liter/107-hp fuel-injected engine linked to a six-speed manual transmission, and it rides on a wide track for exceptional handling and agility. Volkswagen says this car is a view of things to come. We say, "Bring it on."
Long absent from the US market, Peugeot is a major player in markets outside North America and has always been a leader in the station wagon category. In Geneva, they took the wraps off the new 407 SW, a large station wagon aimed at active families with lots of gear to transport. The 407 SW, which features an ample glass roof, engulfs the passenger compartment and its five occupants with light. Manufactured from tinted laminated glass about 0.25-inch thick, the innovative roof can be completely or partially darkened (nine positions), by means of four electrically controlled overlapping panels which fold away discreetly at the rear of the roof. The 407 SW range includes sedan and coupe models, and five engines: 1.8-liter, 2.0-liter, and 2.2-liter gas engines, and a pair of diesels displacing 1.6- and 2.0-liters, as well as a choice between manual or automatic transmissions.
Starting in early 2005, Nissan will offer the Murano crossover vehicle in selected European markets. As in the US, Nissan's revival in Europe is product-led and will illustrate to continental customers that Nissan offers innovative products in key market segments. The biggest difference between the US and European versions of the Murano is that in Europe, the Murano will be marketed standard with a six-speed continuously variable transmission (CVT) mated to Nissan's all Mode full-time 4x4 system. Usually used as a means of enhancing engines with low power and torque outputs, in the Murano, the CVT keeps Nissan's 3.5-liter V-6 engine always in the optimum torque band.
Seat, part of the Audi Brand Group at Volkswagen, used Geneva to unveil the production version of the Golf-sized Altea, first shown in prototype form at last year's Frankfurt show. Looking a bit like a cross between the Ford Focus five-door and a Lexus RX330, especially around the C/D-pillar, the Altea is an MSV (Multi Sports Vehicle), featuring several innovations, including FSI technology, dual-clutch DSG gearbox, engines delivering more than 100-horsepower output, newly designed front suspension, multi-link rear axle, new electro-mechanical steering gear, and an exclusive SEAT Altea element -- wind-screen wiper blades camouflaged the windscreen's side pillars (A-pillar). There are four engines in the Altea range, two gas and two diesel. The gas engine choices include the 150-horsepower 2.0-liter FSI and the 102-horsepower 1.6-liter. The diesel range features the 140-horsepower 2.0-liter TDI and the 105-horsepower 1.9-liter TDI versions.
Volkswagen, criticized much for a lack of distinction between products sharing the same platform, is moving its many brands into clearer market positions. In Geneva, Skoda introduced the new Octavia, a Jetta-sized version of VW's most popular platform. The use of gasoline engines with direct fuel injection is noteworthy, as well as offering a direct-shift gearbox with both automatic and manual gear selection, leading to significant improvements in fuel economy. The new Octavia features an all-new chassis it shares with the latest version of the Golf, and a multi-element rear axle, which promises to give the car excellent driving characteristics along with superior comfort. In its very competitive B-segment market, competing even with sister brands within VW, the Skoda Octavia built in the Czech Republic, strives to offer a little bit more car for the money.
The Bitter company, based near Hanover, Germany, has built a number of different custom-bodied vehicles based on Opel running gear over the years, starting with the Bitter CD in the early 1970's. This concept continues the tradition (basically), by rebodying a Holden Monaro/Pontiac GTO coupe (itself a derivative of an Opel design). All body panels are altered or replaced in new steel bodywork, and the interior is greatly upgraded. The company anticipates making vehicles available for sale across Europe late this year.
Designed in Murcia, Spain, this diminutive roadster is powered by one of two versions of Ford's European four-cylinder engine making 145 or 195 horsepower, and selling for a price of 35,000 to 39,000 Euros. The look is rather like a Smart Roadster scaled up for tall people. Open-air motoring entails removing a one-piece targa-type top. Why should you care? Because a manufacturer has been identified in Boston, and the Xtamy is expected to go on sale in the U.S., powered by a Focus 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and not as a kit car, but as a crash-tested, fully homologated vehicle. But don't hold your breath--no on-sale date has been determined yet.
Two years ago Fioravanti wowed us all with an Alfa convertible concept with a top that rotated rearward on pivots located mid-C-pillar (that concept has been licensed and will appear within a year). This time around, the company wanted to explore opportunities to make a vehicle's structure more open and airy by using thick sheet aluminum in the C-pillar and roof with holes drilled through it. Extensive use of LED lighting front and rear picks up on the "points of light" theme. The overall shape was one of the nicer ones in the Palexpo.
One can always count on Geneva for one or two truly wacky ideas. How's this one: a supercar-camper hybrid with a roof that raises to allow youthful busy people on the go to sleep wherever they find themselves at bedtime. But wait, there's more! The little pods on the side are interchangeable, and can carry gasoline, luggage, a shower, a wrinkle-free suit, or a kitchen. Answering the question nobody may ever ask...
Here's an automotive trivia question with which to stump your pals: "Name Morocco's only supercar constructor." Yes, Laraki is poised to enter production with, not one, but two versions of this vaguely Gallardo-esque supercar, one powered by a Brabus-Mercedes V-8 making 575 hp, and the other motivated by a Brabus-Mercedes twin-turbo V-12 good for 660 horses. And watch this space this fall when a new 2+2-seat model, named the Buroc, will make its debut in Paris. The carbon-fiber body and aluminum chassis are totally original to Laraki. Pricing has not been set, and U.S. sales are not anticipated.
Dilip Chhabra Design PVT Ltd. is based in Mumbai, India, and is yet another of the many design and prototyping shops with goods on display in Geneva, only theirs can be built at about 1/40th the cost of the European and North American shops. The fabrication quality of the all-steel running prototypes is quite impressive, as we've seen on cars like the Aston Martin V-8 Vantage show car. This one is based on the British Noble GT and powered by a Ford Duratec V-6 mounted amidships. DC reckons they could profitably build a run of 200 near-supercars priced in the $120,000 range. This may not be the ideal vehicle for that market segment, however.
Fuore is just one of a dozen or so design and prototyping houses that always display their wares in Geneva. You've seen their handiwork in the form of Mitsubishi's Pajero Paris-Dakar rally racer and Subaru's recent B11S concept. The BlackJag concept made its debut in Barcelona, but we weren't there to see it (nor were most of you, we suspect), so it looked new to us. The idea here was to explore building a road car with F1-inspired underpinnings. It wasn't the most successful design on the show floor, so don't expect Jaguar to pick up the option to sell this one.
The folks at Mazel aren't quite ready to exclaim Mazeltov, but their concept for a new supercar to revive the legendary Hispano-Suiza name is at least a step closer to reality, now that a V-10 engine has been selected and fitted to the property that was first showed here several years ago. The Barcelona-based design and prototyping shop makes its living building show cars for other manufacturers, like Lancia's recent Barcelona show star, the Stilnovo. A bit more funding is required to make the HS21 (Hispano-Suiza for the 21st century) a reality. That, and a pool of buyers willing to shell out some half-million bucks for a brand with no recent history...
Audi's top model in its range, the A8 L 6.0 quattro, makes its international debut in Geneva after its original appearance at the 2004 Detroit Auto Show. As the name reveals, this aluminum-intensive premium sedan is powered at all four wheels by a 450-hp W-12 engine. The 12-cylinder powerplant is teamed with a six-speed Tiptronic transmission with Sport mode, enabling the driver to race 0-60 mph in just over five seconds and promising a sprint to 120 mph in just about 17 seconds. Road holding is enhanced with an adaptive air suspension that continuously varies damper settings to optimize dynamics and comfort. Distinct grille and LED headlamp treatment, as well as trapezoidal exhaust tailpipes, announce the W-12's presence. This Teutonic super sedan goes on sale in the U.S. market by end of 2004.
The MG Rover Group celebrates its centennial anniversary with a top-of-the-line touring sedan, the Rover V8, an illustrious landyacht descended from the archetypal Rover P5B. Distinguished by an exclusive front-end treatment and a bespoke interior originally derived from the Connoisseur SE specifications, the V8 promises new levels of luxury, comfort, and quality. Inside, leather seats, light oak wood, and plush carpets, along with GPS navigation, in-car teletext TV, Harman-Kardon audio, and multi-disc DVD entertainment pamper the driver's senses. Built from Rover's large car 75 platform, the V8 is motivated by a Ford-sourced inline-mounted 255-hp/4.6-liter engine promising maximum speeds above 150 mph, with acceleration to 60 mph below 7 seconds. Nobody can say how much fuel it would burn in that effort, but we're certain it would be an extremely comfortable race.
Saab has displayed a series of three-door concepts over the past couple years, but with the 9-3 Sport-Hatch the GM division closes in on a future production hatchback model. Borrowing interior and exterior styling from the 9-3X crossover coupe concept we saw at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Sport-Hatch makes a tasteful, modern wagon. Targeting essentially active Yuppies, this four-seater features a glass roof with integrated cargo anchors, powered tailgate with integrated bike-carrier, and additional underfloor storage. The "Sport" name is justified by the lively 2.0-liter/250-hp turbocharged engine with a Sentronic automatic transmission borrowed from the 9-3 Sport Sedan. Saab was not shy about the mid-size wagon's production intent , with the 9-3 Sport-Hatch expected to help expand the Saab lineup along with the 9-2 and a sport/utility vehicle.
In Europe Subaru occupies much the same niche as it does in the U.S., a maker of versatile all-wheel-drive cars bred with WRC DNA. The 3.0R Spec B brings a new level of performance and excitement to Subaru's mainstream Legacy model. This new top-of-the-range model features a 3.0-liter six-cylinder boxer engine with 245 horsepower, mated to a six-speed manual transmission. In addition to the four-door sedan pictured here, the 3.0R Spec B will also be offered in an attractive five-door station wagon configuration which would be a welcome addition here in the U.S. for someone seeking a high-performance grocery getter with room for a family of five.
Moving rapidly from concept form at this past fall's Frankfurt show to pre-production reality, the CLS range offers a decidedly coupe-like take on the premium luxury sedan market. Two variants were disclosed, starting with the CLS 350 touting a 3.5L/267-hp V-6 matched with the 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission. This drivetrain combination is good for a claimed 0-60 mph time of seven seconds. Step up to the CLS 500 for a 5.0L/300-hp V-8 able to shave another second off the 0-60 mph sprint, plus an exhaustive roster of Mercedes luxury amenties. The CLS 500 is further distinguished by an air suspension, automatic climate control, and 18-inch light-alloy wheels. Both models feature Sensotronic Brake Control and the latest generation of the Electronic Stability Program, with a long list of options including Distronic proximity control, Linguatronic voice-operated control system, and the keyless access and drive authorization system Keyless-Go. The CLS range begins its worldwide roll out in fall 2004.
VW continues to roll out next-generation Golf model variations and powertrains in Europe, while American enthusiasts wait for the Pueblo, Mexico, plant to transition to the new car for 2005. The latest addition to the range is a naturally aspirated diesel engine fitted with a highly efficient unit injector system to provide extreme fuel economy in a land where wine is cheaper than petrol. This 2.0 SDI engine joins six other powertrains, which include the 140-hp 2.0 TDI diesel and 150-hp 2.0 FSI direct-injection gasoline engine expected for the U.S. market. This latter engine boasts a marked significant power increase over the current, long-running 2.0-liter I-4 and is paired with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed Tiptronic transmissions. Longer, wider, and taller than the MkIV it replaces, the new Golf is expected to eventually spawn convertible, sport/utility vehicle, and crossover wagon variants.
Audi strives to set a benchmark in the luxury performance segment with the debut of its new A6 sedan. Following in the footsteps of its big brother A8, the A6 offers all-new engines linked to an assortment of high-performance transmissions and drivetrains promising dynamic driving beyond comparison, all wrapped in elegant sheetmetal with premium accoutrements typical of Audi design. Underhood, five powerplants include 174-hp/2.4-liter V-6, 252-hp/3.2-liter FSI V-6, and powerful 329-hp/4.2-liter V-8 gasoline engines, as well as 138-hp/2.0-liter and 221-hp/3.0-liter V-6 TDI choices. Supreme fuel economy and superior performance result from standard six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, though Quattro all-wheel drive is standard with the 4.2 and 3.0 TDI engines and optional with the 3.2 FSI model, while both front-drive and Quattro models benefit from sporty four-link front and self-tracking trapezoidal-link rear suspensions inherited from the A8.
In the 20 years since its introduction, BMW has sold more than 35,000 units of its popular M5 thanks to its successful synthesis of sporty appearance combined with truly high performance. BMW released a new concept version of its Formula 1 racer disguised as stylish sedan at Geneva, powered by a 5.0-liter V-10 engine closely related to the engine currently powering the BMW Williams Formula 1 racing car. Thanks to the nearly 500 horsepower it produces as well as its seven-speed sequential manual gearbox, engineers say it will propel the car to 62 mph in "well under 5 seconds" and up to 125 mph in just 13. The chassis rides on the same all-aluminum suspension of the new BMW 5 Series and borrows some elements from the 7 Series to achieve the best power-to-weight ratio in this segment, and offers optimum driving behavior regardless of whether it's cruising in city traffic or racing at Nurburgring. BMW won't commit to exact info, but hints that a successor to the current M5 based on this concept could go on sale within the year.
The new Fiesta ST heralds the return of an exciting performance car to Ford's European small car range, promising a new direction for the Fiesta in economy, performance, and handling. Based on the original fast 1981 XR2 Fiesta, and developed by Ford's TeamRS alongside the Junior World Rallye car we saw at the 2003 Tokyo Motor Show, the ST is powered by a 147-hp 2.0-liter Duratec ST engine and matched to a chassis tuned to make enthusiastic drivers smile. From its free-breathing grill and lower bumper design, to its lowered stance and 11-spoke alloy wheels wrapped in low-profile high-performance tires, the three-door RS visually demonstrates its performance credentials. Beyond promising a 2-second improvement on the 60-mph time held by the previous 1.6-liter/98-hp model, Ford is withholding any additional technical details until closer to its European release at the end of 2004.
The Maverick, Ford's European counterpart to our Escape, features a fresh new look inside and out for 2005, as well as expanded on- and off-road capability, and capable new engines. Its revised design includes new headlamps and foglamps, egg-crate grille, new front and rear bumper fascias, and new 16-inch aluminum wheels. Inside, the interior receives improved craftsmanship and upgraded materials, and increased noise insulation for a quieter cabin environment. Ford's sophisticated new Intelligent 4WD system provides computer-controlled power to each wheel based on driver input and road conditions for increased stability and traction, as well as more fuel-efficient operation. Maverick also receives Ford's new 150-plus-hp, 2.2-liter Duratec engine linked to a five-speed transmission, as well as a more powerful 200-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 version mated to a four-speed automatic tranny.
It is agreed by most observers that the new 5-series is the best of the recent flame-surfaced Chris Bangle designs and in the 5-series, the new station wagon "Touring" version is the best realized of all. In Geneva one of the stars of the BMW stand was the 530d Touring, a luxury diesel-powered estate wagon designed for markets where fuel commonly costs $5 per gallon or more. In addition to the 3.0-liter diesel, other engine choices include a 2.5-liter diesel, a 2.5-liter six, and a 4.4-liter V-8 shared with the X5, all mated to manual, sequential, and automatic six-speed transmissions. An all-aluminum chassis and aluminum body panels keep weight in check while the iDrive control system has been improved with the addition of an enhanced voice control, Head-Up Display, Active Cruise Control, Adaptive Headlights with bi-xenon beams and two-stage brake lights (Brake Force Display). Additional high-tech features include self-leveling suspension, Active Steering, Dynamic Drive, DSC with DTC, run flat tires, and Tire Defect Indicator.
Part SUV, part people carrier, Fiat unveiled the Idea 5 Terre in an attempt to plug in a dedicated model for each identifiable market niche. Based on the Idea mini-MPV (multi purpose vehicle), the Idea 5 Terre gets distinctive two-tone bodywork, aluminum protective guards front and rear along with a raised suspension to give it some actual off-road off-road ability, and the necessary SUV styling cues. On the inside, natural materials like woven coconut matting on the floor combine with a moss-like instrument panel accented with metallic switchgear, to give the youth-oriented Idea 5 Terre a very functional interior. While just a concept, with increased interest in small, lightweight SUVs in Europe, this one is almost certain to see production in some revised form.
Fiat, like many other manufacturers, is not above mining its own rich heritage for inspiration, in this case giving birth to the well-received Trepiuno, which looks to the Fiat 500, a 500 cc micro car that put Italy back on four wheels after World War II. Based on the existing Panda platform, the Trepiuno is rumored to have already been approved for production later this year or early in 2005. A direct competitor to micro city cars like the smart, the Trepiuno seats three adults and a child or dog within its 130-inch overall length. The folding cloth top gives the Trepiuno an especially airy interior for a car so small while the thin-shell seats promise comfort while saving room. Far from seeming like they've run out of ideas, the Trepiuno would seem to indicate that Fiat design is on the road back. We can even imagine a high-performance Abarth version to go head-to-head with the Brabus smart coupe-roadster.
It's been four years since it was first launched, and that means the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is due for a major refreshing. A more dynamic appearance is created by the redesigned front bumper and radiator grille. A new paint process promises an even longer-lasting shine using nano-particle technology. Handling is enhanced with the Direct Control package that provides more agile cornering with no loss of comfort, a more direct steering ratio, and reconfigured standard and sports suspension systems. The new six-speed manual transmission is now easier to operate, more precise, and has a shorter shift travel. With a wide variety of engine/transmission combinations available, the versatile C-Class attempts to cover every base in the near-luxury category which is now flagshipped by the C 55 AMG, powered for the first time by a V-8. With 270 horsepower on tap, M3 owners will no longer be able to run off and hide at the sight of a C-Class in its rearview mirror. New levels of premium sound invade the cockpit with an available 320-watt sound system with surround sound, while the LINGUATRONIC voice control system operates the car telephone and numerous audio functions by voice commands.
If gas prices continue in the direction they're going, it won't be long before American consumers begin asking for vehicles like this little space wagon concept. The fifth concept vehicle presented by Mazda in the last six months, this six-seat people mover is built on architecture borrowed from the all-new Mazda3 platform. Powered by the same transverse-mounted 16-valve 2.3-liter/169-hp MZR engine found in the Mazda3 and Mazda6, its four-speed Activematic transmission can be operated in automatic or pseudo-manual modes. The bright cabin was designed to balance utility, comfort, and quality, and is accessible via dual sliding doors that open to three seating rows, each with two individual leather-wrapped captain-style chairs. For flexibility, the second- and third-row seats easily fold away to provide a nearly flat cargo floor. While it is labeled a concept, Mazda hints that it could be the foundation for a future space wagon. It certainly appears ready for production.
Mazda first presented the MX-Micro Sport concept at the 2004 Detroit Auto Show to explore American interest in a 2005 model destined for "key automotive markets" during calendar year 2004. The light and nimble MX-Micro Sport five-door concept is about 20 inches shorter than the Mazda3 wagon, yet it is nearly as wide and 3.3 inches taller. Consequently, the MX-Micro Sport provides a surprisingly workable interior for four passengers despite its length. The luggage compartment comes equipped with a detachable partition for flexible stowage arrangements, allowing below-floor storage or cargo cover. The MX-Micro Sport concept features a MacPherson-type front suspension and a torsion beam rear suspension tuned to provide the lively driving response. Couple that with a 2.0-liter/148-hp four-cylinder engine, and the mechanicals promise quite an entertaining ride. Is America ready the MX-Micro? You decide. Mazda is listening.
Small, folding top cars are all the rage now in Europe and Opel wants a piece of the action, using Geneva to introduce the Tigra Twin Top to compete with Peugeot's successful 206 CC. The new Tigra Twin Top features an electro-hydraulic, retractable steel roof giving the sporty two-seater a dual coupe or cabriolet personality. Thanks to its clever folding-top construction wherein the roof folds down into the trunk, the Tigra still has a very usable trunk, both as coupe or as a cabrio, providing more than 8 cubic feet of storage space. Powered by a variety of ECOTEC four-cylinder engines, GM expects the Tigra Twin Top, along with the recently introduced, Golf-sized Astra, will be an important part of their efforts to revitalize the Opel brand in Europe.
Standing out in a show filled with exotica, Maserati got hearts racing with the MC12 -- Maserati Competizione, 12-cylinder supercar. Largely based on the legendary Ferrari Enzo, the long-wheelbase MC12 was developed as a carbon-fiber halo car for the brand, certain to draw attention to the volume cars and provide a robust platform for an international motorsports assault. To be built in Corsa (race model) and Stradale (street model) forms, the MC12 employs a slightly milder version of the 6.0-liter Enzo V-12, producing 624 horsepower with 481 lb-ft of torque. The engine is engaged with a six-speed Cambiocorsa paddle-shifted transmission. The combination is good for a factory-certified 3.8-second 0-60-mph time and 205-mph top speed. To satisfy FIA homologation rules, Maserati will build 25 Stradales in 2004, with another 25 planned for 2005. These micro-volume production cars are not intended to be sold in the United States, though for fantasy purposes, the price translates to about $800,000 apiece.
Every year we're impressed by the fanciful designs presented by Rinspeed Design, and unlike many auto show concepts, these cars usually function as claimed. This year's technical marvel is the Splash, a 137-hp turbocharged, natural-gas powered sports car that promises top speeds of 125 mph on land, but which also turns into a watertight stern-drive amphibious vehicle thanks to cleverly integrated hydraulics that deploy at the touch of a button. An additional integrated hydrofoil system enables the Splash to 'fly' at an altitude of about two feet above the surface and up to speeds of 45 knots (about 50 mph) on smooth water--fast enough for water skiing or knee boarding. Splash is built of multi-layered carbon composite (a state-of-the-art plastic mainly used in Formula One racing) with buoyancy chambers inside for additional lift on the water--and a bilge pump, just in case... Purely a concept, the Rinspeed Splash claims to be the first and only sports car in the world that can drive, swim, and fly over water.