2004 Mazda 6 Wagon: Mazda puts two new skins on its popular 2004 Mazda6 sport sedan lineup: the Mazda6 Sport Wagon and Mazda6 5-Door. The Mazda6 Sport Wagon and Mazda6 5-Door offer additional variety for consumers who desire versatility and style but yearn for the "Zoom Zoom" soul of a sports car, or so the marketing goes. From the exterior, the Sport Wagon and 5-Door differ from the sedan only from the B-pillar back. Underhood Sport Wagons come equipped with a 220-horsepower DOHC V-6 engine and standard five-speed manual transmission (five-speed Sport Shift A/T with manual shift mode available). The Mazda6 5-Door, like the sedan, comes with either a 160-horsepower I-4 (available with five-speed manual or four-speed Sport Shift A/T with manual shift mode) or the 220-horsepower V-6 (available with five-speed manual or five-speed Sport Shift A/T with manual shift mode).

2004 Mazda 3: Built on the new Ford global compact C1 platform, the new Protege-replacing sedan and five-door hatchback share componentry with the new Euro-only Ford Focus and Volvo S40/V50. Attractive, sporty, the new 3 is on sale now.

2004 Mini Cooper S 40th: Forty years ago, Paddy Hopkirk beat big Mercedes, Volvos and Fords, and the like to win the Rallye Monte Carlo with a 70-horsepower Mini Cooper S. Mini celebrates that victory (the first of four) with the 40th, as we'll call it, a car shorter than its full name. The 40th features the stock 163-horse supercharged engine, Chili red paint with a white top and red-trimmed leather seats, special three-spoke steering wheel, chrome grille, mirrors and trunk latch, on-board computer, special floor mats, GB badges, Xenon headlamps, front and rear fogs, special dark gray 17-inch wheels with run-flat tires, extra performance gauges, replica hood decals, a plaque engraved with Hopkirk's autograph, and magnetic-removable "37" racing numbers on the doors. Price is about $27,000, but hurry, only 1000 will be available in the U.S.

2004 Porsche Boxster S : Porsche celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 550 Spyder with a special-edition Boxster S. Since the Boxster was first shown in 1993 as a dream-inspiring silver concept, comparisons to the classic Porsche were commonplace. Now, the lineage ic elebrated with a limited run of 1953 Boxsters, commemorating the 1953 Paris motor show where the 550 Spyder made its world debut. For this car, the 3.2-liter flat-six engine output is bumped to 264 horsepower, up from 258. The manual six-speed shifter has 15 percent less travel, and the Tiptronic auto transmission is available with steering wheel shifter paddles. Other key elements include lowered suspension, wider track, racier exhaust note, Litronic headlamps with dynamic beam angle adjustment, 17-inch front/18-inch rear Carrera wheels, and "50 Years of the 550 Spyder" badging. The color scheme is silver exterior with a dark brown Cocoa top and interior trim. This very special Porsche Boxster S goes on sale in March 2004 priced at $59,900.

2004 Toyota Solara convertible: The last Solara convertibles were made from chopped-top Solara coupes, and suffered serious cowl shake. For '04, the Solara convertible is built in Toyota's factory from the get-go, with different sheetmetal from the coupe, special reinforcements, and "significantly higher torsional rigidity." The car's shoulder-line crease sets it apart from the coupe, and the result is a more handsome car. The convertible comes with significantly reduced road and wind noise over last year's model, and it promises to be much more durable over time. Its only engine is the 3.3L/225-hp V-6 coupled to a five-speed automatic with sequential manumatic control. An integrated lip spoiler, 17-inch alloys and tires, full headliner, and large glass rear window also are standard. Trim levels are SE and SLE. Toyota expects the convertible to take 25 percent of Solara sales, about twice the old car's share. Look for it in showrooms in March, just in time for spring.

2004 Volkswagen Golf R32: Volkswagen elevates the Golf's sport compact status with the sizzling production R32, offering more performance and prestige than any GTI in hot-hatch history. At the core of this special model is a 3.2-liter/240-horse V-6, routing its power through a six-speed manual, and ultimately putting it to the ground through a 4Motion all-wheel drive system. The German automaker claims a 6.4-second 0-60 mph time for this tautly sprung model with a 153 mph top speed. Beyond gusto, the two-door R32 touts an extensive array of standard equipment, including automatic climate control system, premium sound system, rain sensor, deep-body-hugging seats, and Xenon headlamps. Ample leather and aluminum trim complete the upscale interior treatment. The MSRP price for the R32 is $29,100.

2004 Volvo S40/V50: The entry-level, near-lux Volvo range moves up in sophistication, power, and safety for 2005. The Belgium-built S40/V50 features an increased track and width over the S40/V50 range it replaces, benefiting road dynamics and interior packaging. Measuring 1.8-inches longer than the recently introduced S40 sedan, the V50 wagon is structured with not only space in mind, but safety, putting the increased size to use in protecting occupants. Typical Volvo, the V50 is overflowing with safety systems such as whiplash protect, side airbags, traction control, stability control, electronic brake assist, ABS, and clever deformation strategies. Power has also improved, with two new inline five-cylinder engines offering 168-hp and 218-hp, in turbo form. Pricing was announced for the S40, with the sedan starting at $24,875, making it 2.1 percent less than the current car. Both the S40 and V50 go on sale in the spring as 2004.5 models.