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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Aug 23, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


By Contributing Editor JOHN-FREDRIK WRIGHT Photos by LUDVIG JURESKOG Every three years, the Frankfurt or Paris Auto Show (whichever it is that particular year) gets a little competition from a most unexpected source: The Frozen North. For nine days, Stockholm gets to be the center of auto activity in Europe. And it uses these nine days to the fullest.

I was amused when I read through the auto show's website (, it looked as if this show thought a little too much of itself - comparing itself to, among others, the Detroit, Paris and Frankfurt shows. However, after spending two days at this show, I might have to reconsider my skepticism. I was at the Paris show in September, and it was big, very big. The Stockholm Auto Show is certainly not as large, but the Swedes have nonetheless done a great job. One might also add that this is Scandinavia's largest show, and that many European cars are featured here that never make it across the Pond to the States. CONCEPT HALL, DESIGN HALL The Stockholm Auto show website read: The highlight of Year 2003 will be "Design, Color, and Shape". Interesting, I thought, wondering what they were going to do that was so special. Well, I was answered almost immediately after stepping through the main gates. A hall was devoted to design and to concept cars. There were designers sculpting new cars in miniature and full size out of clay - both very cool and very interesting.

There were concept cars from, among others, Volvo, Saab, and, (in my opinion) the most interesting and coolest: the Audi Pikes Peak. Its eight-cylinder, twin-turbo engine produces peak torque of 630 Nm and accelerates from 0-to-60 mph in 4.7 seconds. The Pikes Peak has all-road capability and can handle moderate off-roading. In my mind Audi has done a fantastic job with the design, making it look somewhat like a VW Phaeton on steroids. Very classy and yet very beefy at the same time. Bravo, Audi! If this car makes it into production, and it looks as if it will, we will be hearing great things about it everywhere. Another car in the concept hall was the Saab 9-3X. This Saab sports car is supposed to let you drive a sports car without having to sit on the floor and look at the hubcaps of other cars. Saab says the 9-3X will take you wherever your sporty lifestyle will want to go, and keep you smiling all the way. To further push towards this year's slogan, Design, Color, and Shape, Volvo moved parts of their design studio to the show. Accordingly, there were designers working on clay cars, answering questions and showing how some of their advanced computer programs work. Much of the designing revolved around Volvo's new SCC (Safety Concept Car). THE MAIN HALLS Volvo Judging by the size of Volvos display, I would not be surprised if someone who didn't know better thought that Volvo was the largest car manufacturer in the world. Compared to the other manufacturers at this show, Volvo had the biggest display by far, covering an entire corner of the hall. The car company had 16 cars representing the entire product line, and one concept car displayed in their corner. The concept car on offer was the very interesting Volvo VCC (Versatility Concept Car). With its suicide doors, advanced looks, and huge wheel rims the VCC caught the eye of any passer-by who wasn't blind. "The VCC is a design vision, representing what a future car from Volvo might look like" says Volvo. Considering how the present day XC90, V70R, and S60R all evolved relatively quickly from concepts, it may not be long before we see a production VCC. "Large luxury cars are often said to be like dinosaurs, soon to be extinct because of bad environmental qualities", says Volvo. To avoid becoming extinct, Volvo pushes technology and calls it Smarter Luxury.

The motor used is a turbocharged direct-injection straight six with a volume of 2.6 liters. The motor produces 250 horses, and yet the fuel consumption is at a really low 6.5 liters per 100 kilometers (translates into 36.19 mpg). This combination of low mileage and high performance is possible due to a new turbo technology, and Direct Start & Stop, which turns off the motor when the car is stopped. The interior of the VCC is very high-tech. The entertainment system includes access to music and videos, wireless displays with touch-functions for all passengers. Digital, flexible instrumentation with an analog design is an interesting touch. Another new system for this car is the V-Pulse, which tells the driver of the car's condition. The remote control will have a steady beat when the car is running normally - a soft pulse feeling in your hand. The pulse rises if something is wrong, for example if the car is left unlocked or if the alarm is activated. A small display tells you what is wrong. The V-Pulse remote is also used to unlock the car, and when inside it has its natural position in the middle console, and the car starts with a light push on the V-Pulse. The Volvo XC90 has been a hit at the auto shows, and it was also well visited by the people attending the Stockholm show. The XC90 has all of the safety-toys Volvo has to offer, and is Volvos (late) entry into the SUV-category. A couple of cars getting lots of attention at Volvos display were the V70R and the S60R. These two cars are the most advanced cars Volvo has ever produced. Audi At the Stockholm Auto Show, Audi presented the new A3 for the Swedes with great success. A car that is small, but still usable is exactly what sells in Sweden, and the rest of Europe as well. The A3s front looks like a smaller version of the A8, and the rear-end looks like a baby-A8 as well. The A3s styling makes the outside of the car trick you into thinking that the inside will be bigger than it actually is.

The new A3 comes with four motor-alternatives: a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder motor with 102 horses under the hood, a 2-liter FSI-motor with 150 hp. For the more performance-minded drivers, Audi has pushed a 3.2-liter V6 under the hood of the A3. This motor offers up 241 horses for the driver to tame. With this motor, the A3 will sprint 0-62mph in just 6.7 seconds, and have a top speed of about 152 mph. As a fourth alternative, the new 2-liter TDI-motor with 136 hp is also available. The new Audi A8 was also shown in Stockholm. We've been very impressed with the A8 since we first saw it in Paris. Stockholm was the first opportunity for most Swedes to see it, and it attracted a lot of attention. The A8 pushes Audi further along the line of luxury cars, and by adding a lot of new systems to help you drive and to let you drive harder and faster it has appealed to even the more aggressive drivers with money. Another cool car at the Audi display worth mentioning is the S4. The newest S4 has a 4.2 liter V8 engine, a six-speed manual transmission, quattro four wheel drive, a sportier suspension, and a sportier look. This car will get you up to 62 mph in 5.6 seconds (the Avant, or wagon, in 5.8). Yes, this beast comes in a Wagon as well as the sedan. Also on view at the Audi stand was the RS6, in both the sedan and wagon iterations. Although not new, it is still impressive, the real 'Beast' in the Audi lineup. Volkswagen Volkswagen had one Swedish premier at the show, the Touran. Yes, I spelled it correctly, it is not to be confused with the Touareg, Volkswagen's off-road vehicle. The Touran is, what I would call, a multifunction-minivan, seating seven people if you want it to. If your desire is to haul stuff you can easily fold down all the rear seats and acquire a huge compartment for storing. The folding of chairs was relatively easy to understand, and once I got the hang of it, it was as easy as chewing bubblegum. The styling of the car was no hit, but for a family who needs a car that can do so much, the Touran will do the trick well. As for the engine, the Touran comes (at least here in Europe) with two diesel alternatives and one 1.6 liter gas motor, all with four cylinders, not producing much horsepower, and not any neat 0-60 times. But hey, that's not what it's for.

The Phaeton, coming soon to your local VW dealer, was a real crowd attracter. VW was showing off both the V8 version and the W12 version. The W12 engine producing 420 horses will kick the car to 62mph in 6.1 seconds. Not bad, considering it weighs 5101 pounds. The Phaeton has everything your luxurious mind can think of, plus a little more. Among other cool touches, the trunk opens by the push of a button. Not any button, it's the huge VW badge on the rear you lightly tap and the trunk will silently lift open. Also at the Volkswagen display was the aforementioned Touareg, Volkswagen's entry into the SUV category. As with the Phaeton, VW has escalated all of the luxurious appointments to an extreme. The Touareg has four different zones for the Climacontrol, twelve-way power seats in the front, parking aids, folding rearview mirrors, and the neatest: the Keyless Access system. The Keyless Access system lets you do everything you normally have to have a key to do, keylessly! You unlock the car doors by touching the handle, and you start the car by pushing the start button. The only thing you need to be sure of is that you have your key in your pocket! When exiting the car, the Toureg will lock the car as you leave. The off-road characteristics of the Touareg are also pushing the limits a little further. The car has four-wheel drive, 4-corner air suspension, differential locks, and of course the list of three-letter abbreviations is long: ABS, ESP, EBO, HBA, ASR, EBC, and then some... All to help you battle the worst conditions! The Touareg can also ford rivers or streams as deep as 23 inches! For the sportier VW-fans, the Golf R32 was also shown in Stockholm. This VW is the sporty man's dream. With a V6 putting out 241hp and 4-motion the R32 will do 0-62 in 6.6 seconds. This Golf is also available as a four-door. Seat As for Seat, a not-so-known car company for the Americans, they had something to say as well! The Salsa is a neat concept, but hey, we can always hope we will get to see their new rearview mirror in coming cars. Where you normally find the mirror you instead find a screen, playing a movie of what is behind you.

And it looks as if Seat is trying to compete with VWs Golf R32. For this duel Seat has hotted up their Cupra and made it a Cupra R. But alas, the fun ends here, as it looks like this competition was only on the outside, in the design area that is. Because under the hood lies a 4-cylinder motor with 210hp, that's 2 cylinders and 31 hp short of the VW. The 0-62 mph time is the little slower 7.2 seconds as well. Citroën Another very European car manufacturer is Citroën. Like Seat, Citroën produces cars that won't sell very well in the States: their cars are too small for us! But interestingly enough, the Citroën concept car, C-Airdream was actually pretty long, and American-looking. Its hood ending far forward of the front wheels, the trunk ending shortly aft of the rear wheels.

The front of the Airdream will be recognizable on the coming C6, but if we are lucky, we won't be assaulted by the likes of the interior of the Airdream ever again! The interior had an old look to it, weird, and yet one could maybe find (if you look close enough and use your imagination) a hint of classiness lurking there. However, if Citroën uses some of the neat technical advances found in the CAirdream, it would make for an interesting car. The steering wheel houses most of the driving controls (ala GM's Hy Wire), including the pedals. Citroën claims that putting the controls on the steering wheel minimizes the risk of injury in the event of a collision, and reduces reaction times. Ford The American company owning most of the show because of their ownership of Volvo, didn't have much to show off with. There were no premiers, but there was a good display of the new models of Ford's European line-up. The most interesting car was the Ford Mondeo ST220. The Mondeo is the European version of the Contour, and the ST220 version is the more advanced Mondeo, with 226 hp and a 0-62 mph time of 7.5 seconds. The Ford Focus was also present at the show, showing off its smaller design, appealing to the younger people looking for a car more in line with their budgets. A small, cheap and fuel efficient car is exactly what they are looking for. As a family car the Focus does well because of, among other things, the very high standard of safety equipment found on board. Saab Volvo and Saab are known around the world as the Swedish cars. Well, at the Stockholm show Volvo looked huge, and Saab looked only big. In their usual manner Saab did an impressive job with their display, everything nicely set up and ready for you to try.

Saab premiered the new 9-3 Aero for the Swedes with great success, but the choice of color might be questionable. The Aero was shown as a convertible and as a sedan. The convertible is new for the Swedes, so the Aero Convertible was a hit! However, the color. The 9-3 aero convertible was a strange yellow-green, but it was certainly noticeable. The 9-3 has gotten great reviews even though Saab has been criticized for not pushing the design of the 9-3 a little more. The Saab 9-3 Aero is the hotter version of the 9-3, so we should expect only great things from this car. Saab, sort of like the Mercedes/AMG relationship, is getting a little help from the Swiss tuning company Hirsch to hot up the Saab 9-5 Station Wagon. The subtle styling tweaks are a real treat to the eye, and they complement the more distinctive large changes that Hirsch has done. For example; the dual exhaust gives the car a sportier look as does the spoiler on the rear. Under the hood you can choose between two packages, tuned from the standard 2.3 turbo found in the aero, the 280 hp or 305 hp package. BMW As always at car-gatherings around the world, BMW was a hit in Stockholm. There were no new premiers, but BMW was instead presenting the top-of-the-line. The X5 with the 4.6is engine was present, looking better than ever. The M3 was of course there, alongside the M5 attracting quite a crowd. Another very neat (and exclusive) member of the BMW-family represented was the long version of the 760 with the V12 and with as many toys as the BMW engineers could squeeze into this beast. One of the neater things about it, however, was something I had not seen before. The 760 had the coolest wheels I had ever seen, with the rims inwards-slanting; the center of the rim was closer to the brakes than the outer rim was, as if the rim had been sucked inwards.

The design of the 7-series is apparent also in BMWs Z4, the sports car/convertible baby-Bimmer. The design of the 7-series got a lot of criticism from almost everybody, except me that is, and yet BMW chooses to design the Z4 very much like the 7-series. In contrast to the 7-series and the Z4 my photographer and I managed to find a BMW that has to be the ugliest ever produced. The BMW 316ti. The front of this car doesn't remind at all of any of the other nice BMWs in the entire Stockholm show, or anywhere else for that matter. Check out the headlights, Yuck! Mercedes-Benz Moving on through Germany's top-end cars we soon came upon the Mercedes display. There were no new cars at their counter either, but there was, as with BMW, a display of some of the finest automobiles from Germany. The S600 was showing off all of its tricks and toys; the luxurious interior, the exclusive exterior and the monstrous V12 under the hood. All of which MB was, rightfully, very proud of. The leather inside the S600, as with all leather from Mercedes', was, as always, the finest leather around, just beckoning you to come and sit on it.

AMG, as mentioned above, works very tightly with Mercedes, producing a top-end model of most MB production cars. One of these supercars is the SL55, the hottest convertible with the Mercedes logo on the front, actually the fastest production-MB. The V8 engine under the hood produces 493 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. And if that isn't impressive enough, this sports car will do the 0-60 sprint in just 4.5 seconds! AMG has also played a little with the styling of the SL, making it look sportier, and more aggressive. The new CLK convertible was new for the Swedish market. The CLK is a larger version of the SL, with four seats instead of two, and an all around bigger car with more space everywhere. Even without the supercar-performance, the CLK does very well on the road, giving a family of four the opportunity to take in the sites with the top down. The design of the CLK reflects the proud heritage of Mercedes-Benz. Ferrari Ferrari showed off its king of the hill, the Enzo. This was the first time that this amazingly fast (and amazingly expensive) car was shown for the general public in Sweden, and it was, of course, a big hit.

THE LAST HALL (accessories and fun stuff) One of the most interesting exhibits was the auto motor sport magazines display of supercars. We asked the man showing us around the fenced-in area with supercars who the owners were, and his response was very casual: "Well, I own all of then. Oh, well, not that Ferrari (pointing to a brand new Barachetta), that's my wife's." There were five supercars at the show, and he owned nine more, which he stowed in a garage in a small suburb of Stockholm. Among others, he had a McLaren F1, a Porsche 911 GT1, Mercedes CLK-GTR, and a Ferrari 485 Barachetta on show. He explained that these cars are investments and anyone can rent them (for exorbitant amounts of money). The downside is that even though you've paid a great deal of money, you won't be doing any of the driving. He will.

As well as the fine display of other tuners doing what they do best, there were also a vide variety of companies trying to sell everything from post-it-pads to car-washer-sponges. Last, but not least, the Swedish authorities and the Swedish equivalent to the DMV were all there, trying to make people understand the importance of safety on the road, and showing people what happens if you disobey the laws.

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