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09/14/03 * THE BIG SHOW, ACT ONE

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 Mon, Sep 15, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


By Contributing Editor CHUCK DAPOZ

Frankfurt Part 2: German Brands AUDI LE MANS

Audi Le Mans quattro (Concept vehicle) Audi claims the Le Mans quattro concept car inherited the genes of the Audi R8, three-time winner of the Le Mans 24-hour race. And indeed, everything about this mid-engine two-seater is fast. It moved from design sketch to Frankfurt display in 11 months, being based on the Lamborghini Gallardo. Its biturbo V10 with direct fuel injection pumps 610 hp - which is more than the naturally aspirated Gallardo - and rockets the Le Mans quattro from zero to 62 mph in 3.7 seconds.


BMW X3 (Production vehicle) The X3 is the second of what BMW calls its "Sports Activity Vehicles." It's clearly smaller than the X5, roughly comparable in size to the Ford Escape. Three in-line six-cylinder engines will be offered. The X3 3.0i develops 231 hp and accelerates from zero to 62 mph in 7.8 seconds. The X3 2.5i generates 192 horses. The X3 3.0d is a diesel engine that produces 204 hp and a strong 302 lb-ft. The X3 uses a new four-wheel-drive system dubbed xDrive, which BMW says sets new standards in agility, stability and safety for 4x4 traction systems, instantly changing torque distribution from front to rear axles. The X3 goes on sale in both Europe and North America early next year. Prices have not been announced, but look for a base of about $40,000.


BMW 6 Series (Production vehicle) The new 6 Series marks the return of a large luxury coupe to the BMW lineup. Under the hood is the same engine as in the 745i, a 4.4L V8 with BMW's VALVETRONIC valve control, producing 333 hp and 333 LB-ft, which moves the 6 Series to 62 mph in 5.6 seconds. Like the 7 and 5 Series, it's equipped with iDrive. Three transmissions are offered: a manual six-speed, an auto six-speed with Steptronic control, and a Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) that allows shifting through a gearbox lever or paddles on the steering wheel like in Formula 1. Options include a head-up display and glass panorama roof, which is larger than a conventional sliding roof. The 6 Series will be launched early in the year, followed later in 2004 by a 2+2 convertible, due to be unveiled in January at the Detroit Auto Show.


Jetcar 2.5 (Production vehicle) One of the more-interesting vehicles in Frankfurt seems to have been overlooked by most of the press: Jetcar 2.5. It's a two-passenger high-efficiency vehicle based on sailplane (i.e., glider) technology. The passenger sits behind the driver. The base engine is a three-cylinder 800cc diesel, and it gives the 1,367-lb Jetcar 2.5 claimed fuel consumption of 67 to 94 mpg. Two sport versions of the car with three-cylinder gas engines are also available. Planned 2004 production is 100 vehicles. Prices range from $53,700 to $64,900. More info is available at


Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren (Production vehicle) Mercedes has teamed with its Formula 1 partner, McLaren, to produce the high-tech, high-performance Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren sports car. The chassis and body are made of carbon fiber composite, and the brakes of fiber-reinforced ceramic. The supercharged V8 front-mid engine, developed by Mercedes-AMG, produces 626 hp, allowing this 3,890-lb vehicle to jump from zero to 62 mph in 3.8 seconds. Launch is planned for later this year, at a price north of $400,000.


Mercedes-Benz Vision CLS (Concept vehicle) The vision behind the Vision CLS was to expand the Mercedes line by creating a four-door coupe. The engine is a high-torque, six-cylinder, biturbo diesel with, by the way, a maintenance-free particulate filter, making 265 hp and moving the Vision CLS to 62 mph in 6.4 seconds. There are no plans for production, but stay tuned.


Opel Astra (Production vehicle) The new Astra is Opel's bread-and-butter vehicle and will compete against the new VW Golf. It's larger than its predecessor in all interior dimensions. Five gasoline and three diesel engines are available, offering up to 200 hp. New features include automatic headlight activation, a tire pressure monitoring system, and side airbags that protect the pelvis as well as the chest. A five-door model launches in the spring, followed by a longer-wheelbase station wagon, and then a sporty three-door.


Opel Insignia (Concept vehicle) GM Europe showed its design direction with the Opel Insignia concept vehicle, which could fill an opening in the Opel lineup for a top-of-the-line model. Though styling cues supposedly came from large Opel vehicles of the past, it seemed more reminiscent of the Cadillac Sixteen concept vehicle, introduced in January at the North American International Auto Show: at first glance a coupe but actually a 2+2 sedan, unconventional rear doors, a long hood with a center longitudinal crease, huge tires, over-the-top interior trim and a significant move upscale for the brand. The Insignia is a drivable prototype, with a 344-hp aluminum V8 from the Corvette, accelerating to 62 mph under six seconds. The bodywork, by Bertone, incorporates short overhangs, inward-tapered front and rear ends, muscular shoulders and LED headlights and taillights. Wheels are 21-inch aluminum. The rear doors slide open parallel to the body on an innovative, hefty hinge that does away with the need for unsightly guiding elements. Inside you'll find handcrafted leather, ebony, lacquer and indirect blue and green lighting coming from unseen slots in the doors and ceiling. This is obviously a luxury car, but to eliminate any doubt Opel included a rear-seat TV with DVD player, a coolbox for two bottles of champagne and a humidor.


Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet (Production vehicle) Porsche introduced its new top-of-the-range 911 Turbo Cabriolet, its first Turbo Cabriolet since 1989. It's based on the existing Porsche 911 Turbo Coupe, incorporating the Coupe's engine, body structure, four-wheel drive system, chassis and suspension and brake systems. The 3.6L horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine with twin turbochargers kicks out 420 hp and zero-to-62 mph acceleration of 4.3 seconds. Like the Coupe, the new 911 Turbo Cabriolet comes as standard with four-wheel drive that delivers from five to 40 percent of the engine power to the front wheels depending on driving conditions. The roof can be opened or closed while driving at speeds up to 30 mph, with the process taking 20 seconds. The 911 Turbo Cabrio goes on sale this fall, starting around $130,000.


Smart forfour (Production vehicle) The forfour is smart's second model line. As the name implies, it's a four-passenger car, doubling the number of occupants of the existing models. Three gas and two diesel engines are available, from 1.1 to 1.5L, producing up to 109 hp. The forfour was developed in a partnership between DaimlerChrysler and Mitsubishi and it will share 60% of its parts with the forthcoming Mitsubishi Colt. Both vehicles will come off the same assembly line in Born, the Netherlands. Dealers will start taking orders by the end of the year, with deliveries beginning in April. Prices will range from $14,500 to $16,900. An SUV version may be headed to the US in about four years. Mark your calendar.


Volkswagen Golf (Production vehicle) One of the most-important vehicles introduced in Frankfurt was the fifth-generation VW Golf. The first Golf was sold in 1974, and more than 22 million have been sold since. It's perennially Europe's best-selling car, though this year it has fallen to number three in the sales competition, trailing the Renault Megane and Peugeot 206. VW is determined to regain European sales leadership and says the new Golf represents the largest evolution step ever taken with the model line. Most body dimensions are larger, and significant changes - including a multilink rear suspension, electromechanical steering and stability control - should significantly improve handling dynamics. The Golf will be available in two- and four-door models, initially with two gasoline and two diesel engines. Shortly after launch three additional gas engines and another diesel engine will be introduced, with up the 150 hp, and higher-output engines are promised in the indefinite future. Production is already underway, with sales starting soon. Base price in Europe is $16,300.


Volkswagen Golf GTI (Concept vehicle) VW showed a GTI version of the new Golf. It was branded as a concept vehicle, but it looks ready for the road. Perhaps VW is delaying its introduction in order to keep the Golf fresh in the market, or maybe work needs to be completed on the new turbocharged 200-hp engine that will power the two-door GTI.


Volkswagen Concept R (Concept vehicle) VW has never produced a roadster. Perhaps that's about to change. The Concept R is a mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive prototype, powered by a 265-hp 3.2L V6. Combined with a six-speed DSG double-clutch gearbox that allows lightning-fast shifts, this prototype accelerates to 62 mph in 5.3 seconds. The Concept R is roughly the same length and width as the Golf hatchback.

Frankfurt Part 3: Non-German European Brands Alfa Romeo 166 (Production vehicle) Aston Martin DB9 (Production vehicle) Citroen C-Airlounge (Concept vehicle) Fiat Panda (Production vehicle) Jaguar X-Type Estate (Production vehicle) Jaguar R-D6 (Concept vehicle) Lancia Fulvia (Concept vehicle) Maserati Quattroporte (Production vehicle) Peugeot 407 Elixir (Concept vehicle) Saab 9-3 Sport Combi (Concept vehicle) SEAT Altea (Production vehicle) Volvo S40 (Production vehicle)

Frankfurt Part 4: Non-European Brands Chrysler 300C Touring (Concept vehicle) Daewoo Lacetti (Production vehicle) Ford Visos (Concept vehicle) Hyundai CCS (Concept vehicle) Lexus LS430 (Production vehicle) Mazda3 (Production vehicle) Mazda Kusabi (Concept vehicle) Mitsubishi i (Concept vehicle) Nissan Dunehawk (Concept vehicle)

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