2000 Mazda 626 MPS concept
2000 Ford Galaxy concept
2000 Ford Galaxy Interior concept
COMING TO AMERICA As often happens with the Geneva Motor Show, the event provides a hint of things to come in the U.S., as well as in Europe. Ford and Mazda offered two examples on their show stands. The Japanese automaker unveiled the high-performance 626 MPS. Short for Mazda Performance Sedan, it’s a brutish, 280-horsepower remake of the more mundane Mazda 626 sedan. Under the hood? A 24-valve, twin-turbocharged V-6 mated to a five-speed gearbox and 18-inch wheels. "Very doable," says a Mazda executive. For a hint of what’s to come from Ford, meanwhile, it helps to look inside the second-generation Galaxy minivan. Jointly engineered with Volkswagen and built on a VW assembly line, the Galaxy is one of the continent’s most popular people carriers. But the 2001 edition is noticeably more refined, especially inside, where Ford makes extensive use of aluminum trim and suave, carbon fibre-style finishes. "You’ll see this look in the U.S.," a top Ford design official promises, starting with the next-generation Contour.
MORE MUSCLE If you just can’t get to work fast enough in the Porsche 911, don’t lament. You’ll cut some time off your commute with the reborn 911 Turbo, the latest update of the automaker’s long-lived sports car. With twin intercooled turbos developing 420 bhp, you can launch from a light and hit 60 in just 4.2 seconds. If you have enough open space on that morning drive, you just might top out at 189 mph. Porsche also made a few new pronouncements on its upcoming SUV, being developed as part of a joint venture with Volkswagen. A projected 20,000 copies of the as-yet-unnamed SUV will be built each year at a new plant in Leipzig, Germany, noted Porsche Chairman Wendelin Wiedeking. Expect the first to roll off the assembly line in spring 2002.
2001 Opel Speedster 2001 Opel Agila
2001 Opel Speedster
2001 Opel Agila
CONCEPT TO CUSTOMER Only a year after making its debut at the 1999 Geneva Motor Show, the Opel Speedster is back, but this time in production trim. It’s one of four new vehicles General Motors’ German division is showcasing this year. Expected to come into the "affordable" range of roadsters, the Speedster should still stand up against some high-performance competition, delivering 0-60 times of "under 6 seconds," according to GM officials. Among Opel’s other offerings: the miniscule Agila, Opel’s first in a new class of microvans. Agila measures just 3.5 meters nose to tail — about 11.5 feet, for metric-challenged Americans — but it offers a surprisingly roomy interior capable of comfortably seating four adults.
2001 Ferrari 360M Spider
PRANCING PONIES "Formula One is our advanced research operation," said Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemolo, as he lifted the covers on the company’s latest prancing pony, the F360M Spider. The new sports car borrows much of its technology, including its aluminum engine, transmission and other key components from Ferrari’s winning F1 team — which captured the Constructor’s Trophy last year after a decades-long dry spell. The Pininfarina-designed Spider is designed to appeal to those who know the heart of any Ferrari is under the hood. This rear-engine super car fits a transparent cover over its massive powertrain. Montezemolo described the Spider as "the biggest technological project we have ever done."
2000 Cadillac Imaj concept
2000 Cadillac Imaj Interior concept
IMPROVING ITS IMAJ Looking to improve its image overseas, Cadillac took the unusual step of unveiling its latest concept car in Europe this year. The Imaj (pronounced Ih’-majh) is hulking crossover that’s meant to blend the best of a super-luxury sedan with a full-sized SUV. The hard-edged body features a massive, vertical grille up front and a tailgate/trunk in back. Its rear doors open on special hinges that swing rearward, providing plenty of entry room without ramming the car alongside. Imaj makes extensive use of brushed aluminum and birds-eye maple for interior accents. So very high tech — all Imaj’s doors are electrically operated. Even the cargo floor extends out at the touch of a button. The interior is filled with other high-tech goodies, including video screens for front and rear passengers, and Internet access. Elements of the Imaj are likely to find their way into production as Cadillac begins rolling out an all-new lineup of products, starting in 2002.
2001 Volvo V70XC
2001 Volvo V70XC
CROSS-TOWN OR CROSS COUNTRY Volvo’s back with an updated version of its V70XC, or Cross Country, a rugged-ized wagon aiming its appeal at the new crossover market. "Cross Country buyers want the rough look, the ground clearance and the flexibility of an SUV," said Wolff Huber, president of the automaker’s European market region, "but they don’t want to give up the efficiency, handling and comfort of a wagon." The newly updated Cross Country is the latest in a fast-changing Volvo lineup. The automaker also is rolling out a new version of its V70 wagon, which is based on the same platform as the hot-selling S80 sedan. Still more products are in the offing for Volvo buyers around the world, company officials hint. Look for the all-new S60 to debut later this year, replacing the S70 sedan.
GREEN BARELY SEEN In years past, environmental issues dominated the Geneva Motor Show, but this year, there wasn’t much "green" to be seen, with automaker’s emphasizing styling, utility and performance. General Motors did take the opportunity to announce the latest in a series of fuel-cell breakthroughs, though. According to Rick Wagoner, the automaker’s new CEO, the system installed in the prototype Zafira Advanced Propulsion Technology vehicle is 15% smaller than the best of GM’s competitors. It uses just half as much rare platinum as the best fuel cell GM engineers could muster only six months ago. And it virtually eliminates the cold start problem fuel cells face. Previous designed needed up to six minutes to warm up enough to reach full speed on a cold day. The new design takes barely 30 seconds. So, is the fuel cell ready for prime time? If you’re talking high-volume, not for at least four to six years, cautioned Wagoner.
SCORE ONE FOR VARIABLE Saab, meanwhile, pulled the covers off its prototype Variable Compression Engine. The powertrain can "radically reduce fuel consumption" by up to 30% over a comparable gasoline engine, said Peter Augustsson, the GM subsidiary’s new President. The five-cylinder 1.6-liter VC engine on display puts out 225 hp. The technology, Augustsson added, could be used on engines with anywhere from three to eight cylinders.
SOON ENOUGH? After a more than half-decade decline, GM’s Opel division finally recorded a modest increase in market share last year, climbing from 10.2 percent to 10.4 percent. "It takes product," said GM Europe President Mike Burns, acknowledging his operation is struggling to regain lost ground. "The good thing is, we don’t have any place to go but up," said Burns. How long will it take to hit the mid-teens share mark Opel held in the early 1990s? Several more years, he acknowledged, though he stressed his goal is to keep the momentum going in 2000.