2000 Geneva Motor Show Part II

March 1, 2000

2000 Fiat Multipla concept

2000 Fiat Multipla concept

2000 Mercedes Smart Cabrio concept

2000 Mercedes Smart Cabrio concept

ONLY IN EUROPE Some of the vehicle introduced at the Geneva show are designed to make you think: "Are Europeans really very different from Americans?" "Could these cars ever make it in the U.S.?" Or, possibly, "just what the heck were they thinking?" Take this trio, for example. As strange as the Avantime seemed as a concept, it’s even stranger as a production vehicle. The two-door has the room of a minivan and a 210-hp V-6; built on the Espace minivan platform, it’s meant to head Renault’s offensive in luxury vehicles. Then there’s the Fiat Multipla hybrid, which combines nickel-hydride batteries with a 103-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder, not to mention the van’s oddly endearing weird looks. Lastly, with Mercedes-Benz’ Smart project beginning to breathe on its own, it receives an, um, smartly styled cabrio version perfect for running errands in European towns, as we noted many doing in downtown Geneva.

 

2000 Audi All Road concept

2000 Audi All Road concept

ALLROAD LEADS TO AUDI The SUV craze has finally struck Ingolstadt, but rather than build a true SUV like those other upscale Germans, Audi is betting its customers just want more all-weather capability. The Allroad quattro is Audi’s indirect answer to the Benz M-Class and BMW X5, a more close response to the Volvo V70 Cross Country. The Allroad has either a 250-hp twin turbo 2.7-liter V-6 or a 2.5-liter turbodiesel V-6 with 180 hp. Its off-road credentials seem strong: air springs and a low gear ratio should enable the Allroad to tackle the truly rough stuff, as will its range of ground clearance (from 5.5 to 8 inches). Subtle SUV cues are expressed in the body cladding and roof ribs, and inside, in the leather and aluminum trim. Side airbag curtains and stability control take care of safety questions. We’ll predict a U.S. arrival before winter sets in later in the year.

 

2000 Volkswagen Seat Salsa concept

2000 Volkswagen Seat Salsa concept

FIERY LATIN Penned entirely by VW’s Spanish subsidiary, the SEAT Salsa is a people-moving concept with 2+2 seating and a flexible interior. The spicy Salsa shares the Audi Allroad’s twin-turbo V-6, and has a Tiptronic five-speed transmission, but its slick shape and adaptable environment plant it squarely in concept-vehicle territory. That environment allows drivers to set one of three different modes: sport, which lowers the driver’s seat and opens up the exhaust note; comfort, which quiets things down and brings up an information panel on the dash; and city, which adds traffic information to the display and puts the transmission in auto-shift mode. Oddly, the entire front of the Salsa is fabricated from a single piece, with no access to the engine save for service points near the windshield.

 

2000 Bertone Slim concept

2000 Bertone Slim concept

SLIM AND TRIM City cars tend to be shorties, but the concept Bertone Slim takes a different tack to crowded city parking lots: it’s about half the width of a normal car, so you can park two alongside each other in one space. The Slim seats its passengers in tandem, while its two-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission squeeze the most out of a tank of fuel. The lid is removable, allowing the cigar-shaped Slim to get even closer to its bicycle roots.

 

2000 Fiat Ecobasic concept

2000 Fiat Ecobasic concept

BACK TO BASICS Unlike the exotically crafted, fuel-cell-powered city concepts of the competition, Fiat’s three-liter concept Ecobasic was made with cost in mind. Its1.2-liter common-rail diesel and semi-automatic transmission are feasible for production today, Fiat says, as is its stop-and-go engine, which shuts itself down when the car stops at traffic lights and intersections. The Ecobasic’s body is made of colored plastic panels bonded to a steel frame, and in a Tonka-toy touch, its service points are in the nose, tipped in bright Playskool colors.

 

2001 Chrysler Sebring

2001 Chrysler Sebring

SEBRING SPEARHEADS CHRYSLER IN EUROPE Twinned with the Dodge Stratus sedan we brought you from the Chicago auto show, the Chrysler Sebring is the replacement for the former Cirrus sedan. It shares the Stratus’ 2.7-liter V-6 and 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines, and manual and automatic gearboxes. Successful rhinoplasty has removed the former Cirrus’ bulging nose, while lippy wheel arches and smooth taillamps give the Sebring an upscale look in the same genre as the VW Jetta. (The faux woodgrain could use some more work, though.) Chrysler group president Jim Holden says the company is committed to increasing the quality of its cars, and announced that this new Sebring will spearhead the company’s effort to get more Europeans into its products. As for Americans, the Sebring should go on sale in the summer; the convertible companion is expected to debut at April’s New York auto show.

 

2001 BMW M3

2001 BMW M3

2000 BMW X5 leMans concept

2000 BMW X5 leMans concept

 

BMW’S CHOICE: 343 OR 700 HP The stunning power on tap for the next M3 coupe, officially unveiled at Geneva, is enough to make any enthusiast check their bank balances. Nearly an inch wider than the standard 3-Series coupe, the M3 sports 225/45 ZR-18 tires, 255/40ZR-18s in back. The hood bulges to accommodate the 3.2-liter in-line six, now possessed with an astonishing 343 bhp. Sport seats, steering wheel, deep air dam and rear spoiler, and four-tip exhaust make the new M3 look the part of a supercoupe slayer. BMW estimates 0-60 times of less than 5.2 seconds. As a companion, BMW also showed a V-12-powered version of the X5 sport-ute, dubbed the Le Mans concept. If a 700-hp sport-ute doesn’t thrill you, maybe its 4.7-second 0-60 time will. Massive 315/35 rear wheels and aluminum trim are production-esque touches, but even BMW dismisses talk of building any more of the Le Mans.

 

2000 Renault Kolios concept

2000 Renault Kolios concept

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SUV FUTURE IN KOLEOS? An unusually futuristic SUV from the same designer that penned the Avantime (see above), the Koleos can morph into a pickup by folding in its retractable tailgate. Variable ride height and four-wheel drive endows it with off-road possibilities. Nearly the length of a Chrysler 300M, the Koleos uses voice commands to control cockpit gear, and sports carbon-fiber-frame seats and immense 21-inch wheels. Power comes from a 170-hp, 2.0-liter 16-valve turbo four powering the front wheels; it’s paired with two lithium-ion batteries driving the rear wheels through an electric motor.

 

2001 Toyota RAV4 two door

2001 Toyota RAV4 two door

2001 Toyota RAV4 Four Door

2001 Toyota RAV4 Four Door

 

RAV4 MATURES A surprise debut at Geneva, Toyota’s RAV4 emerged with more sophisticated trappings inside and out. Powertrains are essentially carryovers, but the body structure is completely new, with a handsome arc to the roofline and a more substantial appearance. Three and five-door models are still on tap, and Toyota says the new RAV is the most spacious vehicle in its class. Safety features include whiplash-reducing seats. No word yet on U.S. availability or pricing, although the new RAV4 is expected to go on sale in late summer.

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