2003 Geneva Show, Part I

March 4, 2003

 

 

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2003 Geneva Motor Show Index by TCC Team (3/3/2003)
All the best from the Swiss car event of the year
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Renault’s Mégane Takes Scenic Route

2004 Renault Megane Scenic

2004 Renault Megane Scenic

When Renault launched the Scenic version of its Mégane compact sedan in 1996 it created a whole new market segment in Europe, that of the mini-MPV. Renault sold a stack of Scenics, and manufacturers like GM, Ford, Citroen and VW had to follow. The big question when Renault introduced its new Mégane last year, in three and five-door versions, was what the new Scenic would be like. Well now we know, and judging by the people looking at the display model on the Renault stand this morning, the rest of the industry wants all the details on the new car so that it won’t be caught napping when the new Scenic goes on sale later this year. Although the first two days at Geneva are supposed to be for the press, it’s amazing how many press tickets get into the hands of the representatives of the manufacturers and suppliers who are charged with finding out in detail what the opposition is up to. Renault’s Chairman and CEO, Louis Schweitzer, had hardly finished his speech before the sole Scenic on display disappeared under a crowd of people wielding cameras, notebooks and tape measures and inspecting every detail in the closest possible way. It wasn’t long before Renault staff had chased them out of the car and locked the doors to keep some of the details out of the reach of the industrial spies.

From the look of the car and the reaction of the corporate espionage specialists, it looks as though Renault will have another hit on its hands when the car comes to market. It has more MPV features than the original Scenic, including a dash-mounted gearshift to maximize interior space and an information center in the dash that can be seen by all the occupants. The styling follows that of the Mégane sedan, but without that car’s quirky rear-window arrangement, and it’s a full five-seater. Later, Renault promises, there will be a seven-seater version on a nine-inch longer wheelbase.



Adieu Avantime, Âllo Mégane Cabriolet

2004 Renault Megane Coupe

2004 Renault Megane Coupe

Alongside the new Scenic was another Mégane-based car that’s due later in the year. It’s a stylish coupe/cabriolet, with a retractable steel hardtop developed in association with convertible specialists Karmann of Germany. Mercedes set the ball rolling in this field with the SLK, and Peugeot followed up with the 206CC. The market has tripled in ten years, and Renault wants a slice of it.One car that wasn’t on the Renault stand was the individually styled Avantime, the two-door, four-seat different slant on a GT car that went into production in 2001. Sales have not lived up to expectations, and last week the company took the decision to cease production, ensuring the Avantime’s place as a future collectible.

 


Volvo Gets Versatility In Gear

2003 Volvo Versatility Concept

2003 Volvo Versatility Concept

Volvo weighed down under praise and orders for the XC90 crossover, chosen as Truck of the Year in Detroit, showed another in its series of concepts, following the Adventure Concept, which turned into the XC90 and the Performance Concept that turned into the S60R and V70R. This one’s called the Versatility Concept Car, described as “a vision of a future V-Range car in the luxury segment using Scandinavian design principles.” Combining elements of the station wagon with those of a luxury sedan, the VCC offers excellent luggage-carrying capacity and doors that open extremely wide (in the newly-fashionable ‘suicide’ style at the rear) to offer easy entry and exit. Power comes from a 2.6-liter in-line six that has been tuned for economy with new turbo technology and a system that stops the engine at rest and restarts it when traffic starts moving again.

 


Pininfarina Really Enjoys Geneva

Within a period of forty-five minutes on Tuesday afternoon, Italy’s three best-known design studios all held press conferences to show off their latest creations. With all three occupying adjacent stands, it was almost a family affair, with Signora Bertone, widow of Nuccio Bertone, Sergio Pininfarina and Giorgetto Giugiaro all visiting their neighbors to see what they had to offer. Pininfarina opened things up with the Enjoy, a compact roadster based on the Lotus Elise. With the same DNA as the Elise, with a 1.8-liter 135-hp four-cylinder engine mounted behind the cockpit, a wishbone suspension all-around and handling characteristics solidly based on driving enjoyment, the Enjoy relies on Pininfarina’s style to make its statement. It’s more ‘traditional’ than the Elise, but with the Lotus and GM’s version, the Opel Speedster/Vauxhall VX220 fighting for sale, it’s unlikely that the public will get to vote in this beauty contest with their wallets.

 


Birusa Suits Bertone

2003 Bertone Birusa concept

2003 Bertone Birusa concept

Next up, the crowd moved next door to Bertone, whose offering was the Birusa, a classic GT-style car with a sharply defined profile set off by doors that opened up like dragonfly wings. An unusual feature of the doors is that Bertone has extended voice-control to apply it to the doors and sunroof. The engine and chassis components come from the BMW Z8, which should guarantee exciting performance for the car on the open road. The unique feature of the Birusa is that it’s not just for the open road. The designers have arranged it in such a way that it conceals a Segway transporter in the trunk, ensuring that the owner can also make travel around city centers into an easy operation.

 


Guigiaro Bows to ‘Vette with Moray

2003 Giugiaro Corvette Moray concept

2003 Giugiaro Corvette Moray concept

Last of the Italian offerings was that of Giugiaro’s Italdesign, which had a distinct American flavor to it. It took the form of Italdesign’s homage to the Corvette, the Moray, named after a fierce Mediterranean eel. With a low snout and fishy-looking gill cooling outlets behind the front wheels it was big and impressive, as all Corvettes are. But in the Corvette book of marine life, it is not a patch on Bill Mitchell’s Mako Shark.

 


BMW: M3 CSL Overshadows xActivity

2004 BMW M3 CSL

2004 BMW M3 CSL

BMW showed the Europeans its xActivity small SUV, which made its debut in Detroit and which is the forerunner of the X3, but performance car enthusiasts only had eyes for the M3 CSL, a special lightweight version of what many consider to be among the ultimate road cars, the M3. The engineers developing the car had only one target in mind — to get the car round the Nürburgring, the classic German race circuit, in under eight minutes, making it the first production car to break that barrier. To achieve their aim, the have lightened the car by 243 lb over the standard M3, mainly by extensive use of carbon-fiber panels, including the roof and the impressive front air dam, in its construction. The CSL weighs in at just 3054 lb, and that weight is set in motion by a 3.2-liter in-line six-cylinder engine that develops 360 hp at 7200 rpm. Gearshifts are made using a Formula 1 type change system, but in addition to a sequential racing-style mode, there is the option of using BMW’s Drivelogic auto-changing system. With an aggressive front end that will certainly let the world know that this is a real performance car, the M3 CSL is likely to jump right to the top of wealthy enthusiasts’ wish lists. In the meantime, before deliveries start and while the weather is improving, for the engineers there’s that little matter of getting round the ‘Ring in under eight minutes….

Speaking at the launch of the M3CSL, Dr. Helmut Panke, Chairman of BMW’s Board of Management, pointed out that the company was expanding. A new Polish subsidiary started operations on January 1, and later in the year an operation will start in Malaysia. In the first two months of the year, BMW sold around 154,000 cars, improving slightly on the same period last year. The driving force behind the company’s growth, Dr Panke said, is the Mini.

 

Alfa Caravans with Kamal, GT Coupe

2003 Alfa Romeo Kamal concept

2003 Alfa Romeo Kamal concept

Alfa Romeo showed a new concept, the Kamal, which it calls a “five-door crossover.” Powered by a 3.2-liter V-6 driving all four wheels through a six-speed Selespeed gearbox, it was designed in the Alfa Romeo styling center at Arese in Italy. Its lines are more GT car than crossover in the mold cast by other manufacturers, but from the look of the car shown on the stand, production is not likely to be a major consideration in Alfa’s future plans.

 

2003 Alfa Romeo GT Coupe concept

2003 Alfa Romeo GT Coupe concept

More realistic — and to some eyes more attractive — was the new Alfa GT Coupe which was making its first public appearance in Geneva. For those brought up on the Giuliettas of the Sixties, this is an Alfa sports car worthy of the name.

 

India’s Bodacious Tata Snags Attention

2003 Tata Indigo

2003 Tata Indigo

Normally, India’s Tata company would not get much attention at Geneva, although it has shown cars here for some years. But this year there was more attention being paid in the wake of the announcement that the company’s Indica supermini was going to be sold in Europe by MG
2003 Tata Indica Sport

2003 Tata Indica Sport

Rover, which lacks a small car of its own. Tata is massive in India and has the ability to be a major player in the Asian auto industry. The new model for Geneva was a station wagon version of the company’s Indigo compact sedan, but many of the visitors to the stand were looking at the little Indica four-door and wondering how MG Rover would change it to sell under their brand.

 


Peugeot Goes Hoggar, and 307 Hog-Wild

2004 Peugeot 307CC

2004 Peugeot 307CC

Geneva is as close to the French border as it is possible to be, so the French manufacturers always give the show strong support especially in those years when there is no Paris show. Peugeot showed two concepts, the Grande Tourisme and the Hoggar, and a new production car, the 307CC. The 307CC is a new entrant from Peugeot in the ‘Coupe/Convertible’ class of cars with retractable hardtops. Peugeot is the leader in the lower end of this market with the 206CC, and the 307 expands the popular format upward with a stylish open-topped version of its successful 307 sedan.

2003 Peugeot Hoggar concept

2003 Peugeot Hoggar concept

The two concepts are from opposite ends of the scale. The Hoggar is a macho desert racer dune buggy that is strictly for show, while the Grande Tourisme is a version of the big 807 MPV that looks as though it could go into production tomorrow. Except that it is designed as a four-seat luxury transcontinental vehicle — and Renault has just canned their version of such an oversized GT car because sales could not climb out of the gutter.

2003 Citroen C2 concept

2003 Citroen C2 concept

Peugeot’s other half of the PSA combine, Citroen, showed a concept car that builds on the company’s current success in rallying. The C2 sport is a supermini on steroids, with all the bells and whistles that world-class rallying requires — and which turn young European drivers on big-time.
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