Frankfurt’s auto show is nearly a month away — media days are scheduled for Sept. 9-10, with the public opening set for Sept. 11 — but as is usual, German automakers are leading the way with advance pictures and information on their newest vehicles.
2003 Los Angeles Auto Show Ford banner with type
This year’s Frankfurt show promises to be a banner year for the German Big Three, with new mainstream vehicles coming from BMW in the form of the 5-Series and X3, and from VW in the shape of the new fifth-generation Golf. And supercars won’t be forgotten: Benz’ SLR will be shown in its entirety (as opposed to nose-only in pre-released pictures) and the new Maserati four-door will be displayed as well.
TCC’s coverage of Frankfurt begins here; we’ll update this preview as new information rolls in. Stay tuned Sept. 8 for the start of our coverage from the show floor, and get more information from the show’s official site at www.iaa.de.
2004 Mercedes-Benz SLR
The new SLR McLaren supercar revives the existence of the glorious SLR 300 that was so successful in 1955, when it achieved one-two victories in the Mille Miglia, Eiffelrennen, Targa Florio, Swedish Grand Prix, and Tourist Trophy with Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, and Karl Kling. The ‘Silver Arrow’ SLR 300, with its 3.0-liter, eight-cylinder engine developing up to 310 horsepower, had a maximum speed of 190 mph. With the new SLR McLaren, Mercedes-Benz wants to underline the history of the SLR and the revival of the company’s passion for super sportscars. Some styling elements were taken from the original SLR and from the 2003 Formula 1 Silver Arrows. The carbon-fiber composite body has rigidity and strength never before achieved in road-going cars. The brakes made of a new composite material: fiber-reinforced ceramics. And the SLR will be equipped with a new supercharged V-8 developed by Mercedes-AMG. —Henny Hemmes
2004 Cadillac XLR by TCC Team (5/26/2003)
A new lease on sportscar life for GM’s rapid social climber.
new Siemens banner
2004 Mercedes-Benz CLS
Mercedes’ sixth coupe, codenamed C219, is gearing up for production in the 2005 model year. And these are believed to be the very first pictures of the upcoming four-door coupe. The new CLS — based on the E-Class sedan — will have four doors, but with sleek coupe styling. Frameless and tinted side windows, a large rear window and coupe-like proportions, as well as many cues up front borrowed from the SL models including the three-point star mounted in the center of the grille round out the elegant styling. Standard features will include a six-speed automatic transmission, with choices between active body control or Airmatic air suspension. Options and other gizmos will include power armrests, night-vision and a tint-adjustable electrochromatic glass roof. Additional features offered will be an advanced telematics system including a traffic data monitor that provides information including road conditions and traffic congestion. The new CLS — as it has been commonly referred to — will have a complete engine lineup, including a 3.0-liter V-6 with 231-horsepower for the CLS300, the CLS360 with a 3.6-liter supercharged V-6 with nearly 300 horsepower, and a CLS450 with a supercharged V-8 pushing nearly 400 horsepower. In addition, CLS320 and CLS400 versions will be available with either six-cylinder and turbo-diesel V-8 engines.—Brenda Priddy
2004 BMW 6-Series
BMW’s new sport coupe will first be introduced on the German market as the 645i with a 4.4-liter V-8 engine with 333 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. The top speed of the 645i is electronically limited to 156 mph. Acceleration from 0-60 mph should be possible in 5.4 seconds. For the 645i, BMW offers three six-speed transmissions: a hand-shifted gearbox, an automatic transmission, and the SMG transmission with a gear lever and paddles on the steering wheel. The 6-Series is equipped with dynamic driving control, stability control and traction control. Its suspension can be combined with the intelligent Dynamic Drive system (option) that compensates for body roll during cornering. Also available is active steering, which is dependent on the vehicle speed: The input of the driver is less at lower speed and higher at high speed. The body of the new coupe is composed of a mix of steel, aluminum, and composite materials. The front end, hood, and doors are made of aluminum, while the bonnet and the fenders are made of thermoplastic. The use of these lightweight materials resulted in a vehicle weight of 3527 pounds and in the ideal weight distribution of 50/50 front/rear. Other versions, such as the top version M6, and a convertible will be announced in Frankfurt. The M6 is expected to be equipped with a new V-10 with 500 hp, and the convertible is expected to go into production in the spring of 2004. —Henny Hemmes
Preview: 2004 BMW 5-Series by Ian Norris (4/7/2003)
Borrowing the best from the 7-Series.
2004 BMW X3
The second of what BMW calls its “Sports Activity Vehicles” will go into production later this year after being shown to the world at the Frankfurt show in September.
The X3 moves down a size from the successful X5, putting it in the same range as vehicles like the Ford Escape. Justifying the “premium” tag it has attached to the X3, BMW is using it to launch a new four-wheel-drive system patented under the name of xDrive.
According to the manufacturer, xDrive sets new standards in agility for 4x4 traction systems. It works by instantly changing torque distribution from front to rear axles and is claimed to offer “substantial improvements” in stability, driving pleasure and safety.
The system is both fully adjustable and infinitely variable. It feeds optimum torque to the required axle at any time, countering understeer and oversteer during cornering in road use. Off-road, it is designed to improve traction by distributing drive forces to the axle with the most grip. As soon as wheel spin threatens, the electro-hydraulic center coupling transfers power to the axle with the greater traction.
The xDrive system is combined with Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) to give the X3 optimum road handling characteristics using the inbuilt safety measures DSC offers in extreme situations. Off-road, the X3 uses one of the best souvenirs BMC kept as a reminder of the time it owned Land Rover, Hill Descent Control. HDC uses the brakes to control the vehicle on extreme downhill sections and was first used on Land Rover’s Freelander. When BMW sold Land Rover to Ford, it kept hold of HDC for its own 4x4s.
Styling of the vehicle is much more influenced by BMW’s cars than off-road vehicles, and the look is much more crossover than 4x4. One of the styling points BMW stresses is the kick up in the waistline at the rear side window, which makes the window almost triangular. At the rear, there is a tailgate that underlines the X3’s crossover status — it appears to be not much bigger than that of a 5-Series wagon, and is unlikely to swallow the bulky objects more traditional off-roaders accept with ease.
The first engine available in the X3 is likely to be the 230-hp 3.0-liter six, which should give a maximum speed of around 130 mph, extended to 139 in sports trim. The engines for the X3 will not be direct transplants from BMW’s road-car range because in the search for a lower center of gravity, the front drive shaft passes through the engine’s oil pan.
The interior of the X3 is also influenced by BMW’s road-car styling, with twin instruments in a binnacle ahead of the driver and luxurious, rather than practical, furnishings. Equipment is top-notch too, with a retractable sat-nav screen, wheel-mounted radio controls and all the usual car-style air-conditioning and comfort items. One thing missing is the company’s controversial iDrive system.
Unlike the X5, which is built in the USA, the X3 will be built at the Steyr plant in Austria. Prices have not yet been released, but a figure of around $40,000 for the base model would not seem to be unrealistic. —Ian Norris
2004 BMW X5
In yet another preview of its plans for the Frankfurt Auto Show, BMW has released pictures of an improved version of its X5 SUV that will go on sale in the fall. The major change is the introduction of three new engines. There will be a new 4.4i version, using the 4.4-liter V-8 currently available in the 7-Series, and this will be joined in the spring of 2004 by a more powerful version using the same powerplant expanded to 4.8 liters, the 4.8iS. There will also be a new 3.0-liter straight-six diesel engine, but this is unlikely to be available in the U.S. It is vital for success in Europe however, where the fuel economy of the diesel makes normally gas-guzzling SUVs a practical proposition in a continent of high fuel prices. In Britain, for instance, the diesel-powered version is the biggest seller in the X5 range.
The new 4.4i engine features BMW’s efficient variable valve timing and inlet control systems and develops 320 hp, 34 more than the outgoing V-8. It will be mated with the new six-speed automatic box introduced on the 7-Series, and BMW claim the combination will knock half a second off the zero-to-100 kph (62 mph) time, dropping it from 7.5 to 7 seconds exactly. Top speed is up to 130 mph from 124.
Off-road performance will be improved by the introduction of xDrive, BMW’s new ‘intelligent’ four-wheel drive system, which will also feature on the new, smaller, X3 SUV. XDrive takes information from the stability control system, analyzes it, and uses the results to direct drive power to the wheel or wheels with the best traction. The system is a major step forward over that of the current X5, which works on the basis of a fixed front-to-rear drive ratio and stability control that only intervenes in critical situations.
Styling changes to the new X5 are subtle, with larger ‘nostrils’ for the traditional BMW grill and a new hood. New headlamp units incorporate the ‘halo’ lamps that have become a distinguishing feature of recent BMW’s. —Ian Norris
2004 Volkswagen Golf
Volkswagen AG released the first images of the 2005 Golf V Wednesday, and it appears VW is looking for a bit more muscle in the little hatchback that started the hatch trend thirty years ago.