2005 Frankfurt Auto Show Preview

August 7, 2005

 


 

 

TCC's Auto Show Index by TCC Team (8/1/2005)
Our coverage of the world's major auto shows, year to year.

2005 Frankfurt Auto Show Index by TCC Team (8/10/2005)

 

 

 

The trickle of Frankfurt Auto Show teasers is growing into a steady stream, with an even further upmarket sedan from Jaguar, confirmation of Audi’s allroad replacement, a new small coupe/convertible from GM Europe, Honda’s next generation Civic for Europe, new trim and technical add-ons for Maserati’s Quattroporte, a new iteration of Fiat’s Punto hatchback, and the fastest-ever production Skoda.

 

 

Dashing Daimler revived by Jaguar

 

The new Jaguar range-topper for all markets except the U.S. follows the pattern of the company — which we shall now have to learn to stop describing as “Coventry-based” since production has now officially ceased at the Brown’s Lane factory — in carrying the Daimler badge. For most people, the Daimler name causes confusion because of the fact that it is part of Mercedes tradition. There’s no confusion in Britain, however, for the British Daimler company, which started life in 1896, was named only because it originally exploited Daimler patents.

 

In the early days of the last century it was already a completely British operation, and in the first half of century it built a fine reputation for luxury cars and counted the Royal family among its most regular customers. After the Second World War it lost impetus and in 1960 it was bought by Jaguar, who wanted Daimler’s Coventry plant to help satisfy its soaring sales.

 

Daimler’s own designs did not last long under Jaguar’s ownership, succumbing to a bad attack of the “not invented here” syndrome on the part of Jaguar’s engineering staff. In the 1970s the Daimler nameplate was taken over for the top of the range Jaguar sedans, and that was the way it stayed until the introduction of the latest aluminium-bodied XJ range, when a Daimler version was notably absent from the lineup.

 

Now, after seven years, the Daimler label is back, in the shape of the Daimler Super Eight, a car that, like other Jaguar-built Daimlers, takes the most luxurious full-size Jaguar sedan and adds an even more luxurious interior. It will also have the traditional mark of a Daimler, the fluted top to the radiator grille. This design feature goes back to Edwardian times, when Daimlers had prominent cooling fins on the radiator. The fins became a recognition feature, and they were maintained as a styling element when the radiator disappeared under a grille in the late Twenties.

Every Daimler since then has had the flutes, and this is the only Daimler feature to have made it across the Atlantic. In the late Eighties, Jaguar’s U.S. management took the fluted grille and grafted it onto the Vanden Plas luxury models, to the dismay of traditionalists inside and outside the company.

 

The Daimler Super Eight will have all the traditional luxury features: extra box-wood inlays in the dash and door veneers, picnic trays (more likely to be used for a laptop these days, but heritage requires the old description) and even more sumptuous leather.

Power comes from the supercharged 4.2-liter V-8, producing 400 hp, and the chassis is the same as the well-received new generation XJ sedans with their advanced aluminium construction. The combination of power and lightweight technology means the Super Eight will cover the 0-60 mph sprint in 5.0 seconds, which isn’t bad for a royal barge. The car will go on sale in Europe and the Far East, but not in the U.S., in November.

 

 

Allroad again for Audi

 

2006 Audi allroad

2006 Audi allroad

Audi was somewhat surprised at the fact that the allroad, its version of the off-road station wagon pioneered by Subaru with the Forester, has sold 90,000 examples since it was launched early in 2000. That car will cease production in mid-2006, but the German company has confirmed that the second-generation version is already being prepared for production.

 

The new car will closely follow the lines shown in the allroad concept shown in Detroit at the beginning of the year. Based on the A6 sedan with permanent all-wheel drive and adaptive air suspension, the concept showed how the sleek sedan can be modified to provide the cross-country clearance that few of its buyers will ever use. Audi hasn’t said as much, but it’s pretty certain that the allroad concept that will be shown in Frankfurt will be even closer to next year’s production model.

 

 

 

GM’s Tin-top Coupe is a Twin Top

 

2005 Opel Astra Twin Top

2005 Opel Astra Twin Top

GM is the latest convert to the popular European sales niche that is the retractable hardtop. Frankfurt will see the appearance of the Astra Twin Top, sold as an Opel in mainland Europe and as a Vauxhall in Britain . Based on the popular Astra sedan, the Twin Top is unique in that its disappearing hardtop is in three pieces. It folds away into the space ahead of the trunk to provide a full four seats, which can be in the open in the sun and covered by a strong metal top in inclement weather.

 

Power will come from 1.6-, 1.8-, and 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engines, the latter turning the Twin Top into a real sports car thanks to a power output of 200 hp. GM says that the car was designed from the outset as a convertible, making the body more rigid than convertibles that have merely been “chopped” from the basic sedan bodyshell.

 

 

Honda’s Civic: Old Name, New Car

 

2006 Honda Civic

2006 Honda Civic

Honda showed a concept of the new eighth-generation Civic sedan at Geneva, and to no one’s surprise Frankfurt will be the launch pad for a production car that is little changed from its precursor. The styling is along the same lines as other current small Hondas, and the Civic project was in fact led by Mr. Matsumoto, who led the team responsible for the much-lauded Jazz small sedan. The shape is futuristic and the interior is designed to make the most of the space available and to offer clever responses to the problems presented by designing a small sedan that will offer the ultimate in space and comfort for its occupants.

 

Power for this European-built car will reflect local tastes, with two diesel engines (1.4-liter 83 hp and 2.2-liter 140 hp) and a 1.8-liter 140-hp gasoline unit. Honda claims the Civic will be the first car in its class to offer a six-speed manual gearbox. The company is aiming the car at the top end of its market segment, and equipment levels will be set accordingly.

 

At a time when each new car tends to be bigger than its predecessor, it may come as a surprise that new Civic is smaller and lower than the current model. Overall length is now 167.3 inches (1.4 less) and overall height 57.5 in (1.4 less). But in order to create a more dynamic silhouette and a better handling car, Honda has increased the overall width to 57.5 inches (2.6 more) and the front and rear tracks to 59.2 inches (1.3 more) and 59.5 inches (1.8 more), respectively.

 

Currently, the Civic is produced in eleven countries and sold in approximately 160 countries. The new eighth-generation model will be built at Honda’s European car plant, in Swindon, Wiltshire — with the five-door exclusive to Europe. The Civic currently accounts for roughly one-third of all Honda sales worldwide.

 

 

Maserati Upgrades the Quattroporte

 

2006 Maserati Quattroporte

2006 Maserati Quattroporte

Maserati’s four-door Quattroporte (was there ever a more logical model name?) was introduced at Frankfurt two years ago and immediately established the Italian company as a meaningful competitor in the luxury sedan market. This year the show will see two new versions, the Executive GT and the Sport GT. The Executive (was there ever a less logical model name?) is all about comfort and style, with chrome exterior accents and more wood and leather in the interior. The Sport GT boasts little in the way of performance modifications apart from 20-inch wheels, modified suspension software, and a gearbox that provides shifts that are 35 percent faster. The exhaust system is modified, but not for more horsepower; Maserati claims it delivers “an even more sporty sound.” The specification, which features as improvements “sporty steering wheel and handbrake grip, aluminum pedal covers,” may disappoint Maserati traditionalists but the bling aspects will attract new customers who have never heard of Fangio.

 

 

 

 

Fiat’s Fight Back Continues

 

2006 Fiat Punto

2006 Fiat Punto

Fiat is still struggling for sales and market share in Europe, and Frankfurt will see the unveiling of its latest model in the effort to re-establish itself in what the company itself calls “the crucially important European hatchback market.” The Grande Punto follows in the wheeltracks of the original Punto, which has sold over six million since its introduction in 1993. The Grande Punto, as its name implies, has been designed to be a larger vehicle than is typical for the class. The car was designed by Italdesign-Giugiaro in partnership with Fiat’s Centro Stile, and has an undeniable Italian feel to its interior and exterior looks. Power will come from two gasoline engines and no less than four turbocharged diesel power units. The newcomer will not replace the original Punto, which will continue in production.

 

 

Fast Czech

 

2006 Skoda Octavia vRS

2006 Skoda Octavia vRS

Škoda, VW’s company in the Czech Republic, has been building cars for a hundred years, and Frankfurt will see the public debut of the fastest road car it has ever built. The Škoda Octavia vRS, available as a hatchback and a wagon, is powered by a 200-hp 2.0-liter turbo engine with direct fuel injection that pushes it from zero to 62 mph in 7.3 seconds and will take it on to a top speed of 148 mph. Skodas used to share the reputation of all cars from Iron Curtain countries, and the idea of one that would flirt with 150 mph would be met with laughter twenty years ago. Now, under VW’s ownership, the company is regaining the reputation for quality and affordable prices that it enjoyed before the Second World War.
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