AUDI Q7After teasing us with sneak photos, testing photos, and the Pikes Peak concept, the Q7, Audi's first true SUV, breaks cover finally at Frankfurt--just in time for rising gas prices all around the world. Based on a lengthened VW Touareg chassis, the Q7 has seating for seven. The vehicle is powered by Audi's familiar 4.2-liter V-8 that makes 350 hp and 325 lb-ft mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual override. Air suspension is optional, along with nineteen- and twenty-inch wheels and tires: eighteens are standard.
Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi's head of vehicle dynamics, tells us that the Q7 has been engineered for the street. The air suspension--from the Audi A8--delivers a lower ride height and a more refined ride than the Touareg. The all-wheel-drive system, with its 40 percent front/60 percent rear torque split, comes from the RS6. "The Q7 will do donuts, I promise you," Hackenberg says.
Inside, the Q7 has the leather-and-tech look of the A6. The third-row seat folds flat into the floor.
The Q7 will reach U.S. streets in the spring of 2006. Johan de Nysschen, Audi of America's chief executive, says it heralds a greater U.S. focus for Audi's future product development.
Inside, the Q7 is beautifully crafted, with lots of bright metal accents, an Alcantara headliner, and high-quality leather. Expect a base price in the low-$50,000 range.
BMW Z4 COUPEThe BMW Z4 Coupe Concept is really not a concept at all: it's a production car we'll see next summer. As the name implies, it's a Z4 roadster with a stationary roof. The fixed top makes it stiffer and lighter, so it should be a better driver and a viable track toy, a use hinted at by roof bulges perhaps intended to accommodate helmet-wearing occupants. On the track, the Z4 coupe would probably be outshined by the new, though likely more expensive, Porsche Cayman, which is essentially a hardtop Boxster. Still, it's a Teutonic comparison we're looking forward to.
The Z4 roadster's new engine--a 3.0-liter straight-six that puts out 261 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque--resides between the front fenders of the Z4 Coupe. BMW estimates the concept will perform 0-to-62-mph acceleration runs in 5.7 seconds and reach an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph.
We have criticized the Z4 roadster, which debuted in 2003, for its disjointed exterior and interior design. It was the second production BMW to show off the highly abstract "Bangled" design style brought to us by Adrian Von Hooydonk and his boss Chris Bangle. The coupe loses the roadster's ungainly trunk in favor of an attractive hatchback that, from the rear, evokes recent Ferraris. The side profile is fast and sleek, not unlike the Lotus Exige. Never has a hardtop looked so much better than a convertible.
JAGUAR XK 4.2The forthcoming Jaguar XK 4.2 replaces the current XK8 after that gorgeous model's ten years of service around the world. The new XK is virtually identical to the Advanced Lightweight Coupe concept that was shown in Detroit this past January. The new feline will be offered both as a hardtop coupe and as a convertible with a traditional folding canvas top and both are scheduled to go on sale in the spring as 2007 models. As is the case with the current car, normally aspirated and supercharged V-8 engines will be offered eventually, though the supercharged car won't be available for a year or so. Development at Germany's Nrburgring racetrack and a six-speed, paddle-shifted automatic transmission should inject a higher degree of sportiness into the XK formula.
Like the XJ sedan, the XK uses lightweight aluminum body panels and rivet bonding techniques, which should help it accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than six seconds. The practical hatchback design echoes Jaguar's E-type coupe of the 1960s and early '70s. Although the concept car was criticized for being something of an Aston Martin clone, Jaguar styling chief Ian Callum insists that the XK silhouette is a must-have for a front-engine, rear-drive coupe and has indicated that the design both inside and out foreshadows the look of future Jaguars, which he claims will be more curvaceous and flamboyant than the tailored and formal Aston Martin look.
JEEP PATRIOTThe Jeep Patriot was one of a pair of Jeep concepts that portend two new entry-level models. Both are due next year, and are based mechanically on the upcoming Dodge Caliber. The Patriot's rectilinear styling is designed to echo the recently departed Cherokee, which is now seen as iconic. The concept is fully decked out in off-road regalia, and Jeep executives claim that a production Patriot would be "Trail Rated" despite its car-based underpinnings. (The Caliber, you'll recall, is Dodge's Neon replacement, a four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive, four-door hatchback.) Whereas the Compass is an untraditional-looking Jeep that aims to bring new buyers to the brand, the Patriot is aimed at Jeep loyalists.
MERCEDES-BENZ S-CLASSBigger, faster, and more luxurious, the new S-class plays it safe with evolutionary styling and a host of collision anticipation and avoidance systems. A spinning joystick--similar to BMW's reviled iDrive but slightly less confusing--operates the stereo, climate control, and navigation systems using a large screen to the right of the gauge cluster. Metal-look buttons, liberal wood and chrome, and indirect lighting give the cabin a modern and airy feel, and interior dimensions rise one to two inches in all directions. A panorama roof and a rear-seat entertainment system are optional. The available Brake Assist Plus system monitors closing speed and distance to cars ahead and increases brake force to avoid a collision, and the Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control now can bring the car to a halt if traffic ahead stops. Braking is handled by a conventional hydraulic system; the troublesome brake-by-wire system on other Mercedes model ranges will die when those cars are replaced. The S500 bows in January with a 5.5-liter V-8 making 388 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque, a seven-speed manu-matic, and rear- or, a few months later, all-wheel drive. The S600 arrives this spring with a biturbo V-12 sending 517 hp and 612 lb-ft through a five-speed transmission to the rear wheels. Later in 2006, watch for a base model with a smaller V-8 as well as an AMG version with more than 500 hp from its normally aspirated, 6.3-liter V-8. There's no word yet on a successor to the outrageous 604-hp S65 AMG.
MINI CONCEPT FRANKFURT COUNTRYMANDespite rumors that Mini's concept car at Frankfurt would be an SUV, a four-door sedan, or a roadster, it ended up being less removed from the traditional tiny two-door Mini that so many have fallen in love with. The concept, called Mini Concept Frankfurt--a name that Homer Simpson might have come up with--is still a two-door box, taking its inspiration from the Mini Countryman of the 1960s. The difference between this one and a regular Mini is that it has a longer wheelbase and a station wagon rear end. Most of the extra space goes into the rear cargo compartment, which German BMW executives showed off with an obedient twenty-five-pound pooch. Access to the back end is through vertically split rear doors, which are notable for the fact that they open independent of the taillights (see photos). Rear-seat passengers who like the wind buffeting in their faces would enjoy the sliding rear side windows.
The pearlescent show car also has a different front end with slanty Aston Martin-like headlamps. The interior is very flashy, very chrome-laden, and highly unlikely to reach production. However, we're betting that the overall layout of this car will reach production in the very near future.
MITSUBISHI CONCEPT-SPORTBACKThe Mitsubishi Concept-Sportback previews the next Lancer and, by extension, the Evo X. Both the five-door concept and the upcoming production cars use a new platform that has been co-developed with Chrysler. By showing the concept as a hatchback (a bodystyle that continues to be popular in Europe), the company is hinting that the Evo X may be offered as a hatchback as well as a traditional sedan--though probably not in the U.S. market.
PORSCHE CAYMANThe Porsche Cayman--essentially a Boxster with a fixed roof--is the latest and greatest from Zuffenhausen, and although the differences between the Cayman and the Boxster are few, they are significant. The Boxster S's 3.2-liter flat six has been upped to 3.4 liters for duty here, and power has jumped accordingly to 295 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque, increases of 15 hp and 19 lb-ft. The Cayman also gets stiffer springs, thicker antiroll bars, different front-end styling, and new bodywork aft of the doors. The biggest difference, however, is in the driving. According to Porsche, the new steel roof doubles torsional rigidity; we can confirm that handling and chassis communication are better than ever. The highly capable car could easily handle 100 more hp; instead, a less powerful, non-S version arrives in 2007. PASM and PCCB--Porsche's cryptic descriptors for adjustable dampers and carbon composite brakes, respectively--are available, as is the Sport Chrono package, a favorite of track-day enthusiasts that was introduced last year on the 911 and the Boxster. When it hits dealerships in January, a PASM-equipped Cayman S will cost thousands less than a base 911 Carrera, while nearly matching its 177-mph top speed and its 0-to-60-mph time of 4.8 seconds. (The Cayman S tops out at 171 mph and will reach 60 mph in 5.1 seconds.) The well-balanced Cayman is also more forgiving, more stable, more confidence-inspiring, easier to drive at the limit, and three seconds faster around the Nrburgring's Nordschleife. So the question is: Why buy a 911?
VOLKSWAGEN EOSThe Concept C that was shown at Frankfurt two years ago is now a production reality called Eos. Based on the new Passat platform, the coupe/cabriolet--it employs a folding metal roof--will be available in Europe with a range of engines giving power outputs between 113 hp and 250 hp. Expect to see it in U.S. showrooms in March of 2006 with the 200-hp 2.0-liter turbo four from the Jetta GLI and the 250-hp 3.2-liter V6. The Eos comes with a full complement of standard equipment: stability control, front and front side air bags, sport seats, and sixteen-inch alloy wheels on the four-cylinder models. (V-6 versions get seventeens.) Pop-up roll bars are also fitted.
VOLVO C70The last of the old-style Volvos, the C70 convertible has finally been replaced by a sexy new sun seeker that debuted at Frankfurt. The new C70 convertible--with a clever, three-piece retractable hard top rather than a traditional soft top--will be powered by the same 218-hp, 2.5-liter, five-cylinder turbo found in the S40 sedan and the V50 wagon, cars with which it will share a platform. While these chassis mates look similar, the only common body parts between the C70 and the S40/V50 are the hood, outside rear-view mirrors, and door handles. The normally aspirated, 168-hp 2.4-liter and all-wheel drive are unlikely options, however. A six-speed manual or five-speed manu-matic will direct power to the front wheels.