Future Cars

Long Shots – Future Cars That Might Not Make it to Production

[cars name="Saab 9-3"], 9-3X ,9-4X, 9-5, 9-1
It’s ok to Saab at the end of a marriage.

Whatever Saab’s future holds, we know it will be independent of General Motors, which has said it will cut ties to the Swedish automaker by early 2010. For Saab’s new owner (which may be identified by the time you read this), the question is how much of the brand’s future model program it will retain, given that it is so heavily entwined with either Opel or Cadillac models. Naturally, the near-term entries are less subject to disruption than those several years out.

That means the 9-3X wagon, unveiled at Geneva and due to go on sale this fall, is a sure thing. Thematically similar to the or the , it features standard all-wheel drive and a 1.4-inch-taller ride height, and it can be identified by its gray lower-body cladding. A 210-hp turbo four is the sole engine, but buyers have a choice of manual or automatic six-speed transmissions. Also set to appear before the end of 2009 is the long-overdue new 9-5, offered in sedan or wagon form and based on the Opel Insignia.

Another tardy arrival is Saab’s first crossover, the 9-4X (pictured), a handsome, five-seat entry previewed by last year’s concept. A sister model to the new , it replaces the ill-conceived, Chevy TrailBlazer-based 9-7X and is due to reach showrooms in 2010. For the next 9-3, set for 2011, GM’s idea was to separate it from the 9-5 by moving the 9-3 down in size and price, basing it on the Chevy Cruze. The daring plan featured three body styles – a long-roof two-door hatchback, a four-door wagon, and a convertible, but no four-door sedan – powered by turbo four-cylinders ranging from 1.4 to 2.4 liters (200 to 300 hp) and a trio of diesels. An even smaller entry, the 9-1, was to be paired with the next Opel Corsa and would use engines as small as a 1.0-liter three-cylinder. The 9-1 wasn’t likely before 2013, by which time Saab’s GM-laid plans might seem like ancient history.

Fiat/Alfa Romeo
The Fiats are coming! Maybe. The Fiat most likely to reach our shores is the pint-size 500, which would offer Mini Cooper cachet at a Dodge Caliber price. Standing in the way is the 500’s ability to meet U.S. crash standards and the stickier matter of Chrysler‘s continued existence.

Further down the road and far less certain are several Alfa Romeo models. There’s the MiTo (think , but with Italian sexiness instead of Japanese quirkiness) and yet-to-be-designed compact and mid-size sedans named the Milano and the Giulia.

2011 Chrysler 300C
We’ve seen the next Chrysler 300C, and it’s breathtaking. Exterior changes are subtle but very handsome, and the interior gets a much-needed upgrade. The Charger – Dodge‘s version of the same car – will be upgraded simultaneously, and it’s drop-dead gorgeous. These twins prove that Chrysler knows how to share platforms without sharing styling, even down to the interiors. Well, if Chrysler survives long enough for these cars to see production.

2010 Fisker Karma
It’s easy to be skeptical: 400 hp, 1000 lb-ft of torque, 0 to 60 mph in less than six seconds, better handling than a , luxury rivaling the BMW 7-series, and better-than-Prius green cred. And all for $87,900. The man behind the machine, Henrik Fisker, insists that his Karma will be at dealers by the end of this year. If Fisker can come through – and if buyers respond – a convertible version is next.

2011 Chevrolet Volt
GM asserts that the Volt is still on schedule. Depressed oil prices and bleak financial outlook be damned, your vehicle of the future will be in Chevy dealerships in November 2010. GM is also considering other extended-range electric vehicles and is beginning to develop its next-generation Voltec powertrain. Of course, the Volt isn’t waiting alone – the Opel Ampera and the Cadillac Converj also require the same battery technology.

Toyota is playing it safe with the plug-in Prius. It will build 150 units for fleet testing later this year but won’t commit to a production model. The issue, Toyota says, is the unproven reliability of lithium-ion batteries. It won’t risk the Prius’s strong brand equity on pricey new battery technology that may fail.Others, chief among them GM’s Bob Lutz, say that Toyota is merely trying to protect its investment in nickel-metal-hydride batteries, which it produces in-house for itself and other carmakers. We won’t know who was right until after 2010, when the Chevrolet Volt is set to launch.

2011 Tesla Model S
Tesla plans to drive the electric vehicle from sideshow to main stage with a mass-produced four-door sedan. Due in late 2011 and priced at $49,900 (after a $7500 federal tax credit), the base model will carry five adults and two children 160 miles between charges. The 5500-cell battery pack reportedly will propel the historic EV from 0 to 60 mph in less than six seconds and achieve a top speed of 130 mph. The early buzz? Shocking.