WHAT: The second generation sharpens exterior edges and adds a shield grille but otherwise remains faithful to the original design. Based on the new Golf platform.
WHEN: Frankfurt show debut; on sale 2006.
DON’T MESS WITH SUCCESS: But please make it sportier.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
WHAT: The third generation of modern auto-dom’s most famous ragtop is seen here as a disguised prototype testing at Germany’s Nrburgring track. The overall shape and size of the new Miata appear to be very close to those of the current model, but one can see that this is an entirely new car by the shape of the doors and the side windows, which have a smaller triangular section adjoining the A-pillar. The disguised front end is also new, with a flatter hood and a higher cutline between the hood and the front bumper and grille. It also appears that the wheel arches will be more pronounced.
WHEN: We expect to see the production car at this month’s Geneva show and in dealerships this fall.
THIRD TIME: And it looks as if it still will be quite a charmer. Stay tuned for more details.
Chevrolet Monte Carlo
WHAT: Chevrolet’s NASCAR nameplate now will seem more authentic with the introduction of an available V-8
to go with a freshened exterior and improved interior.
WHEN: Fall 2005.
MORE GRUNT, BUT: It’s still ugly.
Ferrari F430 Convertible
WHAT: The convertible F430 looks almost identical to the coupe. It sports the same 483-hp, 4.3-liter V-8 with either a six-speed manual or sequential-manual transmission.
WHEN: Early 2006.
SUPPLY, DEMAND: There’s still a wait list for the 360 Spider.
Bentley Drophead Coup
WHAT: Bentley will try to beat Rolls-Royce to market with a new ultraluxury convertible first seen at the L.A. auto show as the Arnage Drophead Coup concept. Based on the Arnage sedan, the canvas-topped four-seater is roomier than the Azure it replaces, and it boasts a glass rear window, pop-up roll bars, and a bigger trunk. Like the Arnage R, the droptop is powered by the classic 6.75-liter, twin-turbo V-8, which delivers 450 hp and 645 lb-ft of torque. The price should be just under $300,000. Too expensive? Stand by for the $175,000 Continental GT drophead.
WHEN: 2006 for both.
WHAT ELSE: At this month’s Geneva show, Bentley also will unveil the four-door Continental sedan, which will be badged the Flying Spur and feature a C-pillar treatment reminiscent of the namesake former flagship. Stretching the wheelbase by a foot creates plentiful rear leg-room for adults. Both four-seat and five-seat models will be offered. Slightly shorter than the Arnage, it has better front legroom and rear head- and knee room. Price and performance are about on par with the twin-turbo W-12 GT coupe.
WHEN: Fall 2005 or early 2006.
FLOSSIN’: Bentley nails the big-bucks look.
WHAT: The fixed-head version of the new Boxster promises lighter weight and a stiffer structure than the already very stiff cabrio. Initially, the Cayman will be offered in S trim with a 295-hp 3.4-liter flat six. The same 240- and 276-hp flat-sixes used in the Boxster may come later. A stripped-down ClubSport will satisfy track junkies who want mid-engine handling and need the safety of a hard top.
WHEN: Early 2006.
A BABY CARRERA?: The Cayman would be faster on a racetrack than its big brother if it were as powerful, so Porsche is dumbing down the horsepower to protect the profitable 911.
WHAT: The replacement for the C70 convertible will be based on the new S40/V50 platform, itself shared with Mazda and Ford. The C70 will be a full four-place convertible with a folding hard top in place of the outgoing car’s soft top. The convertible will be offered with the 168-hp naturally aspirated and 218-hp turbocharged fives from the S/V range, with an all-wheel-drive option. Prices will start in the mid-$30,000s.
WHEN: Early 2006.
SUNNY SWEDE: Smaller and more fun.
BMW 3-Series Coupe/Convertible/M3
WHAT: Popular and profitable variants of BMW’s most important car are attired in all-new, de-Bangled sheetmetal. The coupe, convertible, and M3 will help the 3-series sedan, which arrives this summer, fend off challengers for the entry-luxury-segment crown. The coupe and convertible will be motivated by the same six-cylinder engines as the sedan, while the M3 will have a 400-hp V-8 under its hood.
WHEN: Coupe, 2006; convertible, 2007; M3, 2007
HIGH HOPES: The 3-series should help placate the BMW faithful who have been whining about Chris Bangle’s styling direction.
Pontiac G6 Convertible
WHAT: The droptop G6 has a retractable roof that raises or lowers in less than thirty seconds. The two-piece, clamshell-style hard top, engineered with help from Karmann, stores beneath a hard tonneau cover. When dressed in GTP trim, the G6 convertible will be powered by a 3.9-liter, 240-hp V-6 mated to a four-speed manu-matic transmission (a six-speed manual will be offered only with fixed-top GTPs). GT examples get the same 3.5-liter, 200-hp V-6 as the four-door G6 GT. All G6 convertibles get eighteen-inch wheels and should command $3000 to $4000 over comparable fixed-roof coupes.
WHEN: Early 2006.
HIDDEN FROM VIEW: While both this version of the G6 and its coupe sibling look great, the cabrio’s chunky rear quarter-panels mean shorter back-seat passengers may have difficulty seeing out or being seen. But this car brings an affordable hardtop convertible to the masses.
WHAT: The longer, wider, taller, and more powerful fourth-generation Eclipse is based heavily on last year’s Detroit concept. This latest version is extremely important for beleaguered Mitsubishi, which hopes to recapture the younger buyers lost with the previous-generation car. GS models will be equipped with a 2.4-liter, 165-hp four and either a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual transmission. GTs will get one extra ratio per gearbox and a 3.8-liter, 260-hp V-6.
WHEN: Coupe, mid-2005; Spyder, 2006.
WHERE’S THE BEEF?: The concept’s voluptuous curves were sexy and dynamic, but the production version seems a bit boring by comparison. Let’s hope the driving is not.
Saturn Sky Roadster
WHAT: Saturn’s version of the Pontiac Solstice, the Sky exhibits the new face of Saturn, which will add a mid-size sedan and a large crossover sport-utility to its lineup over the next two years. Aimed at the Mazda Miata in price with dimensions close to the pricier and slightly bigger Honda S2000, the sub-$25,000 Sky gets a 170-hp, 2.4-liter Ecotec four mated to manual or automatic five-speed transmissions and near 50/50 weight distribution. We also expect a Red Line version.
WHEN: Early 2006.
WHAT WAS SATURN’S BRAND IDENTITY AGAIN?: We’re wondering what sister division Pontiac thinks of the supposed budget-brand Saturn becoming more performance-oriented.
Porsche 911 Turbo
WHAT: Beyond the requisite boost in horsepower to an estimated 480, the next 911 Turbo, due in just over a year, features the long-awaited dual-clutch automatic transmission. With weight barely increased, the all-wheel-drive Turbo will blast from 0 to 60 mph in well under four seconds. Wider fenders house the widest tires ever fitted to a 911, and a multitude of air intakes accentuate the fast and furious proportions.
MEGA 911s: The Turbo follows both the Carrera 4S and the 400-hp GT3, which again will be a lightweight, nonturbo track star.