2010 Sneak Preview
Warning: the information and images on the following pages might antagonize you to no end. As you read about the most anticipated cars of the next four years, you might become frustrated by wanting what you can't yet have. Just remember -- good things come to those who wait. For now, dig in to the details, the spy photos, the informed illustrations, and the future-teasing concepts of our annual Sneak Preview. Thanks to our probing questions and well-placed sources, there's plenty to dream about.
Alfa's U.S. return is still under review, so while we wait for word from Signore Marchionne, we can only dream about a few of our favorite Italian beauties.
MiTo: It may not be as cute as the MINI Cooper, but the Alfa hatchback exudes style that's unique not only in the subcompact segment but also in the American market. The range-topping 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder makes 170 hp.
2uettottanta: Designed by Pininfarina and exhibited at the Geneva auto show, the open-top two-seater is a concept with roots in the Spider roadster of the 1960s. Sadly, the modern Spider is front-wheel drive.
Giulietta: Alfa's newest product comes in performance Cloverleaf trim with a dual-clutch transmission and a 235-hp four-cylinder engine. Hidden rear doors make the sleek subcompact even sexier (see page 24).
What: A highfalutin crossover from Aston Martin wearing the badge of a revived British marque.
Dirt-track Aston? Like the 2009 concept, the production variant will be based on Mercedes-Benz GL-Class mechanicals. Expect the concept's V-12 to be traded for something less exotic -- but don't worry, custom bodywork, a handcrafted interior, and meticulous
assembly at Aston's U.K. facility will all be retained.
What: Aston's signature 510-hp V-12 in a V8 Vantage body.
When: Late 2010
Crashing The States: Originally launched as a Europe-only vehicle, the V12 Vantage challenged engineers to shoehorn a larger engine into the
compact engine bay and still meet U.S. crash regulations. Their success means we'll get the power of a DBS at a huge discount.
The stunning and capable Audi R8 just might be the perfect halo vehicle, and now Audi is set to capitalize on that image-builder with a smaller, more affordable R4. Although the two cars share a mid-engine layout, an effort to keep the starting price near $40,000 means that the R4's mechanicals are decidedly less exotic. A turbocharged four-cylinder making roughly 260 hp replaces the 420-hp V-8, and the aluminum spaceframe is traded for steel. Some rumors even suggest that the R4 could forgo Quattro all-wheel drive for a lighter, rear-wheel-drive configuration.
Audi's R4 project initially faced friction from corporate sibling Porsche, which sought to protect its sports-car turf. However, the latest iteration has been downsized to appease both brands. The shared modular sports car system (MSS) provides a smaller footprint that will spawn a fifth Porsche line as well as a Volkswagen model. All cars feature a steel structure topped with a mix of steel and aluminum body panels, and the suspension is expected to use struts up front and a multilink layout in the rear. Electromechanical steering, brakes, and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission are also shared among the family.
Of course, the sheetmetal and the interiors are different for each brand. Currently, Audi is slated to build a coupe only, although the design team has prepared proposals for convertible, targa, and long-roof-hatchback variants. The E-tron concept shown at the 2010 Detroit auto show (and pictured here) is said to be a strong inspiration for the R4's styling. That concept car, powered by two electric motors, also may hint at an alternative powertrain to complement the standard turbo four-cylinder. The small MSS matrix is flexible in terms of drivetrain options, accommodating anything from electric drive and hybrids to gasoline and diesel engines. Audi appears to favor a range-extended electric, known as TwinDrive in Volkswagen-speak.
What: A smaller, affordable, mid-engine sports car in the spirit of the R8.
And The TT? The R4 doesn't necessarily mean death for the TT -- some insiders say the front-engine roadster and coupe could move upmarket. Really?
What: Audi's contribution to the mutant four-door coupe/hatchback segment with requisite plush luxury.
When: Late 2011
Another Four-Door Coupe? Yes, but at least Audi's effort, seen here in concept form, is better looking than some. The production version, which foretells the next-generation A6, debuts in August at the Moscow auto show, of all places.
Audi's powertrain strategy calls for fewer V-6 applications and more use of the company's 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Along with finding its way into products like the Q5 and the A6, the 2.0T is also part of a new hybrid system that debuts in the Q5 crossover. The company will also phase in the ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic over most of its lineup, replacing the current transmissions in everything but the A3, the TT, the S4, and the S5.
Summer 2010: Turbocharged 2.0-liter with eight-speed automatic for the Q5.
Fall 2010: Audi A8 and A8L hit dealers, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 for the Q7.
Early 2011: R8 Spyder goes on sale, TT receives more powerful 2.0T.
Late 2011: A7 and hybrid models of the A8 and Q5 arrive.
Early 2012: All-new A6 launches, offering both the 2.0T four-cylinder and the 3.0T V-6.
This fall, Bentley will unveil the next generation of the car that has been so crucial to its success over the past decade, the Continental GT. It may appear to be a mere face-lift, but there are big changes under the hood. The W-12 engine will soldier on for grand-touring trims, but a twin-turbo, Audi-sourced V-8 will power a new line of sporty models and should match the current twelve-cylinder's 552 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. After the coupe lands in 2011, the sedan will arrive in 2012, the convertible in 2013, and the high-performance Speed models starting in 2014.
Can Bentley Do Small? The New Compact Bentley that we first reported in December is on hold, but it's far from canceled. It's said that chairman Franz-Josef Paefgen isn't keen on a $120,000 Bentley, but his imminent retirement should put the project back on track. The V-8-powered small Bentley will arrive no sooner than 2014 as both a two-door hatchback and a four-door crossover.
BUGATTI 16C GALIBIER
What: A sedan as only Bugatti could do: the world's most powerful and most expensive.
Best Parts Bin Ever: The Galibier draws power from the same 8.0-liter W-16 as the Veyron, but it uses two superchargers in place of the two-door's four turbos. Output is somewhere between 800 and 1000 hp, with a top speed of 220 mph. The carbon-and-aluminum-bodied 16C is expected to sell for a cool $1.5 million.
The sixth-generation 3-series
Our spy illustrators bring us our first look at the new family of 3-series cars, which will break cover in 2012. BMW's 3-series rollout will stretch into 2014 -- that's a long time, but it's a big family, especially with the addition of a Gran Turismo four-door hatchback. The GT, which uses a conventional liftgate rather than the dual-piece unit in the 5-series GT, is said to be lower and more sporty than its bigger brother. It and the wagon get a longer wheelbase than the other 3-series models and will offer a full-length glass sunroof. The sedan resembles a shrunken 5-series, while the coupe and the convertible get more sculpted sheetmetal, a lower roofline, and a more steeply raked windshield. The convertible again will feature a retractable hard top, but a Speedster version with a manual fabric roof and a lower-profile windshield may be sold by the M division. Speaking of which, the next M3 will be sold as a coupe and a convertible with a 3.0-liter twin-turbo six in place of the current V-8; it should put out about 450 hp. For the other 3-series models, the engine lineup (with ballpark output figures) looks like this: 220-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four (325i); 270-hp six (330i); 300-hp turbo six (335i); and 245-hp turbo-diesel six (330d).
BMW's great-looking CS concept from the 2007 Shanghai auto show was to sit above the 7-series in the BMW hierarchy. Instead, the brand's first four-door "coupe" will be part of the 6-series family, selling alongside the two-door coupe and convertible, which are being redesigned for 2012. In the engine room, we find a 2.0-liter twin-turbo four (in the 625i) that makes about 250 hp, enough to supplant the standard I-6. A 300-hp turbo six powers the 630i. The V-8 in the 650i makes some 400 hp, and the M6 will get about 575 hp from a twin-turbo V-8 (in place of today's V-10). An optional F1-inspired kinetic-energy recovery system provides a temporary 100-hp boost.
New Mini-Based Subcompacts
The first-ever front-wheel-drive bmws will appear in 2013 as siblings to the next-generation Mini. The two- and four-door hatchbacks, interpreted here by our spy illustrator, will be longer and taller than the Mini; a roadster is possible as well. A range of powerplants include a hybrid, an EV, and three- and four-cylinder turbocharged, direct-injection engines of up to 1.4 liters and about 170 hp. A six-speed manual and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic are planned; all-wheel drive will be optional.
What's Less Than 1? The brand's faithful may be horrified by the thought of a front-wheel-drive BMW, but the tough question internally has to be what to call it, because BMW has backed itself into a corner, name-wise.
What: New range of ultraefficient green machines.
When: Early 2014
The electric Mini E, out since last year, and the electric 1-series (ActiveE), announced at January's Detroit auto show, are both field trials for BMW's Project i, which is the company's major green strategy. Think of it as BMW's Smart. The first vehicle to arrive is a battery-powered, four-seat, so-called Megacity Vehicle. It also may be offered as a hybrid with a three-cylinder gasoline or diesel engine. The family will grow with the addition of a two-seat sports car (with four-cylinder power), a scooter (like the old C1), and two additional variants. BMW hopes for annual sales of 30,000 to 35,000.
Brand Strategy: BMW is betting the bank on EVs, even as it continues to create bloated, thirsty vehicles such as the X6 M.
It's A Go! Radical Frankfurt show car will become BMW's eco-friendly sports car.
When it debuted at last fall's Frankfurt auto show, BMW's Vision EfficientDynamics futuristic sports car was only a concept. But no doubt spurred by the announcements that Audi will offer its E-tron electric sports car for sale and that Mercedes-Benz will bring to market an electric version of its SLS AMG, BMW has little choice but to proceed with
its eco-friendly super sports car, which could take the designation Z10 and should arrive in 2014. If the street version even gets close to the specs of the concept, it will be mighty impressive: 63 mpg, 0 to 62 mph in 4.8 seconds, and a top speed of 155 mph. The show car was a plug-in hybrid with a three-cylinder turbo-diesel engine supplemented by two electric motors, but a U.S.-market car would likely get a four-cylinder gasoline powerplant. BMW claims that the concept can travel up to 31 miles on battery power alone. Total system output is 351 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. The two-plus-two's wildly shaped body incorporates gull-wing doors and has a claimed Cd of 0.22.
Next X3, New X1
At this fall's Paris auto show, we'll see the second generation of BMW's X3. The current car was the first German entry in the compact SUV arena, but the passing of time has allowed newer competitors to surpass it. The next edition loads on more luxury options and offers buyers a choice of 245-hp or 300-hp sixes (but no diesel). An ActiveHybrid model is due in 2012. The new X3 will be built in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and will be joined by the even smaller, German-built X1 in the spring of 2011.
With an available manual transmission, the Regal will have more to offer enthusiasts than any Buick in recent memory. But there's more on the way. Due in 2012, the Regal GS, previewed as a concept in Detroit, shares its styling and some components with the Opel Insignia OPC, but there will be several key differences. First off, whereas the top-of-the-line Insignia employs a 321-hp, 2.8-liter V-6, the GS will run with a lighter, more efficient, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder good for about 255 hp. Also, the OPC's all-wheel drive might not make it here, because Buick is worried about pricing the car out of its segment.
What: A compact sedan, courtesy of Europe's Opel Astra.
Learing From Mistakes: Unlike the ill-fated Saturn Astra, the Buick gets upgraded powertrains, easier-to-decipher controls, and a revised suspension.
What: A five-seat crossover, effectively a baby Enclave.
Is This Necessary? It's hard to see why Buick needs a small crossover when the same dealers already sell the GMC Terrain.
3-series in the crosshairs: With the CTS aiming at the BMW 5-Series, the ATS won't pull any punches in its quest to take on the segment's standard-bearer.
Our exclusive spy illustration reveals for the first time the likely styling for the Cadillac ATS, an ambitious new rear-wheel-drive small car aimed squarely at the likes of the BMW 3-Series and the Infiniti G37 that's expected to arrive in 2013. At the heart of the project is a new small platform known internally as Alpha. Power will come from small-displacement, high-output engines, with at least one turbocharged powerplant. The ATS sedan will be the volume seller, but there will also be coupe and convertible versions, as well as a V-series model.
What: Volt-based concept that was previewed at the 2009 Detroit show to rave reviews.
When: Probably Never. Too bad.
Not Happening? GM decided that it could not make a business case for the Converj, and in any event, the company feels confident that the Chevrolet Volt and the Opel Ampera will take up all available production capacity for its electric-vehicle platform in the next few years.
What: Large sedan introduced at the 2010 Detroit auto show.
Dream On: Although the XTS will be Cadillac's biggest, most premium sedan, Cadillac insiders still pine for an even more exclusive high-performance sedan -- in the vein of the 2003 Sixteen concept -- that would serve as the ultimate expression of the brand.
Driven: 2012 Spark
Minimal Size, Maximum Savings
Even in europe, surrounded by minuscule motorcars, Chevrolet's Spark looks small, narrower than it is tall. But from behind the wheel -- one of the most perfectly sculpted ever fitted to a mass-produced car -- it feels surprisingly spacious, as though Harry Potter had a hand in organizing the interior volume. True, the trunk is tiny, in part because the European-market car we drove has both a full-size gasoline tank and a pressure vessel for liquid-petroleum gas that takes up a good deal of room.
The twin-cam, sixteen-valve 1.0-liter four-cylinder idles so quietly that you'd think you were in an electric vehicle, yet it produces more than one horsepower per cubic inch, which at one time was the measure of a truly high-performance car. That the Spark is not, but it is quite adequate in urban traffic, provided you keep the revs up. Shifting is not a Honda-like, click-click joy, but it's not bad. On French rural roads at speeds up to 70 mph, "not bad" is a fair assessment of the entire package. This is not a car you'd buy for road trips, but for commuting and getting groceries it's a viable choice, well-made, nicely trimmed, and comfortable enough on the fourteen-inch tires on the top-of-the-line LS we drove.
- Robert Cumberford
The good news for chevrolet is that, for the first time since REO Speedwagon topped the Billboard charts with "Can't Fight This Feeling," more people are buying Camaros than Mustangs. The bad news is that the Blue Oval boys have responded in a big way and now have a faster, more efficient pony car. Chevy will return fire with a Shelby-fighting Z28, now back on track for a late-2011 arrival with supercharged V-8 motivation. Burning the rear tires should be easy with the 556-hp, 6.2-liter V-8 from the Cadillac CTS-V, but the Z28 should be marginally quicker due to a lower curb weight. Additionally, look for continual improvements each model year rather than the typical mid-cycle face-lift. The 2011 model year introduces the convertible, and the V-6 will get an 8-hp bump (to 312 hp). Engineers are also fine-tuning the handling to address complaints that the car doesn't turn in quickly enough. Further out, expect the Camaro to get more efficient, likely by offering turbocharged four- or six-cylinder engines. The next-generation car will also get lighter by switching from the Zeta architecture to the smaller Alpha platform.
Cruze: Late 2010
Chevy's Cobalt replacement will debut as a sedan only, but insiders are pushing hard for SS and four-door-coupe variants.
Volt: Late 2010
It's finally coming! However, the rollout will be slow, moving region by region. Production could eventually ramp up to some 60,000 units annually.
The new Aveo, seen here in concept form, is both bigger and much more refined than the current model, and it will be built in the United States rather than in Korea.
A chunky, seven-seat concept that could spawn a mechanical twin similar to the GMC Granite concept.
Malibu: 2013<br />
Face-lifted with more styled lines and new powertrains, likely including another hybrid.
2014 Chevrolet C7
American tax dollars put to excellent use
Last summer, a funny thing happened on the way to GM's bankruptcy. Government practitioners sent to administer CPR discovered a jewel in the rough -- the perennially profitable Corvette. Without hesitation, they shifted the next-generation Vette from indefinite hold to fully funded program.
For engineers like Tadge Juechter, who has developed Corvettes for seventeen years, it doesn't get any better than a green light from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. "We began working on C7 last fall," the fifty-three-year-old chief engineer explained. "We haven't announced production timing, but past Corvettes required three to four years of engineering and development. So there will be several more years with the current body style before a new model arrives."
Asked what new technologies we should expect to see in the next Corvette, a cautious Juechter answered, "Fuel economy is an obvious priority. Today's Corvettes provide excellent mileage, but we intend to pursue any strategy that has the potential of improving both fuel economy and performance."
Asked whether V-8s will remain a core attribute, Juechter offered a surprising response, "Corvette will always be a high-performance sports car, so that means it must continue to offer high-performance powertrains. Acknowledging the fact that the world is full of high-output V-6s, including a few at GM, I'd say that nothing is off the table at this point. We're in the due-diligence phase of determining which engines will yield the best C7. Considering V-8 alternatives is analogous to our move away from pop-up headlamps, a Corvette tradition for four generations. But the bottom line is always whatever strategy delivers the best car."
When chided for the lack of transmission and driveline innovation during the C6 era, Juechter became defensive. "The popular perception that more transmission speeds means higher efficiency is not supported by our analytical results," he said. "Corvette engines have broad torque and power bands that don't need extra gears to hold them at their efficiency peaks.
"The wider ratio spreads offered by seven- and eight-speed transmissions are useful to a point. But with extra gears come extra moving parts and spin losses. While dual-clutch transmissions tend to be more efficient than torque-converter automatics, they still exhibit slippage during launch.
"All-wheel drive makes a lot of sense in some applications, such as expensive sports cars and for sedan buyers seeking maximum security in bad weather. We like the additional launch traction provided by all-wheel drive, but the extra mass diminishes performance and mileage. And since the Corvette has traditionally been a three-season sports car, we don't have customers clamoring for improved winter mobility.
"There are many technologies that are attractive -- including hybrid powertrains and mid-engine layouts -- but it comes down to making the smartest choices for our customers. The one attribute we have no intention of changing is the extraordinary value that Corvettes have always provided."
Given Juechter's staunch defense of the C6 Corvette's engineering during the years that he and I have debated the merits of a mid-engine layout, a transmission moved behind the rear axle, and alternatives to fiberglass leaf springs, here's what we see in our C7 crystal ball:
Smaller engines: The goal is power comparable to today's Corvette V-8s with significantly better fuel efficiency. Plan on direct fuel injection, variable valve timing, and active fuel management (cylinder shutdown) to keep the pushrod V-8s in play. A larger version of the turbocharged DOHC V-6 powering the Cadillac SRX crossover could serve as the C7's base engine.
Fewer pounds: Without resorting to expensive carbon fiber or an aluminum frame for all Corvettes, Juechter's diet plan should enable the base coupe to drop below 3000 pounds by implementing narrower wheels and tires, smaller brakes, and smarter structural designs.
Lower aerodynamic drag: The wind tunnel never sleeps. Lessons learned in the lab and on the racetrack will help a new, smaller-looking Corvette slip through the air with the greatest of ease.
The return of the split rear window: GM design boss Ed Welburn has confirmed that the prominent exo-vertebra of the 2009 Stingray concept (above and on the opposite page) is one feature he intends to transfer to the C7.
- Don Sherman
By the end of this year, we should have a much better idea whether Chrysler will survive in its new partnership with Fiat. The promised product onslaught begins this summer, with the long-awaited new Jeep Grand Cherokee. This fall, Chrysler plans to launch a new 300 and Dodge Charger, along with a seven-seat Dodge Magnum. This Magnum, though, has nothing to do with the wagon that disappeared after 2008. Instead, it's a Grand Cherokee-based crossover that replaces the Durango. A deluge of significantly refreshed products for 2011 includes the Sebring and Avenger, the Dodge Journey, the Jeep Patriot and Compass, and the minivans. Expect to see much nicer interiors, especially in the Chrysler vehicles, as well as increased use of the new Pentastar V-6 engine.
The next major year on the Chrysler calendar will be 2012. That's when all-new, Fiat-designed products are scheduled to begin hitting our market. From this point forward, just about every small and mid-size offering will be built on a Fiat platform; large cars, vans, and trucks will continue to come from Chrysler and could increasingly be exported to Europe. To align brands globally, expect Lancia products to be twinned with Chryslers -- a Fiat/Dodge pairing is also under consideration. Still up in the air are the futures of the Dodge Dakota pickup and the Viper. The former could wind up reborn as a unibody truck around 2012, and the next Viper could share a platform with the upcoming Alfa Romeo 4C.
The debuts of both the charger and the Chrysler 300 aren't far off, yet company officials are unusually quiet about the coming products. Word is that's part of CEO Sergio Marchionne's plan, which has products being unveiled just a few months ahead of their showroom arrival. Will the see-it-then-buy-it strategy pay off for the automaker the same way it does for tech superstar Apple? Who knows? Despite the hush in Auburn Hills, a few finer points have slipped out, and our spy illustrator has detailed the softer, more graceful curves that the new Charger will sport. This
isn't merely a face-lift, either; the mechanical changes qualify the Charger as a new vehicle. Under the hood, the next Charger will use Chrysler's new Pentastar V-6, the familiar 5.7-liter Hemi, and an upsized 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 in the SRT8 variant, which will make roughly 450 hp.
Chrysler's new 3.6-liter pentastar V-6 needs to carry a huge load for the company's comeback to succeed. For starters, it's set to replace seven different V-6 engines ranging from 2.7 liters to 4.0 liters of displacement. You can't really call it innovative, but to illustrate just how outdated some of those old engines are, compare the V-6 powerplants of the 2010 and 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokees.
What: Ferrari's next hyperexpensive, hyperexclusive halo.
It took more than three decades (and his wife's death) for Enzo Ferrari to officially acknowledge his extramarital son, Piero Lardi Ferrari. Piero is now deputy chairman of the Italian automaker and owns ten percent of the company, but if there's any lingering doubt of his belonging in the family, it should be banished by 2013. That's when Piero joins his father and half brother, Dino, with a Maranello-made sports car bearing his name.
Based on our spy illustration (right), you may have guessed that the Ferrari Piero is the successor to the 2002-2004 Enzo and follows closely to the same formula: a mid-mounted engine, carbon-fiber construction, and a price of well over half a million dollars. But there's also something different, and it's a big deal: turbocharging. In an effort to increase performance -- the Enzo made 650 hp and ran to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds -- and reduce emissions, Ferrari will certainly lower displacement and will likely drop the cylinder count below twelve. Of course, engineers are also looking for places to cut mass, which could mean a sub-3000-pound curb weight for the Piero.
Turbochargers?! Boosting isn't a new thing for Ferrari -- both the 288GTO and the F40 used twin-turbocharged V-8s -- but this time it's about power and fuel economy. Ferrari will look for mild performance gains while making significant strides in consumption and emissions.
What: A road-going version of Ferrari's track-only 599XX.
Yours To Keep: Ferrari's 599XX touts improved aerodynamics, more power, and less weight than the plebeian 599 GTB Fiorano. The only problem is that Ferrari treats the car as a racing development program, so you can purchase the 599XX, but you can't have one. Instead, ownership merely gives you license to drive the car at Ferrari-organized track events. The 599 GTO solves that by reinstalling the necessities for a street-legal car while still leaving 661 hp of the 599XX's 690 hp intact. Compared with the 599 GTB, the limited-production GTO also boasts a lighter weight at 3296 pounds, faster shifts, and a 3.4-second 0-to-62-mph sprint.
2010: 458 Italia goes on sale in America, 599GTO launches.
2011: 612 Scaglietti replacement debuts.
2012: 458 Italia Spider arrives with a retractable hard top.
2013: Ferrari Piero sells to a few hundred lucky, very wealthy buyers.
2014: Lighter and more powerful Scuderia model arrives at the tail end of the 458 Italia's life cycle.
Fiat's first contribution to the U.S. market arrives by the end of this year in the form of the diminutive 500. Although the 500 will look very much like the European version, it will have actually received many changes for this market, including a reinforced unibody with improved crashworthiness and refinement. The convertible arrives in 2011, followed by the high-performance Abarth and an electric model in 2012.
Not For Everyone: Only certain Chrysler dealerships, namely those near urban centers, will market the 500.
Fiesta SVT & Focus SVT
After largely ignoring america for the last four years, Ford's global performance team will make up for it with a pair of hot hatches that will arrive in quick succession. Although the desert-runner Raptor pickup is plenty cool, the upcoming models based on Ford's new compact cars have broader and more practical appeal. Not that practicality matters. We're excited for cheap speed.
First up is the Fiesta SVT, which won't arrive until well into 2011 but was recently spotted in Dearborn by spy photographers. Although the magenta hatchback is clearly a European-spec car, the alignment of Ford's global performance program means that the mechanicals will make it here even if the two-door hatchback body and the particular styling tweaks seen here won't. Notice the intercooler tucked behind the gloss-black grille. Adding a turbocharger and direct injection to the 1.6-liter base engine should bump output from 120 hp to about 180 hp. Although SVT cars have traditionally been manual-transmission-only models, there's a good chance that you'll be able to purchase the performance Fiesta with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic as well.
The sorely missed SVT Focus is the team's other project. As with the Fiesta, the performance Focus will use a blown version of its 155-hp base powerplant. The boosted 2.0-liter engine will make as much as 275 hp in crossovers like the Edge and the Explorer, but in the new Focus SVT, it will likely produce closer to 250 hp. That will leave more room above the SVT for a second-generation, limited-production Focus RS similar to the 305-hp car currently sold in Europe. Such a project is really just speculation at this point, but if Europe gets a new RS, expect the U.S. to get one, too.
What: The classic SUV softened for the fuel-economy age.
When: Late 2010
A New Era Emerges: The first good spy shots reveal that, as expected, the 2011 Explorer will be more of a crossover than a traditional SUV. Switching to unibody construction drops weight, while a turbocharged four-cylinder engine could push highway fuel economy above 25 mpg. It's a big shift in the direction of the Flex, but the Explorer will maintain its distance with more ground clearance and stouter hauling capabilities. Seven-passenger seating continues.
Expanding Its Focus
Ford is planning at least ten different vehicles on its revised C1 architecture. Over the next couple years, more details will emerge, but here's a preview of what we expect:
Focus sedan, 2011: The sedan, which goes on sale early next year, is the volume seller for the Focus here in America. The new generation will bring more technology and luxury features.
Focus hatchback, 2011: As with the Fiesta, expect Ford to position the hatchback as the sporty, premium Focus.
Focus wagon, Europe only: It's hard to justify selling the wagon and the four-door hatchback side-by-side in america. Ford knows, because it tried unsuccessfully with the first-gen Focus.
Electric Focus, 2011: Ford admits that the electric Focus is a low-volume product.
C-Max, Europe only: Most Americans (us included) have trouble seeing it as something different from the four-door Focus hatchback.
Grand C-Max, 2011: A mini minivan for seven, similar in concept to the Mazda 5. It's called the Grand C-Max in Europe, but it will likely be named Focus C-Max in the States.
Mercury Tracer, 2011: The Tracer follows Mercury's standard formula: share the ford mechanicals and basic shape while tweaking the fascias and adding content.
Kuga/Escape, 2012: The Ford Escape merges with an updated European Kuga (current model pictured) packing new engines, more space, and fresh styling.
Tenth model: Your guess is as good as ours, but we hear it won't be a two-door hatchback. A Focus coupe or a hardtop coupe/cabriolet as currently sold in Europe are possibilities.
You wouldn't expect a minivan to make a major styling statement, but the next Odyssey, previewed as a concept at the Chicago auto show, might do just that. The "lightning bolt" beltline and aggressive, CR-Z-like front fascia signal Honda's shift toward more expressive, dynamic design. Still, don't expect form to overrule function, as Honda is promising more interior space and better fuel economy.
Gen X Van: Just as Toyota did with the aggressively restyled new Sienna, Honda seems to be targeting a younger, less conservative minivan buyer.
CR-Z Type R
The CR-Z won't be a screamer, with a 0-to-60-mph time of nearly ten seconds, but rumor has it that Honda is at work on a more powerful electric motor that could push output closer to 200 hp. Sorry, still no gasoline-only version.
Meanwhile, Over At Acura...
Honda's luxury brand hasn't quite succeeded in its mission to move upmarket. A new strategy will rely heavily on hybrids to distinguish the brand, starting with the TSX.
What: Sporty, economical two-plus-two.
When: Early 2011
With the arrival of the genesis coupe, it's been easy to forget about the Tiburon, Hyundai's recently departed, front-wheel-drive sport coupe. But Hyundai still has its sights on that market. The Veloster concept, first seen at the 2007 Seoul auto show, provides a preview--the production car's styling is said to be "80 percent Veloster." The Veloster name, though, might be dropped in favor of Tiburon, although the new car is positioned below the old Tiburon and emphasizes fuel economy as much as fun-to-drive performance. Based on the new Elantra, it will be powered by a 1.6-liter direct-injection four-cylinder. Hyundai hopes to match or beat the Honda CR-Z hybrid's fuel economy (36/38 mpg for the automatic) and is aiming for a 40-mpg highway rating. Without the expense of a hybrid system, undercutting the CR-Z's price should be easy.
New CRX? Looks like Hyundai, not Honda, will bring us the modern-day CRX that so many have been clamoring for.
What: Mercedes-Benz S-Class rival (really).
When: Summer 2010
Pampering Practice: Having just shocked Us with the Genesis, which goes up against the e-class, Hyundai is wasting little time making its next, even more ambitious move upmarket. Based on a stretched Genesis platform, this full-on luxury sedan is sized between the Lexus LS460 and LS460L. Hyundai hopes to duplicate the Lexus ownership experience on a smaller scale -- to that end, the Equus will be displayed in a separate area of the showroom, and not all Hyundai dealers will be allowed to sell it.
What: Hyundai's hope to finally take on the Honda Civic.
When: Late 2010
Catching Up With The Wagon: An all-new platform underpins the Elantra sedan and hatch. both launch with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder and an optional six-speed automatic; a 1.6-liter direct-injected four comes later. The same platform will be used for the new accent, which debuts early next year. the highly regarded elantra touring carries on unchanged.
What: A smaller V-6 hits the G spot.
When: Fall 2010
Smaller And Smaller: We expect that the short-stroke, 2.5-liter V-6 will be smoother than Nissan's current V-6 engines. It will rev to well over 7000 rpm and make about 220 hp, close to the BMW 328i's 230 horses.
What: A mild-hybrid
version of the M sedan.
Lean And Green: The most economical car in Infiniti's history -- says the manufacturer -- will use a 3.5-liter VQ-series V-6 and a 67-hp electric motor. That combination should ensure that it's also a quick green machine.
Hyundai's sister division has already taken the wraps off three upcoming new models: the sportage (on sale later this summer), the redesigned Optima (a 2011 model), and the Forte hatchback. Next year, Kia will roll out the Cadenza, a front-wheel-drive, V-6-powered sedan that sits above the Optima in size and price and replaces the current Amanti. Following the Cadenza comes Kia's first-ever rear-wheel-drive car, which -- no surprise -- is based on the Hyundai Genesis. Referred to as the K9 (although that name might attract some dog lovers, Kia won't use it in North America), the Kia will be smaller than its Hyundai counterpart and will use either a V-6 or a small V-8 engine. The K9 will get Kia's first eight-speed automatic, which will also soon migrate to the Hyundai Genesis and Equus.
What: A smaller, sportier Jag.
When: Convertible in 2013,
coupe in 2014
Like the Porsche 911 it's gunning for, the new XE will offer six-cylinder-only powertrains. The base, 3.0-liter direct-injection unit is good for about 275 hp. A supercharger will raise output to roughly 350 hp, and a boosted, 450-hp 3.5-liter derivative could power an XER model. The front-engine, rear-wheel-drive compact Jag will get either a six-speed manual or dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Jaguar is reportedly working on a common aluminum matrix for the XE and the next XK. The XE will make its debut as a convertible -- seen here in our spy artist's interpretation -- in 2013, followed by a coupe in 2014.
Reviving A Classic: In addition to the XE, Jaguar is discussing a program that would put modern mechanicals in classic body styles. While the C- and D-types are the current focus, an E-type redux is also possible.
What: The replacement for the Murcielago.
When: Early 2011
How Do You Pronounce It? Who knows? Ho-ta. Cho-ta. Yo-ta? Whatever-ta. The Murcie's replacement, rendered by our spy illustrator below, consists of a 700-hp V-12 bolted into a lightweight, carbon-fiber tub. The Jota moniker might not stick--and if it doesn't, we recommend finding some other unpronounceable name that means "up yours, mpg standards."
What: A Lambo four-door sedan.
Why? Look at it. Pronounced "Es-to-kay," the car you see here was just a concept. But Lamborghini can tap parent VW's resources for the new chassis that underpins the Audi A7 and the Bentley Continental, slip in a high-powered engine, and double its sales. Whether a four-door sedan has any right being in the Lambo lineup depends on one thing only: how outrageous it looks. And we'd say that the concept fits the bill just fine.
Land Rover Range Rover LRX
What: Excess is over, Rover, it's time for a small crossover!
Where's The Beef? With styling based on the show-car Land Rover LRX (below) and a chassis based on the LR2, this new, small Range Rover will come in both two- and four-door flavors. Look for the production versions to make their first appearances on the auto-show circuit this fall.
What: A sporty Lexus Prius.
When: Early 2011
Youthful Aspirations: Lexus already has a compact hybrid in the HS250h, but the CT200h targets a younger crowd with its Euro-hatch body and promises of more engaging dynamics. Compared with the HS, the CT200h uses a smaller (1.8-liter) gas engine that should come close to the 50-mpg EPA combined rating of the Prius. Can one car shift the demographics of Lexus buyers
What: A Mini SUV.
When: February 2011
The Next Logical Step? Or the beginning of the end? To many, the Mini has been the anti-SUV. What, then, to make of the Countryman, the first Mini SUV? Mini marketers will have a delicate job with this one, but they expect that the first Mini with four real doors and available all-wheel drive will eventually account for 40 percent of the brand's sales. That would make it the second most popular model in the lineup, well ahead of the Clubman and the convertible. Thus, Mini will offer the Countryman in a full range of configurations: base and S, front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, manual and automatic. The Countryman also will benefit from the same 2011 model-year updates as all other Minis, which include more power and improved fuel economy from both engines, thanks to parasitic-loss management and Valvetronic on the Cooper S.
Coupe & Roadster
What: Two-seat notchback with a fixed roof or a soft top.
When: Coupe in 2011,
Roadster in 2012
Lighter And Lower: First seen as concepts at the Frankfurt auto show, the Mini Coupe and Roadster are both headed to showrooms. Below the beltline, the two are identical to the current Mini Cooper and Cooper convertible. But the new cars are some two inches lower and feature a more steeply raked windshield and a stubby trunk -- although they are the same length as a standard two-door Mini. Both, however, are strictly two-seaters, and thus they will be roughly 175 to 200 pounds lighter than a four-seat Mini. No word yet on whether these sportiest Minis will offer the full range of powerplants or only the Cooper S and John Cooper Works turbocharged units.
Next Big Move
Just one year after the last of the current-generation Mini models arrives in 2012, the renewal process starts with the first of the next Minis. It seems safe to predict another retro urban vehicle with a sporty stance; early spy photos indicate an interior that once again mixes circular styling elements, eye-catching design, and mediocre ergonomics. Less easy to predict is the direction of the next Clubman or the shape of the final member of the family: the MiniVan. We do know that the next Clubman will get four proper doors, but what remains to be seen is whether it will adopt a more aggressive and less squared-off roofline or will instead head down Retro Lane with a woody theme, like the Mini Traveller of the 1960s. As for the MiniVan -- which was supposed to be part of the second generation -- it's a highly space-efficient one-box design, but an even more extreme flat-nosed concept is also in the running. Under the hood, we'll see a 1.5-liter direct-injected three-cylinder turbo (125 hp for the Cooper, 185 hp for the S) and a 2.0-liter direct-injected twin-turbo four-cylinder (250 hp) for the John Cooper Works version. What we won't see are the European-market 1.2-liter gasoline and diesel options. Our transmission choices will be a six-speed manual or a seven-cog dual-clutch automatic.
WHAT: A smaller sports car derived from SLS mechanicals.
SMALL, BUT NOT CHEAP: The limited-production SLV will cost as much as $100,000 - in the ballpark of the larger, but less exotic, SL550.
The exotic DNA of the gull-winged SLS AMG will likely spawn a smaller, aluminum-bodied, V-6-powered coupe and roadster currently under consideration by Mercedes-Benz for 2014. Internally, the project is known as SLV, where the V stands for variable body style - coupe, convertible, hatchback, roadster, you name it. For marketing purposes, though, the sports car could recall the iconic 1928-32 roadster with the SSK badge.
The idea behind the SLV is to make the most of the new Gullwing's aluminum spaceframe architecture conceived by M-B's go-faster AMG division. The six-cylinder engine destined to power the new lightweight sports car is code-named M276 and, in its most powerful form, should be good for about 400 hp. The twin-turbo, direct-injected V-6 will be mated to a dual-clutch automatic transmission. Unlike the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox in the SLS AMG, however, the SLV's transmission will feature two more gears. That's right - nine speeds. Also in the cards is a high-performance hybrid version of the new AMG powerplant with a 75-hp electric motor integrated into the gearbox.
To keep costs down, engineers intend to carry over the firewall, the front-engine layout, the transaxle configuration, and the core suspension from the SLS. Wheelbase, length, width, and height are, however, sufficiently flexible to generate a completely new two-seater that measures about 170 inches from bumper to bumper and tips the scales at approximately 3300 pounds. Providing the SLV swiftly clears all hurdles, it should debut at the 2013 Frankfurt show, although our spy illustrator has given his informed interpretation here. We don't know yet exactly what shapes the new AMG sports car is going to assume when sales commence in early 2014, but there will certainly be at least one open-top and one fixed-roof model.
WHAT: A two-door model of Mercedes' compact car that targets the Audi A5 and the BMW 3-series.
Mercedes is aiming to take on the BMW 3-series coupe and the Audi A5 with a two-door C-class. The coupe will arrive in mid-2011 following a face-lift of the sedan and the wagon this year. This explains the more sculptured hood, the restyled lights, and the enlarged nasal air intakes drawn by our spy illustrator. While the upward kink at the trailing edge of the rear window looks suspiciously like a BMW design cue, the wedge-shaped body and the sleek greenhouse convey Audi overtones.
Power for the C350 coupe, which will ride on the same platform as the two-door E-class, will be provided by an updated 3.5-liter V-6 producing 300 hp. Due to a disappointing sales forecast and high costs, the AMG model is currently on ice, a fate it shares with the proposed C-class cabrio. A hybrid model will use an electric motor integrated into the seven-speed transmission for modest fuel-economy and performance benefits. Mercedes also intends to offer a plug-in model, which uses a 60-hp motor for extended zero-emissions operation.
YET ANOTHER COUPE Mercedes-Benz used to make do with only two coupes - the CL and the CLK - but soon will have three: the S, the E, and the C, neatly mirroring the sedans. It sounds logical on paper, but are there enough two-door buyers to support the growth?
WHAT: Smaller Benzes to combat BMW.
WHEN: bls in Late 2011, blk in Early 2013
BELIEVE IN B The traditional b-class hatchback may be too dumpy for our american tastes, but m-b has plans to get its front-driver here. The BLS Four-door coupe was previewed by the f800 style concept at geneva and will be the cls's little brother. the blk, for its part, will be a smaller version of the Glk crossover. both should have starting prices of less than $25,000.
Busy, Busy Benz
2010 The trailblazing four-door coupe, the CLS, enters its second generation with more elegant, powerful styling; A face-lifted CL is renamed S-class coupe; the R-class has one last chance to prove itself with a taller fascia and hood that's more suv-like.
2011 Based on the CLS, a sporty four-door hatch called the CLT arrives; The SLK roadster delivers all-new bodywork and a tinted glass center section in the folding hard top; A sleeker and sportier ML-class has a hybrid-centric powertrain lineup.
2012 The aging S-class is replaced. A new, aluminum SL bows.
Unfortunately, the resurrected RX-7 rumored for a 2011 debut isn't happening. However, Mazda has realized that it's time to rejuvenate its sports car soul and has begun work on a family of fresh two-seaters. It's too soon to say whether an RX-7 will be included in that mix or when the next rotary will appear, but there's no doubt that the MX-5 Miata will benefit.
While the current MX-5 is not a candidate for Mazdaspeed ministrations (past examples weren't cost effective), don't count out the new Mazda 2. U.S. deliveries of the standard-spec subcompact with a 100-hp, 1.5-liter engine begin in late July. If the mazdaspeed model (a 2008 Tokyo concept is shown) earns the green light, appropriate hardware from both the motorsports department and from foreign sources could be gathered quite expeditiously.
The refreshed and restyled Mazda 5 minivan arrives in early 2011 with the 3's 167-hp, 2.5-liter engine. Further out, a new family of gasoline and diesel four-cylinder engines (code-named Sky) will replace the current MZR four-bangers. Mazda will also tap Toyota for its hybrid system starting in 2013.
WHAT: MP4-12C supercar.
WHEN: May/June 2011
SON OF F1: The MP4-12C will be the first exclusively McLaren-branded road car since the F1, perhaps the most storied supercar of all time.
The british racing car company best known for its Formula 1 efforts is on a quest to become a sports car company as well. McLaren's first effort on that front was the legendary F1 (produced from 1993 to 1998); more recently, McLaren collaborated with Daimler to produce the Mercedes-Benz SLR Mclaren. Next comes the MP4-12C, which, like the first McLaren street car, is a mid-engine sports car that makes extensive use of carbon fiber. But this time, it uses V-8 rather than V-12 power and has a conventional, two-seat cabin rather than the F1's three-seat, central-driving configuration. For us, though, the most important difference is that this McLaren will be sold in the U.S.
The compact, 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 revs to 8500 rpm and spins out 600 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. The 90-degree V-8 features dry-sump lubrication and works exclusively with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic to send power to the rear wheels. McLaren is promising 62-to-0-mph braking in less than 100 feet, a quarter-mile time of about 11 seconds, and a top speed in excess of 200 mph.
Aiding all these efforts is the MP4-12C's light weight - at an estimated 3000 pounds, it's a couple hundred pounds lighter than a Ferrari 458 Italia, which is fractionally larger. The MP4-12C is built around a carbon-fiber central chassis tub, with aluminum extrusions front and rear. The control-arm, coil-spring suspension is able to do without antiroll bars because a system called Proactive Chassis Control connects the adaptive dampers hydraulically. There's also an air brake that automatically extends under hard braking.
The company expects to send 250 examples, with a price of roughly $200,000, to the United States in the first year.
What: The electric vehicle that's content looking like a golf cart.
When: Late 2011
Looks Can Be Deceiving: Despite its toylike appearance, the iMiEV is a bona fide car with capability almost on par with that of the Nissan Leaf. Range is said to be roughly 75 miles, with propulsion provided by a 63-hp motor and 16 kWh of lithium-ion batteries. The 110-volt charger requires twelve hours for a full battery fill-up, but a quick charger could restore 80 percent of range in twenty-five minutes.
What: The Outlander's little brother, starting at less than $20,000.
When: Fall 2010
Names Can Be Deceiving: This isn't just an Outlander with a sporty engine and chassis tuning. The new crossover is actually a smaller and very different vehicle from the standard Outlander, and fuel economy is its forte. Power comes from a 148-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and front-wheel-drive models will be rated at 31 mpg on the highway. All-wheel drive will be available, and gearbox choices will include a manual or a CVT.
What: The first mass-market all-electric car.
When: December 2010 (kind of)
Shocking Answers: An electrified future begs two questions: how far and how much? Nissan is the first mainstream maker to answer both. Its Leaf will cover 100 miles on a charge and cost $32,780. But that price doesn't include a $7500 federal subsidy and state incentives. The Leaf goes on sale late this year in small numbers. Widespread consumer sales come in 2011.
What: A small, sporty crossover aimed at young men.
When: Fall 2010
Sonic Youth: The Juke is the widest-track derivation yet of Nissan's global
B platform, which already underpins the Versa subcompact and the Cube. It will be powered by a 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder making more than 180 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque and will be mated to a manual gearbox or -- what else? -- a CVT. Athleticism is amplified with available torque-vectoring all-wheel drive. The Juke was penned at Nissan's design studio in London and is, its designers claim, a mix of toughness with sports car sleekness. Maybe Nissan should have just built a sports car instead.
What: The story here is Nissan's new, global
V platform, which underpins this tiny new Micra that just debuted in other international markets. We won't get the Micra, but we'll get something based on the same architecture.
When: 2011, maybe
Build It Cheap: The Micra, and presumably anything else on the V platform, will be built in factories in four low-wage countries: India, Thailand, China, and Mexico.
Now wiggling its way into the volkswagen fold, Porsche will see its engineering expertise used by other brands -- and the other way around. That means we'll see a 356, a mid-engine sports car that will share a platform with VW and Audi. It also means that instead of concentrating on volume cars like the Cayenne and the Panamera, Porsche will be allowed to focus on the sports cars that are its core strength.
The concept car stunned visitors to the Geneva auto show, but it's on the street where the 918 will really make a splash. The last concept Porsche showed was the Boxster, and like that car, you can expect a production version of this one. In show form, the hybrid 918 promised to...uh...save the planet with a racing engine using no apparent emissions controls. A twin-turbo V-8 is a far better bet for this roadgoing Carrera GT replacement.
The current 911 -- chassis code 997 -- hasn't even been fully rolled out yet: we're still expecting a fresh GT2 to join the lineup. But its replacement, the 991 chassis, has been spied undergoing testing. The 991 will be longer, lower, and wider than the 997, with an all-new suspension and a four-inch-longer wheelbase. The 2012 911
will debut in S and RS trim, with flat-sixes displacing 3.4 and
3.8 liters producing about 350 and
400 hp, respectively. Later, we'll see a 450-hp GT3, a 525-hp Turbo, and a 550-hp GT2. And, of course, Cabriolet and Targa body styles will trickle into the lineup.
What: The last new truck from Porsche.
When: July 2010
The Big Loser:
The Cayenne has only just begun its big diet, but it dropped nearly 400 pounds for 2011. This more svelte SUV is a stopgap measure, though -- the next Cayenne, due in 2017, will be lighter and
better aligned with the Porsche brand. In the meantime, look for the Audi V-6 hybrid to show up here, too.
What: 981-chassis replaces the 987 and is based on the 991-chassis 911.
Business As Usual:The Boxster moves to the new 911 chassis, remaining sufficiently upmarket not to step on the 356's toes.
What: A soft-top version of Porsche's luxury sedan.
Look How Pretty:
A four-door convertible is a rare sight, indeed, but what's even more surprising is how well the ovoid Panamera's styling takes to having its roof chopped off, at least in the hands of our spy illustrator. No word yet on which of the sedan's powertrains will show up in the droptop--there's an all-new Porsche-exclusive V-6, the V-8, the twin-turbo V-8, and the hybrid, which uses Audi's 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 and an electric motor.
What: A subcompact entry from the maker of the Hayabusa sportbike.
When: Late 2011 (at best)
What's The Holdup? Less than two years ago, American Suzuki planned to launch a new version of the Swift in 2010. Unfortunately, the financial crisis delayed Suzuki programs worldwide, and the company's recent partnership with Volkswagen means that Suzuki had to cauterize its supply relationships with General Motors. The design of the Swift (current generation shown) is more or less finalized, but the car will likely end up switching powertrains before it hits U.S. showrooms no sooner than late next year. Suzuki officials assure us that the Swift is too far along to adopt Volkswagen (Polo?) underpinnings, but we'd be surprised if the Swift has anything other than a VW powertrain if and when it finally gets here.
What: More powertrains for the sporty new mid-size sedan.
When: Not this year, but maybe next...
Stuck On Four: Hybrid and V-6 models were waiting in the wings when the Kizashi arrived last fall with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder as its only engine. But now that VW has taken Suzuki under its ample wing, the planned GM powertrains have been scrapped in favor of powertrains from Suzuki's new partner. at this point, it's undecided whether the hybrid will be of the "full" or "mild" variety, and the most powerful Kizashi might now end up with a turbo four-cylinder instead of a V-6.
What: Scion has decided that this quirky European city car is fit for U.S. drivers.
When: Early 2011
A Smart Move: The iQ will go head-to-head with the smart fortwo, but the Scion offers room for two more with its three-plus-one seating (only a child can fit behind the driver). The packaging is so tight that one of the ten air bags covers the rear window to protect back-seat occupants' heads in the event of an accident. The U.S. iQ will use a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine with a CVT; expect combined fuel economy to be in the high 30s. An electric version is also on the way.
subaru is well aware that the Impreza WRX STI understeers too much and doesn't turn in as quickly as a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. That's why the new four-door STI also has a revised suspension that finds its way into its hatchback sibling. The key changes are a lower ride height, stiffer spring rates, thicker antiroll bars, and firmer bushings for the rear subframe. Lesser WRX models now share the STI's wider body for 2011, along with wider wheels and a track that grows by 1.5 inches.
Unfortunately, the company is still silent on its most exciting project, the Subaru sport coupe based on Toyota's FT-86 concept. It seems that Toyota's involvement has created a tighter-than-usual circle around the project. Toyota, responsible for design, is currently debating whether the Subaru variant will bow first in concept form or if the auto show debut will be a production-ready car. Subaru has been charged with engineering the mechanicals, yet it's still unclear if its car will use rear- or all-wheel drive and a turbocharged or normally aspirated engine.
What: Toyota's long-overdue rear-wheel-drive
When: Late 2011
The $375,000 Lexus LFA may have trumpeted Toyota's return to sports cars, but it's the FT-86 concept that's got us more excited. Sure, the Toyota sports car is pedestrian compared with the V-10 supercar, but the FT-86 has everything needed to make fun accessible: rear-wheel drive, a manual transmission, and a reasonable price. While Toyota is mum on the specifics of the Subaru-supplied mechanicals and other details, expect 200 hp for less than $30,000.
Need More Power? A concept of the FT-86 from the 2009 Tokyo Auto Salon packed a turbo under the hood and G Sports -- the name of Toyota's new brand of aesthetic and performance parts -- stickers on the body. With Subaru responsible for vehicle engineering, a boosted variant seems like a no-brainer.
Thanks to the recession, Volkswagen's corporate lips have stopped muttering outrageous sales goals, but a product offensive to significantly boost North American sales is under way. The strategy is simple: Americans love big, inexpensive cars, and our painfully slow highway speeds mean that most of us don't need cutting-edge suspension technology. To that end, we'll see two slightly watered-down sedans specific to North America and a stretched-wheelbase Tiguan. Should small cars continue to grow in popularity, a Polo sedan will slot in beneath the Jetta.
The Next Jetta
When: Fall 2010
Heading Backward: And not in a bad way: the Mark 6 Jetta harks back to the 1999-2005 fourth-generation edition--both in its torsion-beam rear suspension and its gotta-have-it styling.
Europeans much prefer the hatchback Golf, but the Jetta has been VW's money-maker in the U.S. since its introduction. And this time around, VW is finally giving our market a careful look. All previous Jettas have been a Golf with a trunk, but the 2011 Jetta takes a slightly different direction than the hatchback. Moving interior space and low cost up on the priorities list, the Jetta returns to the torsion-beam rear suspension used by the first four generations. This change saves some money, helping to bring the Jetta's price down from the top of its class. Engines will remain the same--a 2.5-liter five-cylinder as the base engine and a 2.0-liter turbo-diesel as the frugal choice. A hybrid version will follow shortly thereafter, and if you cross your fingers, possibly a sporty GLI, using the GTI's 2.0-liter turbo.
Shown here in concept form, the Bluesport previews a mid-engine sports car shared with Audi and Porsche.
New New Beetle
What: A far less
bubbly replacement for the aging
What: Late 2011
No More Daisies:
As the corporate machine tried to decide between front-, mid-, and rear-engine layouts, the current New Beetle slowly slipped into retirement. The decision is now in, and the Mexico-built Beetle -- based on the same basic front-engine chassis -- returns for the 2012 model year. Gone are the flowery curves, replaced with more macho looks to appeal to a more masculine audience. Or at least a less feminine one.
What: A Passat replacement sized for, priced to, and built by Americans.
What's The Big Deal? Its big size, and the fact that it'll also be priced significantly lower than the current Passat. Built in Tennessee specifically for the U.S. mid-size market, the NMS (a code name) takes direct aim at the most successful and well-established players from around the world -- and it will finally be able to compete on price. That leaves the current Passat extinct, except for the low-roofed CC, which carries the torch as the VW brand's halo sedan.
At least for now.
China's Geely is clearly in the honeymoon phase with its newly acquired Swedish bride. The company has lofty goals of growth centered on its home market, including a Beijing factory capable of turning out 300,000 Volvos annually. The March purchase, though, shouldn't have any effect on the autumn 2010 arrival of the S60 sedan. That car features a 300-hp, turbo in-line six and a pedestrian-detection system that can slow or stop the car before a collision. There's an upcoming wagon variant called the V60, but Volvo has no plans to sell it in the U.S. as buyers favor the XC60, XC70, and XC90 crossovers.