Audi TT Roadster
Sun on your face, but no folding hard top
No, it won't have a folding metal roof like practically all other modern drop-tops. But the new-generation Audi TT Roadster will have extra soundproofing in its cloth hood. And it will get a fully automatic 'hands-free' operation which takes just 12 seconds to do the business and stows away more efficiently than before.
Torsional rigidity (always a problem with roofless cars) is also claimed to be improved by 100 percent. Audi's Space Frame construction (58 percent aluminum, 42 percent steel) keeps it comparatively light (2849 pounds for the 200-bhp, turbocharged 2.0-liter FSI front-drive version).
This engine will be coupled with the excellent S-tronic (formerly known as DSG) transmission. The 250-bhp, 3.2-liter V6 version can also ride with the S-tronic spinning all four wheels, but a six-speed manual gearbox is also on the options list. American customers will have to wait until May before twirling the special flat-bottomed steering wheel.www.audi.com
Porsche 911 GT3 RS
And you thought it couldn't get any better
If there's one thing better than the remarkable 911 GT3, it's the hardcore 911 GT3 RS. Check this out: a close-ratio six-speed transmission driving the rear wheels, active suspension with new Sport mode that banishes body roll, a rear track that's 1.6 inches wider than the normal GT3, 44 pounds lighter (thanks to weight-saving measures like the carbon fiber rear wing, plastic engine cover and lightweight plastic rear screen, making it 3025 pounds in total), lightweight bucket seats and a bolt-in roll cage.
And the naturally aspirated engine achieves an incredible 115.3 bhp per liter of displacement. That makes 415 bhp from the 3.6-liter flat-six when spinning at 7600 rpm. It continues to tingle spines all the way up to 8400 rpm. Going from zero to 62 mph takes just 4.2 seconds; 124 mph (200 kph) arrives in 13.3 seconds before hitting the 187 mph maximum.
If that's not enough to give you butterflies, this will. Optimized airflow into the engine makes an important contribution to output and performance. Enlarged in diameter from 2.9 to 3.2 inches, the throttle butterfly reduces flow resistance and improves the charge cycle. The new, variable intake aluminum manifold comes with two connection pipes featuring resonance butterflies between the air collectors on the two rows of cylinders. Carefully and precisely interacting with one another, these control flaps ensure both a broad and powerful torque curve across a wide rev range as well as immense maximum output. A six-point driver's seatbelt and fire extinguisher are provided. We say bring it on. Porsche says not until spring 2007, at a price still to be determined.
Arden Automobilbau AR6 Stronger
Stronger, faster... better?
Arden, German tuners from Krefeld, specializing in Range Rovers and Jaguars, have turned their attention to the Range Rover Sport. Not only does the car get a high quality carbon fiber body kit, special 10-spoke 10x22-inch lightweight wheels and a customer-specific interior (options include leather, Alcantara, and exotic woods), but the engine and suspension have been reworked too.
The result is the AR6 Stronger. Not the best name, perhaps, but there's no denying the additional muscle. The supercharged V8 engine has been bored out to 4.8 liters and tuned to produce 520 bhp at 5800 rpm while twisting to the tune of 501 lb-ft at 3600 rpm. Big numbers that make shorter times. From standstill, 62 mph (100 kph) whizzes by in 6.1 seconds on the way to a claimed 167.8 mph top speed.
The enhanced aerodynamics send air to an uprated braking system that deploys six-piston calipers up front, with four-piston items at the rear. And to make the Sport even sportier, Arden fits an electronically-controlled air suspension, said to provide optimum tuning at at all times. A further two driver-selected settings are available. The car can be lowered by 23mm for improved handling, or raised by 25mm for better ground clearance.
Arden would also like everyone to know that its bespoke stainless steel dual twin-pipe exhaust system sounds way better than the overly polite factory issue. No prices yet, but we've got a feeling that 'bargain' wouldn't be the most apt description.www.arden.de
Neiman Marcus Limited Edition M6
No, we're not kidding
Billed as the 'must-have' automobile for the person who has everything, a posh Neiman Marcus-edition BMW M6 made its American debut at a special unveiling in October. Only 50 will be built, each featuring a custom Ruby Black exterior finish accented with Piano black trim elements, as well as power sport seats skinned in a custom Gold Brown shade of supple BMW Individual Merino leather. Wow. Even crazier, the $139,000 Neiman Marcus M6 sold out in one minute, 32 seconds, after going on sale high noon last October 18. Yes, those who have everything seem to have all the fun, too.
Porsche 911 Targa
A touch of glass
Just when you thought Porsche had exhausted all possible permutations of 911 variants, here come the all-wheel-drive 911 Targa 4 and Targa 4S. In its 997 incarnation, this big-sunroofed/opening rear hatch model is not available with just two-wheel drive. Like the Cabriolet, the Targa has A-pillars reinforced with ultra-strong 1.18-inch steel tubes.
The Targa 4 gets the standard 3.6-liter 325-bhp flat-six in its trunk, while the 4S enjoys 355 bhp from its 3.8-liter engine. Cosmetic changes include an aluminum strip that traces the side glass's top line from the driver's mirror up and along to the rear corner. Other usual Porsche options like ceramic brakes and the Sport Chrono Package remain on the list of things that make Porsche salespersons happy and solvent. The Targas are now in US showrooms, starting at $85,700 for the Targa 4 and $95,900 for the Targa 4S.www.porsche.com
Ben & Jerry
The Pope's new ride, courtesy VW
Defying the cynics who have proclaimed that Volkswagen couldn't give the Phaeton away, VW boss, Dr. Bernd Pischetsrieder, has done just that. He's has handed the keys of a long-wheelbase 6.0-liter, 450-bhp Phaeton to none other than Pope Benedict XVI. Since His Holiness is also German, this seems quite apt. It has been specially equipped to meet comfort, privacy and security requirements, though rumors of special holders for cups that runneth over are unsubstantiated.
This is not the Holy Father's first VW. As plain old Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he used to drive around Rome in a MkIV Golf, which was subsequently sold for $250,000. Blessed are those with strong residual values.