Mixing Sensible With Sensual
It's all new. It's (allegedly) the sportiest Volvo ever. And it has cool things like pedestrian-detecting radar with automatic braking. This handsome beast is the 2011 Volvo S60 premium midsize sedan. The range-topping model, the T60 AWD, will have a turbocharged, 3.0-liter straight six, cooking up 300 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque that turns all four wheels.
Volvo recently stated its intention to make accident-free cars and the gadgets on the new S60 go some way to fulfilling such an ambitious promise. Sensors and cameras are on constant vigil, checking for hazards. They can also communicate with the brakes and operate them. A slightly less fancy system already works fine in the XC60 SUV. And considering how well that vehicle drives, the S60 could really be fun. How often does that get said about a Volvo?
High Rider Concept
Viva la DS
Word from over the water is that Citroën, possibly the quirkiest of the big three French car companies, has resurrected those venerable initials: DS. But rather than making it the kind of wafty sedan General de Gaulle might recognize, the DS of the 21st century is a subcompact.
However, Citroën's DS High Rider concept, made for the Geneva show, looks like it's trying to make people swear off neutrality and join the resistance. Although the idea of a coupe on stilts running a diesel hybrid drivetrain doesn't sound too great in theory, it sure beats a poke in the eye with a stale baguette in practice.
The notion of Alfa Romeos being sold Stateside again still feels like one of those mad dreams we dare not dream, but how can anyone not get all giggly when faced with the new Giulietta? The name itself conjures up wistful memories of beautiful cars with raspy exhausts. And also some pieces of crap from the '80s, but we can gloss over those. Could this be a return to the glory days, powered by a range-topping 235-hp gasoline engine? Or even a thrusty, lusty turbodiesel? To the Chrysler/Fiat brass: We bailed you guys out to the tune of millions, we deserve something great.
Trickle, trickle, racing star
It's called the trickle-down effect, where cutting-edge technologies forged in the crucible of Formula One end up in less esoteric cars. Last season's big hardware story was KERS, the kinetic energy recovery system that stores braking energy in a battery then gives a 10-hp jolt on the straightaway. It wasn't a generic third-party setup; each participating team produced its own system. And naturally, those systems were far more involved and advanced than anything found in a Prius.
A Williams F1 KERS can now be found in the 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid. The car's conventional drivetrain is a naturally aspirated four-liter flat six that makes a mighty 480 hp and drives the rear wheels. The front axle, however, has a couple of 60 kW electric motors to provide some extra oomph.
The irony is that most F1 teams, frustrated by reliability issues, ditched KERS by the end of last season and it won't be making a return for 2010. Our hope is that this won't be some empty gesture to appease the greenies. The car will be racing this May at the 24-hour Nürburgring bash, where Porsche says the focus is not on winning the race but on using the car as a "racing lab." It could make up time by needing fewer pit stops, which it will need to catch Walter Röhrl, who'll reportedly be driving a stock GT3 RS against the field.
Not the steak sauce, surely
Was it because we went into Iraq? That we voted W in for a second term? It sure can't be because we gave the world Justin Timberlake, because Audi has given him a gig in the marketing of its new subcompact A1 hatchback. So why will we not get this car in the USA? After all, MINI is a big success over here and the A1 would be a direct rival: big class in a small package. So Audi has either committed a rare misreading of the American zeitgeist, or we're all being blamed for Clay Aiken.
Continental Supersports Convertible
This, according to Bentley, will be the fastest four-seat soft-top in the world when it hits the streets this summer. The Continental Supersports Convertible has the usual W12 engine with two turbochargers to help it develop 621 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. It will run on plain old gasoline or E85 and still hit 60 mph from standstill in just 3.9 seconds on the way to maxing out at 202 mph. A fine way to spend around $300,000 if ever we saw one.
Opel Flextreme GT/E
Who shilled the electric car?
Opel/Vauxhall, European arm of General Motors, calls this sleek concept the Flextreme GT/E. It's an electric car whose 272.69 lb-ft of torque and drag coefficient of 0.22 goes some way to achieving a theoretical top speed of 125 mph, while the sprint to 60 mph is estimated at nine seconds flat. It has a small gasoline engine that acts as an on-board generator and range is a claimed 300 miles. If nothing else, it's good to see a low-emissions car that doesn't seem like a punishment.
Perchance to drive
Confession time. There have been a few sleepless nights thinking about what kind of powerplant would grace the engine bay of an RS version of the ravishing Audi A5, if and when it might come to pass. Could it a be a V10, a variant of that found in the Lamborghini Gallardo? Or perhaps a turbocharged V8? Maybe a supercharged V8? What the heck, since the VW/Audi Group has now embraced the idea of sticking both forms of forced induction onto one engine, maybe it will sport a turbo and supercharger.
Well, the RS 5 is now a reality and it has a naturally aspirated 4.2-liter V8. Not the stuff of our wildest dreams, perhaps, but since it develops 450 hp at 8250 rpm and gets the Quattro system turning with 317 lb-ft from 4000 rpm, we'll take it. Especially when that all-wheel-drive setup runs with a 40/60 front-to-rear torque split. It can also send 85 percent of power to the rear wheels. Another piece of intriguingly new piece of tech: It has a double-clutch seven-speed transmission to flick through while sprinting up to 62 mph in 4.6 seconds, before hitting the electronic limiter at 155 mph. A special-order unfettered top speed is 174 mph, for those lucky folks with at least 77,000 euros ($104,000) to spend and a system of autobahnen. North Americans, however, will have to keep dreaming, since Audi has no plans to bring the RS 5 to this side of the Atlantic just yet. Yeah, that old story.
Renault's second Wind
It was at the 2004 Geneva show that Renault unveiled its Wind two-seater soft-top concept. During the intervening six years, there was barely a puff of news, but now this is the production version. It would have been nice if it looked more like the original design, but that often happens on the rocky road from studio to showroom. But since America isn't a market for Renault, we'll pass on this Wind.
Three decades of four-wheel drive
At the Geneva show 30 years ago, Audi introduced the Ur-Quattro. And the automotive world shook to the sound of Group B rally cars driven by the likes of Walter Röhrl and Michèle Mouton. For most of 2010, Audi will be celebrating the Quattro legacy, mainly in Germany, but if anyone is thinking of attending the Goodwood Festival of Speed (July 2 to 4), the Audi presence there might just swing the decision.
Coupe de grace
The 25th International Auto Show took place in Paris, France, this past February. Despite the name, it didn't really generate a lot of global noise. But it did make one good call. It voted the Peugeot RCZ Coupe as the "Most Beautiful Car of 2009." Sure, the car arguably owes its existence to the Audi TT, but being inspired by something good must always be better than copying something bad. And it isn't merely a concept, but a car that's on sale. What's more, Peugeot already has three previous "beautiful car" awards in its trophy cabinet.
New look for Elise
It's hard to criticize the cute, nimble, lightweight Lotus, but if hairs were to be split, the styling was always a tad fussy (America never had the simpler first-gen model). Even this minor gripe has now been addressed with a re-styling for the 2011 model that introduces a resemblance to the new Evora. Two new wheel designs are available as well. Pardon this weak moment of subjectivity, but the whole thing gets a thumbs-up from us. It doesn't hurt that the drag coefficient has improved by four percent too. It still has the usual Toyota-sourced 1.8-liter engine, so let's hope that company's throttle issues are all sorted. At least there's no need to worry about sticking floor mats. The Elise doesn't have them.
It's not an SUV, it's a Sport Activity Vehicle. That's how BMW/MINI describes the latest member of the MINI family, the Countryman. It's taller, longer and wider than the charming original, and has the option of all-wheel drive. Not too many worries on the fuel bill front, though. Looks like there will be a diesel version, while even the turbocharged gasoline-powered model will offer a stop/start feature and brake energy regeneration. But the question must be: How big can a car get before it can no longer be called a Mini?
It's time for a new Volkswagen Touareg and the company is calling it the most technically innovative vehicle to wear the VW badge yet. So how surprised are we to learn there's a hybrid option involved? More interesting is an eight-speed automatic transmission and available V6 TDI engine. A "Terrain Tech Packet" is also on offer for greater off-road chops and a tougher transfer case. VW claims to have increased rear legroom, while the new Touareg is lighter (by over 400 pounds in the base model) and more aerodynamically efficient than its forebear.
Lotus test track at Norwich, Norfolk
The Lotus global position
Ever wondered how Lotus managed to create such great-handling cars? Having its own test track helps. And while some test facilities are kept super-secret, we can "visit" the Lotus track any time we like. By going into Google Maps. Enter http://3.ly/LotusCarFactoryGoogleStreetView into the browser, then gain access to street-level images by going into the lowest level, or drag the orange "pegman" icon (to the left of the map) onto the blue highlighted road that is the track.
2011 BMW M3
Dial M for Mmmmm
The 2011 BMW M3 has gone all competitive. A lowered suspension, lighter wheels and carbon-fiber aero appendages form part of a new Competition Package, which can be retrofitted to existing E90 and E92 M3 models. The new car, though, also has stop/start technology and does that regeneration of braking energy thing, because that's the way it has to be these days.
Panamera 4 & Porsche Panamera V6
The sedan (well, hatchback) from the famous Stuttgart sports car maker has had its range expanded. There's now an "entry level" model with a V6 engine called, comfortingly, the Porsche Panamera V6. It has the same engine as the 3.6-liter six-potter in the Cayenne, but horsepower is up by 10 to 300 total and torque is up 22 lb-ft to 295. Word on fuel consumption is an average of 25.3 mpg for the rear-drive version. Which brings us neatly to the new all-wheel-drive Panamera 4, whose name reassuringly suggests extra help in the traction department. Starting price is $74,400 for the base V6. Add $4,500 for that busier front axle.