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International Auto News - World News

Tim McKinney
Nov 1, 2002
Writers: Angus MacKenzie, Sherri Collins Photographers: Christa Lehmann, Hans G. Lehmann/ Hidden Image
0211_ecpc_02_z+2003_bmw_6_series_coupe+drivers_side_exterior Photo 1/1   |   International Auto News - World News

2003 BMW 6 Series CoupePhotographed during road testing in the United States, this BMW 6 Series prototype is barely disguised. There are thin plastic panels covering the hood and rear bumper, black material obscuring the headlights and taillights, and an added-on spoiler strip at the rear edge. The 6 Series styling draws strongly on the latest 7 Series and the original Z9 concept car. While the convex-concave side and the rear end closely resemble the 7, the front end incorporates a new kidney-grille layout first seen on the Z9, blended with a pair of circular headlights of different size.

The mechanical underpinnings are based on the forthcoming new 5 Series, which again is closely related to the latest 7 Series. Advanced lightweight design is said to ensure agile handling and sporting driving dynamics.

The E63 6 Series is expected to be unveiled officially at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2003, with two different V8 models on offer: the 635Ci with 275 bhp, and the 645Ci with 335 bhp. A Formula One-inspired V10-powered M6 is rumored but remains to be confirmed. A four-seater convertible, codenamed E64, will be introduced later in 2004.

BMW 1 SeriesAfter having been tested in secrecy behind the walls of BMW's proving grounds for quite some time, the company's all-new smallest model is getting ready to go public. Prototypes have been seen on the road in various European countries-these photos were taken in the south of France. BMW's new baby turns out to be a three-door hatchback sized similarly to an Audi A3. Dubbed BMW 1 Series, the car is still two years ahead of its launch-the pictures show a first-generation prototype. The car is only some 10cm shorter and 20cm narrower than the 3 Series compact. Styling elements will come from the concept car SC1, which was displayed at the Geneva Motor Show this past spring.

The new 1 Series will be available in different body variants, such as a three-door hatch, a five-door hatch and a booted two-door notchback. The car will be powered by a choice of four-cylinder engines (1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 gas) and two updated 2.0 common-rail Turbodiesels.

We Hear* Perfect PartnersPirelli Tire North America and Panoz Motor Sports Group have agreed to a four-year sponsorship, making Pirelli the Official Tire of Road Atlanta, Sebring International Raceway and the Panoz Racing School, as well as an Official Sponsor of Mosport Raceway. In addition, Pirelli will be the Official Tire of the Panoz GT and Panoz GT Pro Series and the Audi Driving Experience. The agreement is effective immediately and runs through the 2005 season. The Sebring sponsorship begins in 2003.

* BMW & Peugeot Working TogetherThe BMW Group and PSA Peugeot Citron have joined forces to develop and manufacture a new family of small gasoline engines. Peugeot, Citron and future variants of MINI vehicles will be equipped with engines out of this cooperative project. The engine will benefit from the latest technologies. The BMW Group R&D department will be in charge of designing the engines, and the common project team will be based in Munich. PSA Peugeot Citron will manage process development, engineering for production as well as procurement. The production capacity will meet the future needs of Peugeot, Citron and MINI vehicles and could reach up to 1,000,000 units per year.

* Volvo's Two-million-mile ManIrv Gordon, the Long Island native who earlier this year became the first person to drive two million miles in the same car, a red 1966 Volvo P1800, is celebrating his milestone by taking his car on a five-week vacation in Europe-he expects to add another 5,000 miles to the odometer. Gordon, a 60-year-old retired science teacher from East Patchogue, Long Island, gained worldwide notoriety on March 27 when he turned his two-millionth mile in his Volvo while driving down Times Square during Volvo Cars of North America's 75th Anniversary event. Since his milestone, he's clocked another 25,000 miles touring cities such as Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami and Philadelphia. Irv purchased his P1800 in June 1966 from a neighborhood Volvo dealership for $4,150. In 1998, The Guinness Book of World Records honored Gordon's car as the vehicle with the "highest certified mileage driven by the original owner in non-commercial service." Gordon breaks his own world record every time he drives his celebrated car.

Notes From EuropeCoupes are cool in Europe, especially at the luxury end of the business, where big sedans have been steadily losing ground to two-doors over the past five years. That perhaps explains why DaimlerChrysler is planning to add yet another coupe-its fourth-to the Mercedes-Benz line-up.

The new car, code-named C219, will be built on the new E-Class platform and positioned between the new E-Class-based CLK and the next-generation CL, traditionally the range-topping Benz coupe. But here's the trick bit-this coupe will have four doors, although the rear pair will be virtually invisible.

Stuttgart sources state the car, tipped to be called the CLE, is intended to be a luxurious and sporty four-seater with styling cues borrowed from the SL roadster and high levels of standard equipment, including air suspension, speed-sensitive headlights and four-wheel drive. Powertrains will include DC's new family of direct-injection gasoline engines, the most powerful of which is the 394-bhp 450KDI, a 4.5-liter supercharged V8.

All this won't come cheap, with prices expected to match similarly equipped S-Class limos. But, based on current trends, European luxury car buyers won't mind a bit.

* You really want a GTI, right? But you've got a mortgage, kids who play soccer, two dogs and a vacation down the coast every summer to think about. No alternative but to stay sensible, right?

Wrong! How's a compact seven-seat minivan capable of 0 to 60 mph in under 8 sec. and 137 mph sound? It's got 17-in. alloys and 225/45 tires all around, sports suspension, a full complement of spoilers and skirts, and leather-trimmed Recaro seats. Oh, and it's made by GM.

The Opel Zafira GSi is probably the world's first performance minivan, although the VW Sharan with the 2.8-liter VR6 engine and five-speed manual transmission would hit 135 and was somewhat more rapid to 60 than your average Voyager. Unlike the Sharan, though, the Zafira GSi looks the part, and does a pretty good impersonation of a GTI through the twisty bits, too.

Based on the Opel Astra platform, the Zafira is a category-killer-a Golf-sized minivan that's genuinely capable of seating seven people in relative comfort. The third-row seats ingeniously fold flat into the floor when not used, allowing maximum load space, and the center row can be slid back to give the Zafira rear seat legroom rivaling cars two sizes bigger.

The Zafira GSi is a classic parts-bin special-under the hood is the same 190-bhp 2.0-liter turbo that powers hot versions of the Astra coupe, hatch and convertible. Roomy, practical, fast and fun, the GSi is a surprising-and surprisingly effective-addition to the range.

* "A lot of people were predicting the disappearance of French manufacturers 15 years ago." With his sober suits and horn-rimmed glasses, Renault CEO Louis Schweitzer might look like the archetypal French bureaucrat he once was, but at heart he's a tough, clever businessman. "I thought it was deserved, but I wanted to prove them wrong."

And prove them wrong he has. Once a government-owned basket-case, Renault is now one of the hottest automakers in Europe. And the first look at its all-new Golf rival, the Megane II, suggests it's about to get even hotter.

The three- and five-door Meganes unveiled by Schweitzer are just the first of a seven-model range that will include a sedan, a wagon, a convertible with a folding steel hardtop, and two minivans-all on sale by the end of next year. And they are the most radical looking, with bold styling that echoes Renault's eye-popping Avantime and Vel Satis luxury models.

Given the hatches will account for 35% of all Megane sales, that sounds like risky business. Not a bit of it, said Renault design chief Patrick le Quement, the man who has helped turn Renault's image around by insisting on what he calls "instinctive design, not extinctive marketing." Quement insisted, "We are not in the business of launching cars that shock people. I don't think this is a radical car as such; we have an assertive style.

The Megane II is built on the brand-new small-car platform that will also underpin the next-generation Sentra-although development work was begun on it in 1997, two years before the Renault-Nissan alliance was established. This is a big small car-wheelbase is a generous 2625mm. Engines range from 1.4 to 2.0 liter-petrol and diesel-and the bigger engined models are fitted with Nissan's new six-speed manual transmission.

Pick of the bunch-and le Quement's personal favorite-is likely to be the still secret Renault Sport three-door, which will be powered by a 200-bhp 2.0-liter turbo motor driving through a six-speed manual and rolling on giant 18-in. alloys.

* Saab has ruled out developing a large luxury car, opting instead to focus on a new small car to compete with Audi's A3 and the forthcoming Volvo V50. "We will not do a bigger car than the 9-5," said Saab CEO Peter Augustsson. "We are not big enough for all the investment in dealers and the cost of marketing of such a move."

The decision will disappoint U.S. Saab dealers, who wanted a big Saab to compete against Benz S-Class and Jaguar XJ, but ends a long-running internal wrangle over the future direction of the company. At the Detroit Show in January 2000, GM boss Rick Wagoner said support for a big or small car was split between the U.S. and Europe. Europe has won.

A small Saab is at least three years away, but it will add much-needed volume to the company's output. Augustsson says the long-term strategic goal for Saab is 200,000 to 250,000 units-double today's volume. "We can't be a one million premium prestige car company; there are already too many of those. So we target a sales level exceeding 200,000 to reach a good level of profitability," he said.

AutobodiesCar Design at the Museum of Modern ArtWhile the Manhattan location (11 West 53rd) of the Museum of Modern Art undergoes a three-year expansion project, MoMA has opened storage facilities and temporary galleries in the former Swingline staple factory in Long Island City, Queens, N.Y. MoMA QNS opened June 29, 2002, and reveling in the new-found space presented "AUTObodies: speed, sport, transport" as one of the inaugural shows. AUTObodies is MoMA's ninth automotive exhibition (the first was Eight Automobiles in 1951). european car had the opportunity to visit with curator Peter Reed a few days after the show's opening.

"Our industrial design collection is pretty wide-ranging. The philosophy behind the collection is that the objects included are well-designed, functional and mass-produced; a fork, a knife, a chair, the tools that we use. Cars are an obvious example of this. I think automobiles are perhaps the most significant, most conspicuous mass-produced objects designed in the 20th century. Think about the enormous amount of space that is consumed by automobiles, or roads or parking lots or highways, and it makes perfect sense to us as we examine the art and architecture of our built world that cars are a part of our collection and exhibition program."

Alain Prost's 1990 641/2 Ferrari Formula One car: "In some respects the racing car differs from the other objects in the collection, which are designed for a mass market. Only a professional could drive this sophisticated machine. But the Ferrari is a superbly functional design and innovative in its use of new materials.

"That word, innovative, is key as I think about these cars. A lot of people think, 'Why didn't you have a Rolls-Royce, why didn't you have this?' Well wait, this isn't about luxury or rarity. These cars, each one, are innovative in some way."

The 1946 Cisitalia "202" GT (also included in Eight Automobiles): "What Pinin Farina [later changed to one word] was doing with the Cisitalia was incredibly innovative, rethinking the whole design and shape of the automobile. It was right after WWII, and he said, 'We need to throw out the old rust-covered rules-with a box for the passengers, a box for the engine and headlamps attached that look like bathroom faucets.' It's just brilliant, an incredibly fluid design that was also incredibly influential."

Thirty years ago, in 1972, MoMA acquired its first car, the Cisitalia. "We limited ourselves to one car for a pragmatic reason-adequate space. Until then, MoMA simply did not have space to show a car on a permanent basis. The curator at the time sought out the Cisitalia as one of the most beautiful cars. It was emblematic of aesthetics in automobile design. Aesthetics was the fundamental overriding issue at the time."

The 1963 Jaguar E-Type Roadster: "MoMA's early interests were about aesthetics. That's where the Cisitalia and Jaguar come in. In 1996 we added the Jaguar to the collection. The E-Type is simply one of the most beautiful cars ever displayed."

With the three cars above and three acquisitions made this year, a 1998 Smart Car, a 1959 Volkswagen Beetle and a 1953 Willys-Overland Jeep, MoMA now has six cars in the permanent collection. "The Jeep and the Volkswagen have been on our 'wish list' for several years. Both have become icons of automotive design. In terms of the collection, the new acquisitions address significant concerns including the social and economic realities that have called for small, efficient and affordable vehicles. The six cars complement each other effectively and superbly illustrate our chief criteria, which now include aesthetics, innovation, speed and influence.

"You begin to see a dialog in the gallery about smallness. You don't just shrink a big car, you start over from the beginning. Ferdinand Porsche wanted to design a low-cost 'people's car.' The Jeep is a great story about American pragmatism. I love the leanness of the design, the sort of nuts-and bolts erector-set quality as opposed to the sleek beauty of the Jaguar. The Smart Car is incredibly sophisticated design and interesting thinking, the way the Tridion safety cell sits on the engine and gets the passengers up high. The body panels are interchangeable and recyclable plastic; there are a lot of eco-friendly aspects to the whole production of the car.

"I'm really, really pleased with this selection and the kinds of dialogs and issues raised. AUTObodies is definitely meant to be a multi-faceted look at outstanding, innovative car design."

Moma QNS33 St. at Queens BlvdLong Island CityQueens, NY(212) 708-9400www.moma.org

MotorsportThe 80th Race To The CloudsFalken Tire Pikes Peak International Hill Climb"The challenge is to beat the Hill," said Saab's Per Eklund. In that, this year's 80th running of the Falken Tire Pikes Peak International Hill Climb was no different than any of the previous 79. But this year, the famously changeable mountain seemed content to sit back and watch the proceedings. Perhaps it was because Colorado's year-long drought had dried the road to the point the various anti-dust treatments couldn't be used and had left its surface covered in a pebbly gravel some competitors likened to driving in snow. Or perhaps it was because of the extremely high fire danger that had closed the surrounding national forest, cancelled the one-night-a-year camping on the mountain and kept a worried National Forest Service from issuing the necessary permits until two days before the first practice.

David Donner, despite a water temperature gauge reading off the scale and an oil pressure gauge that read zero in his Donner-Dykstra open wheeler, hung on to finish the 156-turn, 12.42-mile course in 10:52.38 and won his second overall title. Eklund was second overall and first in Unlimited in his 750-hp Saab 9-3 Viggen. Twenty-year-old open wheel driver Jimmy Keeney was third overall, Stig Blomqvist was fourth in his Unlimited Ford RS200, and the SCCA's defending ProRally Champion, Mark Lovell, was fifth overall.

Lovell's 11:52.69 run in his Prodrive-built Open class Subaru WRX, with Steve Turvey co-driving, highlighted the return of SCCA ProRally to the storied hillclimb, and the first time a Brit has won here. Rally cars were first seen in the Race to the Clouds in 1981, but this is the first time the PPIHC has been included as part of the ProRally championship. Paul Choiniere and Cindy Krolikowski finished second in their Hyundai Tiburon, despite a flat left-front tire. Lauchlin O'Sullivan and Matt Chester were third in their Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 6.5. Julie Lin started therapy several months ago to help cure her fear of heights and co-drove husband Wolfgang Hoeck to the Group N win, the pair finishing in 13:31.51, just 2 sec. ahead of Tim O'Neill and Ole Holter's WRX. Peter Workum and Alex Gelsomino were third. This year was limited to just Open Class and Group N entries, 17 in all, and awarded only Manufacturers Championship points. Look for a full rally based around the Hill Climb next year.

PPIHC officials reported surprisingly strong fan interest in the ProRally cars, which is good given the small entry list in High Performance Showroom Stock and Pikes Peak Open. World events and a weak Japanese economy combined to decimate these two classes. On a high note, Jeff Zwart debuted a new Porsche GT2 and set a new two-wheel-drive record while winning HPSS. Blake Fuller triumphed over Koichi Horiuchi in PPO.

The Unser family has 37 wins on "Unser Mountain," starting with Uncle Louis in 1934, but Leonard and Clint Vahsholtz are well on their way to establishing their own family dynasty. Leonard's win in the Super Stock Truck class tied him with Bobby Unser's 13 career victories and, when his son Clint won the Super Stock Car class, the pair moved ahead of Bobby and Robby Unser 23-21 atop the career father-son win list. Clint has now won ten in a row, three wins on a motorcycle and seven straight Super Stock Car victories.

The Unlimited Class featured two old rivals. Despite blowing a motor in practice and having to airfreight a new powerplant for his RS200 from England, Per Eklund knew Stig Blomqvist wouldn't give up. "He hates to lose to me," said Eklund. "For 40 years, it's a big fight every time. He is very good. It is not easy to beat him." Both the Saab and the Ford ran out of brakes by Devil's Playground, making the last few miles very interesting. "Given our problem before, [today] was not too bad," said Blomqvist. "I had no brakes. We're too old, we brake too much!" Said Eklund, "After that Devil's place the pedal went to the floor. Then you hit maximum speed [as you head into Bottomless Pit], 200 kph, and think 'what is the plan?' I'm too old for this!" Expect both back next year.

Mike Ryan was the last competitor up the hill, following his two competitors in the Big Rigs. Watching a 3,000-hp Freightliner thunder up the mountain at a ProRally Group N pace is quite a sight. But nothing could prepare anyone at the 14,100-ft summit this year for the sight of Ryan's truck flipping onto its side as it crossed the finish line. Ryan set a new single-axle record of 13:21.4, tripping the laser a split-second before his truck crushed the timing apparatus.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climbwww.ppihc.com

By Tim McKinney
7 Articles

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