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2002 European Car Reviews - World News

Pablo Mazlumian
Sep 16, 2002
Photographers: Matt Davis, John Brooks, Courtesy Of The Sebring Archive Writers: Matt Davis, Kerry Morse, Angus MacKenzie, Sherri Collins
Epcp_0209_01_z+2002_european_car_reviews+news Photo 1/1   |   2002 European Car Reviews - World News

Porsche Cayenne SpecificationsIn what has to be the world's longest tease, Porsche AG has released the specifications for its upcoming SUV. The Cayenne will debut the company's Porsche Traction Management (PTM) permanent four-wheel-drive system, a pneumatic suspension system with a self-leveling feature and six adjustable ride heights, and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), an electronically variable damping system that stabilizes body sway during extreme driving maneuvers. PTM is standard on both the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo, as is the Porsche Stability Management system (PSM). PASM is standard on the Turbo, optional on the S.

The Cayenne with PASM will have a maximum ground clearance of 10. 75 in. at mid axle (8.54 in. without). Curb weight for the S is 4,949 lb and 5,192 for the Turbo. Towing capacity for both is 7,700 lb. The two models share identical dimensions-75.9-in. wide, 66.9-in. high, 112.4-in. wheelbase, 64.8-in. front track, 65.4-in. rear track-expect for length. The Turbo is actually 0.1 in. longer.

As revealed at this year's Geneva show, the Cayenne S will be powered by a 340-bhp V8, producing 310 lb-ft of torque, with a 0-to-62-mph time of 7.2 sec. and a top speed of 150 mph. The Cayenne Turbo boasts a 450-bhp biturbo V8, outputting 457 lb-ft of torque, a 5.6-sec. 0-to-62-mph dash and a top speed of 165 mph. Stopping power for both versions is equally impressive, with an 18-in. brake system featuring six-piston aluminum monobloc fixed calipers at the front and a 17-in. brake system with four-piston aluminum monobloc fixed calipers at the rear. Inner-vented brake discs are found at all four corners. The wheels are massive 8x18 in size, wrapped with 255/55R18 tires.

First there were the photos, now we have the stats and, eventually, we'll see the actual vehicle.

Notes from EuropeShould the new Porsche 911-busting small Aston Martin be called the DB5? Dr Ulrich Bez, the passionate German engineer in charge of Britain's legendary sports car manufacturer, isn't sure. He can see the marketing logic in resurrecting one of the most famous monikers in the Aston pantheon. But while Aston Martin's heritage is important, he doesn't want the brand to be held hostage to the past.

The reality is AM305, as the new small Aston is known internally, will be a very modern car. It will, said Bez, be built on an aluminum and composite chassis structure similar in concept to that of the V12 Vanquish.

This chassis structure will also eventually underpin the next-generation DB7, code-named AM803, and, in the longer term, the Vanquish replacement. What's clever about this chassis is that it allows cars with different wheelbases, tracks and overhangs while using a large number of shared components. For a company like Aston, which last year built a record 1,600 cars-less than an hour's production for GM-such cost-saving synergies are crucial.

AM305 will be a strict two seater with, stated Aston Martin design chief Henrik Fisker, very short overhangs. It will be front engined, powered by a 4.2-liter V8 that uses Jaguar's all-aluminum block but features unique cylinder heads and internal components, and probably supercharging. "It will be the most sporting Aston in the line-up," said Bez.

AM305 is aimed squarely at the Porsche 911-a car Bez knows intimately from his time as head of R&D at Weissach-and will be priced at about $100,000. The car will initially be available as a coupe, but the new platform is being engineered to allow for a convertible version as well. Only question is, can Ford's marketing people resist the temptation to call it a DB5?

* Q: How do you double the value of a Skoda?A: Fill the tank with gas.

Back in the days when it represented the pinnacle of Communist automotive engineering, the Czech-built Skoda was a joke on wheels. True, it probably wasn't quite as laughable as a Trabant, a Yugo or even a Pontiac Le Mans. But that's like saying you're the healthiest guy in intensive care.

No one laughs at Skoda these days. In fact, for many Europeans, a Skoda, now part of the VW Group, is increasingly seen as the smart buy among mainstream brands. Why? Because Ferdinand Piech's complex platform and component sharing strategy means you get a Volkswagen without paying for the badge.

The Skoda Octavia RS is a case in point. The Octavia is basically a reskinned Golf with a slightly longer rear overhang that gives it a really large trunk. The high-performance RS version is fitted with the 180-bhp 1.8-liter 20v turbocharged four that's also found under the hood of entry level Audi TTs and the Seat Leon Cupra (both of which are also built off the Golf platform). It comes with lowered suspension, 17-in. alloy wheels, front and rear spoilers and sports seats.

Bottom line: A well-built five-door family hatch that zips from 0 to 60 mph in under 8 sec., tops 146 mph, and costs 11% less than a five-door Golf GTI with the 150-bhp version of the same 1.8-liter turbo engine. No wonder no one's laughing anymore.

* Saab has a lot riding on the all-new 9-3, which makes its debut in July. Built on GM's new Epsilon platform, which also forms the basis for the all-new Opel Vectra just launched across Europe, the 9-3 is aimed at boosting Saab's worldwide sales from 130,000 to more than 200,000 vehicles a year.

The new 9-3 is pitched squarely at what Saab calls the compact premium segment, meaning BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4 and Jaguar X-Type. This segment has enjoyed spectacular growth over the past five years, especially in the U.S., where sales have zoomed from 280,000 vehicles in 1996 to more than 700,000 last year. But for Saab to reach its overall sales target, the new 9-3 will have to double the company's share of this hotly competitive market.

On paper at least, the new 9-3 looks to have a fighting chance. The first Saab sedan in more than a decade, the new 9-3 is a relatively conventional looking car with just enough Saab design cues to make it distinctive. The Epsilon platform means the wheelbase is 71mm up on the old 9-3 and the track 55mm wider, so interior room should be improved.

Front suspension is MacPherson strut with lower A-arms mounted on a hydroformed subframe, while the rear suspension is four link with passive steer for greater cornering stability. Electronic stability program, traction control and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake assist are standard across the 9-3 range.

Saab reported the new 9-3 will be launched with three all-new, all-aluminum turbocharged engines, although in truth it's basically the same 2.0-liter powerplant with three different levels of tune. The base engine is rated at 150 bhp, while the mid-spec engine is rated at 175 bhp. Top of the range is a 210-bhp version, which will only be available in the 9-3 Aero, and comes with either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission.

The manual 9-3 Aero will hit 145 mph and sprint from a standing start to 60 mph in under 7.5 sec., according to Saab. The five-speed automatic-an all-new transmission that will be available with Saab's Sensonic paddle shift across the 9-3 range-will top 142 mph and is 1.5 sec. slower to 60.

Saab execs concede GM's only European prestige nameplate (arch-rival Ford has four) has been a chronic underperformer in terms of sales. But, they're confident the new 9-3 will kickstart the brand. "The good thing about starting small is you sneak under the radar of the opposition," said Saab's vice-president of sales and marketing, Mikael Eliasson. "This time the turnaround will happen."

Best of all, the U.S. base version with 178 bhp will have an MSRP of under $27,000

Primedia Placentia Tech Centeeuropean car is celebrating a year and a half of having an in-house chassis dynamometer and well-equipped shop available, ensuring impartial results when we test products and helping us bring you installation articles more efficiently.

The Dynojet 248C is the standard of the automotive aftermarket: They're all over the place, and we think we've figured out all the ways people can lie with them-at least we understand the theory behind it. That said, we like being in control of the information we generate-how it's generated and how it's handled. We know the information we pass along to readers is as accurate and consistent as possible.

Having an Autolifters Autopro two-post lift makes most installations easier when it isn't taken up by a project vehicle from one of the two dozen or so other magazines that also use it. Craftsman stepped up to be the "Official Hand and Air Tool" of the Primedia Anaheim Tech Center, equipping it with several workbenches, a quiet, two-stage air compressor and a massive tool chest filled with an 1,197-piece tool set and a full complement of air tools. No, you can't borrow them. Actually, everyone who does use them is borrowing them and, though a few slackers at other magazines may have misplaced some smaller items, very few of the tools have provided an opportunity to use Craftsman's lifetime warranty.

Even if you do buy a barn or build a small warehouse to compete with ec's shop, you won't have perhaps its most important asset: An experienced mechanic, body man, and all-around good guy like the Tech Center Manager, Dominic Conti, to make problems go away. So there.

Museo NicolisA new marvel in an old Verona suburbNorthern Italy has a another cool car museum. Southwest of Verona near the town of Villafranca, along the busy two-lane SS62, you'll find the very new Museo Nicolis. Italian recycling magnate Luciano Nicolis fulfilled a long-time dream when his museum opened its doors in September 2000.

As you enter reception on floor 0, you're standing in the middle of the museum's holding area for cars and other treats not currently on display on the upper levels. It's a dream garage before the show even starts. Besides one weather-beaten fabric-paneled 1952 Velorex three-wheel from Czechoslovakia and an impeccable red Moto-Guzzi tri-cycle taxi from 1934, this level was temporary home this day to the one-of-a-kind 1938 Lancia Astura Mille Miglia, commissioned by racer Luigi Villoresi, and with sensuous red coachwork by Carrozzeria Colli. It's usually on the first floor but was being prepped for the upcoming Mille Miglia Storica.

Up the metal circular staircase (there's an elevator, too) on the first floor is a truly spectacular collection of 50 or so 1880s-to-1960s automobilia with the home country well represented. It all starts with the first vehicle ever to run on a gas internal combustion engine, local hero Enrico Bernardi's little one-cylinder Motrice Pia tri-cycle from 1884. It puffed out .024 horsepower at 200 rpm and won several Car of the Year awards.

Same floor highlights include a 1903 Olds Curved Dash and a gorgeous 1922 Diatto Tipo 20/S with torpedo body built by the Diatto brothers along with partner Ettore Bugatti and bearing an insignia design identical to the Bugatti marque. Another out-of-body experience is the 1929 Isotta Fraschini Type 8 AS owned and lovingly restored by Signor Nicolis himself. The shimmering acreage of the Coup de Ville coachwork is by Carrozzeria Castagna-Gran Lusso, and this only existing example was purchased in absolute tatters from the owner in Pennsylvania. The restoration took 15 years and untold millions-maybe billions-of lire.

Among more modern sheet metal there are several stars, but the winner is a one-off 1949 Fiat Colli 500 SS. Like the Lancia Astura, the bodywork on the 500 SS two-seater is by Colli; it was the product of Fiat's decision after World War II to drop industrial vehicles and get back to cars.

Floor 2 contains a vast array of antique typewriters, music boxes and wind-up toys, along with a terrific wall-length glass cabinet of headlight units.

On the top story is the most recently added exhibit, showing off exhaustive collections of bicycles and motorcycles. The bikes number more than 100 and are in chronological order beginning with an 1866 Michaudina by the Michaux brothers of Paris. It was the first two-wheeler to add pedals.

There are more than 70 early motorcycles and motorini, starting with a 1913 499cc single-cylinder Premier Competition Model 3 1/2 HP from England along with several significant Moto-Guzzi, Gilera and Bianchi.

One of the real joys about the Museo Nicolis is its founder's thirst for the story behind every model on hand, along with occasional fun anecdotes. On the more significant beauties there's a display notebook showing the restoration process in photos. Some displays also include copies of the original paperwork.

Italian road signage is notoriously adventurous, and so it is here. As you travel south on SS62 (aka Viale Postumia to the locals), just before hitting downtown Villafranca the modern glass and metal four-story museum at 65 Viale Postumia is on your right across from the Uber Eurotronics superstore.

When you find it, you'll be uberjoyed. Worth every euro cent of the 5.20 Euros (roughly $4.60) entrance fee. Take a look at www.museonicolis.com. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, closed Mondays.

Bimmerfest 2002It's 5:15 in the morning and my alarm clock goes off-"what the hell am I waking up this early for?" As I slowly regain consciousness, my heart instantly starts to beat real fast: "Oh yeah...Bimmerfest!"

On my way to the garage, I trip down some stairs, grab a bagel, slam down a couple of Red Bulls (not recommended while driving Project M3), and head east on the I-10 freeway toward the first caravan rendezvous point in Glendale, Calif. At the same time, there's a large group of Bimmerheads getting together in San Diego for their trip due north. By 7 a.m., a large group of BMW owners from Orange County get a caravan together, and they too head north.

At 7:30 a.m. I arrived to pick up my buddies Leroy and Jason in Glendale, and we were off to the meeting spot for the L.A. County caravan just a mile away. At 8 a.m., after brief introductions, we and 25 other BMWs headed off to Encino, where we met up with more than 60 other BMWs from the other two caravans, all of which were set up by the dtmpower.net forum.

After about 45 minutes of hanging out and getting to know some really nice people and their cars, which included some of the most trick BMWs out there, this massive, 80-plus car caravan broke free and headed north on the 101. Final destination: the Cutter Motors BMW dealership in Santa Barbara, Calif., for the 2002 Bimmerfest event.

As soon as we merged off of what was one of the nicest coastal highway drives I'd had in a long time, I drove up to the largest BMW turnout I have ever seen to date. With more than 1,000 people registered (plus many that weren't), there were more cars than my imagination could conjure up, ranging from the super clean and stock E30 M3s and E28 M5s, to turbocharged and supercharged M3s and 540s, and a zoo of modified E46 M3s. With other caravans from Northern California joining in, this 3rd annual meet was a huge success.

This year's Bimmerfest was a great venue to get to know some of the well-known vendors such as CEC, evosport, Racing Dynamics and Supreme Power Parts, just to name a few. Additionally, some clinics for the DIY folks included an "Angel Eyes" and clear lenses installation, as well as paintless dent removal.

With such a large registration list (it's free to register), Cutter Motors was prepared enough to have more food than any of us could handle, and everyone went home with a bag of Meguiar's car care products. At the end of the day, a group of judges agreed on the top three most desired BMWs and awards were given, which included a $500 gift certificate to Cutter Motors for first place-a tastefully modified E46 M3 won that. After the event was over, an optional road rally of no less than 150 cars took some speed-controlled parade laps around the Santa Barbara mountains with Cutter Motors Sales Manager and event planner Jon Shafer leading the way.

If you're a BMW fanatic and wish to participate in one of the largest BMW events around, mark your calendar for next year's event in April. You'll get to meet wonderful people, see some exquisite BMWs, and participate in and experience a beautiful drive along the coast. You can do this all by yourself or with a large group of other BMW fanatics like I did. Either way, you'll probably have a spectacular weekend you won't forget. Register for next year-I hear it will probably be even bigger. Log on to www.bimmerfest.com for more info.

Cutter Motors402 South Hope Ave.Santa Barbara, CA 93105www.cuttermotors.com

We Hear...* BMWs Sans EnginesBMW is offering two new mountain bikes, the Q6.S and Q3.S. Both sport all-new durable designs for rugged mountain terrain as well as smooth riding on urban streets, and are constructed of high-tech lightweight aluminum frames. A rapid-action catch and folding joint enables riders to quickly fold and store the bikes for portability. The Q6.S model (top photo) features applied motorcycle design technology from BMW's Telelever suspension system. The 27-speed bike also has Shimano XTR components and a Rapid Fire gear-shift. It weighs in under 29 lb and has a suggested retail price of $3,995. The Q3.S (bottom photo) is a 24-speed bike designed solely for the U.S. market and features Shimano Alivo components and a Rapid Fire gearshift as well. Retailing for $995, the Q3.S weighs 32 lb. Both models are available in 18- and 20-in. frames. For more info, log on to www.bmw-online.com or call (800) 269-6654.

* Collector Car Hobby's Person of the YearBill Warner, founder of the renowned Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, has been named the 2002 recipient of "The Meguiar's Award," honoring Collector Car Hobby's person of the year. The award winner, chosen by 22-member automotive journalist panel, was presented at a ceremony held at the Beverly Hills Hotel this past May.

* International Engine of the Year Awards 2002BMW's 745i 4.4-liter Double VANOS- and Valvetronic-equipped engine was named "International Engine of the Year 2002." Presented by Engine Technology International magazine, the award was voted on by a panel of 40 top motoring journalists from 19 countries, including the USA, France, the UK, South Africa, Canada and Australia. In addition, BMW's 3-liter and 3-2-liter engines topped their respective classes for the second year running. The 4.4-liter also won the "above 4-liter" category. BMW took home the top prize last year as well with the M3's 3.2-liter powerplant.

* Bonhams Auction HighlightsAn exceptional collection of Mercedes-Benz motorcars will highlight Bonhams 5th annual Quail Lodge sale during the upcoming Monterey Historics weekend. Scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 17, the auction will feature more than 70 rare motorcars, including a selection of Benzes (e.g., 1955 300SL "Gullwing," 1923 M-B Targa Florio, 1928 SS/SSK Sports Tourer and a one-of-a-kind 1991 Benz Victoria Touring Car) from the late-Hollywood entertainer Don Ricardo's private collection. Interested parties may view the collection starting on Thursday, Aug. 15. For more info, contact Bonhams at (415) 391-4000 or log on to www.bonhams.com.

MotorsportAs of this writing, the 2002 season for the various classes of motorsport worldwide continue to grow. Some venues play to packed grandstands; some entertain the families and friends of the entrants. The problem is there can be only a few championships that really count in the area of coverage.

Great racing is out there, but few are aware of it. The recent sale of Speedvision has robbed many fans of sports car and off-road racing as coverage of the newly renamed Speed network slouches toward NASCAR Land. Enough. I don't use Tide, don't drink Bud and don't need Viagra. Let's poll those who purchase BMWs, Porsches, Audis, Mercs or Minis and see what their extra purchasing dollars go toward-Talladega or tetre rouge?

If you want to see expanded coverage of racing other than oval wrestling, call your cable company. Or U.S. senator... these days it's hard to say which would be more effective.

Grand American Rolex Sports Car SeriesOkay, it plays to small houses, and the racing at times is so lethargic that someone dubbed the recent round of the Grand Am at California Speedway the Novocain 400. However, just as the IRL survived the early years because of the Indianapolis 500, the Grand Am series has the Daytona 24. The management of the Florida-based series is well aware of the shortcomings (boredom) and the lack of fan interest. The announcement of the new Daytona Prototype class is a step in the right direction.

The first group to announce its plans was a team with a long and successful history at Daytona, Brumos Racing, which has Dave Klym's Fabcar shop building two new Porsche-powered coupes. Klym is well known for his chassis work with Al Holbert and, later, Porsche AG, as he constructed a number of 962 monocoques for Weissach. While five different chassis manufacturers have been approved, Brumos was the first to announce its driver line-up and have them fitted to the new chassis. Brumos has Hurley Haywood and J.C. France in one car and Wayne Jackson with David Donohue in the second.

Donohue is rather candid in his appraisal and chances of the new car and the series in general. "Who knows what will happen with this new formula? I believe only time will tell, but it certainly seems that the door is open for more competitors to race for the overall win. These cars should be less expensive (especially compared to something like an Audi), more readily available (again, compared to Audi), and less intimidating to drive than the current top classes. Hopefully this should attract GT teams into the mix. They don't have the 600+ hp we've all become used to, but you don't need that much power to have competitive racing or to demonstrate driving and team talent (example: SuperTouring). Again, only time will tell."

DTM (German Touring)The super German series continues to offer very trick cars piloted by some well-known drivers. The latest addition to the field is former F1 hot-shoe Jean Alesi, who in only his third DTM race was able to claim victory at Donington aboard his Mercedes CLK. The private ABT team has continued to develop its Audi TT-R, and in the hands of Laurent Aiello is leading the series. Manuel Reuter and Alain Menu have proven to be fast in the Opel Astras, but the swift-looking V8 coupes are a bit off the pace of the strong Mercedes squad that also has the talents of Bernd Schneider. Opel insists that it's in the series for the long haul, and the Astra will be the car to beat. The manufacturers have invested a considerable amount of money in the DTM, and it appears to be paying off. The weekend venue at the Sachsenring drew a crowd of 60,000. The presentation is very F1 in scope and detail with all the trucks lined up in perfect formation in the pits. The DTM is priced to be affordable. A family might not meet Michael Schumacher, but they will see some great racing. And isn't that what it's all about?

American Le Mans Series (IMSA)The premier sports car series in the U.S. continues to take two steps forward and one step back. The mainstays of the ALMS are the Audi teams of Joest and Champion, the two Panoz prototypes in a strong supporting role. Audi took Sonoma, but the dynamic duo of David Brabham and Jans Magnussen fought back to claim Sears Point. Most of the circus then departed for that round-the-clock race held every June in France.

And there is the problem. When Panoz took over the old Professional Sports Car Series, the state of sports car racing was in a shambles. Panoz figured that an alliance with the ACO and the licensing rights would help rekindle interest. The Inaugural running of Petit Le Mans in 1998 was a huge success and served as a platform to rebuild the sport in the U.S. The 24 Hours of Le Mans itself had gone through a troubled period in the early '90s but was enjoying strong fields and huge crowds by the end of the decade. Panoz reintroduced the IMSA name to the series last year, and observers were quick to point out that perhaps Panoz was going to break off ties with the ACO. This would be the best thing that could happen, as the ACO had caused a number of problems for IMSA with its homologation rules. The recent acceptance of the BMW V8 in the GT class and then a series of penalties resulted in the withdrawal of the Munich manufacturer from racing in the U.S. BMW is not the only one to suffer the constant meddling of the rules by the ACO. The time has come for IMSA to go by its own rules again. Le Mans is still the most important sports car race in the world and with proper guidance will remain so. However, the American market is the most important in the world for most of the manufacturers who race there. Meditate on that.

2002 FIA European Touring Car ChampionshipThe FIA ETCC was one of those typical thrown-together race series the FIA is so capable of doing at the last minute to fill in the weekend as a curtain raiser. It also keeps a number of European manufacturers involved and keeps their product name in front of the public. Not everyone who builds cars wants to invest in Formula One, regardless of the hype. The current round of the ETCC accompanies the FIA GT Series and has surprised many with some exciting action. One reason for the smooth entry of the new ETCC is that Jurgen Barth, who handles many of the organizational duties for the GT Championship, is overseeing it. Barth, as many will recall, was at one time Porsche's main point man for customer racing, and was the B in the BPR series, which saved sports car racing in Europe. The main protagonists on the track are Alfa Romeo, Volvo and BMW. Once again, the BMW teams are made up from the various markets for Munich. BMW Team Spain takes on not only Alfa but also BMW Team Belgium, BMW Team Germany...you get the idea. There are a couple of semi-works-supported Nissans and even a Honda or two. Alfa has been the strongest performer of the season, with Charly Lamm's BMW Team Schnitzer the most consistent challenger to the red cars from Italy. Volvo, through the talents of Rickard Rydell and James Hanson, has seen the Prodrive-built Volvo S60 Super 2000 catching up heading on to the next round.

What is interesting is that the formula works over there. In the U.S. it is mostly private teams in showroom stock or modified that carry the banner. Instead of Team PTG, most would rather see a BMW Team USA and Team Canada entry. The official colors, the long-distance relationship make it seem like you are seeing the real factory stuff. Volvo needs to capitalize on its newfound hip image. So, why not?

FIA GT ChampionshipThe hardest act the FIA GT Championship had to follow was one of its own making. The series had a tough time for the two years following the departure of the factory Mercedes and Porsche teams with their ultra-exotic GT-1 racecars. Fans found it hard to get excited by Vipers as the overall winners after having looked at McLaren-BMWs and CLK-GTRs.

Much of that has changed, and a lot has to do with the past success of the Lister and, more recently, the Prodrive-built Ferrari 550 Maranello. There is still a great deal of private development being done to the Vipers, and outfits such as Larbre Competition, known in the U.S. for its Porsche preparation, are keeping the Viper competitive with the Ferrari. The big race for the FIA GT series is the Spa 24 Hours held in late June. Last year a crowd of over 100,000 returned to the beautiful circuit to witness what sports car racing is and always will be-endurance.

By Pablo Mazlumian
81 Articles

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