Written by: Jan Tuček
The 2003 automotive year has begun in Paris at the Mondial de l’Automobile autoshow. It looks as if manufacturers have bidden farewell to conventions in the fight for customers, and are offering novelties to stave off the automotive run-of-the-mill?
NOT LONG AGO, many specialists prophesized that the automotive world would lose its heterogeneity because of the ongoing mergers and cooperation. However, fierce competition and the necessity to attract customers with various tastes, reuirements and financial capabilities resulted in the opposite. Today’s trend is multiformity, originality and stylish distinctiveness, along with a continuous search for existing gaps in the market’s offer.
The aforementioned rationalization, which makes it possible to reduce development and production costs and reach the corresponding profitability, wasn’t put on the sidelines, it just assumed a new, more intelligent shape. Common chassis platforms for several different automobiles have become the standard, as has advantageous cooperation in the development and production of the most expensive components, gear boxes and engines. Take as an example the successful cooperation between PSA Peugeot Citroen and Ford, which made it possible to develop a compact 1.4-l turbodiesel with Common Rail technology, installed in all three brands.Other diesel engines will follow, and both companies need not worry about this for years.
We chose several of the most marketable new ideas from this large spectrum which we think will stuffle the deck on different levels of the automotive market in near future.
Citroen C3 Pluriel
Five cars in one – this is the new Citroen C3 Pluriel, a 3.93-m long and 1.56-m high compact car with a revolutionary two-door design. The basic Pluriel is a four-seat enclosed car with extensive visibility. By opening the electrically controlled canvas roof, you get a partial convertible, and by rolling down the side windows and folding down the back window and roof under the floor of the trunk, the effect is complete. In the next phase, it is possible to take off the arch of the roof’s frame without any tools, leaving you with a four-seat spider with a rounded windshield. By folding down the back seats, the Pluriel turns into a two-seat pick-up, with a loading area that can be extended to 1.75 m by folding the trunk’s cover up to a horizontal position. Citroen’s C3 Pluriel will be on the market at the beginning of next year with 1.4-l and 1.6-l, 75 and 110 hp (55 and 80 kW) gas engines.
Ford has developed a multipurpose car called Fusion on the new Fiesta chassis platform. At first glance, it looks like an all-terrain vehicle – it has a higher chassis and 15″ wheels but is only front-wheel drive. The manufacturer calls it by the abbreviation MAV (Multi Activity Vehicle), which goes to prove that it has established a new category of car. The 4.02-m long and 1.53-m high compact Ford Fusion offers a surprisingly spacious interior. The rear seats can be folded down, which increases the luggage space from 337 l to 1,175 l, and the back rest of the right front seat can also be folded down, making it possible to transport items up to 2.3 m long. Fusion is not only produced with 1.4-l and 1.6-l, 80 and 100 hp (59 and 74 kW) gas engines, but also with a 1.4 TDCi, 68 hp (50kW) turbo-diesel engine with an average consumption of only 4.4 l per 100 km.
Opel Meriva intends to start a revolution in the category of single area cars. The five-seat car is 4.04 m long and 1.62 m high with a progressively designed variable interior. The secret of success lies in the long axle base (2,630 mm) and the concept of rearrangeable FlexSpace seats. The five-seat Meriva offers an above average luggage space of 490 l and, by folding down the back seats, can be turned into a two-seat pick-up with a bearing area almost 1.7 m long and room for a 1.3 m3 load. FlexSpace makes it possible to reduce the number of seats from five to four, so passengers in the back are provided two very comfortable seats comparable to mid-class sedans. All seats remain in the car so the Meriva is always ready for new conversions. The front wheels of this new car are driven by 1.6-l to 1.8-l, 75 to 125 hp (55 to 92 kW) gas and diesel engines.
Renault Mégane II
When Renault introduced the extravagant Avantime coupé some time ago, it evoked astonishment and controversy. Now it has surprised the competition and customers by transferring the same stylish solution to the all-important lower mid-class. The three-door and five-door Mégane II hatchback is distinguished by a markedly profiled rear with horizontal arched window and oblique bottom section. The entire fitting can be opened upwards, making
the variable luggage space 330 liters. This 4.21-m long Mégane II hatchback has the longest axle base (2,625 mm) among its class, and offers a pleasant and comfortable drive for a family of five. It can be equipped with 1.4-l, 1.6-l and 2.0-l, 98, 115, and 136 hp (72, 83 and 98.5 kW) gas engines or 1.5 dCi and 1.9 dCi, 80 and 120 hp (60 and 88 kW) modern turbo-diesel engines. By autumn 2003, there will be four new models in the Mégane II line, including the five-seat and seven-seat Scénic version, and spring 2004 will bring the seventh and final variant, a coupé-convertible.
Peugeot 307 CC
Starting from Spring 2003, the new Peugeot 307 CC will offer the wind-through-the-hair feeling of a convertible with the comfort of a four-seat coupé. It represents the fifth version of the 307 line (following the three-door and five-door hatchback, station wagon and seven-seat SW model) and it is already apparent that it will be a big hit. It retains the basic type wheel base (2.61 m) but the total length has increased to 4.32 m with the extension of the rear section, so the elegant car offers sufficient room for four adult passengers. Compared to the hatchback, the Peugeot 307 CC is lower by 10 cm and is distinguished by the more dynamic transition of the oblique front hood into the large windshield. By pushing a button, the solid two-part roof automatically folds down behind the back seats in half a minute, and in the same amount of time, the convertible can be changed back into a cozy coupé. The 307 CC model introduced in Paris is driven by a 2.0-l, 180 hp (130 kW) four-cylinder engine, which enables this handsome car to reach speeds of up to 220 km/h.
This 4.75-m long luxury all-terrain vehicle with four-wheel drive is designed for demanding customers who love adventure. Its merits include pneumatic suspension with variable clearance height that can reach up to 300 mm, but while traveling fast on the highways it can be reduced, which improves driving characteristics and reduces aerodynamic resistance. Extraordinary comfort and safety is guaranteed by ESP, an electronic chassis stabilization system, and by HBA. ABS and ASR systems are, of course, standard. The customer can choose either a V6 3.2-l, 220 hp (162 kW) gas engine or a V10 5.0-l, 313 hp (230 kW) top turbo-diesel engine. Besides the six-speed gear shift, the automated Tiptronic, controlled by buttons on the steering wheel, is also available.
After eight years, Audi is replacing its flagship vehicle with one of a new generation, once again with the marking A8. The luxury five-meter long limousine also has an aluminum space frame, ASF (Audi Space Frame), and the aluminum wheel suspension contributes to the low weight of this stately car. The pneumatic suspension is capable of actively adapting to any driving condition, as are the shock absorbers. The driver can choose one of three suspension characteristics – from very comfortable to markedly sporty. In the beginning, the Audi A8 will come with two V8 3.7-l and 4.2-l, 280 and 335 hp (206 and 246 kW) gas engines. As a standard, both come with a six speed automatic gear shift with the option of manual. The electronic system limits the highest speed of the Audi A8 to 250 km/h, and the car accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.3 and 6.3 seconds (depending on manual/automatic).
This legendary maker of sports cars is now manufacturing sport utility vehicles (SUV) with four-wheel drive and, of course, it is heading to the top of the pack. The Porsche Cayenne, with a spacious 4.78-m long four-door body, has a V8 4.5-l engine placed in front, which, in the basic model, provides output of 340 hp (250 kW) and, with two turbo-boosters, output increases to 450 hp (331 kW). The more powerful Cayenne Turbo boasts pneumatic suspension with changeable clearance height ranging from 179 to 273 mm. During normal operation, 62% of torque is transferred to the rear wheels, but the electronic system PTM (Porsche Traction Management) is able to adapt instantaneously. The Porsche Cayenne Turbo reaches a speed of 266 km/h and accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.6 seconds. Even the “weaker” Cayenne S model is able to go over 240 km/h.