Written by: Jan Tuček
The 2006 automotive year started in the middle of September with the IAA auto show in Frankfurt. From this city of skyscrapers and high finance we brought at least a few postcards representing the most interesting automotive news. Maybe you’ll choose your next car from one of them.
Fiat Grande Punto
When naming its new compact car Fiat chose the word Grande – and rightly so. At 4.03 meters, the new Grande Punto model is 190 mm longer than its predecessor. Its dynamic shapes, on which the automaker’s style center worked with the Turin studio Italdesign – Giugiaro, express the solid construction of this car, on whose success the future of this famed Italian brand will depend to a great degree. The Grande Punto has a front-mounted transverse engine and front-wheel drive, and the body comes in three-door and five-door versions with variable luggage space. For a surcharge you can have a panoramic glass roof. Thanks to its wheelbase, extended to 2.51 meters, the Grande Punto offers a passenger compartment whose size approaches that of lower-mid-class cars. The broad offer of engines starts with a gasoline four-cylinder, 1.2 and 1.4-liter, 65 and 77 hp, and a 1.3 Multijet turbodiesel tuned to 75 hp, all with five-speed transmissions. All other versions come with six-speed transmissions. They have sixteen-valve, 1.4-l, 95 hp gasoline engines or 1.3-l (90 hp) or 1.9-l Multijet (120 and 130 hp) turbodiesels. Both of the most powerful Grande Punto models come with ESP electronic stabilization system chassis as standard equipment, which otherwise costs extra.
The third-generation Renault Clio, again with a front-mounted transverse engine and front-wheel drive, looks larger and more mature than its successful predecessors. The new car is longer, 3.99 meters, nearly 60 mm taller at 1.49 meters, and its 2.57 meter wheelbase translates to a surprisingly spacious interior. The three-door or five-door bodies offer variable luggage space that ranges from 288 liters to 1,038 liters (measured to the ceiling) when the back seats are folded down. Safety is another attractive feature – in Euro NCAP tests it received the highest possible rating, five stars. Since October the new Renault Clio has been on sale with a wide range of engines, starting with a four-cylinder, 1.2-l, 65 and 75 hp gasoline engine, as -well as 1.4-l and 1.6l, 100 and 110 hp gasoline engines, with the larger ones linked to either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. The 1.5-l dCi turbodiesels, tuned to 70, 85, and 105 hp, are distinguished by very economical operation, with the most powerful variant mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission. This model has a top speed of 190 km/h with average consumption of only 4.6 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers. Nissan Note
In the Renault-Nissan alliance, the modern-looking, 4.08 meter-long family Nissan Note, with a front-mounted transverse engine and front-wheel drive, is placed exactly between the similarly designed Renault Modus and Scénic. It boasts a 2.60 meter wheelbase and variable interior space one advantage of which is a rear seat that can be moved 160 mm longitudinally. It takes only one hand to move it, either forwards or backwards. Depending on the back seat’s position, the luggage space ranges from 280 to 380 liters, and under its double bottom there is a smaller space that allows more valuable items to be hidden. The cover on this space, called a Flexi-Board, is concealed by carpet on one side, and on the other side the surface is resistant to dampness – so it can be turned over for storing muddy shoes, a mountain bike, etc. When the front passenger seat is folded down items up to 2.4 meters long can be carried in the car. Under the hood, the Nissan Note comes with 1.4-l and 1.6-l, 88 and 110 hp gasoline engines, as well as the tried-and-true French 1.5 dCi turbodiesel tuned to 68 or 86 hp. The cleverly designed equipment, including fold-out trays on the backs of the front seats, reflect the car’s family-oriented nature. Honda Civic
You won’t confuse this car with any other – the new 8th generation Honda Civic stands out with a futuristic design combining rounded and sharp lines. Its characteristic elements include in particular a glass front and extensive rear window with a built-in spoiler. Unlike many of its competitors, the new Civic is a bit shorter (4.25 meters) than its predecessor, but thanks to the windshield having been shifted forward and the 65 mm wider body, there is more room for passengers inside. Of course the comfortable interior is variable, and as in the Jazz model the back seats can be folded back, creating a space for large pieces of luggage in the middle of the car. The rear seats can also be folded forward, substantially enlarging the luggage space, from 415 to 485 liters. The Civic has a front-mounted transverse engine and front-wheel drive and is the first car in its segment to come exclusively with a six-speed transmission, either manual or the robotic i-Shift. Customers can choose from three engines: 1.4-l and 1.8-l, four-cylinder, 83 and 140 hp gasoline engines and a 2.2-l, 140 hp turbodiesel that can drive the Civic up to 205 km/h with average consumption of only 5.1 liters per 100 km. All versions come with ABS, EBD electronic braking power distribution, power steering, and VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist), analogous to ESP.
Peugeot 407 Coupé
The carmaker with the lion emblem traditionally sees to it that its offer includes an attractive GT (Grand Turismo) style coupé. Now this prestigious role is assumed by the Peugeot 407 Coupé, an elegant, 4.81 meter long four-seater. Like the 407 sedan, the coupé has a front-mounted transverse engine and front-wheel drive, but it has a wider wheelbase in front and in back, longer body overhangs, and a lower center of gravity. Despite its similarities in shape, the coupé has not even a single body part in common with the sedan. The engine choices start with a four-cylinder, 2.2-l, 160 hp gasoline engine with a manual six-speed transmission, and more demanding customers can choose among V6 engines. For the first time in the 407 line, the coupé features a V6 HDi, 2.7-l turbodiesel with two turbochargers to help it turn out 205 hp. The coupé, equipped exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission has a top speed of 230 km/h with combined consumption of 8.5 liters of diesel fuel per 100 km. The top of the line has a V6, 3.0-l, 210 hp gasoline engine, which in combination with a six-speed manual gearbox gives the sports tuned car a top speed of 243 km/h. This six-cylinder can also be mated to a six-speed automatic. All Peugeot 407 Coupé versions come with ABS, AFU emergency braking system, and ESP and CDS electronic chassis stabilization systems.
The Jaguar XK, a modern, classic concept 2+2 coupé with an eight-cylinder front-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive, kicks off a new era in the history of this British sports car brand. The aggressive looking, 4.79 meter long, 1.89 meter wide, and only 1.32 meter tall car has a self-supporting body with a bearing structure and aluminum surface panels, so its weight is surprising low, just under 1,600 kilograms. Under its long hood there lurks a huge heart – an atmospheric V8, 4.2-liter, 298 hp gasoline engine, mated to a six-speed transmission that allows fully automatic operation, or true sports driving in the Sport Manual mode, with sequential shifting using “wings” by the steering wheel. Thanks to intelligent electronics, the properly tuned automatic Sport Auto mode provides excellent cruising experiences. The Jaguar XK can sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.2 seconds, and although its top speed is electronically governed to 250 km/h the speedometer scale runs up to 280 km/h. The interior is imbued with a traditional British atmosphere, featuring real leather and fine wood, but it also has modern electronic equipment, including a first-rate communication and navigation system. A cabriolet is already in the works for drivers who want something even sportier than the coupé. Mercedes-Benz S
The new prestigious Mercedes-Benz S series, large classic concept sedans with front-mounted engines and rear-wheel drive are headed for the highest spheres. They come in two versions – with 3.04 and 3.16 meter wheelbases and total lengths of 5.08 and 5.21 meters. Improvements have been made in all directions – the bodies are more modern and the technologies are more refined. In order to save weight, the doors, hood, trunk cover, and front fenders are made of aluminum, while the chassis, with Airmatic air suspension and ADS adaptive dampening system provides maximum comfort and safety. The driver can choose between comfort and sport chassis modes, and the brake system can be supplemented with radar that ensures safe spacing from other cars depending on your speed. A new feature is a night vision system with infrared rays and a special camera that transmits its images to a screen on the dashboard noticeably earlier than classic lights can reach them. The new S 350 model comes with a V6, 3.5-l, 272 hp gasoline engine, and the S 500 sedan comes with a V8, 5.5-l, 388 hp engine. Both have seven-speed automatic transmissions, and the V6, 3.0-l, 235 hp turbodiesel will appear under the hood of the S 320 CDI model in the 1st quarter of 2006. Spring of 2006 will welcome the Mercedes-Benz S 600, with a longer body and a V12, 5.5-l, 517 gasoline engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission.
The Audi Q7, an imposing five-meter long, four-wheel drive car with remarkable performance, should reign in the ever more popular SUV category. With a 3.0 meter wheelbase and an overall length of 5.08 meters, a width of 1.98 meters (with the exterior rear-view mirrors 2.18 meters) and a height of 1.74 meters, this car has a spacious, variable interior with 28 arrangement possibilities. In its three rows of seats it can carry up to seven passengers in a 2+3+2 arrangement, but the two third-row seats are for people under 1.60 meters tall. When arranged with five seats the back of the Audi Q7 offers a record 775 liters of luggage space, and with only two people seated in front the space leaps to 2,035 liters. It is powered by either a V8, 4.2-l, 350 hp gasoline engine or a V6 TDI , 3.0-l, 233 hp turbodiesel with a remarkable torque peaking at 500 N.m between 1750 and 2750 rpm. Both engines are mated to six-speed automatic Tiptronic transmissions, from which the torque is transferred through a Torsen differential, 40% to the front wheels and 60% to the rear. A surcharge gets you air suspensions with self-adjusting ground clearance – the basic level is 180 mm, in rough terrain it increases to 205 mm, or 240 mm for larger obstacles, while on roads it can drop to 165 mm. The Audi Q7 with the V6 turbodiesel has a top speed of 216 km/h, while the V8 gas engine drives it to a top speed of 248 km/h, accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.4 seconds.