1998 Geneva Auto Show Coverage

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similar to the one that toppled the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Conducted at a government-run driver training facility in Northern Germany at the end of February, the tests reportedly pitted the new Astra against five European rivals in a wide range of disciplines aimed at displaying the handling differences among the cars. It was the manager of the government facility, not a test driver, who was driving the Golf when it rolled. Opel denies any foul play, and board member Horst Borghs has played down the whole affair. However, Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech has engaged an indepenpll dent party to evaluate all Golf models in a bid to put an end to what he describes as "backyard test games." At Geneva, Piech announced that VW dealers will retrofit ESP traction control on Golf IVs, a fix that will not require new chassis tuning.

Volkswagen's newest Golf-not yet sold in the United States (though it provides the basis for the New Beetle)-is the latest car to cause a media stir for rolling over in fast, evasive maneuvers. Ironically enough, German media caught wind of the alleged problem from Volkswagen itself, though the revelation stems from driving tests organized by arch-rival Opel, designed to show off the new Astra for German dealers. In the tests, which were not open to the media, a VW Golf IV reportedly failed a moose-avoidance maneuver

Bad slice.

TYPO. It Was a typo.

Because of published reports, including one here last week, calling its upcoming SUV the Escalate, Cadillac plans to announce March 13 that the name is actually the Escalade. Like escalate, escalade is a verb, meaning "to climb or to enter a fortified location." The good news is, we like it better.




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very major auto

The Swiss Open
Geneva offers the car world a neutral court
by John P. Cortez, Dutch Mandel and Mark Vaughn; photos by Jim Fets

conspicuous by its absence-but with a cabrio version of its W12 from Tokyo last fall For flag-waving 'mericans,

show has its personality: Tokyo technology, Detroit grandeur, Frankfurt immensity. Part of each show's personality is defined by the self-centered focus of the products debuted and displayed. Call it a Darwinian ethnocentrism. Except at Geneva. In Switzerland, there is no home-court advantage, and the only ones trying to outdo each other are craftsmen whose creations stand on their own merits, or are worthy aftermarket modifications that we can only hope will make it to these shores. What cars showed up that we should care about? Porsche unveiled its latest iteration of the new 91 1, a cabriolet with lines so beautiful it'll suck your breath away. BMW debuted its entry-level 3 Series, a car whose significance is not lost on the market, or the company. Volkswagen again made news, not with its New Beetle-

cmsler's Pronto Cmizer showed what can be done when a '37 Roadster is repenned in '98. ~011s-ROYC~ unveiled its Silver Seraph, only the ninth new Rolls in the company's 92-year history. Ford chose to debut the Escort replacement, a car whose brand/nameplate/owners will know it as the Focus. Then there was Jaguar's supercharged XKR, Ferrari's ever more expensive 456M (should the M designate Money?) and a pair of Mercedes-Benzes: the 500E replacement, the E55, shown in "leisurely" station wagon configuration, and the CLK cabrio, a car whose real talents will shine come summer. And this being Geneva, whose personality really is one that's open to the world and accepting of all comers, we would be remiss if we didn't mention the latest from India's Tata Engineering & Locomotive Co., the Tata Safari sport/utility vehicle.


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ginally more expensive. It goes on sale in -' Germany this spring for about $87,000. It will cost less when it arrives here later in the vear. Concealed behind the new cabrio's rear seats are two automatic, high-strength steel roll bars that pop up at the whim of the car's angle sensors. Porsche claims it's first to offer side airbags (door-mounted) that protect the front occupants' heads and bodies, even if the top and windows are fully retracted. Two other notable features: A twoshell aluminum hardtop with heated glass is standard, at least in Europe, with a U.5. decision to come; and a remote button on the key fob will open or close the ragtop. So if a rain shower happens upon you while you're



EL. 1

Without a trace of irony, Rolls-Royce rolled out its new Silver Seraph to the tune of Copland's "Fal~fam r the Common Man." b It's just the ninth all-new car in the company's 92-year history. This one is multinational-a British car with a Gennan engine and an interior decorated with wood from American poplar trees. Powered by BMW's 5.4-liter V12 (322 hp, 361 Ib-ft), the Seraph gets to 6 0 mph in less than seven seconds. Claimed to be three years in the making, the elegant ride is defined by a strong character line runningalong the waist unbroken from nose to tail. Its monocoque steel bodyshell boasts improved torsional rigidity, 65 percent stiffer than its predecessor, Rolls says. And seraph? A noun meaning "a celestial being of the highest order, associated especially with light, ardor and purity."


Jaguar marks 50 years of XK sports cars with the introduction of a supercharged XHS model in both coupe and convertible configurations. This cat sports hood louvers and a rear spoiler, a polished mesh


370-h~.5.2-seiond 0-to&0-mph car as Jag doesn't plan tombring to the U.S. market until n e i year. it


Ferrari's most expensive model, the V12-powered 4561 coupe, is the benefactor of Ferrari's new wind tunnel, and sports a new rear spoiler and rear bumper that smooths the air. A carbon fiber hood decreases weight. The 4561 has a new driver- and passenger-friendly interior that includes repositioned gauges within the instrument panel for driver ease, and a new rear-seat design with integrated retractable annrests for passengers. The 456M GT sports a manual six-speed gearbox while the GTA is fitted with a four-speed automatic.

F % hy is the Chryslcr Pronto Cr iri/er col~ccpt our pick for Most Fun!~~~~ car Geneva debutante'! Just look at it-how coulti it not be'! It's American ptssion and whimsy ricl~ng n Europe;u~dynamics and el'liciency o (or is that the other way ~trounci?). Cruiler is the firct Chryslcr concept The tor built cl~ecilically a European rilotor show slnce the PortoSino in 1987&$1':;.c$6 4 T : i which spawned Itie original LIT series. + $ ; * by 1940s 'l'hc C ~ - ~ ~ i / exterior and interior design er's A I I ~ C F art tlcco, I ~ C ~ ~ I Chryslcr. says. The aggr.e\sive extcnor 111iike\lhe Csrli/erRC\ look bigger tharl it i\ ill rcality, at 167.2 inches, it'\ con\ideiably \holler than a Neon. l'he car'c 1%-inch front ancl I9 inch rear wheels give it that IJrowleresquc, ready-to-pounce looh. Its roll-bilck Ltbric lor,, w~th ca~bon rt Sibel heatler, ~ecalls othcr recent Ch~ysler concepts such as tkic Composite Co~~cept Vehicle and I'lymor~lhI'n~nto.'l'he iritw~or washed in aluminurn anti carbon fiher to~tcl~cs 1s with hotly-color ;iccents ant1 lcal11c1-seats; it three-spoke retio stceniig wlieel \port:, the C'hryslcr winged baclgc. The Crui~cr d e b ~ ~11ic four-cylintlcr powerplar~l itlso rs producect by ('hry\lcrls joir~tvcnturc with BMW. The 1 .h-l~ter iulit, to be b ~ ~ t l tBrazll, makes 1 15 I~vrsein power at 5600 spm and I 1 Ib-ft of tosuite at 4400 rim. It's tn;\led to the five-speed 1
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In the sigMs of small car builders around the world is Ford's Escort replacement, dubbed Focus. It won't be tough to spot: Ford takes its crispedge design theme to the masses with projected sales of one million units worldwide. (The Escort mustered a "mere" 850,000 units per year.) A true world car, Focus sales start this fall in Europe, in three-, four- and five-door wagon configurations; its US. cousins-in sedan and wagon layouts only-follow a year later.

Lexus gave the press at Geneva a special sneak peek at the IS 200, its planned 3 Series challenger designed specifically for I the European market. The rear-drive IS 200 is powered by a 2.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine and offers a choice of four-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmissions.

Winning hea* at Geneva was this neat retractableroof concept h m Peugeot, a teaser for the company's successor to the legendary 205 (the productionversion is slated for introduction at Paris this fall). The jury's still out regarding the production car's official n a m e it could be 206 to fit in with the other models in the range (306, 406, etc.1, or 207, to signify a generational leap. Peugeot is leaving the decision to the last minute. The mainstays of the 200-series range will be three- and five-door hatches; whether the coupe/cabrio, with its Mercedes SLK-style roof, is part of the lineup has not been decided, but given the success of the 406 coupe, Peugeot must be tempted. Toyota unveiled its own European specialty car, the Yaris. Based on last year's Funtime concept car, Toyota's new &segment entry will be assembled in France, and will go on sale in Europe in spring 1999. The live-door Yaris' 1.0-liter powerplant makes about 67 horsepower.

Imagine taking the kids to soccer practice in this thing. AMG took Mercedes' 4.3-liter V8 and stroked and bored it to 5.5 liters to produce 335 horsepower and 398 Ib-ft of toque, enough to pin the r i l e nippers back into their kiddie seats as you rocket from 0 to 60 mph in less than six seconds. To keep the squealers at maximum lateral gs, AMG installed 235/40 rubber at the front and 265/35s in the rear, all mounted on Winch l i t - a l l o y wheels. Late-brakinginto the playground parlcing lot is accomplished with internally vented dual-piston floating-caliper discs in front, and rear discs taken from the SL600. An eye-catchingaero package and spotty interior upgrades will make you the envy of all the other parents. But, only if you live in 01' Deutschland. Well have to make do with next month's AMG C43 and the promise of an E55 AMG sedan. The estate won't come here. Sony if we got your hopes up. "Open-top driving has always been a particularly entrancing way to travel," Jurgen Hubbert, DaimlerBenz board member in charge of passenger cars, mused as Mercedes introduced the

with Kannann. When the top is closed, its stowage area becomes extra tmnk space, a rare feature among convertibles. While the Gennan market gets three models of the Cabriolet, the United States must make do with only the top of the line for its 7500 allotted cars. With the 218-horsepower 3.2-liter V6, four seats, popup roll bars and side airbags, we won't have much to complain about when the CLK Cabriolet arrives in the States in October. Except maybe the weather in October. As concept cars go, RenauYs Z roadster O is a pure "ideas" vehicle-don't expect to see it in production. Like the Argos roadster of three years ago, which directly inspired the new Clio hatch, ZO's styling is likely to inspire the look of future R e n a u b h a r p e r lines, less-rounded shapes. And the Z ("zed O zero") has a permanent 4 x 4 system that will be seen on a real car: Renautt's 4 x 4 version of the Scenic compact minivan, the Raccoon, will be launched at Paris in October. Under the hood is Renautt's first gasoline direct-injection engine.

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