A blend of fresh faces and formal introductions
IntroductionThough it’s held in Germany, the Frankfurt Auto Show holds a fair amount of significance for the North American market. Frankfurt is the first show of the season, and gives automakers a chance to showcase production and concept models, some of which are ready for showrooms, some a few steps shy of the assembly line, and others that are nothing more than exercises in design.
This year, Frankfurt was the stage for the debut of near-production models like the BMW Z4 Coupe and was the official launch pad for the 2006 Porsche Cayman, a model that has been publicized for months. Other highlights included a larger, performance-oriented Toyota RAV4 and hints about the next Kia Optima and Saturn VUE (Opel Antara GTC). And then there was the Jaguar XK Convertible, a model that was announced but visible only on an 8x10 sheet of Kodak paper.
On the following pages are brief summaries of 24 Frankfurt debuts of particular importance to U.S. car shoppers.
The 2007 Q7 is Audi’s first true SUV, and is based on its cousins, the Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg. Power comes from a 4.2-liter V8 that cranks out 350 horsepower and 325 lb.-ft. of torque, delivered to all four wheels via a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. Prices are expected to in the $50,000 range when the Q7 lands at your local dealer in late 2006.
2006 Bentley Azure
Its creator bills it as “The World’s Most Elegant Convertible,” but the rest of us call it the 2006 Bentley Azure, an exquisite drop top that should set buyers back about $350,000. Power comes from a 450-horsepower, twin turbocharged 6.75-liter V8 that Bentley claims will propel this car of the stars to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, with a top speed of 168 mph.
2006 BMW 3 Series Wagon
For 2006, the BMW 3 Series Wagon makes its way to market with more space, more power, and a fresh new look. Visually, the 2006 BMW 3 Series Wagon offers the same rakish front end and creased body panels as found on the 3 Series Sedan, and under the hood is 3.0-liter, six-cylinder engine that generates 215 horsepower and 185 lb.-ft. of torque. Cargo capacity measures 48.5 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
2008 BMW Z4 Coupe
BMW executives call it a concept, but word is that this hot ride is headed for production. Based on the popular convertible, the BMW Z4 Coupe houses a 3.0-liter, six-cylinder engine good for 265 horsepower and 232 lb.-ft. of torque. BMW suggests a 0-60 mph time of 5.7 seconds with max speed electronically limited to 155 mph.
2006 Fisker Tramonto
You love the Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG, but wouldn’t it be just your luck that every other dude in your neighborhood has one? Fret no longer, for the 2006 Fisker Tramonto is here, courtesy of Fisker Coachbuild. Besides the tweaked front and rear styling, the Tramonto remains largely the SL55 AMG, all the way down to its 493-horsepower, AMG-built V8. If that’s not enough, the Performance Plus package bumps horsepower up to 610, the result of which Fisker claims is a 0-60 time of 3.6 seconds.
2007 Jaguar XK Convertible
Close on the heels of the launch of the 2007 Jaguar XK Coupe is the redesigned XK Convertible. Unlike some drop tops that are merely hack jobs of the original, the XK Convertible was designed alongside the XK Coupe, a point that engineers suggest led to excellent rigidity and stiffness (meaning less of a convertible’s main weakness, cowl shake) and allowed them to limit the curb weight to 3,759 pounds. All 2007 Jaguar XK models are powered by a 300-horsepower, 4.2-liter V8 engine.
Jeep Compass Concept
Two Jeep concepts debuted in Frankfurt, both with four-wheel-drive capability, but one had a definite slant toward sport. That would be the Jeep Compass concept, which features a lower body kit, big 19-inch wheels wearing redline tires, black mesh airdam insert, swept back windshield, and flared fenders.
Jeep Patriot Concept
Also making its debut at the 2005 Frankfurt Auto Show was the Jeep Patriot concept, featuring a more Jeep-like boxy, upright shape. Company officials claim that this Jeep is worthy of the brand’s Trail Rated badge. The Patriot concept, like the Jeep Compass, is powered by a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine.
2007 Kia Optima
We’ve had positive things to say about the most recent products from Kia, and it looks like the 2007 Optima (called the Magentis overseas) may keep that streak going. As expected, the overall silhouette resembles that of its cousin, the Hyundai Sonata, which is to say that it’s larger overall, yet provides a sportier and more compact appearance. Kia claims that the redesigned 2007 Optima will be powered by either a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine or a 2.7-liter V6, though we’re betting that a version of the Sonata’s 3.3-liter V6 will makes its way to the new Optima.
2005 Maserati Quattroporte GT
Two additional trims are available for the Maserati Quattroporte buyer – the Sport GT and the Executive GT. Sport GT versions get 20-inch wheels, upgraded brakes, interior and exterior enhancements, and a Sport mode for the transmission. The Executive GT features 19-inch wheels, retractable wood tables for rear seat passengers, an Alcantara headliner, and rear seats that include heating, ventilation, and massage.
2007 Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG
To the kid who’s cool because Mom picks him up from school in a Hummer H2 – be prepared to start eating lunch at the loser table. Your fall from grace coincides with the launch of the 2007 Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG, a four-wheel-drive brute that’s sure to be the new hit at your school’s pick-up/drop-off zone. Under the hood is an AMG-built 6.3-liter V8 that delivers 510 horsepower through a seven-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel controls. Behind the 19-inch alloy wheels is an AMG-tuned suspension that automatically lowers at high speeds.
2007 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
It may be labeled a 2007 model, but the redesigned Mercedes-Benz S-Class will start showing up at your dealer during the first part of 2006. Available with either S500 or S600 badges, the 2007 S-Class will be powered by your choice of a 382-horsepower V8 or a V12 with an estimated 500 horsepower. Included technology ranges from a seven-speed automatic transmission to a Pre-Safe collision preparation system. Just before an impact, Pre-Safe tightens the seatbelts, closes the sunroof, and automatically adjusts the seats to their optimum positions. For 2007 the system has been improved; it now closes all of the side windows and the seat cushions inflate to keep occupants tight in their seats.
Mercedes-Benz Vision R63 AMG Concept
It’s been less than a year since we first saw a production version of the Mercedes-Benz R-Class, but already the company is showcasing the vehicle’s possibilities. Case in point is the Vision R63 AMG, which Mercedes calls a prototype, albeit one that’s close to production standards. Power comes from the same AMG-built, 510-horsepower, 6.3-liter V8 found in the new ML 63 AMG, managed by an AMG automatic transmission with steering wheel controls and delivered through a permanent all-wheel-drive system. Inside the wheel wells are 21-inch alloys wearing P265/40R21 tires.
Big ideas sometimes come in small packages. The Mini Concept is a two-door, four-passenger wagon that features rear barn doors which open up to an expansive and versatile cargo area, over which is a removable roof that allows for easy loading. The side profile is clean and precise, lacking a B-pillar and including electronic sliding rear side windows. To offset the side doors’ 63-inch length, Mini has introduced what it calls its kinematic parallelogram hinging system, a design that moves the doors forward as they’re opened.
Opel Antara GTC
According to GM executives, the Opel Antara GTC (Gran Turismo Crossover) is the basis for the next-generation Saturn Vue. In concept form, this four-wheel-drive SUV offers only three doors and is powered by a 212-horsepower, twin turbo four-cylinder engine that GM suggests could propel the Antara to 60 mph in eight seconds. A production version would likely offer four doors and one or two fewer turbochargers.
2006 Porsche Cayman
Though it has already graced the covers of countless magazines and has been written about ad nauseam, the 2006 Porsche Cayman made its official debut at the 2005 Frankfurt Auto Show. Priced at $58,900, the Cayman offers up 295 horsepower from a 3.4-liter, six-cylinder engine that pushes this German sports coupe to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds with a six-speed manual transmission, or 5.8 seconds with an optional five-speed Tiptronic automatic.
2006 Saab 9-5
Saab ushers in the 2006 model year with a healthy list of enhancements to its large sedan, the 9-5. Among the changes are revised sheetmetal, new head and taillights, a new grille with what Saab calls a “wing motif,” and an updated instrument panel. Behind the scenes, the 2.3-liter, high-pressure turbocharged four-cylinder engine gets some added horsepower and torque, now rated at 260 and 272, respectively.
2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI
Considered by many to be the most fun available for about $30,000, the all-wheel-drive, turbocharged Subaru Impreza WRX STI does a four-wheel drift into 2006 with an aggressive new look. The new face of Subaru, first introduced on the B9 Tribeca SUV, focuses on the brand’s aviation history by mimicking a fuselage with wings. The public’s response to the grille design has been mixed, but buyers of the 2006 Impreza WRX STI may not even notice – they’ll be focused on all-wheel-drive grip combined with 300 horsepower and 300 lb.-ft. of torque.
When it was initially launched, the Toyota RAV4 was one of the first small, four-cylinder SUVs shoppers could consider, and was available with two or four doors, front- or four-wheel drive, and manual or automatic transmissions. Since those days there’s been an onslaught of new competition, and for 2006, the Toyota RAV4 makes an attempt to step above them all…authoritatively. Behind the new wrapper, which bears a strong resemblance to the Highlander, are more overall room and options like a third-row seat and a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Try getting that out of a Honda CR-V or Kia Sorento.
2007 Toyota Yaris
With the launch of the 2007 Yaris, Toyota has effectively silenced the Echo, the company’s subcompact car produced for the 2000 to 2005 model years. The Yaris, which happens to be just as ugly as the outgoing Echo, will be available in the spring of 2006 in three- or five-door form, both powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine generating 106 horsepower and 103 lb.-ft. of torque.
2007 Volkswagen Eos
If you’re thinking that Volkswagen’s new convertible, the 2007 Eos, is simply a rehashing of the long-in-the-tooth Cabriolet, you’re mistaken. Whereas the Cab was basically a Golf with a soft top, the Eos features a retractable hard top with tinted glass that makes for a massive moonroof. This coupe/hard top convertible will be available in one trim only and will include standard stability control, head and thorax side airbags, and either 16- or 17-inch alloy wheels.
2007 Volkswagen Golf R32
Based on the totally redesigned 2007 Volkswagen Golf, the R32 aims to fight the Subaru Impreza STI and Mitsubishi Evolution IX with less power but a touch of maturity. Like its competitors, the Golf R32 features four driven wheels, courtesy of VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. The 3.2-liter V6 generates 250 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque, managed by either a six-speed manual transmission or a Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon
Bigger and more powerful than before, the redesigned 2007 Volkswagen Passat Wagon is scheduled to land at your local dealer in the spring of 2006. Volkswagen’s largest wagon has grown in length, height, and width compared to the 2005 model, with the result being more passenger and cargo room. Engine choices should mirror those of the 2006 Passat sedan, which currently include a 200-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder and a 280-horsepower V6.
2007 Volvo C70
With the 2007 Volvo C70, it’s out with the old and in with the new. Unlike the old C70, a nondescript two-door available as either a coupe or soft-top convertible, the 2007 C70 offers buyers the best of both worlds – it’s a sleek coupe with the hard top raised and an elegant convertible with that top neatly tucked behind the rear seats. Power comes from a turbocharged, 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that generates 218 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque.
Photos courtesy of the manufacturers