Bundle up or drop the top
Coupes are the dream machines of the American car culture. Sedans are great, but too practical to epitomize the freedom an automobile brings in quite the same way as a coupe or convertible. Gathered here are tomorrow’s classics and today’s dreams of open road freedom from the pure muscle of the 2008 Dodge Challenger to the upscale luxury and performance of the Cadillac CTS Coupe Concept. We start with the most recently debuted.
– Staff Photo Credit: Staff, Automakers
The M3 has evolved over time from a racing homologation car into a full-fledged lineup unto itself. The newest M3 has already debuted in coupe and sedan form, and both are bona fide winners. Like the coupe and sedans, the M3 convertible comes with a 4.0-liter V-8 pushing 414 horses at a lofty 8,300 rpm, and 295 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,900 rpm. The new über Bimmer also boasts a six-speed manual transmission, locking differential, an aluminum chassis, electronic damper control, cross-drilled cast iron rotors, and Servotronic steering with Normal and Sport modes.
The most notable features of the new Challenger reside under hood, specifically, the 3.5-liter V-6 engine in the SE, and the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 in the R/T. Buyers looking for the style of the Challenger, but can’t afford or don’t need the hairy-chested V-8 engines can opt for the SE. With 250 horsepower and a four-speed automatic, it won’t be the most exciting model, but it looks a lot like its brawnier stablemates. The R/T model follows the usual Dodge model lineup, slotting in above the SE but below the SRT8. With a 370 horsepower V-8 engine mated to a five-speed automatic, the R/T is no slouch.
Three trims will be available for sale: the base GS with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, electronic stability control and traction control, airbags all around and standard Bluetooth capability. Next up is the GT, with a naturally-aspirated 3.8-liter V-6. The GT also adds chrome interior/exterior accents, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and more. The top model, the SE, offers either engine with standard features such as HID headlights, leather-trimmed seats, Brembo brakes and a sport-tuned suspension. Optional on the SE is a limited slip differential. Reports on the Web indicate that pricing will start at just under $20,000 and top out at over $25,000.
How about a 290-horsepower turbocharged engine with your Kia? If you like that you’ll probably appreciate the six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, the Brembo brakes, the navigation system with Bluetooth, and what represents Kia’s first foray into coupe design. According to Kia’s own public relations spokesman, the brand known for low prices and great warranties needs to focus a bit more on the styling front. The Koup concept is a strong representation of what Spectra shoppers will likely encounter, in coupe and sedan form, sometime within the next 12-18 months.
Mini takes the S model’s turbocharged 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine, makes some internal changes, adds a new intake and exhaust, and presto-chango the little engine now produces 207 horsepower and 192 lb.-ft. of torque. Maximum torque is available from 1,850 rpm to 5,500 rpm. In addition, turbo boost pressure is increased under acceleration from 2,000 rpm to 5,300 rpm, which ups the torque to 207 lb.-ft. All of that is good for a 0-62 mph in 6.5 seconds for the Mini and 6.8 seconds for the Clubman. A six-speed manual gearbox and a variety of suspension setups are available.
With the GXP’s 260-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter engine at its heart, this is the newest Solstice, a stunning coupe that promises as much as the convertible did - and just may deliver on more than looks alone. The differences are obvious: this Solstice has a hardtop removable roof and design changes to the rearward part of the vehicle, including a rear duck-tail spoiler, glass back hatch and expanded cargo area. The powertrain and interior are mostly left alone in this update. It’s scheduled to go on sale in 2009. Pricing has not yet been announced.
“Hako” means “box” in Japanese, a fact that is somewhat obvious when you first lay eyes on the Hako Coupe concept unveiled at the New York Auto Show. Slathered in bright orange and packed with advanced features for active youths, the Hako’s strongest feature is its unique style. One of the first things to jump to mind is a classic T-Bucket hot rod, or maybe even a '32 Ford (think ZZ Top’s babe-laden ride from the ’80s). A pure concept, nothing about a possible engine was announced.
When you see the word “Portfolio” in a Jaguar’s name, expect three things. First, there won’t be very many of them. Second, there will be luxurious surroundings, such as leather-covered dash, sumptuous seating, high-end audio systems and maybe even a few extra performance goodies. The XKR Portfolio sports the same engine and transmission as other XKRs: A 4.2-liter supercharged V-8 coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. The combination is good for 420 horsepower, and makes the XKR seriously quick.
The SL roadster is the Silver Arrow’s flagship sports car – tracing its lineage back to the 300SL “Gullwing” – and Mercedes-Benz showed off the facelifted 2009 model at the Geneva Auto Show earlier this year. New features accompany the new look, including Airscarf, which is designed to keep occupants warm when driving top-down on a chilly day. The lineup for 2009 includes the SL550 and 600 and the AMG SL65 and the newly introduced AMG SL63. The two-seat, retractable hardtops arrive in U.S. dealers this spring. Pricing is yet to be announced.
Long-time fans of the Roundel logo will recognize the tii suffix as being one that graced the later model 2002 sedan of the 1970s. BMW has made no secret that it wants the 1 Series to be viewed as a car in the same vein as the 2002 – a light, agile, quick two-door sedan. The emphasis here is on weight reduction and aerodynamics. There's no word on what powers the BMW 1 Series tii Concept, but we suspect it’s the same twin-turbocharged, 300-horsepower inline six-cylinder engine that's found in the production 135i, along with the standard six-speed manual gearbox.