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2009 Mazda6: Frankfurt and Tokyo Introductions Preview U.S. Model

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Zoom Zoom Evolution
It was back in 2001 that Mazda started blasting auto-show attendees and innocent TV watchers with the now-famous zoom-zoom theme. Mazda has remained true to Zoom-Zoom in the intervening years, and the second generation of the first Zoom-Zoom cars are starting to arrive. The Mazda2, not sold in the States, led the evolution this past summer. Mazda’s mid-size sedan (and five-door hatchback and wagon) entry is next, known as the Mazda6 outside of Japan and as the Atenza inside. Though U.S. sales don’t begin until summer 2008, the exterior shown at the recent Frankfurt and Tokyo auto shows, pictured below, is close to what we’ll see then.

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Mazda Atenza Sedan, Tokyo

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Mazda 6 Hatchback, Frankfurt

What we likely won’t see are the wagon or the five-door hatchback, though these bodystyles continue for other markets. U.S. mid-size car segments are dominated by sedans, with a few coupes here and there. For the 2008MY, Mazda gave up the wagon version of the 6, Dodge will drop the Magnum for 2009MY, and Chevrolet gave up the five-door hatchback/wagon-type Malibu Maxx with its 2008MY redesign. Mazda sold fewer than 10,000 wagon Mazda6s in any given year it was available, compared with well over 50,000 sedans annually.
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Mazda Atenza Family

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Mazda 6 Family

The job of the new Mazda6, according to Mazda, is to continue to deepen and evolve Kizuna, the emotional connection drivers feel with the 6. The new face is evolutionary but strong follow-up for a car that was as well received as this the first time around. Kizuna, for Mazda6, embodies three core values. Mazda wants the 6 to offer an emotional and sporty driving experience that creates a oneness between car and driver, to offer an exclusive experience through a comfortable space and high-quality craftsmanship inside, and finally to offer an “insightful package” that balances the first two elements and incorporates logical, well-thought-out, and easy-to-use driver interface and storage areas. Based on our limited show-floor time, Mazda looks to have created a 6 (and Atenza) with the kizuna they are looking for.
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Mazda 6 Sedan


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2009 Audi RS6 Avant: Europe Gets a Treat

Too Bad Americans Shun Wagons: 580HP Avant Won’t Be Part of U.S. Lineup
Audi introduced the RS6 Avant at the 2007 Frankfurt auto show, along with an ultra-efficient A4 concept and a 1.4L four-cylinder TFSI engine for the European A3. The 580HP RS6 Avant, as fuel-efficient as a twin-turbocharged 5.2L V10 engine can be thanks to the direct-injection system, is about as opposite of socially conscious motoring as you get from Audi’s range. The RS6 Avant goes on sale in Europe in April 2008, but in the States not at all.

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As a fan of Audi S and RS cars and of Audi Avants, the 580HP RS6 Avant sounds sublime. But the combination of cost and the wagon shape would make finding homes for a 580HP RS6 Avant difficult for U.S. dealers and it is no real surprise Audi of America is not going to try. European pricing for the latest version hasn’t been announced, but a U.S. version would likely have played in the low-$90,000 range. Consider that a 2008 S6 starts at about $75,000 and that the 2008MY base price difference between the S4 sedan and RS4 sedan is a staggering $18,000. An RS6 Avant price tag in the low-$90,000 range puts it too near the $96,000 Audi S8 and close to the base price of a 500HP Porsche Cayenne Turbo. The European release says the RS6 is available as Avant “to start with” and offers hope for a sedan. Though a sedan would have the same price-point difficulty, it would be more likely to attract enough buyers to justify importing this particular rocket.
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Even more interesting, the RS6 may provide a hint at the potential for a V10-motivated R8 mid-engine sports car. A V10 is expected for the sports car, and simply giving it the S6 and S8’s 450HP 5.2L V10 is not enough of a jump from the 420HP V8 it launched with. Audi didn’t suggest the 580HP unit will wind its way into the R8, but we think it is only a matter of time before some manner of V10 arrives for R8 drivers.


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2009 Audi A4: Frankfurt Motor Show Introduction

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All-New A4 Arrives Stateside Fall 2008
Despite the European introduction in September 2007 at the Frankfurt motor show and sales in some markets by the end of the year, U.S. buyers won’t get to choose the latest A4 until about a year later (click for the European Audi A4 microsite). We can’t wait that long to share the first details with you, of course!

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The new A4 takes the latest family look, introduced with the TT and A5, and does it well from headlights to small decklid spoiler. Whether xenon or halogen headlights are ordered, the shape of the headlight and the daytime running lights accents the car’s design in a new way. The wing running below the main light and supported by the line of daytime running lights adds character and design, instead of a complex “jewel-look” housing. It carries a fast rear roofline, though Audi promises good headroom for all passengers and easier ingress/egress thanks to wider-opening rear doors. The new A4 is about six inches longer than the current car, though it does not look so. Only about an inch wider, the new A4’s proportions hide the larger size. Even in person, it does not look much bigger than today’s sedan.
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Audi’s 2009 A4 moves to a new layout, once called transmission forward. The transmission now sits basically next to the engine. Benefits include more space for better interior packaging and better driving dynamics, due to the car’s overall weight balance being closer to the optimal 50:50. The car also gets away with a shorter front overhang, even allowing for pedestrian and crash safety standards.
A4 Grows to be More Competitive
The size of the new A4 is almost that of the A6, shy an inch or two in each dimension, but close enough for us to conclude that the next generation A6 will be a substantially bigger car. German cars always seem to be a half size too small for the class in which they compete. With the increase in size for the A4, Audi brings their high volume mid-size car almost up to the package it requires.


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BMW M3 Sedan Returns to BMW Lineup

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2002 Reincarnated, M3 Brings Back a Four-Door
September and October brought plenty of BMW news, all leading up to a hot spring/summer 2008 for BMW dealers. The X6 Concept and X6 ActiveHybrid Concepts shown at the 2007 Frankfurt auto show, previewing a vehicle due by the end of next year, and the show was the backdrop for the formal introduction of both the M3 coupe and the new 1-Series coupe. Also in Frankfurt, a 1-Series convertible was confirmed, with initial photos released shortly afterward. If that wasn’t enough, the M3 sedan returns with a worldwide introduction at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show. Just to keep you interested, here are the first photos of the M3 sedan. See a following story for photos of the new 1-Series convertible.

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2008 Bentley Continental GT Speed: Refinements Bring 600HP

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Stunning Coupe Finds Enhancements for 2008
Bentley was among the notable brands bucking the green trend at the 2007 Frankfurt motor show with the 600HP Bentley Continental GT Speed, based on the 552HP Continental GT and also serving as our introduction to minor changes to the GT for the 2008 model year. In these days of extreme environmental concern, the extra power comes with steady improvements to both fuel economy and emissions. Five years on from its September 2002 Paris introduction, the Continental GT is still breathtaking. The 2008MY updates are mostly under this near-flawless metal skin.

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The updated range gets a new top model, for those preferring an even more spirited drive than the GT very capably offers, in the Continental GT Speed. The GT Speed, so named in homage to special Bentleys developed in the 1920s, takes tweaks to the shared 6.0L twin-turbo W12 engine to deliver 600HP to create Bentley’s first 200-plus-mph production car. The GT Speed’s 600HP may be the most inspiring result of this year’s engine modifications, but several apply to both models. The engine, whether GT or GT Speed, gets a new crankcase design, more efficient catalyst and exhaust systems, lighter-weight single chain drive camshaft, and a new engine management system and faster response cam sensor. The GT Speed also takes lighter-weight con rods, new pistons with anodized compression ring grooves, and a recalibrated version of the new engine management system.
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2009 Jaguar XF: Replacing the S-Type

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Jag’s New XF Revives a Commitment to Style and Grace
Jaguar previewed the replacement for their aging S-Type with the C-XF concept at the January 2007 Detroit auto show (click for our story). When the production XF photos were first released in August, contributor George Peterson was quick to praise the new look (click here). After that, the XF had a formal introduction at the 2007 Frankfurt motor show, and we had a chance to get a little closer and look at what Jag is really offering as an S-Type replacement. Depending on market, the order books for the XF opened this month, though the first deliveries won’t be until March 2008. And no launch is complete without a dedicated website, check out www.jaguarxf.com for Jag’s take.

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Jaguar needs the XF to re-establish the brand’s style and luxury credentials in the middle of the lineup. The new XK and XJ haven’t lost that touch, though the V8 engines that give the smaller XF a competitive powertrain in its class leave the larger, more expensive entries slightly behind their competition. And, as Peterson pointed out in his design review, the XJ and XK look too much like recent generations. The out-going S-Type did not age gracefully and, while its style hearkened back to Jaguars of old, the S-Type looked old too quickly in its relatively long lifespan. Further, the lower priced Jaguar X-Type has not done Jaguar any image favors. The all-new XF needs to rekindle the passion of Jaguar and at first blush looks equal to its task.
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With carryover engines, development of the XF focused on styling, creature comforts, and incorporates many driving aids and electronic helpers from the XK. The XF also debuts features like the JaguarSense proximity sensor and JaguarDrive Select gear selector. The XF will be the entrylevel U.S. Jag about the end of the decade, and it has the luxury feature updates it needs, including improved quality of interior materials. The debate will continue on styling, but powertrain and features boxes are all checked, and suspension elements and tricks suggest the driving dynamics will be strong as well.
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Volvo C30 Recharge: GM Is Not Alone with Flexible Platform Concept

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Not at all unlike the GM E-Flex platform in concept, shown first under the Chevrolet Volt and in Frankfurt under the Opel Flextreme, the Volvo Recharge at the 2007 Frankfurt show used a lithium-ion battery pack to power individual electric wheel motors. (Follow this link to see Volvo’s press conference.) The internal combustion engine on board is used for backup and battery recharging only, and has no part in moving the vehicle. The Recharge was designed for plug-in application, with Volvo estimating about three hours for a full charge. Volvo estimated the electric-only range to be about 62 miles, leading the company to note that Recharge would be best suited for those with daily round-trip commutes below that distance. While GM has shown its E-Flex platform with concept-car bodies above, Volvo put their new C30 on top of the Recharge platform.

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2007 Frankfurt Motor Show: Toyota IQ

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Is Small Beautiful Again?
At the 2007 Frankfurt auto show this month, Toyota showed a concept version of a vehicle expected to be available in Europe in January 2009. The IQ, shown in brilliant white with purple metallic flakes in front of a swirling purple tie-die type background, is shorter than the smallest Toyota, the Aygo, but about as wide and tall as the Yaris. This footprint allows for maximum interior space and minimum exterior space.

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The IQ wouldn’t meet Japan’s keijodisha requirements, the segment there which requires that vehicles be no longer than 3300mm nor wider than 1480mm and use an engine with displacement no larger than 660cc nor delivering more than 64PS. The primary benefit of buying a kei-car is lower automobile taxes, as well as generally being more fuel efficient and often less expensive. The kei-car segment is the only one in Japan in which Toyota does not directly compete, though their affiliate Daihatsu makes several.
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Toyota IQ and Yaris

At 2980mm long and 1680mm wide, IQ is a bit larger than the smart fortwo, but the benefit of this space is the ability to carry more people. smart’s fortwo only carries two, but Toyota says the IQ can carry three if needed. Toyota makes room for the third person in a configuration they call 3+1. In normal driving situations, the driver and front passenger sit side-by-side. When room for a third adult or child is needed, the front passenger seat is moved forward; this is possible in part by a dash that swoops away from the front passenger and allows more space. To help ensure passengers don’t feel cramped in such a small vehicle is a glass panorama sunroof.
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2009 Chevrolet Aveo: European Hatchback Sports Cool New Look

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Chevy’s Entry Hatch Grows Up
While Chevrolet‘s presence at the 2007 Frankfurt auto show was low-key, this year they showed off the five-door Aveo ahead of European sales in March 2008. No doubt this tough-looking little car will complement the U.S. Aveo sedan soon after, and Europe is also on track to get a three-door, too.

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With the latest Aveo sedan, Chevrolet dropped the old Kalos name, a holdover from the pre-GM DAT Daewoo days. The hatchbacks had carried on in Europe with the Kalos badge, but with this change the little car will be badged Aveo in Europe, the United States, China, and most major markets. (Korean-market cars still carry the Daewoo badge and the Kalos name.)
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Though unable to get inside the little car, its exterior is striking and takes the small-car segment up a notch. It wears Chevrolet’s latest global design theme, with a deep split grille subtly reminiscent of the latest Audis, cat-eye headlights, and just enough chrome to set it apart. The fog lamps in front and rear spoiler contribute to the sporting feel, but are likely optional equipment. The side-view mirrors now include indicators, and the round taillights give the rear some personality. Like the sedan, which changed for 2007MY, the hatchback is now longer and slightly wider. Where this change in proportion makes the sedan looks a bit tippy, the hatchback doesn’t look so oddly portioned. (Click here and here for images of the current Kalos.)
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The photos show that the interior shares much with the sedan, including the center stack, HVAC vents and controls, and steering wheel, but the gauge cluster is unique with gauges set into sporty round binnacles and more chrome accents.
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Motive power for the European Aveo will come from the known 98HP 1.4L engine, mated to an automatic transmission, and an all-new 84HP 1.2L DOHC I4. Both offer improved economy and emissions numbers, and the 1.2L gained 12HP. When this little looker gets to the States, it is more likely to take the same 1.6L the sedan currently sees.
GM DAT is one of the bright spots in GM’s global network, further supported by our first look at this little Aveo. Though entry level and destined to feel cheap compared with cars costing more, there has been dramatic improvement over the years in these products, a clear combination of GM’s money and technical expertise, GM’s mid-decade corporate understanding that interiors are important, combined with Daewoo’s understanding of small cars, and the access to low-cost production facilities certainly can’t be hurting the process.


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2007 Frankfurt Motor Show: Kia Kee

The Key to Kia’s Design Future
Last year, Kia scooped up Volkswagen AG designer Peter Schreyer and opened a European design studio in Frankfurt. Schreyer, during his tenure at Audi and at VW, is credited with the first TT concept, Audi A6, and VW Concept R. With credentials like these, Kia expects Schreyer to liven up their design. In a market filled with many competitive entries and lots of noise, Kia cannot afford bland design.

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At the 2007 Frankfurt auto show, Kia showed off one the first efforts to be led by Schreyer, a two-plus-two sports coupe called Kee; the concept is touring upcoming auto shows as well, and this tour will include at least one appearance on the U.S. circuit. Kee’s name was inspired by both the idea that it is key to the brand’s design future and by the Chinese and Korean “cultural concept” for spiritual energy or life force. They’d have been better off spelling it Key or K; while the pronunciation of Kee is pretty obvious and the inspiration strong, it looks odd and contrived.
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