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Melbourne's show of strength

In the spotlight: Ford unveils the R7 Crossover, expected to go into production in 2004.

Our A to Z guide of the highlights of the Melbourne motor show

6 Mar 2002

By MALCOLM LIVERMORE in MELBOURNE

AUDI

THE A4 cabriolet was the star of this stand with Audi confirming a 3.0-litre V6 multitronic will be launched in November, with pricing around $105,000.

The cabriolet's roof is an electro-hydraulic soft top with a heated glass rear window that opens or shuts within 30 seconds. Audi is also crowing about the improved interior space and a high level of crash resistance, equal to the A4 sedan.

Audi also unveiled a 2.5-litre turbo-diesel of the allroad quattro. The TDi allroad will go on sale in May priced around $85,000.

Other new models coming this year from Audi are the uprated S3 in March and the A4 V6 in April. Audi is also taking another look at the A4 Avant as sales in the small luxury wagon market increase.

BENTLEY

BENTLEY'S Arnage T high-performance limousine made its Asia-Pacific debut, showcasing the most powerful production engine built by the Crewe-based British marque.

Producing 336kW at 4100rpm and 875Nm of torque at 3250rpm, the totally re-engineered 6.75-litre twin-turbo V8 is said to be the most torque-laden powerplant of any series production car.

With a top speed limited to 270km/h and a 0-100km/h acceleration time of 5.8 seconds, Bentley claims the Arnage T is the world's fastest production sedan. It is also the company's first model to be backed by the full resources of new owner, the VW Group.

Bentley will add to the Series Two Arnage family later in the year with an Arnage R version (successor to the Red Label), as well as an Arnage long wheelbase.

BMW

BMW launched what it described as the largest cars at the show, with two long wheelbase E66 7 Series models making their Australian debut.

Joining the short wheelbase E65 735i and 745i sedans released in early February, the 735Li and 745Li limousine models will go on sale locally around July. Pricing for the 140mm longer Li models was announced on February 18, with the $185,000 735Li adding $10,500 to the sticker price of the 735i and the $223,400 adding $15,800 to the 745i price.

Both models bring Valvetronic engine technology, the 735Li employing a new 200kW, 3.6-litre V8 and the 745Li (to replace the 740iL) packing a 245kW, 4.4-litre V8.

Like their short wheelbase siblings, both models offer the world's first six-speed semi-automatic transmission.

The 7 Series limousine range will be completed in early 2003 by the 760Li, a new 300kW/600Nm Valvetronic-equipped V12 flagship to replace the 750iL.

Also making its Australian debut in Melbourne was the recently announced 320i Touring, which will go on sale here around June, starting at $65,000.

BMW also announced the arrival of its new X5 flagship, the 4.6is, which debuted at last year's Sydney motor show and heralded the development of some 20 new models in the next six years.

They will include a new 1 Series light car, 6 Series coupe and convertible, X3 compact off-roader and regular product updates.

CITROEN

TAKING pride of place on the Citroen stand was the small car that's expected to double Australian sales for the quirky French car-maker, the all-new C3.

Revealed at Frankfurt last year, to be launched internationally next week and due on sale in Australia in August, the five-door C3 "super-mini" will be available here in both 1.4 and 1.6-litre guises - each with manual and auto transmission choices.

Pricing for the 206, Polo and Astra competitor is yet to be revealed, however it is expected the entry level 1.4-litre C3 will be sold at less than $18,000, while the 1.6-litre C3 is likely to be $19,990.

Citroen officials said the company hoped to sell 2000 cars this year with help from the volume selling C3, plus fourth-quarter contributions from the Picasso people-mover and diesel-powered C5 wagon, which is expected to sell at a $1000 premium over the petrol C5 wagon. But supply is likely to be Citroen Australia's Achilles heel, particularly in regards to the C3.

An even smaller Citroen called the C2 will eventually replace Britain's top- selling Saxo VTR and VTS hot hatches, but should make it Down Under as soon as next year. A micro hatch in the same mould as Ford's Ka and VW Lupo, the C2 will appear in Europe with 1.1, 1.4 and 1.6-litre engine choices, but will not match C3 volumes locally.

Citroen will also introduce a Xsara replacement called the C4 in 2004, the same year a new luxury Citroen called the C6 (to replace the XM) is due.

A new full-size C8 people-mover has just been unveiled at the Geneva motor show. The importer has not made a decision on Australian sale.

CHRYSLER-JEEP

DAIMLERCHRYSLER showed new top-of-the-range variants of existing models to mark the start of a product offensive for the Chrysler and Jeep brands.

Chrysler unveiled the all-wheel drive Voyager Limited people-mover, which will cost $4500 more than the front-wheel drive Limited at $74,590.

Jeep gave us the Grand Cherokee Overland, equipped with a high-output version of the standard vehicle's 4.7-litre PowerTech V8 engine, producing 190kW and 425Nm of torque.

Distinguishing exterior features include 17-inch alloy wheels and body-coloured grille, lower door and rocker panels, while on the inside there is an electric sunroof, leather/suede upholstery and red wood trim.

At $75,490, the price is about $8500 more than the Grand Cherokee Limited.

Chrysler expects to bring another three new models to the Australian market over the next 12 months, with right-hand drive conversions of the Viper RT/10 roadster and the Sebring convertible, as well as the Crossfire coupe Jeep is considering an ultimate off-road version of the Wrangler model, called the Rubicon.

DAEWOO

THE South Korean company's first Melbourne appearance for four years was a low-key affair, with the Kalos concept the featured vehicle.

But the company did confirm the updated Matiz would stay at $11,990 when it arrives at the end of April and the Magnus 2.5-litre inline six-cylinder should be here in the last quarter.

The Ssangyong Rexton mid-size 4WD should arrive some time in the second half after right-hand drive production starts in South Korea in July.

DAIHATSU

TOYOTA boss John Conomos sung the praises of the company's budget brand, Daihatsu, and signalled his intention to grow it in Australia.

Improving the brand's image will be important to this growth and Daihatsu hopes cars like the Copen (first seen at Tokyo last year) and YRV Turbo - which debuted in Melbourne - will aid the cause.

Mr Conomos said that while the Copen would soon go on sale in Japan, the YRV Turbo was a concept car "under serious consideration". He said both models were under evaluation for Australian release.

The Copen - Daihatsu-speak for compact-open - is a 660cc, four-cylinder turbo, two-seater convertible with an electrically-operated roof mechanism, while the YRV Turbo tallboy hatch is powered by a 1.3-litre turbocharged four with a Steershift remote gearshifting auto.

Daihatsu also revealed an updated Sirion range - comprising a 1.0-litre entry car and the higher performing GTvi - which will go on sale here in April.

FORD

FORD stole plenty of limelight in Melbourne with the first public unveiling of the Blue Oval's $500 million home-grown wagon crossover, which is expected to change little between now and when it enters production in early 2004 - just three months after Holden's Commodore-based all-wheel drive.

"Our stand this year is designed to give you a glimpse of where we believe the market's heading in terms of design and vehicle dynamics," said Ford president Geoff Polites in Melbourne.

"Behind the curtains is a vehicle we believe points to the future direction of the automotive industry in this country.

"Late last year we announced we're investing $500 million in the production of an all-new vehicle line. While what you're about to see is not the final design execution, it is a very clear indication of the direction in which we are heading.

"Quite clearly, that direction is not a Falcon derivative - be it ute or wagon. It's a direction that crosses all boundaries and blurs all of the traditional distinctions between wagons, cars and sports utility vehicles." Mr Polites would not confirm whether the facelifted "Barra" Falcon - expected to be launched in September, soon after the facelifted VY Commodore's launch and before the Sydney motor show in October - will echo the R7's clean front-end styling.

But he did admit the R7 nomenclature "could be" a reference to seven seats and that R7 "could have seven seats - they might be folded down at the back".

Styled by young designer Mark Richardson under the guidance of Ford Australia design director Simon Butterworth, R7 is expected to spawn a series of crossover variants such as the R5 twin-cab utility seen at Melbourne last year.

But Mr Polites stressed that a second vehicle line at Ford's Broadmeadows assembly plant would not affect the future of Falcon, an all-new version of which is expected to appear by 2006 - two years after the E265-designated, Raptor-codenamed Ford cross-over appears and a year after Holden's all-new Commodore surfaces.

"It's a double-sided sword," said Mr Polites. "The future is more than one product and this represents the start of the second part. We felt that we could survive on Falcon alone, but to prosper we needed two products. But they had to be different products - it couldn't just be a derivative of Falcon." Ford's Melbourne stand also hosted the debut of the Falcon XR8 Pursuit 250 Ute, T3 range of T-Series vehicles, a 21st Anniversary Laser, AUIII Falcon Ute and an optional Havoc bodykit for Falcon.

HOLDEN

HOLDEN wowed crowds with an unexpected twist in the direction of its future crossover plans by revealing the Cross8, a Ute-based four-wheel drive twin-cab utility in the same mould as last year's Ford R5 concept vehicle.

Far from being a furphy, Holden says the four-door ute concept is destined for production by early 2003 as the first in a series of new Commodore-based cross-over vehicles. The Commodore wagon-based crossover everyone expected to be shown at Melbourne never surfaced and is now likely to appear at October's Sydney motor show before going on sale in late 2003.

The Cross8 - which features seating for five, V8 performance, a chopped rear load bed and leaf springs at the rear - is aimed at showcasing Holden's niche marketing power and its ability to produce niche vehicles in record time using the same computer-aided modelling techniques that brought Monaro to market in just 22 months.

Holden says the Cross8 is a driveable prototype and that its leaf-sprung rear-end is designed to cope with light-duty payloads and provide Cross8 with a go-anywhere suspension system.

It is likely Cross8 will first appear in early 2003 as a rear-driver before being offered with the forthcoming wagon's all-wheel drive system.

"This year we don't have a concept vehicle as our surprise," said Holden chief Peter Hanenberger at last week's unveiling.

"Instead, you're about to see the first real example of a new family of Holden vehicles.

"The future of automotive design and production is in niche vehicles. The ability to develop exciting, innovative products that suit the diverse needs of different customers - and to do it fast - will become even more vital.

"Like the Monaro, the Cross8 is built from the same flexible platform as our top-selling V-car series. As the name implies, this is a crossover car, a four-door, all-wheel drive which can accommodate five people in sedan comfort, carry a light-duty load and deliver trademark V8 performance.

"It previews a new model range that Holden will release early next year and I can tell you that the all-wheel drive factor is a forerunner of more good things to come." Mr Hanenberger said Cross8 would cope with loads of "at least half a tonne", represented a similar investment to that of the $60 million Monaro, would be engineered for overseas markets with a view for exports, would be sold in numbers between 5000 and 8000 units initially and was likely to be first sold as a rear-drive V8 model within 12 to 14 months.

But he would not be drawn on price.

"As we said, Cross8 is just one of the versions of a new family of crossover vehicles, so (the first version) could be four-wheel drive, could be two-wheel drive - we're keeping it open at the moment to see where the biggest opportunity is," he said.

"We have not talked about price yet - I would not reveal it anyway because it's too early and too competitive. Like Monaro, it will be very competitive.

"It's difficult to predict (sales) because it's a niche market but I think we'll start at selling between about 5000 and 8000 initially. Of course, this is a vehicle that is predestined for exports and this will play an important role in the medium term. It will be both left and right-hand drive." Responding to claims the Cross8 was a concept already shown by Ford and that its use of leaf springs was a backward step, Mr Hanenberger said: "This car has been in our business plan since I've been at Holden and we're continuing in the same stream. What we wanted to do with this vehicle was provide a very good load carrying ability and of course it has to go into rough stuff." Mr Hanenberger said Cross8 was just the start of Holden's four-wheel drive foray.

"Once we have four-wheel drive on the market our ultimate goal is to offer four-wheel drive in every Commodore and even Statesman if required," he said.

The Statesman-based Cross8 features an integrated sports bar, heavy wheelarch cladding, remote-release decklid and front quarter fluting, however Mr Hanenberger would not be drawn on the similarities between Cross8's frontal styling and that of the forthcoming VY Commodore.

He would also not confirm whether Holden's crossover wagon, due by late 2003, could eventually replace the Jackaroo which, like Rodeo and Frontera, could be discontinued locally following a rumoured split between Holden and Isuzu.

The Holden stand also featured the first racing Monaro in more than 30 years, a horde of Monaros, the Jackaroo Equipe, Vectra Equipe, the VXII Commodore Equipe, a limited edition Statesman International and a Holden By Design bodykit for Zafira.

HONDA

THE backbone of Honda's display was the raft of minor upgrades affecting four of its regular models - Civic, Odyssey, S2000 and NSX.

The Civic picked up ABS on all models as standard equipment while cosmetic changes for Odyssey included new design alloy wheels and restyled bumpers and mirrors.

S2000 gained a glass rear window in its soft top, revised front and rear styling, an updated interior with silver accents, polished alloy wheels and some engine enhancements.

NSX received its first update since 1997 and goes on sale immediately priced at $245,500 for the coupe and $256,500 for the Targa. Fixed headlights have replaced the previous car's pop-up units, while larger 17-inch alloy wheels, restyled bumpers and tail-lights, and a new interior colour scheme have freshened the company's flagship sports car.

On the future model front, Honda confirmed its new sub-compact car would be badged Jazz when it goes on sale later this year.

The Jazz is based on the Japanese-market Fit model, which has been selling up a storm since its release six months ago.

Also making an appearance was the MDX luxury four-wheel drive, which has an Australian release set for early 2003, but Honda will use the Melbourne show to gather feedback from customers before pushing ahead.

HYUNDAI

THE "Think Basic" concept small car, which debuted in Tokyo last year, was unveiled and the production version's name - "Getz" - revealed.

The Getz will be here in the third quarter as a three and five-door and definitely with a 1.5-litre engine. A 1.3-litre version is also being considered.

Pricing for the Tiburon sports car was also announced: $35,880 for the manual 2.0-litre, $38,380 for the 2.0 Selectronic automatic $41,880 for the 2.7-litre V6 six-speed manual and $42,880 for the Selectronic V6.

The facelifted 3.5-litre V6 Grandeur was not on the stand but will debut in the third quarter.

JAGUAR

THE stunning R-Coupe concept was revealed by Jaguar design boss Ian Callum, the star of the Frankfurt motor show repainted in British racing green. But in terms of production cars, the star was the revised S-Type range - headlined by the 298kW S-Type R - which arrives mid-year.

Jaguar will add a 2.5-litre V6 and 4.2-litre V8 models to the range.

Jaguar also revealed its first front-wheel drive model, the X-Type 2.1-litre V6. The base model will be priced at $53,950 and the SE version $59,750. The new X-Type goes on sale here in June.

LAND ROVER

THE star of Land Rover's stand was the all-new, third generation Range Rover, making its Australian debut after spending the past few months showing off to the world's automotive media on launch programs in Scotland and Italy.

The latest incarnation of Land Rover's luxury four-wheel drive icon is also just the eighth new generation model to be released by the British marque in its 53-year history and is considered crucial to the company's future success.

Land Rover CEO Bob Dover did not pull any punches in his praise of the latest Rangey.

"We believe the new Range Rover is the world's most capable vehicle, with the greatest breadth of ability of any vehicle ever made," he said.

The new Range Rover is due to go on sale at the start of July and will cost between $107,000 and $150,000.

LOTUS

THE big thing on the Lotus stand was the arrival of air-conditioned Elises for the first time - albeit at an optional $2000 premium.

But ex-factory bonuses have reduced the new Elise's price by $5000, with pricing now set at $79,990 for the 2002 model. An optional hard-top is also available for Elise for the first time, priced at $6500.

MAZDA

THE hatchback version of the 626 replacement, the Mazda6 Sport, was shown in Melbourne with add-on body kit and alloy wheels. The car goes on sale in August alongside the sedan and Sport Wagon.

Mazda also announced a limited edition MX-5 Titanium. Only 150 examples of the Titanium MX-5 will be offered, priced from $46,595.

Other new models coming from Mazda include the 2.0-litre Premacy in April, 3.0-litre MPV in August and the Mazda 121 replacement in November.

MINI

AFTER months of teaser advertising campaigns, the BMW-built Mini was finally released for sale at the Melbourne show on the eve of Albert Park's Mini Celebrity Challenge.

The Mini Cooper S also made its Australian debut, following its Tokyo premiere and before going on sale here around April.

BMW announced pricing for the Mini Cooper S on February 7 with the 120kW supercharged 1.6-litre hatch set at $39,900 and its specification including a Getrag six-speed manual transmission, 16-inch alloys with run-flat technology, beefier springs and anti-roll bars, twin chrome exhausts, a bonnet intake scoop and two exclusive colours.

MITSUBISHI

PERFORMANCE was a key for Mitsubishi with the Ralliart Magna - which goes on sale in May - a highlight display, along with the US-built Eclipse, which continues to be evaluated for right-hand drive conversion and local sale.

The chances of it happening are now rated as 75 per cent positive, with sales mooted within 12 months.

Performance of another kind was touted by the direct-injection diesel 3.2-litre Pajero, which arrives in May with about a $5000 premium over equivalent petrol models.

Also on the stand was the SUP concept mid-size cross-over vehicle that was first shown at Tokyo last year.

Not on the stand, but headed our way this year, is a facelifted Magna/Verada in July, which will add a new Verada GT model priced around $50,000.

The new generation 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre Lancer sedan is due in June, while a significantly upgraded Pajero will come in the last quarter.

Last but not least, you can expect to see the all-wheel drive Magna in late October, now that some glitches in the ABS software have been overcome.

MORGAN

MAKING its Australian debut was the first all-new Morgan in the 93-year history of the family-owned British marque - apart from the first four-wheeled model in 1936.

With a 210kW, 4.4-litre BMW V8 fitted to an all-aluminium chassis, the 1000kg Morgan Aero 8 promises supercar performance with coach-built tradition. Morgan says the Aero 8 jets to 100km/h in less than five seconds and has a top speed of 260km/h.

To be sold alongside the traditional Morgans, which start at $88,000, the Aero8 will be sold at $228,000 as an alternative to supercars offered by Porsche, Ferrari, Maserati and Jaguar. Of Australia's allocation of just six cars, four have already been spoken for.

The Aero 8 will be ADR certified by July under the low-volume compliance scheme and, with another 10 vehicles slated for Australia from 2003, the Australian importer expects to sell around one Aero 8 per month next year.

NISSAN

NISSAN provided its off-road Crossbow concept with its first Australian airing in Melbourne, following its world premiere at Frankfurt last year.

The Crossbow is a concept that hints at the styling of the next generation Patrol, Nissan's volume-selling off-roader.

Of course, Nissan also showed the Z-car, which company chief Leon Daphne said would be on sale here by early 2003.

But conspicuous by its absence was the Micra-replacing March concept car which he said was not slated for Australia.

"The Micra replacement is in the same boat as the Primera. They're both great-looking little cars but we're not looking at them because we don't believe we can bring them to Australia economically - for either ourselves or our dealer network," he said.

On the Pulsar front, Mr Daphne said he was still in discussions to sell a SSS version.

Mr Daphne also heralded an eventual replacement for Maxima.

He said he was wary of the need to keep Z-car pricing as close as possible to that of the 200SX, which will be discontinued this year and leaves Nissan without a sports car representative until Z arrives some months later.

Mr Daphne would not comment on whether the base 3.5-litre Z, which sells for $US26,000 in America, would be sold for less than $50,000 in Australia.

PEUGEOT

ON the back of its highest monthly sales result to date for February, Peugeot added new variants to its 206 and 307 line-ups.

The entry level 206 is now the XR five-door with a 55kW, 1.4-litre engine. At $19,990, it is one of the few Europeans to crack the $20,000 price barrier, although the auto costs $21,990.

To fill the sports gap in the 307 range until the GTi arrives later in the year, Peugeot unveiled the XSi. Based on the XSE five-door, the three-door XSi gets the same 100kW, 2.0-litre engine, as well as 17-inch alloy wheels and leather seat trim with cloth inserts.

On sale now, the XSi comes in at $34,490 for the five-speed manual and $36,990 for the four-speed Tiptronic automatic.

RENAULT

RENAULT joined Toyota in showing their new Formula One car, team and driver line-up, with the 2002 season being the first time Renault has had 100 per cent control of its F1 operation.

New models were limited to a preview of the Laguna II sedan and wagon prior to their local launch next month.

But over the next two years Renault is planning to trot out 15 new models, which will reduce the average age of the French marque's vehicle range from four-and-a-half to three years. For Oz consumption, the Kangoo, Trafic and Vel Satis are all on the wanted list.

SUBARU

THE second generation Forester was Subaru's major drawcard, direct from its international debut at the Chicago motor show two weeks ago.

Due to go on sale here in the third quarter, the new Forester has dropped the current car's 2.0-litre engine in favour of the 2.5-litre flat four from the Impreza RS and Liberty/Outback.

The entry level model is expected to be equipped more like the current generation's second-tier Limited model, although full specification and pricing for the two-model range will be set closer to the local launch date.

A replacement for the turbocharged Forester GT will not arrive in Australia until late in 2003.

Subaru also launched the latest in a long line of limited edition WRX models, the Club Spec Evo 5, featuring an eye-catching yellow/orange paint scheme, an electric sunroof, special decals and badging, and individual numbering on the centre console. Just 200 of the Evo 5 will be available, split between 140 sedans and 60 hatches, all with manual transmissions.

Pricing is $43,180 for the sedan and $43,630 for the hatch, a premium of $1690 over the regular WRX variants.

SUZUKI

SUZUKI followed the limited edition path with its new model introductions, showing the unimaginatively named Ignis Special Edition and XL-7 Limited Edition.

"Special" logo badging and seat embroidery set the Ignis apart from the regular five-door model, as do alloy wheels, front fog lights and body colouring of the grille, mirrors and door handles.

Pricing is set at $1000 over the base model at $17,990 for the manual and $19,490 for the auto.

The XL-7 L/E comes with leather trim on the seats, steering wheel and gearshift, a sunroof and a roof spoiler, while the auto model also gets woodgrain trim on the centre console. Pricing will be $38,990 for the manual and $40,890 for the auto when they go on sale at the start of April.

The Ignis GTi is expected to arrive in the second half of 2002.

TOYOTA

APART from the pink-clad dancers who unveiled an LPG-fueled Hi-Ace, there was virtually nothing of significance on the Toyota stand - unless you wanted to have a peek at the new F1 car. Limited edition Camry and RAV4 models were announced.

Toyota's underwhelming display was completed by a Celica concept with a rumble seat called the Cruising Deck. This was hardly new, the car having its first showing in Tokyo back in 1999.

VOLKSWAGEN

VOLKSWAGEN whipped the covers off its all-new five-door Polo in Melbourne, but will not be forthcoming about pricing details until the car's arrival here in August.

VW's new small car brings new styling and a more efficient 1.6-litre engine.

But most VW fanfare was reserved for the hottest Beetle ever, the 165kW, 3.2-litre, V6-powered Beetle RSi. Based on the racecars that compete in Germany's New Beetle Cup, the Beetle RSi sells for $125,000 in Europe.

There are no plans for local sales of Beetle RSi, of which only 250 will be built.

VW also showed examples of its recently updated Golf range, the two specification levels of which are now available in both engine capacities. Pricing for the new Golf range was announced as follows: 1.6S $25,990, 1.6SE $29,490, 2.0S $28,400, 2.0SE $31,900 and GTi $38,500.

VOLVO

THE most un-Volvo-like Performance Car Concept was the star of this stand although the concept is hardly new, having first been seen at Paris in September, 2000.

The PCC is expected to evolve into a hot-rod S60 T5R with the reveal tipped for this year.

New Volvo Car Australia managing director Alwin Popken confirmed the S60 2.4T all-wheel drive was being considered as an addition to the local range.

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