Friday, September 29, 2006

2008 VW Passat 4-door coupe

Well, just in the last post there was a reference to the 4-door coupe version of the Passat and a new CGI surfaced. Or is it a CGI for a future regular Passat? Either way it looks brilliant. The interested reader can review previous information on this car since there are no new facts. Just check how all these 4-door coupe concepts look good. You can't go wrong with this type of vehicle.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The mainstream midlle-class fights back

Just recently photographs of the undisguised final version of the new Ford Mondeo have surfaced on the internet. And, on the discussion forum where these were leaked (actually, officially leaked), we soon were noticing a very happy bunch of people. None of the usual whining about this and that, just unanimous appraisal of the design. And for good reasons, as expected it doesn’t look like the Iosis concept, but the new Mondeo turned out as a spectacular design. Thumbs up for Ford (that is, the Ford with the German accent). And incidentally thumbs up for Mazda too, because all of the Mazda influences in Ford, whether in design or technical have proven to be good influences.

The new Mondeo joins the troops of mainstream midlle-class, midlle-size cars that are fighting the decadence of this class. Once one of the most important segments in Europe, it has lost sales to SUVs, people-carriers (both large and small), compacts and base versions of the offers from luxury manufacturers. And this looked like a lost batlle but the mainstream midlle-size is fighting back with emotional design and the influence of the 4-door coupe. The Peugeot 407 is a successful car with its emotional design, although it is short on space and practicality. The VW Passat is a strong contender, leader in the mainstream class, very strong in space, and with an elegant design even if a bit dull. But wait for the future 4-door coupe version for added style. And now the Mondeo arrives with the strong kinetic design, lots of space, sophisticated and refined diesels (developed with PSA) as well as a 5-cylinder turbo that sounds fabulously. Now we just need to wait for another promising car in this class, the Renault Laguna. However, strangely, our sources of information that have worked in the new Laguna are not happy with it. Don't worry, it will be a great car, it's just that engineers are not happy. Later, when it is presented you will know why.

Monday, September 25, 2006

2007 Mercedes C-class... and a brave prediction

Photos of barely disguised C-class Mercedes are very common these days, just check one of the latest below. A lot was written about this important car here at auto-future (check it here or here). While we wait for official images (and these could arrive shortly after Paris show) we noticed a very brave prediction of future sales of the new C-class vs the next Audi A4, presented by Auto Motor und Sport magazine. Wow, what a strong Mercedes supremacy, does AMS has some very special inside information on these?... Some questions were asked concerning this, and the experts opinion was: "Europe's economy is finally on a steady climb again". So what!? Well, more money will be available and this translates to a simple conclusion: for those that can afford the Mercedes or BMW, the Audi model simply does not exist...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

2007 Alfa 149

Pictured below is a recent CGI of the Alfa Romeo 149 presented by Italian site Infomotori. Recent computer illustrated images are based on reliable information, notably some high-profile leaks from Alfa Romeo internal presentations. The most recent information brings good news. It was not known if the new “small” Alfa would be based on the bigger brother 159 or on the next Fiat Stilo. We now know that it will use the more sophisticated 159 platform which means AWD will be available in some versions as well as more sophisticated suspension design. It also means that the 149 will be very big. A recent report from someone that attended an internal presentation claims that the new Alfa is bigger than any other compact in this class, although it will not be strong on interior space!… In typical Alfa style, function follows form. The expected range of engines includes everything from the 159 plus a new 1.4 turbo engine. It is not known if the interior will follow the same theme of the Alfa 159 but it is expected to be different, as happened with the previous 156/147 models.

The Alfa 149 will fit in an expanding segment in Europe. The “premium-compact” segment features such cars as the Audi A3, Volvo C30, and Alfa 147/149. All of these cars share most of the underpinnings and parts with much cheaper models but are cleverly marketed and presented to appeal to a more sophisticated audience. Design features and interior presentation are key-areas to excel in this class of cars. The Alfa 149 will face very stiff competition from the Audi A3, Volvo C30 and possibly a future Saab 9-something. But it also competes with the “uber-compacts” from the luxury-compact segment. More cash-filled consumers as well as conaisseurs and enthusiasts tend to spend their money in the BMW 1-series or the Mercedes sportcoupe that feature superior RWD platforms and superior levels of quality and reliability. Still, the Alfa 149 has very good chances if the design is as good as it promises. And Alfa needs to find success with this car since the Alfa 159 is not selling as expected...

Quick note: the interested reader might want to know if the interior photo is real. For starters the nav-screen is placed too low for good visibility, and if you look at the image on it... surprise. Photoshop, of course!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

2007 Peugeot 207 SW

Pictured below is a CGI of the future Peugeot 207 SW version. This one is reliable for two reasons: First, a lot of people have seen the real thing in an international presentation to dealers at the 207 launch. Second, Peugeot design has become very predictable...
The original 206 SW is probably the only sucessfull derivation from cars in this class. There are mini people-carriers derivations (Renault Modus, Peugeot 1007, etc), small saloons (Seat Cordoba, Polo classic) and all of these are hideous and do not sell much. The break versions of such small cars are not that bad, for example the Fabia break but mainly the very sucessfull 206 SW. So the 207 SW should look very good and hopefully have more luggage space than the previous version. Or maybe not, Peugeot is famous for prefering style to practicality.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The future of diesel in America

Some recent news bring promises of a more successful future for diesels in the North-American continent. Of course, the raise of fuel prices is a big contributor for making people looking at alternatives. Amongst these, diesel is a very interesting one, but the lack of quality fuel, public perception and stringent emission laws have prevented its widespread use. Also, some of the available diesel cars were not very good. For example, the VW Jetta, is very noisy and its “pump-deuse” technology is not refined or reliable. Fortunately, that will change in the next three years.

The luxury crowd, namely Mercedes, will be the first to arrive with sophisticated common-rail technology, a newly-developed NOx adsorber in the E320CDI, (a catalytic device that converts NOx to nitrogen) and a urea-based injection system (GL320CDI). Mercedes will have this technology ready for the market in order to meet the next California LEV II LEV and EPA Tier 2 Bin 5 diesel emissions requirements in the US. BMW is also developing these technologies for a 2008 introduction and others will follow. This means a fresh restart for diesel and having as leaders the top manufacturers.

But even more interesting is the promise that Honda will have ready by then a different technology, an electric-powered plasma reactor that can meet future emission standards, place diesels at the same level of gasoline engines for NOx emissions, and doing all this without recurring to urea tanks that need to be refilled. This is the most interesting news about diesel so far. Honda is a very important player in the mainstream market in the USA and the promise of such technology means that competitive, refined cars will be available from a market leader.

Let’s clarify the relevance of these news. The commitment of Mercedes and BMW will bring image, status and credibility to diesel cars, in a way never before achieved in the North-American (NA) markets. And this is important to change public perception about diesels. But also Honda’s developments will make this technology affordable by everyone. The commitment of such a respectable mainstream player and the top luxury manufacturers means that the diesel future is for real. The boom of diesel in NA will happen!

How is this relevant to you? The American readers might consider this information for a car purchase in the next 2 to 3 years. And of course, if you check the top of this page you will notice the words “Auto” and “Future”. That’s what this is all about. This “Future” is particularly relevant for the American manufacturers. Are they preparing for this events? Will Ford, GM and Chrysler have a response ready for this new developments from the competition? This time, they better be ready! Of course, Chrysler is in a good position due to the association with Mercedes. Ford can engineer a good response due to its liaison with diesel-specialist PSA in Europe. And GM is in trouble because of their poor diesel offers, even in Europe - the only good Opel diesels have Fiat sourced engines…

Outline of Honda's system

Mercede's Bluetec technology

Monday, September 04, 2006

2009 Audi A1 roadster

In 2009 Audi will present a new model, the Audi A1. This will use the platform of the next VW Polo, adequately “badgengineered” for the new model. Can’t wait to see what will Audi make out of the VW Fox one day… For now, there is the information that besides a small 3-door hatch Audi can also present a roadster model. This model will have a familiar Audi front shared with the A1 and a rear section with some design clues of the Audi R8 model.

The idea of a small roadster is not new. When Pischetsrieder arrived at the top of VW group one of his ideas for new models was a small roadster with central engine and rear-wheel drive. A sort of VW MR2 using engines and suspensions from the Polo. Making this car as an Audi model makes sense because it fits well into Audi marketing target and it’s easier to justify the premium positioning. However, don’t get too excited because the A1 roadster will probably turn out to be just a 2-seat cabrio with FWD - a sort of Opel Tigra but much more expensive...

Friday, September 01, 2006

2007 VW Golf variant

The two interpretations presented below are similar although from different sources. It’s not difficult to photoshop a variant version of the Golf V once the shape of the C-pillar is known. The variant version is arriving with some delay in the market because VW took the opportunity to introduce some changes in the whole lineup of the Golf model. The variant will present rear lights with diode technology, similar to the ones found in the Golf plus. The front design will be similar to the Jetta and will also be adopted by the 3 and 5-door versions. The interiors will have some (much needed) improvements in quality of materials and presentation. And finally, new diesel engines will be available during 2007 with the adoption of common-rail technology.

The C-pillar design is an interesting departure from the usual norm at VW to have almost vertical pillars to maximize load space up to the rear hatch-door glass (check the old Golf IV and Passat variant versions). But the new design is more sophisticated and gives a more sporty appearance to the car. In VW group cars it was first used with the A6 variant. Although it doesn’t allow so much trunk space up to top level it has another interesting design advantage: it sort of masks or disguises longer rear overhangs. In this way VW can increase the rear overhang and have bigger luggage space without the car looking goofy or with wrong proportions. Just check the current Jetta design for an example of too much rear overhang that looks wrong.