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VW takes aim at Benz and BMW

Power to spare: The D1's engine options include a V6, a W12 and even a V10 turbo-diesel.

Luxury Volkswagen D1 to go on sale here in 2003

22 Oct 2001

VOLKSWAGEN has revealed the first official images of its luxurious D1 sedan with which it plans to take on Mercedes-Benz's S-class and the BMW 7 Series.

The D1 will debut at the Geneva motor show in March and is currently slated to go on sale in Australia in May 2003.

By the time of Geneva, however, it could have a new name. VW will reveal both the production car's title and the factory where it will be built in Dresden at the same time. The neat trick at Dresden is the glass walls, which allow customers to watch their car being built.

The D1 measures up to luxury expectations, being more than 5.0 metres long and more than 1.9 metres wide. Its VW bloodlines are obvious, the car sharing more than passing resemblance with its little brother, the Passat.

Initially, the D1 will come with two petrol engines - a 3.2-litre 177kW/315Nm V6 and a 309kW/550Nm 6.0-litre arranged in an unusual W12 layout.

Five engines will eventually be available, including a 230kW 5.0-litre V10 turbo-diesel developing 750Nm of torque that will be offered with a six-speed automatic gearbox.

Engine choices for Australia have yet to be confirmed, as has pricing.

"There's not much we can say at the moment except it's a stunning car and we are really looking forward to it," said Volkswagen Group Australia spokesman Brad Leach. "Volkswagen has some very radical plans to promote the car prior to its launch." Mr Leach said Volkswagen was conscious of the leap the brand was taking to take on Benz and BMW in their heartland but was confident that it would be completed successfully: "They are very smart people at Volkswagen who don't do anything without a plan," he said.

The D1 is part of an aggressive expansion by VW into new market areas, another being the off-roader developed with Porsche codenamed Colorado. First to arrive, however, will be the W8-engined Passat, which should introduce the marque to $100,000-plus pricing here.

Technical specifications includes pneumatic suspension with stepless, mapped electronically controlled dampers which are combined with VW's 4Motion four-wheel drive system on the W12 and V10 tdi. The 4Motion system is optional on other models.

Aluminium is used for the boot lid, bonnet and doors and VW claims the latter are the most rigid ever installed in a production car thanks to a system of laser welded diecast aluminium.

Inside, VW has followed the lead of BMW with its iDrive system and tried to avoid cluttering the dashboard with too many controls. Instead it has grouped as many functions as possible around a central colour display screen.

There's also a completely new climate control system called 4-Corner Climatronic. This is claimed to supply draught-free indirect flows of air to interior zones by automatically opening and closing vents.

Depending on how the car is specified, the system includes audio with six disc CD changer, navigation, TV, computer, telephone and climate control.

The D1's tail lights use light emitting diodes (LEDs) instead of conventional bulbs and a 'coming home function' lights up the area around the car using the Xenon headlights and tail-lights plus lights in the exterior rear view mirrors.

Standard safety equipment includes front airbags, side airbags front and rear and side window curtain airbags.

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