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Sydney show: Benz and BMW are highlights

Slinking in: The Nissan Z-car coupe was one of the slinkiest shapes at the Sydney motor show. A production Z will be unveiled at the Tokyo motor show later this month.

The importers strut their stuff on the Darling Harbour stage

16 Oct 2001

By BRUCE NEWTON and MARTON PETTENDY in SYDNEY

THE increasing importance of imported cars was never more emphasised than at our big motor shows, and Sydney is no exception. Benz's new SL, BMW's amazing 7 Series, Mazda's turbo MX-5 and a revitalised Peugeot range were among the many highlights.

Alfa Romeo

ALFA Romeo came to Sydney with a minimum of debut product but bristling with confidence following its biggest ever month of sales.

Importer Ateco Automotive says Alfa is also on target to achieve its best ever sales year in 2001.

Of note within an exhibition of its growing range was the 147 Selespeed, the Spider in a striking Dueto Yellow colour scheme and, for the first time, the limited edition 156 Sport.

There is also plenty more to come from Alfa with 190kW, 3.2-litre, V6-powered GTA versions of both the 156 and 147 expected in June and September respectively, while a six-speed manual transmission version of the 156 2.5 V6 is also due next year.

A six-speed Selespeed sequential manual transmission for GTA models is expected to be sold alongside the current five-speed version from mid-2003, with the following year bringing an all-new Spider and a GTV coupe due in 2005.

Audi

AUDI revealed two Australian debutants in Sydney, the all-alloy A2 and the A6 Evolution, a precursor to a freshened-up A6 range complete with a new engine line-up.

Audi's 445kW, 320km/h Infineon R8 sports car was also on hand to wow motorsport fans.

Audi will launch its updated A6 range locally in mid-November and among its new engines will be a 184kW, 2.7-litre bi-turbo V6 lifted directly from the brilliant S4. Audi's all-aluminium 3.0-litre V6 will also make its first Australian appearance in the A6 in November, packing 162kW and sitting directly above a thoroughly revised version of Audi's 2.4-litre V6, now producing 125kW.

The range-topping 4.2-litre A6 V8 quattro and similar engined S6 will be sold in updated form from November.

A2, the world's first mass-produced all-aluminium vehicle, will go on sale locally during the second quarter of 2002, available initially with a 55kW, 1.4-litre engine and five-speed manual transmission.

Meantime, the introduction of six-cylinder power for Audi's new A4 has been held back to the second quarter of 2002. The V6 A4 had been due to go on sale in November but supply issues now mean the new 160kW, 3.0-litre engine will appear in the revised A6 first.

Expect 3.0 Multitronic and 3.0 quattro Tip-tronic A4 models to join the range while an A4 Avant is expected by the middle of next year.

BMW

THE Australian public got its first look at BMW's new 7 Series, facelifted 3 series sedan and the X5 4.6 iS sports four-wheel drive in Sydney.

Pricing was announced for the new Seven last week at $174,500 for the 735i and $207,600 for the 745i. Loaded with standard equipment and BMW's revolutionary new iDrive control system, the 7 Series goes on sale in January.

The new 3 Series sedans have revised styling front and rear and steering and suspension upgrades, while the 318i is now powered by a 2.0-litre Valvetronic four-cylinder engine.

A series of smaller changes were announced for the sedans, coupes and convertible Threes.

At $49,950, BMW has just managed to keep the pricing of its manual 318i under the $50K mark. Small increases are the order of the day right across the sedan range.

The X5 4.6 iS arrives in February, commanding a cool $149,750.

Chrysler Jeep

WHILE the recently launched Cherokee took the starring role on its stand, Chrysler Jeep Australia boss Judith Wheeler took the opportunity to confirm some future model action.

Coming in November is the 60th anniversary Wrangler, in January we will see the sporty Chrysler Neon R/T and a luxury high output Grand Cherokee called the Overland and an all-wheel drive Voyager will arrive in March, the latter priced in the high $70,000 range. The turbo SR/T Neon is now due in 2003.

A turbo-diesel PT Cruiser will come to Australia in small numbers early in 2002 and CJA is planning to have a new variant of the retro mini people-mover on the market every six months, including a chromed version called the Dream Cruiser.

Convertible and turbocharged petrol-engined PT variants are also possibles.

Daewoo

SIX years after its last appearance in Sydney, Daewoo showed off the facelifted Matiz, the forthcoming Leganza replacement, the Magnus and the Kalos Dream small car concept, which is close to production guise.

All three will go on sale in Australia next year now that GM indicating its intent to buy 67 per cent of the struggling South Korean manufac-turer has hopefully erased question marks over the company's future.

A facelifted Lanos small car was also shown at Sydney.

Daihatsu

THE Japanese micro car specialist had the SP-4 concept car occupying centre stage, an interesting little fun-machine fitted with big 16-inch wheels, dual-range four-wheel drive, vehicle height adjustment and a retractable and water-resistant instrument panel - just in case the creek crossing causes it some problems! Power comes from a turbocharged twin-cam engine.

Honda

THE Japanese manufacturer's sole new offering at Sydney was the Fit.

A huge hit in Japan and a strong candidate to be sold here from next year, the Fit is a five-door compact with top-notch fuel economy from its 1.3-litre engine and outstanding use of interior space.

HSV

HOLDEN'S performance arm HSV was somewhat subdued in comparison to the Monaro show, but did feature its recently released VX, WH and VU Series II range, including the new limited edition 300kW SV300 model, plus a wild 350kW Holden Racing Team Edition Maloo Sport Utility concept.

It features a 6.2-litre Corvette LS6 engine, flared front and rear gaurds over hugely widened tracks at both ends, a lower, hand-crafted bodyshell and massive 20-inch magnesium alloy wheels.

It was attached to HSV's first serious foray into the lifestyle market, a 275kW HSV V8-powered ski boat built in conjunction with Malibu and dubbed the HSV Response R8.

Hyundai

HYUNDAI'S stand was overflowing with new and recently launched product - the LaVita mini people-mover, Terracan four-wheel drive, the recently facelifted Sonata and, once it emerged from under the dust covers, the Tiburon sports car which will be launched in January.

The Tiburon replaces the Coupe and will be sold in both four-cylinder and V6 form.

Two concepts also broke cover - the turbocharged Accent "Mach T2" and the supercharged Elantra Mach 3 SC.

Neither are slated for production at this stage they are more designed to encourage interest in "hot hatches" from Hyundai headquarters in South Korea.

Kia

KIA'S fun-filled exhibit in Sydney trumpeted the addition of removable seating for its new seven-seater Carnival 2 people-mover.

On sale from December at a price to be advised, the updated Carnival 2 appeared alongside Kia range regulars with a new grille and bumpers, fresh interior, fully removable rear seats and other minor refinements.

Lexus

THE new ES300 mid-size sedan, which goes on sale in November, took pride of place on the Lexus stand alongside the new SC430 flip-top and IS300 sports sedan.

The ES300 is an all-new design that is more aerodynamic than its predecessor and claimed to be roomier and quieter, with higher levels of safety as well.

Lotus

LOTUS struck unexpected supply problems when production of the outgoing Elise ceased after the factory announced the new Elise at the Birmingham motor show in September, 2000.

All is now forgiven, however, with normal Elise production back on track and the first 22 Australian deliveries set to arrive before Christmas.

Local Lotus importer Prestige Motor Imports celebrated by giving the all-new, more refined but even quicker Elise centre stage on its stand in Sydney, and announcing a retail price of $84,990.

Maserati

JAWS dropped at Darling Harbour when Australian Maserati distributor Maranello Imports pulled the rug from the Fiat Group's latest tantalising open-top sports car, the Maserati Spyder GT.

An open-topped version of the 3200GT, the Spyder has lost the coupe's distinctive tail-lights but showcases an all-new 4.2-litre twin-turbo V8 packing 285kW - giving the Spyder a top speed of 283km/h and 0-100km/h acceleration of 4.8 seconds.

The first Australian deliveries of a total of just 30 Spyders are expected by February next year, at a special introductory price of $215,500 for the six-speed manual or $227,500 with the Ferrari F1-style paddle-shifting SMG.

Mazda

THE much-anticipated turbocharged MX-5 SP was confirmed for January sale with a price of $55,540. Air-conditioning adds an extra $2500.

Output from the 1.8-litre engine when mated to the water-cooled turbocharger is given as 150kW and 280Nm - compared to 106kW and 165Nm for the standard car - and this could rise by the time the first batch of 100 cars are built.

British racing and auto engineering specialist Prodrive will build the cars for Mazda Australia at a Melbourne facility. Development of the car was handled by Mazda Motorsport manager Allan Horsley, who estimated the cost of development at a miniscule $40,000.

The SP's additional features over standard include a chrome filler cap, chrome scuff plates and an alloy gear knob and gear lever surround.

Mercedes-Benz

STRAIGHT from Frankfurt, the fifth generation SL sports convertible dominated the Benz presentation. Dripping with technology and sex appeal, it will arrive in 5.0-litre V8 form first about July next year priced around the $300,000 mark.

The updated M-class also got its first Australian showing in Sydney, as did the C32 AMG sports sedan. Both go on sale in November.

The new ML500 is priced at $98,500 while the C32 AMG will set you back a hefty $146,900.

Morgan

MORGAN, the 90-year-old British marque that is still family-owned, made its official return to the Australian marketplace at the show.

Australian distributor Prestige Motor Imports showed examples of the current Morgan range, including the $125,000 4.0-litre Rover V8-powered Morgan Plus 8, but was unable to reveal its forthcoming range-topper, the $225,000 Morgan Aero 8.

The full Morgan range, which also includes the 1.8-litre Ford-powered $85,000 Morgan 4/4 two-seater and the $100,000 Morgan 4/4 four-seater, will go on sale during 2002 from Morgan Australia's new Melbourne showroom.

MG Rover

THE rejuvenated English independent showed off its 75-based MG ZT sports sedan and MG ZR "superhatch".

The ZT should be here early in 2002 priced around $60,000 while the ZR is being evaluated for local sale and could come to Australia later in 2002 priced in the high $30,000 bracket.

The ZT is powered by a 140kW version of the 75's 2.5-litre V6 engine while the ZR has a 117kW, 1.8-litre, four-cylinder engine shared with the MGF Trophy 160, which was also launched in Sydney.

The luxury end of the brand also got a look in with the Rover 75 Tourer (wagon) to go on sale in November in Club specification at $56,430 and in Connoisseur specification at $66,450.

An SE variant of the 75 Connoisseur sedan was also launched in Sydney, priced at $69,950, which includes the standard fitting of satellite navigation.

Mini

THE long march to next March's Australian launch of the Mini Cooper continued in Sydney with BMW announcing the price - $32,650 in five-speed manual form and $34,850 for the five-speed auto.

The Mini Cooper S is expected to be around $40,000 when it is launched here in the second quarter of 2002.

The Cooper is powered by a 1.6-litre, 85kW engine while the "S" gains added oomph courtesy of a supercharged, intercooled engine which generates 115kW.

Standard equipment on Cooper will include ABS, six airbags, remote central locking, air-conditioning, power front windows, in-dash CD player and leather steering wheel.

Pricing and specification of the "S" will be announced after its international launch at the Tokyo motor show.

Twenty-three "Mini Garage" dealers have been appointed around the country and will be opening in November, displaying UK-spec cars for the moment.

Nissan

THE main attraction on the Nissan stand was the first Australian showing of the Z-car coupe.

Close to production form, the svelte new Z attracted its fair share of attention alongside mainstream new products like a better equipped 2002 Pathfinder, a more powerful 4.8-litre DOHC six-cylinder for the 2002 Patrol and a new-look 2002 Navara with 3.0-litre turbo-diesel power.

Nissan's recently released X-Trail SUV, the first of a record 22 new products reportedly being readied by Nissan for launch over the next three years, was also given pride of place in Sydney.

Peugeot

NEW Peugeot distributor Sime Darby Auto-mobiles came to Darling Harbour upbeat about breathing fresh life into the Peugeot brand Down Under, and came equipped with Australian-spec versions of the 206CC and 607, plus a preview of the all-new 307.

Pricing for the single-model 607 - powered by a quad cam, 3.0-litre V6 - has been set at $79,990, with sales due to begin by the end of October.

The 206CC (for coupe-convertible) will be limited in supply due to demand in Europe but will be available by November in two guises: a 2.0-litre GTi-spec engine with five-speed transmission for $37,990 or a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder four-speed auto for $39,990.

Three versions of the 307 will be offered in late November, each with five doors, a high level of standard safety features including six airbags and the choice of five-speed manual or Tiptronic-style automatic trans- missions.

Renault

FOLLOWING its debut appearance at the Melbourne motor show in March, Renault Australia again showed the award-winning Laguna in both sedan and wagon guise in Sydney, this time to full Australian specifications. Laguna is still on target for a January launch.

Renault also whipped off the covers from two of three Clios that will form the facelifted range due to appear here in December.

Pricing is yet to be announced for the 1.4 and 1.6-litre Clios, or the 2.0-litre Renault Clio Sport.

Saab

THE 9X "four cars in one" concept first shown at Frankfurt last month was the head-turner here, but 2002 9-3 and 9-5 ranges were also unveiled.

The 9-3 S range is replaced by the Turbo Anniversary three-door, five-door and convertible - which commemorates 25 years of the Saab turbo - and goes on sale on November 1.

The Turbo Anniversary receives interior and exterior changes including new alloy wheels, while the high-performance 9-3 Aero range gains a carbon-fibre dashboard, in-dash CD player and power sunroof.

The 9-5 is subject to 1265 design and engineering changes while the designations have been changed from 2.0, S and SE to Linear, Arc and Vector. Aero continues as the performance model.

The 9-5's changes include subtle exterior styling modifications, chassis revisions, a new electronic stability program for Aero, Bi-Xenon headlights and a five-speed adaptive automatic gearbox. The new 9-5 also goes on sale November 1.

Subaru

SUBARU caused a stir by announcing pricing for the 2002 Impreza WRX and the new WRX STi has come down significantly.

The WRX, which now includes a four-speed automatic option for both the sedan and hatch, drops by $2300.

Subaru Australia general manager Nick Senior said the decrease was possible because of the WRX's entry into the US market.

"You are able to amortise the cost across a higher volume," he said.

The STi drops from $62,500 to $55,130: "Before the STi was 800 cars for the Australian market and we had to amortise all the engineering and homologation costs across those 800 cars," Mr Senior said.

"Also it will be rolled out across European and many other countries, and that has helped us introduce the STi at a pretty good price." The all-wheel drive specialist also launched the rest of its 2002 Impreza range, including a new 2.5-litre sedan called RS. Priced at $32,990 for the manual and $34,940 for the automatic, the RS is pitched by Subaru as a stepping stone to the WRX, and also as a cheaper insurance alternative for under-25 drivers.

The rest of the Impreza range, which is barely changed, goes up by between $20 and $100.

Suzuki

SUZUKI'S all-new small passenger car, the Liana, was displayed but equipment and pricing details were held back until the media launch at the end of October.

A wide-body update of Suzuki`s Grand Vitara three-door model was also shown for the first time.

Volkswagen

THE Microbus concept was the star attraction on the VW stand but for car buyers it was a case of additions to existing ranges, rather than anything completely new.

The updated station wagon Passat was revealed in two version - the 1.8T for $49,800 and the 2.8-litre V6 for $57,400, both fitted standard with a five-speed tiptronic gearbox.

The Sport version of the Bora V6 4Motion was also announced, although without pricing.

The Sport features interior and exterior enhancements including new 17-inch wheels, a mesh grille and air intakes, boot spoiler and black leather seats.

A Golf "generation" limited edition debuted with a claimed $3000 worth of extras added for only $1000 above the standard Golf GL, making the price $26,990 (manual) and $29,090 (auto).

VW also announced it was dropping the price of the Polo back to $19,990 from $22,490 as it prepares for the introduction of the new generation of its small car in mid-2002.

Volvo

HOT on the heels of launching no fewer than five new or updated models, Volvo arrived at Darling Harbour with only the Adventure Concept Car to show the Australian public for the first time.

Volvo managing director Richard Snijders played to the crowd by saying the ACC is "a clear indication of what to expect from us in future", and went on to say Volvo has what it takes to compete with the very best in the luxury SUV segment.

With four-wheel drive and hot R versions of its stylish S60 sedan not due until later in 2002, Volvo was left to be buoyed by the 19 per cent year-to-date increase in sales wrought by a succession of new models including a new V70, Cross Country and S60 plus facelifted S40 and V40 models.

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