The A5 coupe is based on the next-generation A4 platform, and will spawn a convertible. This platform reportedly keeps Audi’s longitudinal engine placement, but places the powertrain farther back to improve handling. All-wheel drive is standard in the base V6 version as well as the V8-powered S5 and RS5 models. A larger A7 coupe and convertible also are planned, though they reportedly will have four suicide-style doors, and offer V10 power in RS form.
Americans finally will see their version of the 1 Series, a family that includes a small sedan and convertible by late 2008. This car also will provide the underpinnings for the Z2, a Miata-like two-seat convertible that is smaller and less expensive that the Z4. From the bulkhead forward the Z2 and Z4 are nearly identical, and will share some engines and suspension pieces.
Also in 2008, BMW will build the X6, a coupe-like all-wheel drive design that will trade off-road performance for greater on-road grip, and offer inline six and V8 power. Approximately six months later, it will be joined by a new 7 Series based on a modular chassis that will support the next-generation 5 and 6 Series as well as an “affordable” Rolls-Royce. Word is it will showcase the two-mode hybrid system licensed from GM, and the next take on BMW’s design language.
Pontiac has the Solstice, Saturn the Sky, and soon Chevrolet gets a version of the car. Power will come from a V6 engine mated to the Kappa’s current manual and automatic transmissions. This will mean a redesign of the engine compartment, a cost that will be shared with Saab. The Swedish carmaker is set to get its own version of the car, which will not be called “Sonnet” as it does not fit with Saab’s current naming convention. Given the limited size of the roadster market and flexibility of the Kappa architecture, it’s curious that GM has chosen to produce more two-seaters rather than the Chevy Nomad or the small sport sedan that were part of the original Kappa plan.
Expect Ford to drop the Ranger and replace it with a half-ton unit-body pickup built under the “F-100” name. Insiders say the F-100 may have frame-like box sections welded to the underbody to give the truck the structural strength necessary to carry loads and tow, much like Nissan did with the previous generation Pathfinder (and reportedly may again with the next). The F-100 will be joined by a unit-body replacement for the Explorer and Mountaineer based on the Taurus X architecture. This will give the company a three-row SUV capable of going head-to-head with other automakers’ crossovers. Power will come from Ford’s new 3.5-liter V6. The new Explorer is slated to appear around 2009. The Mustang is scheduled for an update around then, but Mercury’s better-equipped notchback version of the car has been dropped.
With the new Mini just arriving and scheduled to be followed later this year by the Clubman wagon, you’d think that would be all from this brand. You’d be wrong. In 18 months we will see the newest version of the Mini convertible, followed by a Mini Roadster that uses a coupe-like drop top and cover over the rear seating area to produce a two-seat sports car. It will be followed by a very small SUV built off the wagon’s stretched architecture.
Los Angeles Auto Show attendees were the first to see the 2008 Nissan Altima coupe; Detroit show goers were treated to the Rogue, a Sentra-based small crossover due to arrive as a 2009 model. It will be joined a year later by the production version of the Urge concept, an affordable convertible sports car. Had the merger talks with GM borne fruit, the Urge might have become another Kappa captive.
Nissan is still looking for a diesel powerplant for its full-size trucks after being turned down by the domestic OEMs and their suppliers. The new engine, which either could be built by Nissan or brought in from the outside, is scheduled to arrive in time for the 2008 facelift of Nissan’s full-size truck line. With the full-size luxury SUV market cooling, Infiniti is considering replacing the QX56 with a like-size vehicle that is more than just a Nissan Armada with a bigger nose and more leather. The FX35/45 will return in updated form, but Infiniti may replace the late Q45 with an all-wheel drive four-door V8-powered coupe.
The Lexus LF-A concept will not only spawn a V10-powered rear-drive supercar for the luxury division, but a V8-powered version for Toyota much like the FT-HS concept. It will go up against Nissan’s twin-turbo all-wheel drive 2009 GT-R. Intent on matching the 500-hp Nissan’s performance while providing better fuel economy, insiders say the car—which may be called Supra—will use a modified version of the hybrid powertrain found in the Lexus GS450h. The combination of a low-drag body and the hybrid powertrain has some claiming the Supra may be capable of 30 mpg at a steady highway cruise.—CAS