Frankfurt Autoshow 2001 Preview

The Frankfurt International Auto Show celebrates its 50th anniversary as the world's largest auto show. With appearances from more than 1000 exhibitors, no other auto show can compare. As a result, much excitement has been building as the world waits to see what the German manufacturers have been doing. Since, this event is so special, there is no telling what surprises the German manufacturers may bring forth. Through careful observation, we can only speculate as to any major developments that may arise. In this article, we attempt exactly that. Audi The launch of the new A4 has already taken place. However, Audi will introduce a wagon and two-door cabriolet variations. Since the Ur Quattro, it is interesting to note that it has been many years since a worthy coupe model has graced the Audi line up. With the advances Audi recently made in motor sports perhaps, we could see the revival of such a vehicle. The new Cabrio will have two doors! Can a hardtop version be far off? Over 150K aluminum space frames have been produced. There is the possibility that all future models will be made from this lightweight material. FSI direct fuel injection will power many models with the 2.0-liter version producing 150hp. CVT multitronic has been hailed as one of the greatest automatic transmissions ever. Maybe we will see this applied to the Quattro models. It is possible that an RS6 or RS8 will be unveiled with a turbo V8 pumping out 450hp. We already know adaptive suspension is coming to the next generation A8 (D3). Perhaps, other models may see this type of system sooner than we think. After all, it is becoming the industry standard (i.e., MB, BMW, Lexus, etc.). The S-series or RS series could be applied to all models, putting it's skunkworks in direct competition with Mercedes Benz's AMG, BMW's M cars and Jaguar's R series. Audi's earnings have far exceeded predictions. Multiple victories at Le Mans have elevated their heritage and the carline introduces one great model after another. We can only pray Audi will produce more RS models with some serious muscle. Horsepower would have to be in the neighborhood of 380-500 to compete with the other German marques! BMW The 3 series will see a minor facelift with improved steering and suspension. The highlight will be the new 7 series (E65). BMW chairman Joachim Milberg hails the new 7 Series as a "revolution in automotive engineering". The I-drive system, invented in Silicon Valley, reduces the huge amount of buttons and switches down to just a few. There is a large rotating knob where the gearshift is normally situated. This allows the driver and passenger to make hundreds of adjustments. The gearshift mounted on the steering wheel controls the worlds first 6-speed automatic made by ZF. The transmission is notable because it is lightweight utilizing special plastics and is more fuel-efficient and shifts faster than the previous five speeds. Telematics surges ahead with UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) and WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) technology, which incorporates third generation (3G) high-speed mobile communications systems. Even the ignition key is high tech! It is capable of storing all vehicle data. When a technician is diagnosing the vehicle, the ignition key is inserted into a computer. All system information is downloaded and then analyzed by the technician. Engines are being upgraded with Double Vanos and Valvetronic technology. The 745i V8 engine will have 333hp allowing it to be considerably faster than the outgoing 740i. Expect a 6.0-liter V12 with 400hp- 500hp to be available soon. SMG (Sequential Manual Gearbox) electronic clutch transmission has been improved and provides more feel, precision and shift speed giving the M3 driver a good idea of what Ralf Schumacher experiences when driving a BMW/Williams F1 racecar. You can also expect to see a V8 M3 in the next year. Moving on to possible future models, BMW will extend the X5 wheelbase to satisfy the need for more cargo capacity. The X3 small SAV is definitely nearing as well as a new Z3. Most car enthusiast refrain from sport utilities, but Hans Stuck was able to coax a 600hp X5 around the old Nurburgring in less than 8 minutes! The new 5 Series is less than 12 months away and finally a 6 Series successor could be built off this platform. Mercedes Benz The highlight will be the new SL R230 series. Lighter, stiffer, faster…this is what all car enthusiasts want to hear when describing a new model. The SL has incredible technology as well ABS (Anti-Lock Braking system), ETS (Electronic Traction System), ASR (Anti-Slip Regulation), ESP (Electronic Stability Program), BAS (Brake Assist System), ABC (Active Body control), SBC (Sensotronic Brake Control) plus an all aluminum 5 link rear suspension all contribute to enhance this cars active safety. You are literally driving on the chips (microprocessor) similar to early 90's F1 cars. These F1 cars used ABS, fully automatic electronic clutch, and traction control, yaw sensing stability control and active ride. All of these systems were adjustable real time via two-way telemetry. As a result, some racetrack lap records have not been broken to this day. AMG will supercharge the 5.4 V8 creating the SL55. The 3valve V12 is being modified thus creating the S63. Both engines have well over 400hp escalating the horsepower battle to new heights. ML sees a facelift to carry it through to the 2nd generation model, which will be released in a few years. The C-class will see 4Matic all wheel drive. There are new E, CLK, SLK, SLR and Maybach models waiting in the wings. Mercedes is providing incredible models in every price range. They are offering what the consumers want, as well as providing the enthusiasts with dynamic performance models. Porsche The 911 facelift and new enlarged 3.6-liter engine enhance an already incredible model. A new Panorama Targa style 911 will be released as well as a glass rear window for the Cabriolet. The Cayenne may appear but it is more likely delayed for a few more months. The new Leipzig plant will have to work hard to meet demand and Porsche/VW need to be in complete collaboration for this to be successful. It is a little more likely that a 911 Turbo S or Club Sport version will be released. In the future, a new bigger coupe may appear to battle with the Ferrari 550, Mercedes CL55, Aston Vanquish and Bentley. This car would share technology like drive train and active suspension with the Cayenne. Porsche will be entering the 500hp club with the Cayenne, think of this SUV as part of what keeps Porsche an independent automaker. Porsche is doing well, but they clearly understand that they have to expand their product line. We are only going to see one great model after another. Even the Cayenne will probably be an excellent driver! How times have changed. Volkswagen The long awaited Polo will finally be released. Improvements include WAP navigation, Xenon lighting, ESP, turbo engines and more. Skoda has already been using the platform and Seat will soon follow suit. As American enthusiasts, we must hope that other small cars like the Mini, C-Coupe and Golf do well in North America. With market conditions swinging in that direction we could possibly see a VW Polo or Audi A3 within the next two years. The Mk5 Golf family will be introduced initially as a mini-SUV but will be available with a new independent rear suspension. A two and four door version will be released a few months later. FSI will be used in more engines. This system provides increasingly precise control over fuel pulse widths and improves performance in almost every aspect. The next generation Jetta will be built off of a stretched Mk 5 Golf platform. The next generation Passat will be switching to transversely mounted drive trains. A new Cabriolet is near and hopefully a Corrado/Scirocco replacement is imminent. Dr. Piech is retiring soon and the Frankfurt International Auto Show is his last for VW. I expect some surprises. It could de the D1 or a new sports car, maybe even a new Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti. Who knows! Dr. Piech wants to go out with a bang. Maybe he could create a VAG F1 team and he could be the team leader, anything is possible.

Gallery: Frankfurt Autoshow 2001 Preview