The 2002 British Motor Show - October 2002
Words by Shane O' Donoghue & Adam Jefferson. Images by Mark Sims & Adam Jefferson.
We don't all get to travel to the major international motor shows here at The Car Enthusiast, so we always look forward in particular to our "home" show - the British International. This year was especially important to the industry as the London Show in 2001 was cancelled. Thankfully, though BMW and Mercedes-Benz did not have a strong presence, the 2002 show at the NEC in Birmingham was a roaring success. Which is a relief considering how close the Paris Show was to the start. Below we have some of our thoughts from the day, though I think that the shots convey the story pretty well. Your comments, suggestions and ramblings are always appreciated via email.
The new Alfa Romeo 147 GTA has not been publicised in the UK. One has to wonder why. Here we have the advent of a 3.2-litre 250bhp V6-engined super hot hatch, going up against the likes of Honda's Civic Type-R and the all-new Ford Focus RS. Surely this is one of the front wheel drive battles of the decade. Therein might lay the problem. Now, we all know what great cars these hatches are, but, if you have been reading the press recently you will have noted that the Focus in particular has a nasty habit of following the undulations of the road when you try to put its (considerable) power down. Top Gear put this down to the Quaife limited slip differential which helps to remove understeer on the track and smooth tarmac. However, I talked to one of the car's development team and it is more likely to be thanks to such large rubber up front. I will be interested to see what the Alfa does about it…
We will shortly be driving the 156 GTA, which shares its V6 engine with the 147 shown in the UK for the first time in Birmingham. I am expecting it to be a stormer - its predecessor (the 3.0-litre) is no slouch, as we found out when we tested the GTV Cup in 2001. So, Alfa have just stuffed the new engine into a 147 body shell and are now going to sell it as the ultimate hot hatch, right? Well, mostly, though having drooled over the car on show in Birmingham, it is immediately obvious that this is not an ordinary Alfa 147. For starters, the rear arches are much wider, though the whole panel is different so it does not look like an afterthought. Likewise the all-new front and rear bumpers. Alfa have stressed that these changes are not cosmetic - the arches are to accommodate the large 17-inch wheels, the front bumper has been redesigned for more engine cooling, and the rear bumper now doubles as an aerodynamic aid. I don't care personally - it looks fantastic.
Have I not mentioned the car's performance yet? How remiss of me! How does a 153mph top speed, 0-62mph acceleration in 6.3 seconds, and just 26.1 seconds to cover a kilometre from a standing start sound to you? Not shabby, that's for sure. You will not find another hot hatch as fast. Let's hope the standard VDC (vehicle dynamic control) system can keep it all on the black stuff. That kind of publicity is not what Alfa Romeo will be looking for when the car shortly goes on sale in the UK. I look forward to taking it for a leisurely spin...
Click here for Alfa Romeo's press release.
2003 Audi A8 - all-new model
As soon as I arrived at the show I was drawn to the Ferrari stand, and reached it with slight disbelief. None of the usual glamour, private areas, finely polished horses... just an Enzo. OK, OK, you can't say just an Enzo, even under the circumstances. For although the stand was disappointing, the Enzo is, right now, the ultimate supercar.
The 'Enzo Ferrari' is the fourth in a series of limited edition Ferraris that began with the 288 GTO of 1984, followed by the 1987 F40 and the 1995 F50. Its styling emphasises the car's close Formula 1 ties; it may take a little getting used to, but the best designs always do. The front of the car is very F1-suggestive, making it almost retro for a road car of today. The doors hinge up and out, and contain manual windows which definitely have something very Lancia Stratos about them. The back features the glorious show-case window to display the engine, but the trade-mark round lights look a little premature - as if they didn't quite finish merging into the bodywork before the car was born. Much of the rear is dominated by the gigantic twin diffusers which create sufficient downforce as the car's speed rises to obviate the need for a rear wing.
The car was engineered with consultation from Michael Schumacher, who while admitting that it's still not close to an F1 car, adds that it's as close as you'll get on the road. The figures back this up - a 6 litre V12 engine developing 660 bhp, 0-62 in 3.65 seconds, 485 lb ft of torque at 5,500 rpm and a 217.5 mph top speed. This is the first road car to feature carbon-ceramic brakes, designed and manufactured by Brembo to a Ferrari specification. They claim to have overcome the problems traditionally associated with them - excessive noise, and poor performance when cold. Wear will also not be a problem - the recommended change period is 60,000 miles, possibly the lifetime of the car with the expected mileages most of them will endure.
The Enzo is the world’s first car with complete electronic integration of the control systems for engine, gearbox, suspension, abs, traction control and aerodynamics. The six subsystems all interact with each other comparing relevant information to enhance the overall performance of the car.
The car is minimalist, yet eminently useable for a supercar - Ferrari have gone to great lengths to make it more driver-friendly than its predecessors. Two paddles behind the flat-top steering wheel control the 6-speed sequential gearbox with a F1 electrohydraulic clutch-less manual change. The interior is a combination of exposed carbon, leather and aluminium. The dashboard is suspended from an aluminium tube spanning the cockpit, and has small gaps allowing the driver and passenger to see through to the workings behind. Two airbags are provided as well as air conditioning, but apart from the personally tailored seats and adjustable pedals, that's about the limit of creature comforts. A radio is neither required nor offered.
The Enzo will cost "not less than £425,000" when it is released, about £75,000 more than the F50, but still significantly less than the McLaren F1. Its only competitor for the time being will be the 1001bhp Bugatti Veyron, but the Enzo has the advantage of time on its side - by the time the Veyron hits the road, all 349 Enzos are likely to be long gone.
2003 Honda Accord - all-new model
The Ford Motor Company took over a sizeable proportion of the show (a complete hall in fact), with Jaguar, Aston Martin, Volvo and Mazda all rubbing shoulders with their parents Ford. Each stand had its own focal point of interest. The most important was probably the launch of the new Jaguar XJ saloon which made its world debut at the Paris Salon. Though thoroughly impractical for anyone not counting a car polisher as one of his/her staff, the polished aluminium show car certainly drew attention. Jaguar could do with some good news at the moment, and it looks like they may have played their cards right with regards to the mix of technology and tradition in the new XJ. Some say that the looks are too understated, but I think the XJ is classically handsome, with some very up-to-date features such as the LED rear lights (not to mention an all-aluminium body!) to bring the fight to the latest from BMW and Mercedes. Let's face it, in the looks department the Jaguar has it won already - certainly against the Mercedes-Benz S-class and the BMW 7-series. Read Jaguar's original press release here.
Of less significance on the Jaguar stand was the appearance of a special edition X-type - the Indianapolis. Oddly enough, this has nothing to do with the Jaguar Racing F1 team. The Indianapolis is named after the alloy wheel the car sports... It is available in 2.5-litre or 3.0-litre guises and comes with Alcantara-trimmed, black sport seats and a unique facia veneer along with high-intensity Xenon headlights, electric rear windows, automatic air conditioning and ultrasonic reverse park control as well as a choice of colours including the "Ultraviolet Blue" colour shown on the stand. We have driven a few X-types, and as great as it is, it is never going to be a true BMW 3-series rival when it comes to sales. The main reason is the small range size in my opinion, and the lack of a true range topper in the form of the fabulous BMW M3. If nothing else, I believe that Jaguar should tap directly into the F1 programme. Who cares if it is not the most successful team on the grid? It is still good for business.
Take the colour of the Jaguar Racing R3 for example - an eye-catching bright green. It has been used on the Jaguar XKR in the latest James Bond movie (Die Another Day) and looks fantastic. I am hoping that a marketing executive somewhere wakes up one day soon and realises that here is the making of a high-profile special edition. Ford has done it with the less-than-attractive coral-coloured Ford Thunderbird (driven by Bond girl "Jinx" in Die Another Day) after all. Some of the weaponry displayed at the show in the XKR and Bond's own Aston Martin Vanquish would certainly come in useful on my daily commute...
Ford had gone to town to celebrate grabbing the hallowed James Bond contract back from BMW. The centre stage of the Ford Motor Company hall was a vast slab of ice with the three new Bond cars poised menacingly atop. At first glance they appear normal, but they hold the expected lethal armoury of weapons.
Bond's car is a silver-grey V12 Aston Martin Vanquish (surprisingly only the 4th Aston Bond has driven). It features the requisite ejector seat, and an adequate selection of fire-power. The front grille splits, the lower half dropping smoothly out of sight to expose 2 shotguns and four rockets. The two bonnet grilles slide aside to reveal a pair of auto-tracking machine guns.
The villain Zao's car is a 400bhp Jaguar XKR convertible with added four-wheel drive and funky snowchains. As mentioned above, it is the same colour as this year's Jaguar F1 car, which itself featured 007 logos to promote Ford's partnership. Again, positively bristling with guns, the weaponry includes a Gatling gun centered behind the driver and passenger seats (with reinforced chunky rollover hoops), missiles emerging from the front grille, concealed door-mounted rocket launchers and a hydraulically opening boot packed with nine mortar bombs.
A particularly unpleasant 'coral' coloured Ford Thunderbird completes the trio, this one driven by Jinx (Halle Berry). It doesn't appear to have any rockets, but the shock with this car is that a run of 700 '007' limited edition models is being produced next year. They will contain an unfeasible amount of white leather, and are plastered with 'understated' 007 badges, not least on the 'interior aluminum applique.' Hopefully none will make it as far as the UK.
I have to say that seeing the cars perform in the films is rather taken for granted, but watching the guns and rockets appear silently from behind the various grilles and panels in real life is quite something. The engineering and craftsmanship that has gone into the huge conversion is both admirable and astounding. It just goes to show that not everything in films is computerised sfx... yet.
2003 Jaguar XJ - all-new model
2003 Jaguar XJ launch videos
Mini at the British Motor Show
Nissan's mantra for the all-new Micra is "make life simpler for the customer". That is really good news of course, but this is achieved by adding loads of extras you didn't know you needed in a luxury car, never mind in a little super-mini. Where shall I start? The range structure is E, S, SE, SX and SVE. The list of features is mind-boggling and certainly has redefined the super-mini segment. Peruse this list:
ABS with EBD and Nissan Brake Assist
Electric power steering
Rain sensing wipers
Yes, all of the above fit into the diminutive new Nissan Micra.
Having sat in a couple of models and prodded and played, I must admit how impressed I am with this car. It is a quantum step forward from the previous Micra, and a significant force to be reckoned with in the marketplace. So long as it is priced correctly of course. Well, Nissan have taken a small gamble, in that the entry-level model is more expensive than the previous generation, though massively better equipped. In general, the range appears to be good value for money, but not a bargain basement competitor for cars such as the Daewoo Matiz.
Nissan have also used the Micra as the base for a new open-top car, well concept actually - the C+C. Peugeot did well to be the first market with a successful small car that combines hard-top practicality, open-top fun and a reasonable price - the 206CC. Inevitably everyone wants a piece of this pie. I am in no doubt that the Micra version will be made. It looks the part for sure, and should sell in high enough numbers to justify the investment. Even if it does not, it is a good image builder for the Nissan range, which it is struggling with at the moment (until the new Z car arrives of course!). Funnily enough, we steered clear of the Primera-ised new Almera...
2003 Nissan Micra - all-new model
Peugeot 206 GTi 180 - new addition to the 206 range
Peugeot H2O fire-fighter - fuel-cell powered concept car
2003 Peugeot Partner Combi - facelift
Smart Roadster - all-new model
2003 Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon - facelift
2003 Toyota Land Cruiser - all-new model
2003 Toyota Celica - minor tweaks
2003 Toyota MR2 - minor tweaks
Vauxhall at the 2002 British Motor Show
Opel / Vauxhall Eco-Speedster - diesel-powered sports car concept
Volvo S60R & V70R - new sporting flagship models
Just click on the thumbnails to view a high-resolution image.