AutoRAI 1999: the new cars
Bentley, Chevrolet, CitroŽn & Ford
of the last British strongholds has gone to the Germans: the Rolls-Royce/Bentley car
factory. Is that a pity? I don't think so. I think it's a wonder how the factory has
survived for so long on its own, making terribly expensive and extremely dull and
It seems that Volkswagen/VAG wants to revive the sporty heritage of Bentley, and that can only be a good thing, far better than Rolls-Royce ever did for Bentley. This new Arnage is again a rebadged Rolls-Royce (Silver Seraph), reasonably stylish but still looking like it was designed in the seventies. Dynamics should be good though, it's fitted with a BMW V8 turbo engine with 4398 cc displacement and 354 hp. Top speed is about 240 kph; would you want to do that in a car that weighs 2.3 tons?
This latest revision of the Corvette can hardly be called new, it's
introduced in the last part of 1997, but it's so rare here that I consider it new. I never
would have thought Americans could design such a nimble and well-balanced looking car,
it's the best Corvette since the seventies in my opinion. Apparently it sells like hot
cakes in America causing waiting lists in export countries.
The Corvette has plastic bodywork, the well-known but modernized aluminium 5.7 litre V8 'small-block' engine (344 hp) and a transaxle style six speed gearboxes. All this gives it an excellent power to weight ratio and a good balance. Top speed is a staggering 281 kph. Whish I had the money...
The real news on the Chevrolet stand was the Alero (fitted with an Oldsmobile badge),
an unexciting car in the midsize class of which the Americans hope it will open the
European market for them. Dream on!
Weird car name, Picasso... Certainly for a nice looking but rather bread and
butter type car as the monospace version of the Xsara. How much money would the Picasso
heirs have asked for the right of using the artists name (and face!)? Not the kind of
relatives I would want, I think old Picasso rolls over in his grave.
Anyway, this car doesn't look anywhere near to a Picasso design and that's a good thing, otherwise its nose would be somewhere on the roof or so. It's however a straight Renault Mťgane Scenic rival and even better looking than the original. It has a kind of an organic design aspect to it, something like a pod or a pumpkin.
I like it, but would I buy it? No, I won't. Not because I think it's a bad car, but because I can't imagine why monospace designs are popular anyway. It's just a four-seater with excess headroom and a front window that's placed over the hood. I think the popularity of this kind of cars is just because they look original (and the high driving position). If you need room you're better off buying the stationcar version.
The Xsara Picasso becomes available in the second half of 1999 with engine configurations known from the rest of the Xsara range.
RitzSite price for best stand design on the 99 AutoRAI goes to Ford. The price consists of
our warm congratulations and a handful of honor... It doesn't really show on this picture,
but Ford put a lot of effort and money in their presentation. All cars (and there were a
lot) were painted in the same silver metallic (Silverline in Ford-lingo), which looked
great. The stand itself was big and elaborate with a long central slope leading to a
second floor where all Ford technical innovations were presented, including the Focus
rallycar and the Steward F1 car (both will be shown here in a next feature). On both sides
of the high-tech looking slope cars were presented on turning platforms in a water basin
(that's what you see on the picture). Next to the basins the whole Ford range was
exhibited to be touched, sat in, kicked in the tires and whatever else the visitors would
think of (within reason, of course).
Now you may wonder: what was the worst stand design? My answer to that is: the BMW stand, which wasn't a design at all. It was just a bunch of cars placed at random across a rather limited space. The BMW stand was crowded, messy and almost nobody could see anything, so thumbs down for BMW!
The Ford Cougar I liked best of all new Fords. I had to get used to the 'New Edge
Design' (Ford-lingo again), but in real life it looks great. It has a bit of Alfa-Romeo
GTV Coupť to it and also something American. The car is based on a Mondeo platform with a
more sporty suspension lay-out. It's available with a four cylinder 2.0 litre 130 hp
engine and a 2.5 litre V6 with 170 hp, top speeds are 209 and 225 kph respectively.
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