OF 2003 FUN CARS AND TRUCKS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
By Steve Parker
Remember when new car introduction time was a big deal?
The movers and shakers in town got invited to the local car
dealers for a big introduction soiree. The dealers themselves
prepared for weeks, with butcher paper and newspapers covering
their showroom glass, so no one could sneak a look at the
Today, new car intro time is run like some Chinese restaurants
where you get your food as soon as the cook finishes
its ready, out it comes.
The investment for new vehicles is so huge (about $4 billion
for an all-new car or truck, another $1 billion just for a
new engine plant), and the public is demanding new models
so often, manufacturers cant wait anymore for a specific
Lets visit Europe, Japan and the US for a sneak peak
at some of 2003s more fun new models.
BMW is a small car company. They sell just over 1 million
vehicles a year worldwide, while General Motors sells almost
10 million. But this upcoming model year alone, BMW is bringing
out, in the US, a "1-series" entry-level vehicle
(maybe under $20,000), an all-new Z4 sports car (made in South
Carolina), an X3 SUV (smaller version of the X5) and a new
6-series, a two-door version of their 5-series.The BMW getting
a lot of attention this year doesnt even carry the companys
name. Its the Mini, the latest version of the MiniCooper,
one of the most popular cars ever sold in the world (USA sales
were limited to only the early 1960s). The Mini will come
in a new soft top version and as a delivery truck-like panel
van. Base prices are mini, too
Compared to Porsche, BMW is a huge. Porsche sells just over
51,000 cars annually worldwide. They makes most of their money
working for other companies (the engine in the new Harley-Davidson
V-Rod is a Porsche effort). To raise sales in the US, Porsche
is bringing out a (gasp!) SUV, called the Cayenne. Cayenne
will range in price from $55,980 for a 335 horsepower model,
to (sit down) $88,900 for the 440 horsepower twin-turbo "truck".
Porsche-philes may hate the idea of "their" company
making a truck, but it should almost double worldwide sales.
Volkswagen is coming out with their own version of the Cayenne,
called Touareg (no, I do not know how to pronounce it). VW's
SUV will start in the $30,000 range, but a top-of-the-line
model powered by a 395-hp 6 liter W12 engine will sell for
more than double that number.
Biggest news, literally, coming out of Europe for 2003 has
to do with traditional luxury brands.
Mercedes-Benz has brought back the Maybach brand, a name which
dominated the luxury market in Germany in the 1920s (Wilhelm
Maybach was the first technical director of the original Daimler-Benz).
Maybach is now an ultra-limousine, costing, in its longer
wheelbase version, around $325,000. Short wheelbase models
will be about $120,000 less. A newly developed 5.5-liter twin-turbo
V12 will make over 500 horsepower and - even more impressive
- 664 pounds-feet of torque.
Fewer than ten vehicles will be built each day in the Maybach
Manufaktur plant in Sindelfingen, Germany. For those intrigued
by that incredible engine but wanting to save a few bucks,
the same V12 may be available in the S-class Mercedes sedan
for about $160,000.
As of January 1, 2003, BMW takes over Rolls-Royce and Volkswagen
(yes, Volkswagen), starts running Bentley. Manufacture of
the autos will remain in Great Britain. Volkswagen says they
will be bringing out an "economy" Bentley, priced
around $100,000, while Rolls-Royce will continue to aim for
the top of the market.
In a more modest effort, expect a convertible version of
the wildly popular VW New Beetle this year, well under $30,000.
VW says they are going to make a retro version of the MicroBus,
so all you Deadheads should start saving. Right now, an 8
cylinder engine for the Passat is available, and that same
"W8" (named for its weird cylinder configuration)
will also be in the $60,000 VW Phaeton due out early in 2003.
>From the other side of the Pond comes the latest Ferrari.
Named Enzo, after the companys late founder, the car
will be priced at $660,000, produce about 1 horsepower per
$1000 dollars from its V12 engine, and is basically a Formula
One race car with a body on it. Enzo buyers are invited to
the Ferrari factory in Modena, Italy, to watch their cars
being built, when they will also will be fitted for their
seats. Its all included in the price of the car.
Japan, as always, has a bunch of new cars and trucks heading
our way, most important of which is probably the all-new Honda
Accord. Toyota brought out their latest Camry last season,
so the Accord will be getting a lot of attention. Accord will
feature an optional 240-horsepower V6 engine and some pretty
wild styling. Toyota will increase their range of hybrid-powered
cars and trucks (gasoline and electric engines mated together
for great mileage, good performance, and extremely low emissions).
Look for a Toyota all-wheel drive minivan with a hybrid powerplant
(already on-sale in Japan, called Estima) and a small SUV
hybrid, possibly built on the RAV4 platform. Toyota is also
launching an entirely new line of cars this year named "Scion".
The Bbx and Ccx are like nothing ever seen from staid, conservative
Mitsubishi, looking to copy the success Subaru had with their
WRX Impreza, a street-going version of their World Championship
rally race car, is introducing the Lancer Evolution VIII.
The little four-door will have all-wheel drive, race car-like
Brembo brakes, a 250-horsepower four-cylinder turbocharged
engine and attitude to spare. Look for it as a 2004 model
in about six months. Totally cool.
In the Absolute Fun Department, Nissan has brought back the
Z-car, this time around called the 350Z. Theyve upped
performance, lowered prices (compared to the last Z) and the
styling is just futuristic enough for Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers
and Ys alike. The Z base-prices around $26,000.
Another exciting new version of another old car is the return
of the rotary-powered sports car from Mazda. Itll be
called the RX8, and those who have driven Mazdas with rotary
engines know they are smooth and extremely powerful. Base
models will be well under $30,000.
Now well bring it on home to the good ol USA.
Dodge and Chrysler are working on rear-wheel drive sedan
and coupe platforms with engine bays large enough for a modern-day
version of the legendary Hemi V8. With Dodge back in NASCAR,
the opportunity to buy a V8-power rear-drive street car, might
create some sales records. Look for these cars towards the
end of 2003. The highest-performance version will be the Chrysler
300N, a continuation of the "letter cars" which
meant nothing but "muscle" through the 50s,
60s and 70s.
A fun 2003 Chrysler available now? A turbo version of the
PT Cruiser. Its got 215 horsepower and sells for under
$28,000. Also, PT Cruiser will be available as a convertible
and a panel-like delivery truck.
>From Dearborn, MI, 2003 brings a new Ford Mustang Cobra,
supercharged with 390 honest horsepower. Hardtop or convertible,
prices are in the $33-36,000 range.
With Thunderbird proving that retro styling can sell, Ford
will introduce, in honor of their 100th anniversary, a modern-day
version of the GT40 race car which won races at LeMans in
the 1960s. The car will be built by Ford high-performance
suppliers Roush Racing and Saleen and cost in the neighborhood
of $100,000 ($100K for a Ford?!?! Ouch!).
General Motors has a lot going for it right now, including
a 70-year old guy named Bob Lutz. A former Marine fighter
pilot, Lutz was a top exec at Chrysler when he approved the
Viper, Prowler and PT Cruiser. Winners all. Now he has been
given virtual carte blanche at GM to shape that place up.
One of Lutzs first decisions at GM happened on a trip
to Australia to see the products made by their down-under
division, Holden. A car called Monaro caught Lutzs eye.
A two-door, four-seat hardtop, Monaro comes with the same
drivetrain found in the Corvette
a six-speed stick shift
backed-up by a 350 cubic inch V8 pumping out 350 or more horsepower.
Youll be able buy that same car in your American hometown
towards the end of 2003 for, Lutz promises, well under $30,000.
Itll be called the Pontiac GTO. This is some retro we
2003 is the 50th anniversary of Corvette, what Enzo Ferrari
called "Americas only real sports car". No
public plans for a high-performance Anniversary Edition yet,
but dont be surprised if something comes along late
in the year. GM shouldnt miss this chance.
Another Chevy youll be hearing a lot about is the SSR.
Its a retro-styled hot rod convertible pickup which
will be available in limited numbers.
Cadillac will have a two-seat rear-drive V8-powered sports
car, XLR, slated to go up against the all-new 2003 Mercedes-Benz
SL, and priced accordingly (SL starts at $86,000). Caddy also
promises a new line of rear-drive, front-engine cars, including
a "crossover" wagon (truck-like storage, car-like
ride) and an even longer-than-current version of their hot-selling
There are more than 1,500 different makes and models to be
sold in the USA in the upcoming 2003 model year, with an average
price of over $23,000.
The bottom line in the car business remains, as always, product.
This year will see more cars, more SUVs, and more technical
innovations to make driving safer, more predictable and more
fun than ever before.
About the Author
Steve Parker is a two-time Emmy Award-winning
journalist living in Palm Springs, CA, where he produces and
hosts automotive-related radio and TV shows) Steve Parker THE
CAR NUT / THE CAR DUDE. Over 30 Years of Emmy-Award Winning
Automotive Journalism on TV, radio, in newspapers and magazines.