Fleet News

Special feature: Paris Motor Show

Mercedes' diesel boost

THE boundaries of diesel power have taken a further step towards the distant horizon with Mercedes-Benz's launch of the C30 CDI AMG, a red-hot performance car available in saloon, sport coupe and estate versions.

Sadly, only left-hand drive versions of the cars are destined for UK shores, so British drivers will be left to wonder how a diesel engine can generate 231 bhp and deliver a thumping 398lb-ft of torque.

The 0-62 mph sprint takes just 6.8 seconds, yet on the combined cycle the car returns 37.2mpg.

The car goes on sale in February 2003, with just a handful of imports planned for the UK at a guideline price of about £30,000.

For close on twice that sum, company drivers who want space, luxury and power can put their names down for the E55 AMG, the most powerful E-class ever built.

The highly-tuned engine delivers 476bhp and a walloping 516lb-ft of torque. It goes on sale in November with a price tage of about £60,000 and supply limited to about 50 to 60 models in the UK.

Touareg on the offensive

VOLKSWAGEN says its luxury-class product offensive is well and truly under way and in Paris it presented its rival to the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M-class. The muscular off-road Touareg will arrive in the UK next summer with a choice of 3.2-litre V6 petrol engine and 5-litre V10 Tdi engine.

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Volkswagen says the Touareg 'represents a vehicle concept which blazes new trails at the high end of the sport utility vehicle market'.

Pricing has yet to be confirmed but expect to pay about £28,000 for the lower range model and up to £60,000 for the top-of-the-range model.

Landcruiser's Paris debut

TOYOTA hosted the world premier of the new Landcruiser at the show, promising to continue its off-road heritage, but with better on-road handling.

The latest model has 51 years of Landcruiser heritage to fall back on, but includes the latest technology, including hill-start control, descent control, vehicle stability control and semi-active suspension. The current 3.0-litre diesel is joined by a new 4.0-litre V6 petrol engine. The firm officially announced it is to introduce its Diesel Clean Advanced Technologies, that cuts emissions from its heavy oil range.

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Skoda's model frenzy

TALK of curvy lines and delightful rear ends was not just about cars at the Paris Motor Show, thanks to a fashion show hosted by Skoda.

The show, featuring stunning models wearing, well, not a lot, gave visitors a visual treat and achieved its aim of drawing people to the stand where the manufacturer took the wraps off its Octavia Combi RS which Fleet News drove last month.

Specification and engines are the same for the estate version as the current RS hatchback. The new model is due for launch in the UK next April and pricing has yet to be announced, although we expect it to be under £16,000. Skoda also used the show to announce a new engine for its Fabia, a 1.2-litre petrol engine that produces 54bhp.

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Accord goes upmarket

HONDA is going upmarket with its new generation Accord. Displayed at the Paris show, the new car, of which about 60% will be sold to fleets, is far sportier than the present model and comes with 2.0-litre or 2.4-litre engines. President Hiroyuki Yoshino said the manufacturer had engineered the car 'specifically with European customers in mind'.

He added: 'We are pushing the envelope with this newest, seventh-generation Accord. 'We now have a car that not only meets, but exceeds, the customer's expectation for a D-segment car. It is a major advance in every aspect of automobile technology and design.'

Europe, he said, has the toughest competition in the D-segment. 'With customers especially demanding in respect of dynamic performance.'

Honda will announce pricing for the new Accord at the British International Motor Show in October. Also on the Honda stand was its forthcoming new Civic Hybrid, which amazingly for a vehicle that uses such technology, looks like a normal car.

Developing the technology used in the Honda Insight, the Civic Hybrid uses an electric motor along with a 1.3-litre i-DSI petrol engine to deliver high fuel economy and low emissions.

It will be built in Japan and available only as a four-door saloon and the UK allocation is expected to be about 1,000 units a year. Honda will badge the car in the UK as a Civic IMA (Integrated Motor Assist). The manufacturer wants the car to show that environmentally-friendly motoring can be both 'affordable and fun'.

It is due for a UK launch next spring and pricing will be 'in the existing Civic range with a rich level of specification', said Honda.

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Impreza improved

Subaru marked 30 years of producing four wheel drive vehicles by announcing a more dynamic appearance, improved driving performance and additional refinement for its Impreza range at the Paris Motor Show.

The new Impreza features a revised front bumper, restyled headlights and a large rear spoiler for better aerodynamics, upgraded engine output across the range and stiffer suspension. It is due in UK showrooms in January.

But officials from the Japanese company also used their platform at the salon to reveal plans for a dramatic increase in global sales. Worldwide sales and marketing chief Hideo Wada 'Over the next five years, the aim of our mid-term business plan is to reach sales of 760,000. That represents an increase of 35% over our current performance, but it will account for only one percent of global demand.'

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Fresh air boost for Saab convertible

THE iconic Saab 9-3 convertible will be replaced within 12 months by a new soft-top based on the all new 9-3.

Saab confirmed the move at the show, along with news that it will develop two further variants of the new 9-3, believed to be an estate and a coupe, including an all-wheel drive model.

The Swedish manufacturer also unveiled uprated 9-5 models under its 'Saab Performance' by Hirsch' program, which include aftermarket engine upgrades to 305 or 280bhp and a wide range of chassis and interior/exterior modifications. Drivers will also have the choice of five-speed manual gear selection via steering wheel buttons.

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