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Geneva Motor Show launches new stars

Seen as a crucial gap-filler for GM Holden's line-up and a head-to-head competitor with Ford's market-dominating Territory, the Captiva is a mid-sized machine, which will launch with a 3.2-litre Holden V6 engine.

It is expected to be on sale in Australia in the second half of this year with diesel and four-cylinder engines on the horizon.

Details of the local Captiva are still a little sketchy, but GM Holden confirms it will be available as a five- and seven-seater with an "active" (part-time) four-wheel-drive system, which feeds on-demand drive to rear wheels.

GM Holden chairman Denny Mooney says there was extensive Australian input into the Captiva project that "covers the outside, inside and underneath to ensure it looks, feels and drives as a Holden should".

"This has been a missing link in our product line-up," Mooney says.

The Geneva show was the launching pad for new models ranging from production-ready family cars to exotic concepts.

Saab stole a good deal of the limelight with its Aero X concept, which not only shows a new life in the Swedish manufacturer's design department but also highlights a new direction for green technology.

Fitted with a BioPower turbo V6 engine that produces 298kW, it is being trumpeted as a hero car for the bio-fuel movement.

The Aero X is also a looker and Saab has tapped its aircraft roots to add a fighter-style cockpit canopy which does away with doors, opening windows and even windscreen pillars. "It represents our vision of what a high-performance car from Saab could look like," says Anthony Lo, the director of advanced design for General Motors Europe. The Concept A on the VW stand is a good example of an idea getting very close to a production future.

Rumours abound about a Golf-based small SUV under development at Volkswagen and the Concept A fits that scenario to a T. The concept combines a sleek coupe-style silhouette with the raised stance of an SUV.

The drive train is VW's tried-and-tested 4MOTION system while the engine is at the cutting edge of the company's combined use of turbo and supercharger technology. A production schedule for the Concept A could become reality in months.

Kia's sleek SUV concept, the Cee'd, is based on the company's C-segment passenger model which start production in Slovakia in December. European Design Centre chief designer Gregory Guillaume says the concept was "the starting point for the new design DNA for Kia". Cee'd incorporates a mixture of designs from the Sorento SUV to the small Picanto.

On the more extreme end of the SUV scale sits niche Dutch manufacturer Spyker's D12 Super SUV. Powered by a W12 engine the Spyker retains the marque's trademark sportscar lines but sits on seriously puffed suspension. Staying in a luxury vein, Rolls Royce has again produced an "experimental" car in the 101EX. The car has been hand-built to "explore a potential design direction for a future coupe model".

The 101EX uses the same lightweight aluminium construction that was developed for the Phantom, although the body is shorter by 240mm.

Ferrari has unveiled its replacement for the 575M Maranello in the shape of the 599GTB. The Modena maestros have not spared the horses in the sleek-bodied 599 using the 485kW 6.0-litre V12 derived from the Enzo supercar powerplant and already in use in the 612. With its lightweight aluminium chassis and body, the 599 GTB promises to be an absolute rocket. It will be on sale in Europe about the middle of the year.

GM has shown it hasn't given up on the idea of a successful soft-top model with the unveiling of the Opel GT. There is no indication of how far through the GM family the GT will spread but indications are that it will remain left-hand drive only.

Mazda has revealed its Mazda3 MPS, following the success of its Mazda6 MPS and continuing on its promise to have a performance car in every model.

Unlike its larger sibling, the 3MPS will not get an all-wheel drive platform, and will stay front-wheel drive. That should make the promised 186kW output an interesting test for Mazda's suspension engineers.

It hasn't taken long for Alfa Romeo to follow up its Brera sedan with an even more delicious spider version of the car.

The Brera Spider will be in production before the middle of the year.

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