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Paris Motor Show preview


Outrageous styling, Euro flair and retro features have taken a grip on this year's Paris motor show, which starts next week. Many of the world's leading carmakers will unveil futuristic concept cars as well as their next generation of production cars at Europe's biggest show of 2006.

Paris and Frankfurt alternate as the host every year - and with 2006 being the turn of the French capital, the local manufacturers seem set to steal the show.

Renault will unveil its stunning four-seater cabriolet, the Nepta. Underneath the retro gull-wing doors is a 3.5-litre V6 twin turbo engine that puts out 313kW of power and 560Nm of torque at 3000rpm. An aluminium strip covers the hinges on the bonnet, which gives off a shooting-star effect. Renault spokeswoman Lenore Fletcher says the gull-wing doors are certainly unusual and the first time a Renault has featured them.

"The object of designing concept vehicles is to experiment with new technology and design with a view to assessing their suitability for application to future production vehicles," she says.

The Nepta is quick off the mark, accelerating from 0-100km/h in just 4.9seconds through its seven-speed automatic gearbox, which features flick shift steering-wheel-mounted controls. With fluid lines and a thoroughbred profile, the Nepta has a long body shape, accentuated by the wave-shaped side panels, the lower part of the body's aluminium colour treatment, the front and rear spoilers and the mud flaps. The rear has a longer overhang than the front and the car sits on massive 23-inch tyres.

Citroen, meanwhile, will show off its masterwork, the low-riding four-door coupe, the C-Matisse. It is showcasing diesel-electric hybrid technology, a system Citroen wants to introduce on its production cars by 2008.

The concept is powered by a V6 diesel engine with 150kW of power and 400Nm of torque delivered through the front wheels.

There are also two electric motors that drive the rear wheels. These motors, which are powered by a bank of batteries, sit in the rear wheel hubs. Not to be outdone, Citroen's sister company, Peugeot, will display its monster 908RC concept car which, unlike the other concepts, is a pointer to the firm's racetrack future. Peugeot is going back to the Le Mans 24-hour race with a diesel.

The 908RC, however, is a giant luxury limousine with futuristic looks and a swag of new technology. Its 5.5-litre V12 diesel engine will also be at the heart of Peugeot's racer.

Peugeot says the concept car will reach 0-100km/h in less than five seconds, thanks to a six-speed manual gearbox and a rear-mounted powerplant that has been arranged in a similar layout to the race car. Closer to production from Peugeot is the 207 Epure, an all-white pointer to the next generation 207CC cabriolet to go on sale next year.

Not to be outdone, Mercedes is unveiling the latest interpretation of its SLR supercar genre, the SLR McLaren 722 Edition. Developed with its Formula One partner McLaren, the brutish 722 is named after a famous victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia, the classic Italian road race from that golden era.

Stirling Moss and Dennis Jenkinson drove a Mercedes Benz 300 SLR, numbered 722 because it started the race at 7.22am.

The new car has a supercharged 5.5-litre V8 that has 478kW of power on tap. It will rocket from 0 to 100km/h in just 3.6 seconds, and will hit 300km/h just 25 seconds later.

Maybach, Mercedes' ultra-luxury arm, will show off its first ever white model - a 5.7m-long 57 S model in mother-of-pearl finish. It will go into production this year.

Red, however, is the colour of choice for Alfa Romeo owners and the first photos of the production version of its 8C Competizione supercar illustrate just how stunning the Italian machine will be. However, Alfa buyers shouldn't get too excited. The 336kW, 4.7-litre, V8-engined two-seat GT hotty will be produced in limited numbers.

And as with the Mercedes SLR, it owes its naming history to the Mille Miglia race - this time the winning 1950 6C Competizione.

From the other side of the Atlantic, Dodge's new Avenger may officially still be a concept, but it is on a fast track to production status. The D-Segment, or mid-sized, concept will be unveiled to what should be strong acceptance. With Dodge already announcing that an all-new D-Segment model will hit showrooms late next year, the Avenger is the US manufacturer's red-hot favourite to fill that bill. Reaction to the car has already been positive, according to DaimlerChrysler Australia's Simon Johnston.

"The official company line is that all concept cars will be judged on the public reaction to them ... reaction has already been positive from the limited exposure the car has had and the next sedan model for Australia will be (a new) mid-sized car late next year," he says.

The styling of the Avenger is sharp and chunky, with strong sporty appeal for Dodge's declared youth demographic.

The Avenger concept is powered by a 2.0-litre turbo diesel - an unusual choice of powerplant for an American-centric vehicle. GM, meanwhile, will debut a new Chevrolet concept car, which was designed by an Australian, Ewan Kingsbury.

This concept, called the WTTC Ultra, features a 142kW diesel engine and is loosely based on Chev's World Touring Car Championship racing car.

Korea's Hyundai is unveiling its Arnejs concept, which it hopes will eventually lead to European sales of a down-the-track production car. Arnejs - pronounced Ar-nez - is a C-segment small car competitor.

Volkswagen will show off its new Iroc concept, seen as a pointer to a future generation of the old Scirocco sports coupe. The Viper, a green-coloured four-seater, marginally bigger than a Golf, has a "twin-charger" powerplant featuring a supercharger/turbocharger combination.

Fuel economy unusually unites BMW and Suzuki at the show.

The luxury maker is showing its new Hydrogen 7, a hydrogen-engined 7series prestige machine. Suzuki, currently enjoying a resurgence thanks to the Swift, unveils its new 1.2-litre Splash concept - aimed only at Europe - claiming petrol fuel economy of 3.6L/100km.

FAST FACTS

New model production cars to be unveiled at the Paris motor show include:

* Audi Q7 V12 diesel and R8

* BMW Hydrogen 7 saloon

* Citroen C4 Picasso

* Honda Civic Type R

* Honda CRV

* Mini Cooper

* Mitsubishi Outlander

* Mitsubishi Pajero

* Nissan Qashqai small 4WD

 

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