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Sexy coupes on the way


...as Europe and Japan push ahead with some cutting edge designs. Apart from the Citroen GT, the Mercedes-Benz SLS, Ferrari 458 Italia, Audi R8 V10 supercars and affordable Honda CR-Z and Peugeot RCZ, are destined for showrooms near you.

Citroen GT

The Citroen GT is an example of life imitating art. The company's space-age two-seater GT was originally created for the virtual world of the Gran Turismo 5 racing games on PlayStation 3.

Now the company has decided to build six examples, with an expected price tag of more than $3 million.

The carbon-fibre GT was revealed last year during the Paris auto show and was never intended for production. However, there has been keen interest in the car.

Like the computer game car, the GT is tipped to get the same aggressive exterior, complete with gull-wing doors, huge gaping air intakes and large rear diffuser. The concept was a joint effort between Citroen and designers at Polyphony Digital, creators of the Gran Turismo racing game series.

The GT will be Citroen's first production supercar and the production version is likely to be aired at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. A production version is expected to be introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.

The GT is tipped to become the company's halo car for its way-out design.

The limited edition car is expected to use some cutting-edge safety and engine technologies. But the real thing will not get the computer game version's 481kW hydrogen fuel-cell with a 100kW over-boost function.

The more humble road-going car may use a mid-mounted V8 from either Ford or General Motors.

Mercedes-Benz SLS

Gullwings are back in fashion. The new Mercedes-Benz SLS is leading the way but now the German carmaker has reacquainted itself with the unusual doors, other brands are tipped to follow.

Already two wealthy Australians have handed over deposit cheques for one of the world's most anticipated supercars.

The car's design pays homage to the classic 1950s 300 SL, which was called ‘gullwing’ for its lift-up doors integrated into the roof. The Benz supercar is in final development at AMG Mercedes-Benz in Germany and will be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. Already some of the car's performance figures have been leaked.

The car sports a hand-built 6.3-litre V8 AMG engine developing 420kW/650Nm. This enormous powerplant delivers a zero to 100km/h sprint in just 3.8 seconds and its 300km/h-plus top speed puts it in the exclusive supercar club.

The SLS makes extensive use of alloy for its body and chassis to keep its weight down to about 1600kg.

The engine, which is mid-front-mounted to deliver a 48/52 front-to-rear weight balance, is mated to a standard AMG seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and limited-slip differential.

Local deliveries start in the middle of next year for the 315km/h coupe, according to Mercedes-Benz passenger cars chief, Horst Von Sanden. However, Von Sanden expects global demand to be greater than the planned output.

"We want to maintain exclusivity," he says.

The new-age gullwing's $500,000-plus price will makes it even more expensive than the $492,331 SL65 AMG.

Ferrari 458 Italia

There’s a new prancing horse and it's called the Italia. Ferrari's F458 Italia is the newest Italian supercar to carry the famous badge.

The red-blooded F458 aired earlier this week in production-ready form as a successor to the F430. Already Ferrari is saying the Italia's performance will be as good, or better, than the lightweight 430 Scuderia. That means owners can expect a top speed beyond 330km/ h and a 0-100km/h time well under four seconds.

The Australian importer, European Automotive Imports, says more than 24 potential buyers are already lining up.

"We are into double figures on orders. As soon as there was even a hint there was a new car coming we were contacted by enthusiastic owners keen to move up to the latest model," spokesman, Edward Rowe, says.

However, entry into the Ferrari club will be exclusive, and expensive. The F458 is expected to cost more than $450,000 in Australia when it arrives in the second half of 2010.

The mechanical package of the F458 - its name comes from the 4.5- litre, eight-cylinder engine - is familiar to anyone who has tracked Ferrari history since the 308.

It is a mid-engined car with a V8 motor and rear-wheel drive. The F458 will sit alongside the California and below the V12 models in the Ferrari family.

The car gets its first official airing at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.

Full details are being kept secret until then but some things are obvious from the pictures.

The F458 is considerably lower than the 430 and it has lost the signature side vents for the cooling system. It is also stripped of any sort of wings or spoilers.

Space has also been created in the tail for a large diffuser by siting the exhaust high in the back end. But the pictures show three pipes, pointing to an active exhaust which switches mode depending on speed and load.

The F458 will take electronics to the next level, with more driver adjustment of the chassis and engine parameters, including stability control.

Audi R8 5.2

If you think the R8's 4.2-litre V8 is a little on the lean side when it comes to performance, say hello to the 5.2-litre V10. The two extra cylinders in the newest muscular Audi will help push the pricetag north of $330,000 when the V10 hits the road here next month.

Not surprisingly the engine has been borrowed from the Audi-owned Lamborghini group's Gallardo supercar.

In the R8, the V10 develops 386kW/530Nm and is mated to Audi's expected technologies such as quattro permanent all-wheel drive, magnetic ride control and lightweight aluminium body that tips the scales around 1600kg. This means the car will reach 100kmh in 3.9 seconds and like the Ferrari and SLS, joins the 300km/h club.

The V10 takes its cues from Audi's great motorsport tradition, which means it will sing right up to 8700 revs through its six-speed manual gearbox or optional R-tronic sequential gearbox.

A launch control program is also available with both transmissions to catapult the car forward from a standing start. The quattro permanent all-wheel drive system delivers most of the power to the rear wheels.

Despite the extra bulk of the V10 sitting behind the seats, the R8 5.2's weight distribution is 44/56 per cent front to rear.

Visually there's little to distinguish the V8 from the V10, apart from the innovative all-LED lights and 19-inch 10-spoke Y-design alloys.

The car is luxuriously equipped with heated Nappa leather seats, navigation system, Bang & Olufsen sound system and automatic air conditioning.

Peugeot RCZ

Although the SLS and Ferrari rank as dream machines, Peugeot's RCZ fits the category of being an affordable coupe. The sleek 2+2 borrows some cues from the Audi TT and arrives around July next year.

Enthusiasts can expect pricing well under the $70,000 Audi TT.

Peugeot has been able to keep the production car very close in looks to the concept, with its sweeping alloy roof rails and bubble-top roof. The general manager, director of Peugeot Automobiles Australia, Ken Thomas, says the RCZ represents a huge opportunity for the brand as a true halo car.

"The RCZ got a lot of attention when it was unveiled as a concept car and we are confident it will receive even more attention on the road," he says.

"Peugeot has definitely maintained the spirit and flair of that original design."

The RCZ will use a range of 1.6-litre four cylinder turbo petrol and diesel engines when it goes on sale. The concept was first unveiled at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show in 2007.

Honda CR-Z

The CR-Z is proof that hybrids can be racy. CR-Z stands for Compact Renaissance Zero - and according to Honda is designed to capture the idea of a design renaissance for compact sportscars combined with the arrival of new drive systems like hybrid power.

Details are still sketchy but the two-door coupe could use a 1.5-litre four cylinder mated to the Insight's hybrid powertrain when it goes on sale in Japan early next year with other markets to follow.

Honda Australia is looking at the CR-Z with interest. Spokesman, Mark Higgins, says he is confident it will arrive here but is reluctant to put a timeframe on the sporty hatch.

"It largely depends on production schedules in Japan and the take up in other markets," he says.

But its lighter weight and advanced engineering materials are expected to deliver a faster and more agile car, in keeping with its sports credentials. For its frontal view, an over-sized grill with a high-performance look is offset by openings on each side that lighten the overall feel.

In the rear, tube-shaped rear combination lamps ensure better rearward visibility.

Design details include LED eyebrow headlights and tail-lights. The rear hatch also incorporates a wagon-like glass window. The concept's large, 19-inch wheels and ultra-thin rear view mirrors are not expected to make it into showrooms though.

Honda says like the exterior, the production CR-Z's cabin will be a mix of hi-tech with sporty touches. From next year 10 per cent of the company's global output will be hybrids.

This makes the arrival of the sporty CR-Z the perfect springboard for the company's hybrid expansion.

 

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