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US:Future Shock!

Future Shock!

By Editors of Motor Trend
Photography by the Manufacturers & the author
Motor Trend

First Drive: Aston Martin AMV8
Flat-out through Dubai

By Ben Whitworth
Photography by Dougie Firth
Motor Trend

We can't believe our eyes. The wheelbarrow man came out of nowhere, his hunched-over form wobbling and wavering in the thick and oily heat haze that can only be found in deserts of the Middle East. Chris Porritt and I crane forward in our seats at the unbelievable sight. Flying along the Dubai highway at 177 mph in Aston Martin's new AMV8, the last thing we expect--or need--to see is a half-dazed man pushing a straw-laden wheelbarrow across the four-laner.

Chris doesn't back off for a second. A slight jink, the Aston's nose moves cleanly left, then right, carving a neat arc around the jaywalker, and we bullet safely past him leaving nothing but scattered sand and the AMV8's howling exhaust note in our wake. Porritt, Aston Martin's vehicle engineering manager and AMV8 test guru, grins at me. "Welcome to Dubai, home of the weird and the wonderful."

We're here to spy on Aston Martin, riding shotgun with the company's engineers as they put the AMV8--the company's newest model--through the final stages of its hot-weather testing. It's all very hush-hush: The car is a good six months away from its production debut, and there's still fine-tuning and tweaking to be done.

Time to head portside to Dubai's Free Trade area. Passing through numerous early-morning security checks, we eventually pull up in front of a characterless Ford training building. And there, sitting in the back workshop, is the AMV8. It's dirty, dented, wearing well-scuffed alloys and other signs of neglect as only the ravages of the desert and plenty of abuse can render.

And it's priceless.

It's one of 15 handbuilt AMV8 prototypes Aston Martin will use to develop the production-ready car. Secreted in the coupe's boot is a large and constantly humming silver box fed by a medusa's head of curling green cabling that leads off to hundreds of monitors. Every two seconds, this brain calibrates and calculates the Aston's actions and reactions to the heat. If this Orwellian brain doesn't know something about the car, it's not worth knowing.

Despite the soaring mercury, Porritt and his team have a relatively short "heat window" in which to operate. Between noon and three in the afternoon is when temperatures will be at their highest--110 to 125o F--and when testing takes place. So it's a quick exit from the rear of the warehouse and then out and away from Dubai toward Abu Dhabi.

It may appear dog-eared, but the AMV8 is still sensuously good looking. The proportions are nearly perfect, balancing the lithe lines of the larger DB9 with a slightly more muscular, broad-shouldered mien.

Porritt knows the AMV8 will sell on its looks alone, but he couldn't care less about style and design at this juncture: "This car is all about handling and ride. Those are the criteria by which the AMV8 will be judged once people dig below the surface."

Carving quickly through the midmorning traffic, the Aston sounds superb. Its 4.3-liter V-8 emits a lovely three-dimensional woofle at low revs that hardens to a crisp and edgy wail at the redline.

"It's not just an off-the-shelf Jaguar engine with a snappier exhaust, you know," says Porritt. "It has a unique block, heads, pistons, rods, and cams. And, of course, it's dry-sumped so we can mount it lower in the chassis for better weight distribution." It drives the rear wheels through a special Graziano manual gearbox fitted with six closely stacked ratios to further enhance performance.

There's no word yet on performance figures but the car feels Porsche 911 fast--good for a 0-to-60-mph sprint time of around five seconds and a 175-mph top speed. "We drove a lot of rival cars, but rather than benchmark any particular one, we took a number of different cars, looked at what they did best, and tried to bring together these elements into the Aston," explains Porritt. That list included the Porsche 911 Turbo, Ferrari 360 Modena, Lamborghini Gallardo, and Noble M12.

The ride quality is similar to the DB9's: a bit more stiff-jointed and abrupt at lower speeds, but it smooths out as speeds rise, flowing across the tarmac and feeling fluid and composed. There's a slight brittleness when dealing with ridges and expansion joints, but Porritt claims that some tweaks to the bespoke Michelin run-flat tires will improve things. "It might need a bit more than that, but we'll see as we drive more developed versions."

While the ride, handling, and performance characteristics are indicative of the real thing, the mule's rough and ready interior is an eyesore. There's a lot of exposed bodywork, the gearshift works through a naked gate, and the center console is covered in nonstandard toggle switches and dials. And key areas of the cabin and exterior--door handles, air vents, windscreen, and transmission tunnel--are dotted with stick-on thermometers for quick heat reference points. But the interior is functional, for sure.

Crucially, however, the air-conditioning works, and it has to work hard. Turn off the engine, kill the flow of arctic air pumping out into the cabin, and within seconds the interior is unbearably hot. Get out of the car, and it's like stepping into a sauna--except the humidity is hovering around 85 percent. Truly uncomfortable.

The intelligent sharing of componentry between the AMV8 and recently launched DB9 means much of the development work has already been carried out, saving valuable time in getting the smaller, more volume-driven Aston to market. Porritt reckons that with AMV8 production in full stride annual Aston sales will reach 5000. Not bad for a company that a little over a decade ago could count car production on both hands. Out of the haze looms Al Ain, a huge rocky outcrop that rises 5000 feet above the flat and otherwise featureless desert plain. The empty road that snakes its way up its north face is a 20-minute full-throttle race to the top. Chris pulls up at the base of the climb, flicks on the large, dash-mounted toggle switch to activate the telemetry, and then fires the compact Aston up the hill.

Pushing hard up the mountain, this development mule feels taut and wieldy, spearing through corners with poise and stability and whipping along the straights between them with venom. It puts its power down cleanly. But there's a surprising amount of front tire squeal through some of the slower corners. "We set up the prototype cars to understeer much more than the production car," explains Porritt. "Because they're valuable, they have to last. The last thing we want is to bend them." This explains this prototype's full rollcage.

We reach the mountain top, park, and leave the car running in the direct sun, letting the Aston's monitors measure heat-soak levels. We repeat the run, this time at crawling speed in second and third gears--called the dawdle test--torturing the car by starving it of even the slightest cooling breeze.

With the data downloaded onto a laptop, it's time to head onto the main highway leading out of Abu Dhabi. It runs for over 100 smooth and gently undulating miles, and Porritt's team has the blessing of the local police chief to drive as quickly as they can along it.

And quick the Aston is, rocketing to an indicated 170 mph with ease and settling back to swallow one quick mile after another. After 15 minutes, Porritt peels off the highway and kills the engine immediately. I wince. This car has gone from giving everything to getting nothing in 10 seconds. Chris laughs at my discomfort. "It has to be done because this is what some drivers might do. We have to cover every contingency."

We repeat the exercise twice and then do a further three top-speed runs, this time letting the car idle in the searing sun for half an hour at the end of each lap. The Aston never misses a beat--the needles on the oil and water temperature and pressure gauges sit firmly in the green.

It's three in the afternoon, and the sun is still blistering hot, but the team calls it a day. Despite such a small operating window, over the next eight weeks Porritt's group will rack up 20,000 miles in this car, constantly recording its every tire turn.

"That's the great thing about testing in Dubai--apart from the ridiculously low cost of the fuel here--this is our most climatically challenged market," explains Porritt. "Getting the AMV8 to operate in these conditions is the toughest test. If it can work here, it'll work anywhere."

Aston Martin's Top-Five Test Spots

1. Nardo, Fattizze, Italy
Aston Martin engineers will head down to the heel of Italy to blast their test cars around Nardo's 7.8-mile-long high-speed bowl to check top speed stability and endurance.

2. Yucca, Arizona, United States
Arizona's hot and arid conditions make it the perfect environment for Aston Marton technicians and engineers to set, measure, and check powertrain calibrations under duress.

3. Nuerburgring, Trier, Germany
Like almost every other manufacturer, Aston hones its cars around the Green Hell--the tortuous and demanding 13-mile-long circuit in Germany's Eifel forest. Any car that feels good around here will make short work of any public road.

4. Jokkmokk, Sweden
The Swedish market town of Jokkmokk lies just within the Arctic Circle, and during midwinter, temperatures plunge to an average of 2*F--cold with a capital C and perfect for winter testing.

5. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai offers a different kind of heat. Compared with Yucca's high bone-dry temperatures, Dubai adds saturation levels of humidity. It's also closer to Europe, fuel is dirt cheap, and the roads are top-notch.

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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Re: US:Future Shock!

Future Shock!

By Editors of Motor Trend
Photography by the Manufacturers & the author
Motor Trend

First Look: 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac Concept
Sport/utility truck, take 2

By Todd Lassa
Photography by the Manufacturer
Motor Trend, March 2005

Ford's original sport/utility truck, introduced four years ago, has not gone away--it just got lost in the shuffle. The Sport Trac launched one of the fastest growing segments in the industry, according to its maker, but the six-cylinder-only Sport Trac quickly got left behind in the Avalanche.

The current Sport Trac is based on the crude, aging Ranger platform, itself a pickup truck that has suffered several delays in getting a replacement. Ford's solution, as hinted with this Detroit auto-show concept, is the obvious answer: base the next Sport Trac on the current Explorer. Not quite a chopped-off roof like the Hummer H2 SUT, the 2007 Sport Trac should be more memorable as a truck smartly derived from Ford's top-selling SUV. The concept is in custom street-rod form with shaved-off door handles, lowered suspension, and 21-inch wheels. And it ditches the 4.0-liter V-6 for the Explorer's 4.6-liter V-8 engine. Exterior panels are clean and simple, with neat wraparound taillamps.

The truck's independent rear suspension also is from the Explorer, which gets its own major reworking for 2006 on the current Explorer/Mercury Mountaineer platform. The Sport Trac concept further hints at some of the sheetmetal and interior changes for the Explorer in late 2005, including an F-150-like grille and interior. The Sport Trac is nearly five inches longer, two inches wider, and two inches lower than the 2005 model, although production models probably will sit as high. Inside, it has two rows of captain's chairs with a front- and rear-center console. No Midgate, though.

The concept has Roll Stability Control, a Volvo safety technology with a gyroscopic sensor that determines body-roll angle and roll rate, which Ford promises to sell in more than 500,000 SUVs by the end of 2005. Expect the original Sport Trac's color-coordinated cargo box and tubular bed extender to make it into the 2007 model as well as the 4.0-liter V-6 as the standard engine to keep the base price in the $20s. With nearly everything else in the truck being upgraded, the pioneer of this segment should become much less anonymous and more popular than the competitors that followed it to market.

2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac
Base price (est) $37,000 (4WD V-8)
Vehicle layout Front engine, RWD or 4WD, 4-door, 5-pass pickup
Engine type 90* V-8, aluminum block/heads, SOHC, 2 valves/cyl
Displacement, ci/cc 281.0 / 4605
Max horsepower SAE net 239 @ 4000 rpm
Max torque SAE net, lb-ft 282 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Curb weight, lb (est) 4300
0-60 mph, sec (est) 10.0
EPA mpg, city/hwy (est) Not yet rated
On sale in U.S. Autumn 2006

2007 Ford Fairlane

Squaring off against the rounder crossovers

"Upright and upscale" is the look designers were going for in this concept, which is intended to plug a gap--if there is one--between Ford's Escape and Freestyle. We see a Scion xB expanded to fit three rows of seats. In a triumph of added complexity over customer need, the tailgate flips down or swings open from either side.
On sale: A Mazda6-based crossover this size arrives for 2007

First Look: 2006 Ford Fusion

Taking on Accord. Again

By Frank Markus
Photography by the Manufacturers
Motor Trend, March 2005

One of the most hotly contested segments in the dwindling passenger-car market is that of the midsize family sedan. About 2.2 million are sold each year, and Honda, Toyota, and Nissan cash in on nearly half the profits with their Accord, Camry, and Altima. Ford Division's antediluvian Taurus hasn't been a serious retail player for years. And Ford's freshly minted Five Hundred is too large; its former Contour too small. This fall, Ford finally will join the fray with the square-shouldered Fusion.

Inspired by the show-stopping V-10-powered 427 concept car of 2003, the Fusion's look is described by designer Peter Horbury as "bold but not brash or noisy." Its overall countenance is confidently American, though we wish that more of the perhaps brash and noisy details of the show car had survived the transition down to this smaller Mazda6-based package. The "squircle" (round-cornered square) shapes framing the headlamps, taillamps, gauges, and door-panel inserts surely could've been worked in and would lend greater distinction than the pan-Asian solutions that made the final cut.

Beneath these skin-deep style issues lies some impressive substance. The front-suspension hardware resembles that of a Mercedes E-Class, using a control arm, lateral link, and leading link with geometry that reduces the effective scrub radius for improved steering feel and accuracy. On paper, this setup, plus the multilink rear suspension conceivably could deliver best-in-class handling. Four-wheel disc brakes will be standard on all models; ABS and traction control are options.

The choice of all-aluminum DOHC engines includes the Focus's 2.3-liter four tuned for 160 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque and the 3.0-liter V-6 rated at 210 horses and 207 pound-feet. Both employ variable intake-valve timing, and the four adds a swirl valve to broaden the torque curve. Each engine gets the vibration-isolation benefit of hydraulic mounts--a rarity in the class. The competitor's V-6 variants will all out-power the Fusion (not expected to weigh much less). Astute gearing might save the day, however, as Ford trumps all rivals with a six-speed Aisin automatic (optional on four-cylinders).

Another area where Ford invites unflattering comparison is in its interior space, where most major dimensions fall short of the Asian bogeys, some by up to two inches. Considering that the Contour flunked out of the U.S. market largely because it was too small, and the Mazda6 has been criticized for its tighter fit, we would've expected Ford to have taffy-pulled the Mazda's sheetmetal a bit more; yet when actually sitting in the car, it feels roomy enough for most. Interior color and trim options include monochrome (black or beige) and two-tone (combination of the two) upholstery and fake wood or "piano black" (marketing-speak for high-gloss black plastic) trim for the doors and dash. Top models get charcoal leather with oatmeal stitching.

Ford aims to lure buyers with a more emotional, better-driving car priced below the top dogs. Let's hope the engineers have delivered on the promise of that superb hardware.

2006 Ford Fusion
Base price (est) $16,000-$20,000
Vehicle layout Front engine, FWD, 4-door, 5-pass sedan
Engine type I-4, aluminum block/head, DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
Displacement, ci/cc 137.6 / 2261
Max horsepower SAE net 160 @ 6000 rpm
Max torque SAE net, lb-ft 154 @ 4250 rpm
Optional engin 60° V-6, aluminum block/heads, DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
Displacement, ci/cc 181.0 / 2967
Max horsepower SAE net 210 @ 6000 rpm
Max torque SAE net, lb-ft 207 @ 4500 rpm
Transmissions 5-speed manual; 6-speed automatic
Curb weight, lb (est) 3100-3300
0-60 mph, sec (est) 7.0-8.5
EPA mpg, city/hwy (est) 23/31; 21/28
On sale in U.S. Fall 2005

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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Re: US:Future Shock!

Future Shock!

By Editors of Motor Trend
Photography by the Manufacturers & the author
Motor Trend

First Drive: 2005 Ford Mustang GT Convertible
Drop the top. Let's ride

By Matt Stone
Photography by John Kiewicz
Motor Trend, March 2005

"Oh. My. God. That is soooooooooo cool!" She was hanging half out the window of her Tahoe. Smile beaming, hair whipping in the wind. I thought she was going to jump in for a ride--which would've been fine. Such is life when you're piloting a brilliant-red Mustang drop-top. Soon, you'll be able to get The New Mustang in convertible form.

Powertrains, equipment levels, and critical dimensions are shared with the 2005 Mustang coupe. Ford engineers further stiffened the coupe's chassis to make up for the rigidity lost in an open-topped configuration. The result is a foundation with twice the torsional stiffness of the outgoing 1999-2004 Mustang convertible's--much needed, as that car would shake itself silly over a nasty railroad crossing. Bending rigidity is up 25 percent, too. The suspension is recalibrated for a slightly softer ride, given the convertible's more cruise-oriented mission in life.

The fully lined top is covered in a rich yet durable-looking synthetic cloth and is of a Z-fold design, which allows it to fit in a smaller space than that of conventional convertible tops. The rear window is heated glass. Ford paid particular attention to managing wind noise and water sealing; the windows drop about a quarter inch when the door is open, then the glass slides up next to the seal when closed. To lower the top, release a lever at the top of each A-pillar, and hit the button. It takes about 13 seconds with the windows down. Overall weight increases by about 120 pounds over a comparably equipped coupe.

Ford did some homework and learned that clumsy, vinyl tonneau covers end up in one of two places: the garage or the trunk. So the design team took extra measures to ensure that the top bows are hidden and the front end of the top rests aft of the rear seat when the top is lowered, creating a neat, mostly covered look. If you want an even nicer place for the prom queen to sit during the parade, there's an optional tonneau cover.

First impressions indicate a job well done. Wind noise and buffeting levels--even at 70 mph--allow normal conversation and better-than-average hairdo retention. Chassis-stiffening measures, which include several structural members to fight shake, are effective; only the nastiest bumps and road acne will make it wiggle, and then only a little. Defining any performance differences will have to wait until we get the convertible to the track, but the added weight and softer suspension take a smidgeon of edge off the driving experience. Ford should consider making the GT coupe's calibrations optional for those who value performance over ride quality, but most customers will feel this state of tune is fine.

Since 1964, Ford has built and sold more than one million Mustang convertibles. No reason to stop now.

2005 Ford Mustang GT Convertible
Base price (est) $31,000
Vehicle layout Front engine, RWD, 2-door, 5-pass convertible
Engine type 90* V-8, aluminum block/heads, SOHC, 3 valves/cyl
Displacement, ci/cc 280.8 / 4601
Max horsepower SAE net 300 @ 5750 rpm
Max torque SAE net, lb-ft 320 @ 4500 rpm
Transmissions 5-speed manual; 5-speed automatic
Curb weight, lb (est) 3650
0-60 mph, sec (est) 5.8
EPA mpg, city/hwy 16/24
On sale in U.S. Spring 2005

First Look: Mustang GT-R
Suddenly, it's 1970

By Matt Stone
Photography by John Kiewicz
Motor Trend, March 2005

Any racing fool worth his die-cast-model collection remembers the Grabber Orange, Bud Moore-built Mustang Boss 302s that Parnelli Jones and George Follmer used to crash and bash their way to the SCCA Trans-Am championship in 1970. Ford celebrates these cars--and the Mustang's 40th anniversary--with the Mustang GT-R, a "what if?" club-racer concept that has the look and the moves.

Ford Motorsport Archive The GT-R began life as a 2005 GT body-in-white, receiving a serious but straightforward conversion to race-car spec. Power comes from a 5.0-liter, 440-horse, aluminum DOHC V-8 crate motor from the Ford Racing catalog. Suspension, rollcage, brakes, and rolling stock are all legit track hardware. The paint--now called Valencia Orange--body mods, carbon-fiber trim, and tinwork are Concours quality; the GT-R was developed at the Saleen Special Vehicles facility where the Ford GT is assembled.

Words can't describe this car's bark and rumble (insert "whumpa whummmmmpaa-a-a-a!" noises here). It feels about 350 horses, but sounds 550's worth. While the acceleration was less than expected, the handling proved more: flat, neutral, lots of stick, and with sharp turn-in.

The GT-R would be an ideal weekend track toy. They could build and sell these. And should.

Ford Motorsport Archive

First Look: 2007 Ford Shelby GR-1
A legend digitally remastered and repackaged for the 21st century

By Angus MacKenzie
Photography by James Brown
Motor Trend, March 2005

It shimmers in the studio like liquid mercury, the light flowing effortlessly across the highly polished aluminum panels. Long, long hood, hip-high roofline, cabin set hard back against the rear wheels, stubby Kamm tail--it hits all the right hot buttons with a collection of cues straight out of Sports Car Design 101. We've seen the shape before, in the form of a full-size silver-painted clay model unveiled at last year's Pebble Beach Concours. But not like this. In gloriously naked metal, with a real interior and, soon, a real running engine, Ford's Shelby GR-1 is, quite simply, drop-dead gorgeous.

But is the GR-1 the real deal? Or just another Detroit show-pony? Well, it's built on exactly the same chassis as the Cobra roadster unveiled at the 2004 Detroit show, which means it uses a lot of ready-made suspension and chassis hardware from the mid-engine Ford GT, plus the Cobra's thundering 6.4-liter, 605-horsepower V-10 and six-speed manual transmission. Ford execs admitted the Cobra was production feasible. Ask the inevitable about the GR-1, and Dearborn insiders will say, yes, it could also be built. But they insist no decision on a production version has been made.

Center stack shape, steering-wheel design, and even the vent openings are all clever riffs on the famous Cobra logo.

It sounds like the usual PR spin that surrounds any number of concept cars. But what if we told you Ford has done a full engineering feasibility study on the car? If Ford management presses the go button, a production version of the GR-1 would get a new chassis with the wheelbase stretched almost three inches to accommodate a 20-gallon fuel tank between the seats and the rear shock towers. The A-pillars would be pulled slightly more upright and the roof raised 1.6 inches to move the front-header rail away from the occupants' heads to meet safety regulations. And the show car's V-10 will be replaced by the oft-rumored 7.0-liter "Hurricane" V-8 pumping out more than 600 horsepower and more than 500 pound-feet of torque.

Using the V-8 rather than the V-10 means marginally better weight distribution--47.6 percent front and 52.4 percent rear versus 48.3 percent front and 52.4 percent rear. You only have to look at the cars the GR-1's engineers are using as benchmarks--Ferrari 612 Scaglietti and Mercedes SLR McLaren, both of which have rear-set front engines--to see where they're heading in terms of handling. Target weight for the production version is 3450 to 3550 pounds (the GT weighs 3480 pounds), and the key performance targets are 0-to-60 mph in under 3.9 seconds, 0-to-100 mph in under 8.0, and a standing quarter mile in better than 11.9 at 126. Yeah, it's going to be fast.

It looks stunning, has the right hardware, and carries the legendary Shelby name. If you have an ounce of gasoline in your veins, you're probably already wondering how you can sell the kids and raid the 401K to raise the ready cash. So what's stopping Ford? "We still haven't made a business case for this thing," insists Ford design chief J Mays. "We've made the announcement that we have a relationship with Carroll, that we're going to put his name on a couple of products--and I'm sure you can guess what the other one might be," he adds with a big grin. Uh, that wouldn't be the Shelby Mustang, would it, J?

A key piece of the puzzle, says Mays, is the Ford GT. "We've got to sit down and look at the runout of the GT and what we want to do with that," he says. "We've got to put the final numbers together on how this would fit into things as a potential replacement." With GTs selling faster than Ford can build them--"we sold it too cheap," grumbles one insider--the planned production run of 1500 cars will finish much sooner than expected, leaving the small manufacturing facility specially set up at Wixom, Michigan, with nothing to make. Because it uses a lot of GT parts and requires similar low- volume manufacturing techniques, building the GR-1 there "obviously makes a lot of sense when you think about it," Mays admits.

It sounds like a no-brainer, especially when you consider Ford's beancounters figured the company could bring a production version of the closely related Cobra roadster to market for about $110,000. But there are a couple of complications with the GR-1. First, as Mays points out, a closed coupe requires far more work on NVH suppression than an open-topped roadster. That takes time and costs money. Second, says Ford product creation chief Phil Martens, those cool scissor-hinge doors are a nightmare, requiring a lot of expensive engineering to ensure they fit properly and protect adequately in a crash.

"It's gonna be up to Phil and me," says Mays bluntly. "How badly do we want to do it?"

Let's make that decision easier for them, shall we? Let's get their boss to order them to build it. If you want Ford to produce the Shelby GR-1, send your cards and letters to Bill Ford at The Ford Motor Company, The American Road, Dearborn, Michigan 48126-2798. Ours are already in the mail.

2007 Shelby GR-1
Base price (est) $130,000
Vehicle layout Mid-engine, RWD, 2-door, 2-pass coupe
Engine type 90* V-8, aluminum block/heads, DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
Displacement, ci/cc 427.0 / 6997
Max horsepower SAE net 600+ @ 6500 rpm
Max torque SAE net, lb-ft 500+ @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual
Curb weight, lb (est) 3450-3550
0-60 mph, sec (est) 3.9
EPA mpg, city/hwy Not yet rated
On sale in U.S. Late 2006

Okay, Okay, So You Didn'T Like Der Cobra
Does the Shelby GR-1 owe its existence to the lukewarm reaction the world's media gave the Cobra concept at the 2004 Detroit Show? Well, sort of, says J Mays (top).

"We said we didn't want to go retro with the Cobra in the way that we did with the GT because we were just going to end up with a kit car. Although I still really like the car, when we finished it we sort of stood back and said 'you know, it's like a Cobra TT. It's just too German looking.' Almost everyone agreed, including me, that it wasn't voluptuous enough."

"We wanted to come back and show that we can do big, fluid, voluptuous,

wonderful, organic shapes, and that we can do them fresh."

"Is there a Cobra coupe influence in the GR-1? Yeah, I suppose there's a knowing wink to it in the tail, but everything else is different. It's got some 1970s Italian influence in it as well--there's a lot of linearity and sheerness to it that you might find on Maseratis from that era. There's some DeTomaso Mangusta in there, too."

"But I wouldn't call this car retro. I'd call it bloody modern."

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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Re: US:Future Shock!

Future Shock!

By Editors of Motor Trend
Photography by the Manufacturers & the author
Motor Trend

Spied!: 2006 Jaguar XK8
More than a reskinned cat

By Paul Horrell
Photography by the author
Motor Trend, March 2005

The disguise doesn't entirely do its job: Underneath is a lean and mean cat, the 2006 XK8--it'll be lighter, faster, and quicker on its feet than the current edition. Jaguar sources say the car will outgun a Mercedes-Benz SL500 in standard guise and, in supercharged XKR form, is quicker than the savagely fast SL55 AMG. How? By keeping the pounds off. The shell is aluminum, as per the XJ8 sedan. The base car will weigh in around 3500 pounds, a good 500 pounds under the SL500.

The shape of the shell is critical. It's the first from-scratch Jaguar by design-director Ian Callum, who also did the current (and gorgeous) Aston Martins. Customers may be tiring of Jaguar's retro look; Callum tells us new Jaguars will sport simple structured lines, taut surfaces, and a big-wheeled stance. The XK8's side-window graphic is reminiscent of the current car's, but stretched and tightened. The wheels have been pushed out, and the wheelbase lengthened, helping cornering and interior space--the latter is certainly needed. The oval radiator grille of the current car is retained, but simplified. And, if it's like an XKE's, no one's complaining.

One major departure is that the car is a hatchback. You can see it here: The rear decklid would be too short to allow anything other than a slot-like opening if a conventional trunklid were fitted. But the cabriolet version can't have a hatch, so the two variants will be more different from the current generation. And it's a soft-top, by the way, not a folding hardtop.

Because lighter weight improves performance, Jaguar sees no need for more than 10 to 20 horsepower extra from the 4.2-liter engines, to around 310 and 410 horsepower, unblown and blown. An active muffler system is being evaluated to pass driveby-noise requirements, yet still deliver a heady rumble when you're on the gas. Capacity remains at 4.2 liters, and the six-speed transmission continues to serve. Suspension is via upper/lower control arms, but using steel coils rather than the XJ's air springs. The firm's CATS adaptive damping system will be standard.

Prices won't rise much from the current $70K to $90K range. Jaguar stores are too quiet right now, but a dazzling new sporting model should wake things up.

2006 Jaguar XK Series
Base price (est) $70,000-$90,000
Vehicle layout Front engine, RWD, 2-door, 4-pass coupe/convertible
(Opt) engine type (Superch'd) 90* V-8, alum block/heads, DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
Displacement, ci/cc 255.2 / 4182
Max horsepower SAE net 410 @ 6000 rpm
Max torque SAE net, lb-ft 399 @ 4100 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight, lb (est) 3500
0-60 mph, sec (est) 4.9-5.5
EPA mpg, city/hwy (est) 19/25
On sale in U.S. Summer 2006

First Look: 2006 Lincoln Zephyr
Is Ford just blowing hot air?

By Frank Markus
Photography by the Manufacturer
Motor Trend, March 2005

The Zephyr is one of five new Lincolns that'll arrive in the next five years in hopes of driving Lincoln-Mercury sales from 300,000 to the half-million mark. It's good to see the parent company feeding the languishing Mercury brand, but one wonders whether sufficient luxury can be applied to a small, mechanically unaltered midsize Ford to drive the Lincoln brand in the direction it's trying to head. The decision to apply an ancient Lincoln moniker to a new car with no retro flourishes is another curiosity.

The original 1939 Zephyr was a knockout trendsetter, an article of automotive couture. This one isn't. Exterior styling is clean and convincingly differentiated from the Fusion's, incorporating Lincoln's angled waterfall grille and projector-beam headlamps, but it'll generate no car-guy watercooler buzz. Inside, the Fusion's already handsome interior trim is significantly upgraded with light-wood and satin-nickel trim, intense white LED gauge lighting, and more.

Ritzy optional equipment, like THX-II surround-sound audio and DVD-based navigation with a large 6.5-inch display, helps to further sweeten the pot. But with all the different variants of the Duratec V-6 available in the FoMoCo cupboard, it seems unfortunate that one making a few more ponies wasn't fitted to help more customers justify the couple thousand dollar price premium over Zephyr's Fusion or Mazda6 siblings.

On sale: Fall 2005

Mercury Meta One
Fuel-efficient nanny

This conceptual peek at Mercury's forthcoming Freestyle twin is loaded with safety gear, including cameras and radar, which provide lane-departure warning and collision mitigation (when sensors detect an impending crash, the brakes apply to lower the impact speed). An allegedly PZEV-compliant twin-turbodiesel V-6 hybrid generates 427 pound-feet of torque and impressive (though undisclosed) fuel economy.
On sale: 2007? (sans diesel/hybrid drive)

Volvo S40 Hardtop Convertible
No rag in this ragtop

Volvo will coupify its S40 into a two-door retractable, and the Pininfarina-designed result should resemble this photo illustration. The top's operation is fully automatic, and it retracts beneath the trunklid. Wonder if a Mazda3 version will appear, as both models share Ford's excellent C1 chassis architecture.
On sale: Spring 2006

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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