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NEW-MODEL PREVIEW

A Guide to the '01s and Beyond

November 08, 2000

Acura

New: The MDX crossover vehicle--which replaces the Isuzu Trooper-based SLX--and CL coupe add needed depth and breadth to Honda Motor Co.'s luxury division.

The MDX is Acura's answer to the Lexus RX 300, and it is bigger and more powerful. Underneath its sport-utility styling, the MDX uses the Honda Odyssey minivan platform and offers the same third row of seats that tuck neatly and flatly into the floor when not in use. It also uses the Odyssey's 3.5-liter V-6 engine, but output has been goosed to 240 horsepower, up from 210 in the Honda.

Despite the added pep, the MDX is rated as an ultra-low-emissions vehicle, or ULEV. It uses a full-time all-wheel-drive system that keeps power at the front wheels unless it senses a loss of traction or when it is locked into a roughly 50-50 power split via a dashboard-mounted switch.

As with most SUV-like car-truck blends, this is really a station wagon for the wagon-averse and, except for the occasional trip down a gravel- or snow-covered path to the cabin in the woods, it should not be pressed into off-road service. Prices range from about $34,000 to $39,000.

The 2001 CL coupe was actually launched in the spring. It features a 3.2-liter, 225-horsepower V-6. Base price is about $28,000, and there's an optional 260-horse version, the 3.2CL Type S, for those willing to part with another five grand. All CLs have leather; power doors, windows, seats and sunroof; security system; and traction control. An in-dash navigation system is an option. In addition to the more-powerful engine, the extra cash for the Type S gets you bigger tires and wheels (17-inch versus the stock 16-inch rims) and a stability control system--fancy name for yaw control designed to keep the front and rear tires heading in the same direction as you use the additional ponies to pull the front-wheel drive coupe through curves and around corners.

Changes: The NSX sports car gets a 3.2-liter V-6 with 290 horsepower, up from 252 in the current 3.0-liter model.

The Rest: No other changes in the Acura lineup for this model year. The TL sedan was updated for 2000 and the rest get dealt with next year.

In the Wings: A new Integra (after three years of no changes); a possible major restyling of the NSX; and a rear-wheel-drive RL sedan with V-8 power.

Aston Martin

In the Wings: Last year we gently suggested that Cmdr. James Bond may have made the switch to BMW a bit too quickly. Now we can say so without equivocation. Aston Martin follows last year's new 420-horsepower V-12 engine with a $250,000-plus super car, the Vanquish. The leather-lined coupe, due out as a 2002 model, boosts power in the all-aluminum V-12 to 450 horses for a top speed, electronically capped by the spoilsports at the factory, at 190 mph. Can you say zero to 60 in four seconds?

Spy boss "M" might quibble about the price, but Agent 007 could get out of trouble half a second quicker in this devilishly attractive coupe than in the $130,000 BMW Z8. And at least Aston Martin--even if now part of Ford Motor Co.'s luxury brand division--is a British marque.

The Rest: The DB7 Vantage and its sibling, the DB7 Volante convertible, are unchanged for 2001.

Audi

New: Can this be considered reverse engineering? After 20 years of offering an all-wheel-drive system on its cars, Audi is finally leaving the pavement with its own version of the crossover SUV. As would be expected from this company, the new Allroad Quattro is more than an elevated station wagon. Incorporating a height-adjustable pneumatic suspension, this "sports-activity wagon" can scale hills with the ground clearance of a Land Rover Discovery or crouch down to a pavement-hugging 5.6 inches.

Power for this rough-and-ready wagon comes in the form of the Audi A6's 2.7-liter, 250-horsepower twin-turbocharged V-6 engine. Equipped with either a six-speed manual transmission or a Tiptronic five-speed automatic, the Allroad Quattro crosses the terrain on 17-inch, five-spoke wheels shod with specially designed tires. Prices start above $42,000.

On the lighter side, Audi has chopped the top off its popular TT coupe to create the 2001 TT roadster. When equipped with the optional 1.8-liter, 225-horsepower turbocharged inline-4 engine, both drop-top and coupe receive Audi's six-speed transmission coupled to the famed Quattro all-wheel-drive system.

For those soccer parents always late to the stadium, Audi offers the S4 Avant, a 250-horsepower wagon (there's that 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6 again) that also comes equipped with all-wheel-drive.

To the top of the lineup, Audi adds the S8 sedan with a high-performance 4.2-liter, 360-horse V-8 engine powering, you guessed it, the Quattro system. But the premiums do not stop there. The S8 also receives four-piston aluminum brake calipers over ventilated discs surrounded by massive 18-inch alloy wheels.

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