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2002 NEW-MODEL PREVIEW

It's Full Speed Ahead for 2002 Car Models

November 14, 2001

The 2002 model year offers 47 brands and hundreds of choices to consider. Whether you're in the market or just looking, here's our take on the best of what's new and notable, compiled by Times staff writers John O'Dell in Southern California and Terril Yue Jones in Detroit.

Acura

CL luxury coupe, TL and RL luxury sedans, RSX compact hatchback, NSX exotic coupe, MDX luxury sport-utility vehicle; http://www.acura.com.

Honda Motor Co.'s luxury division adds the RSX as a replacement for the aging Integra. But the new entry will come only as a two-door hatchback, no sedan. Honda says it is tuned to maintain the same snappy response and high degree of control as the Civic, whose platform it shares, and early reviewers seem to agree.

The base RSX, starting about $20,000, comes with a 2.0-liter, 160-horsepower inline-4 engine with the intelligent valve timing system Honda calls i-VTEC. Acura turns up the heat with the RSX Type-S, a $23,200 performance model with a six-speed manual transmission and a staggering 200 horsepower from a retuned version of that same 2.0-liter engine.

Elsewhere in the lineup, the mid-engine NSX, the world's most underappreciated exotic, gets a minor face-lift but no mechanical changes; those are waiting until the completely revised 2004 model hits the streets, possibly with a 4.0-liter V-8.

Aston Martin

DB7 Vantage exotic coupe and Volante convertible, Vanquish exotic coupe; http://www.astonmartin.com.

James Bond's favorite car (that's the movie Bond--in the Ian Fleming novels the secret agent drove a supercharged Bentley) comes in just three flavors for 2002, but what flavors they are.

The newcomer is the $228,000 Vanquish, a long, low, lean machine of carbon fiber, aluminum, composite plastics and steel, with the body--and stance--of a well-muscled sprinter. Think Flo-Jo with a British accent. The 190-mph, 460-horsepower, V-12-powered model uses a six-speed manual transmission that works in automatic mode or is shifted, sans clutch, by racing-type paddles mounted on the steering wheel.

Aston Martin drops the base model from the DB7 line, but keeps the $145,000 V-12 Vantage coupe and the $155,000 V-12 Volante convertible.

An $80,000-or-so baby Aston is coming in 2003--unless the new bosses at Ford Motor Co. decide to rethink the strategy for their Premier Automotive Group, to which Aston Martin belongs. It's all part of a plan to ensure that Aston Martin dealers in the U.S. have something to sell as their numbers swell to 40 from 26 in the next few years.

Audi

A4, S4 mid-size luxury sedan and sport sedan; All-Road Quattro luxury wagon; A6, S6 Avant full-size luxury sedan and wagon; A8, S8 full-size luxury sedan and sport sedan; TT coupe and roadster; http://www.audiusa.com.

A longer, completely redesigned A4 went on sale in October with a new 30-valve V-6 engine (3.0 liters, 220 horsepower, up from the heavier 2.8-liter, 190-horse version). The A4 also gets a 1.8-liter, 170-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder and is available with Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive. Roomier than its predecessor, the new A4 has an available continuously variable transmission for imperceptible gear shifting. The new line starts at $25,000.

Rounding out the performance S-Series, the 2002 S6 Avant sport wagon went on sale recently, churning out 340 horsepower from its 4.2-liter V-8.

Several Audi models also get OnStar service from General Motors; the system provides navigation, concierge services and hands-free telephoning.

Bentley

Arnage Red Label exotic sedan, Continental R exotic coupe, Azure exotic convertible; http://www.rolls-royceandbentley.co.uk.

There are no major changes to Bentley's 2002 lineup of exotic cars, which sell for $214,000 to $370,000. The real news is a year away, with the arrival of a range of more affordable 2003 cars, starting with the GT Coupe.

The 2003s will constitute the company's first all-new entries since its sale by BMW of Germany, with the Britons going independent as Bentley Motors Inc. at the factory in Crewe, England. The Germans will take over Rolls-Royce and move production to a new factory under construction in Britain, with an all-new BMW-designed lineup of Rolls-Royces for the '03 model year.

BMW

Mini subcompact; 3-Series luxury convertible, coupe, sedan and wagon; 5-Series luxury sedan and wagon; M3 luxury convertible and coupe; 7-Series luxury sedan; Z3 and Z8 sports cars; X5 luxury SUV; http://www.bmwusa.com.

A completely redesigned 7-Series line arrives in January, its most notable features being high-tech. A bulky knob that can be pushed in, up/down and left/right or spun to make selections controls most of the car's internal functions, from climate control to navigation. The line also sports what BMW calls the world's first six-speed automatic transmission.

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