Raw performance on one side and common sense on the other will be two of the themes of the Geneva International Motor Show, which opens this week. The eagerly awaited annual event kicks off Europe's auto show season.
This year's roster of show stars includes Jaguar's X-Type, a new small sedan aimed at BMW 3-series buyers; Renault's Vel Satis luxury sedan, which has the Mercedes-Benz E class in focus; and the much-talked-about eight-cylinder Volkswagen Passat sedan.
In the performance lane, Aston Martin takes the wraps off the nearly 200-mph V-12 Vanquish, Ford pops the hood on the 200-plus-hp Focus RS, and Maserati flexes its muscle with the racing-ready Barchetta spyder.
But for those seeking fuel sippers, automakers will make a big splash with common-rail diesel engines, technology that provides exceptional fuel economy and acceleration across a wide range of vehicles.
The show also will be the setting for the introduction of several volume models, including the Peugeot 307, the three-door Honda Swindon, the re-engineered Smart and Mercedes A class, and the Fiat Stilo, which replaces the Italian automaker's popular Bravo and Brava.
Here's a stand-by-stand tour of this year's show as reported by Luca Ciferri, Sylviane de Saint-Seine, Wim Oude Weernink and Bradford Wernle of Automotive News Europe:
New production car: The mid-range five-door 147 hatchback arrives with an optional common-rail turbodiesel engine.
What you won't see: The revamped 156 range will bow at the Frankfurt auto show in September.
Talking point: The state of the strategic alliance with General Motors
New production car: The V-12 Vanquish is billed as the most sophisticated and technologically advanced car ever built by Aston Martin and the most expensive car produced by Ford Motor Co. Prices in the United Kingdom start at £158,000, or about $228,000. Designed by Ian Callum and powered by a 6.0-liter, 460-hp V-12, the Vanquish is capable of nearly 190 mph. It replaces the V-8 Vantage.
What you won't see: Ugly air vents. Aston Martin originally planned to show the Vanquish at the Birmingham, England, auto show last fall. But Ulrich Bez, Aston Martin's new CEO, was not satisfied with some of the details, particularly the air vents that dominated the interior.
Talking point: To get the car ready for production, Aston Martin conducted its most extensive test program in history. Fifty prototypes covered 1 million miles.
New production models: None, although Audi will show the small A2 with a 1.2-liter turbodiesel that promises about 80 mpg.
What you won't see: The production-ready Steppenwolf sport-utility; Audi still is evaluating that project.
Talking point: Will the A2 reach Audi's sales targets this year?
New concept car: Bertone's Filo is a sporty four-seater with drive-by-wire technology. It is based on the Opel Zafira platform.
New production cars: The Opel/Vauxhall Astra cabriolet
What you won't see: Gone is Bertone's long-serving CEO Paolo Caccamo, who moved to I.DE.A. Institute last summer. Caccamo was replaced by Bruno Cena, formerly director of Fiat Auto's D-vehicle platform.
Talking point: When will drive-by-wire technology appear in a production car?
New production models: BMW takes the wraps off the 3-series Compact, a small hatchback that goes on sale in June. The range will stretch from a 1.6-liter four-cylinder model to a 2.5-liter six-cylinder.
Also debuting in Geneva is an X5 sport wagon equipped with a 3.0-liter common-rail diesel and BMW's base Mini, equipped with a 90-hp gasoline engine. The Mini goes on sale in July in the United Kingdom and in September in the rest of Europe.
What you won't see: The redesigned 7 series will debut at the Frankfurt show in September.
Talking point: BMW says the new 1.8-liter Valvetronic engine in the 3 series Compact offers a 10 percent saving in fuel economy.
New production model: The Jeep Liberty debuts in Europe.
Talking point: Can Chrysler achieve its European sales target of 110,000-plus units in 2001?
New production car: The C5 station wagon goes on sale in May or June.
What you won't see: Citroen's C3, a small- to medium-sized car that goes on sale in early 2002 and occupies the slot between the Saxo and the Xsara Talking points: Will Citroen's future product return to the bold designs of its earlier days? Will the C3 replacement display as much spirit as the 2CV and DS of bygone days? For all the success of the Xsara Picasso, has Citroen regained a brand identity?
New production car: The re-engineered Guara features a 4.6-liter, 370-hp V-8 supplied by Ford.
What you won't see: The new Pantera, seen at De Tomaso's 40th anniversary celebration in September 1999
Talking point: De Tomaso has ambitious plans to build 400 V-8 Pantera and 5,000 V-6 Vallelunga models annually.
New production cars: None.
What you won't see: The FXX project, which is the virtual successor to the F40 and F50. It won't be unveiled until 2002.
New production car: The Stilo subcompact, which replaces its popular Bravo and Brava. The five-door Stilo is considerably longer and taller than the three-door model.
What you won't see: The Stilo station wagon, replacement for the Marea Weekend, is due early next year.
Talking points: Record losses at Fiat Auto. It's expected to announce an operating profit of about 30 million euros, or about $27 million, but a net loss of about $1.1 billion - the highest in its 101-year history. With the new Punto at full production, 2000 was supposed to be a turnaround year for Fiat.
New concept cars: The Vola is a spider that uses an Alfa Romeo V-6 engine, mounted longitudinally. Designer Leonardo Fioravanti offers a fresh idea: The Vola's roof folds not into the trunk (as with the Mercedes-Benz SLK) but on top of it, leaving trunk space unchanged.
Talking point: Will the Vola's roof system influence the next Alfa Spider?
New concept car: A performance concept based on the Mondeo is expected to show the direction for the Mondeo ST200 replacement.
New production cars: The Focus RS debuts at Geneva with a 200-plus-hp turbocharged Zetec engine. The car shows that Ford is serious about getting back into Europe's high-performance hatchback market. The new Ford Explorer also makes its European debut.
What you won't see: The new Fiesta, the critical vehicle in Ford's European restructuring, is expected to bow at the Frankfurt show in September.
Talking point: This show will be an important event for David Thursfield, Ford of Europe president who recently added CEO to his title. Thursfield will preside at Ford's press conference.
New production cars: Honda uses the Geneva spotlight for the world debut of the Swindon, a three-door Civic that will be assembled in England. The interior is taken from the five-door, but the unique exterior styling is aimed at younger buyers. Honda also will unveil the European version of the Stream MPV, a small minivan powered by a 1.7-liter engine. Sales begin in April
Talking point: Will the new models finally put Honda on the map in Europe?
New concept car: The KAZ is a zero-emissions stretched limousine with eight wheels, six of which are used for steering.
Worth a second look: I.DE.A. designed the Indica for Indian carmaker Tata. It finally is going on sale in Europe.
Talking point: Rieter Automotive Systems of Switzerland bought a controlling stake in I.DE.A. Institute in August 2000. What are Rieter's plans for the company?
Concept car: The Twenty-Twenty is based on the Aston Martin DB7 Vantage 5.9-liter V-12 and features an aluminum spaceframe.
What you won't see: Maserati's Spider is expected to be unveiled in the summer.
Talking point: Look for Italdesign to make acquisitions on the engineering side.
New production car: The all-wheel-drive X-Type will be the sole star of the Jaguar display.
What you won't see: Jaguar wants the spotlight solely on the X-Type, so the F-Type and other concept cars will not be displayed.
Talking points: Initial reactions to the X-Type have been very positive. Pricing undercuts rivals such as the BMW 3 series.
What you won't see: The L147 project, the V-12 coupe, will debut in June at Lamborghini's headquarters in Sant'Agata Bolognese, near Bologna.
Talking point: Up to now Audi has been running Lamborghini in a true hands-off fashion. Will that change?
New production car: The Thesis, the 2002 replacement for the K flagship that was phased out last summer, promises to be a show star this year.
What you won't see: The interior of the Thesis. The car will be previewed in an inaccessible position, like the Alfa 147 at the Turin show last June.
Talking point: When will the Thesis go on sale? Fiat Auto says by the end of the year, but insiders insist it won't happen before the spring of 2002.
New production car: Maserati unveils the racing version of the new Spider - called Barchetta - that will be the star of a new, one-make racing series.
What you won't see: The new Spider will be introduced in early summer.
Talking point: The 1981 Biturbo was the last true Maserati sales success, but quality and reliability were a disaster. Since then, every attempt to relaunch Maserati has proved unsuccessful. The new Spider must represent the company's turning point.
New production models: Mercedes-Benz will introduce a stretched version of its A class, adding 17 cm (6.7 inches) to the wheelbase. The new model receives the same styling and engineering changes planned for the standard models, including a face-lift and a 25 percent boost in diesel-engine power.
Also debuting in Geneva: an AMG-tuned 354-hp V-6-engine for the C-class wagon and SLK roadster.
What you won't see: The A-class-based Vaneo premium minivan will be introduced at the Frankfurt show in September.
Talking point: The fallout from DaimlerChrysler's global restructuring plan, which was scheduled to be released today, Feb. 26
New production model: Mitsubishi introduces the Lancer Evo VII high-performance sedan.
Talking point: An announcement is expected on the future direction of the alliance with DaimlerChrysler.
New concept car: Nissan introduces the Chappo, a small concept city car that is designed to tackle narrow streets and small parking spaces. It's the first project to emerge under new Nissan design boss Shiro Nakamura.
What you won't see: The redesigned Primera, which shares many design features with last year's Fusion concept, will bow in Frankfurt this fall.
Talking point: Platform-sharing with Renault
New production vehicles: The German automaker unveils Zafira minivans that target two diverse groups.
The Zafira OPT was developed by Opel's performance center and packs a 192-hp turbocharged engine. Sales begin this fall. The second Zafira model has a low-emissions, 100-hp, four-cylinder engine that runs on compressed natural gas; it arrives in showrooms this summer.
In addition, the wraps will be taken off the Bertone-built Astra convertible; sales begin this spring.
New concept car: The rear-wheel-drive Astra coupe OPC-X-Treme features gullwing doors and a 440-hp 4.0-liter V-8.
What you won't see: The badly needed Vectra replacement is still a year away.
Talking point: Will former BMW executive Carl-Peter Forster replace Bob Hendry as head of Opel? The announcement could come in Geneva.
New concept vehicle: The 307 Cameleo is a cross between the new 307 sedan and a pickup truck.
New production car: The 307 is the replacement for Peugeot's popular 306. It will be available initially in three-door and five-door configurations; the base model has a 1.4-liter engine. Sales begin in April.
What you won't see: The 307 wagon, which goes on sale next year, or the replacement for the 806 minivan, produced jointly with Fiat.
New concept car: In its 70-year history, Pininfarina has never created a concept car based on Citroen mechanicals. For its first, the Italian design house has created a model that has never been produced by Citroen: a mid-engined sports car. The result is the Osee, a three-seat sports car. The driver sits in the center, a layout seen in previous Pininfarina concept cars.
New production car: Pininfarina had design input on the Peugeot 307.
Talking point: Will Pininfarina build the next Alfa Spider?
New production car: Renault's Vel Satis luxury sedan debuts at Geneva; it goes on sale in early 2002.
Talking point: The Vel Satis marks the culmination of Renault's efforts to move upmarket, together with the Avantime luxury coupe and the Laguna II sedan. Can those cars compete successfully with Mercedes-Benz and BMW?
New concept car: The Beach Buggy
New production model: A face-lifted Smart with more powerful engines and updated equipment goes on sale this spring.
What you won't see: The production version of the two-seat roadster concept shown in 1999 won't be shown until fall.
Talking point: What's the future of the Smart range now that Mitsubishi is developing a four-seat platform for NedCar in 2004?
New production car: Just like the Peugeot 307 and Fiat Stilo, the five-door Liana hatchback marks a trend toward taller family vehicles. It is available with 1.3- and 1.6-liter engines and is positioned alongside the current Baleno range.
What you won't see: Any products coming out of the General Motors-Suzuki alliance
New production model: The Japan-built Avensis Verso replaces the Picnic minivan and goes on sale in late summer or early fall.
What you won't see: Although just launched in Japan, the all-new Corolla is still a year away from its European debut.
Talking point: Can Toyota reach its ambitious sales target of 800,000 units in Europe by 2005?
New production model: Volkswagen unveils the Passat W8, a 280-hp, eight-cylinder sedan that goes on sale late this year. The sedan has full-time all-wheel drive and it will be positioned between the regular Passat and the new, larger Volkswagen D1 sedan.
What you won't see: The Polo will debut at the Frankfurt show in September.
New concept cars: Volvo will bring three to Geneva. All have been shown before, but never together at one event. The Volvo Safety Concept Car and Adventure Concept Car were shown in Detroit in January, while the Performance Concept Car was shown at Paris last September.
What you won't see: A small-car concept