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New models to debut at Geneva auto show

This year's 77th edition of the Geneva Auto Show (or motor show, as the Swiss call it) promises plenty of noteworthy debuts.
The Mazda Hakaze concept has rippled surfaces along its fender line that were inspired by the windswept surface of a dune.
The Mazda Hakaze concept has rippled surfaces along its fender line that were inspired by the windswept surface of a dune.Mazda
/ Source: Forbes Autos

This year's 77th edition of the Geneva Auto Show (or motor show, as the Swiss call it) promises plenty of noteworthy debuts.

Here are a few previews of the vehicles that will premiere at the show, which runs from March 8-18:

2008 Audi A5 and S5
Audi’s announcement at this year’s Geneva show is important. After years without a sleek two-door to compete with BMW’s 3 Series Coupe and Mercedes-Benz’s CLK-Class, Audi steps up with the svelte A5 and a high-performance variant called the S5. Both should be available in June. The U.S. version of the A5 will have a 3.2-liter V6 engine making 265 hp and 243 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive will be standard and quattro all-wheel drive optional. There will be a choice of a manual or automatic six-speed transmission. Two diesel versions of the A5 are planned for Europe but aren't scheduled for sale in the U.S. The more-powerful S5 will feature a 354-hp V8 and standard quattro AWD. The look of the A5 and S5 is based on the Nuvolari concept car that Audi introduced in 2003.

Dodge Demon concept
Dodge will unveil a small convertible concept car at the Geneva Auto Show called the Demon that if produced would compete with the Mazda Miata, Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky. The Demon is slightly shorter than the Miata, but wider, taller and heavier. The car has two seats, rear-wheel drive and a 172-hp 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine with a six-speed manual transmission. Dodge folks have hinted that the turbocharged 300-hp monster engine from the Caliber SRT-4 might also fit in the Demon. Dodge will likely point the conversation toward the Demon's style rather than its mechanicals as no production plans are imminent

Honda Small Hybrid Sports Concept
Honda will show off a hybrid concept in Geneva called the Small Hybrid Sports Concept. Judging from the early released sketch of the car, it’s a three-door hatchback that harkens back to the shape of the much-loved Honda CRX. Unlike the CRX, this concept appears to offer a small backseat, as well as an all-glass roof. The company is tight-lipped about details of the concept, but it very well could be a successor to the Honda Insight, which was the firm’s most fuel-efficient hybrid from the time it was released in 1999 until production stopped in 2006. The new concept features a sportier design than the Insight, with a wheels-out-to-the-corners stance, aggressively cut rear fender lines and large, exposed wheels.

2008 Maserati GranTurismo
Maserati is stressing the historical symmetry of the introduction of its all-new GranTurismo, the original version of which was unveiled at the Geneva show in 1947. That classic was the company's first production car and was designed by Mr. Giovanni Battista “Pinin” Farina, namesake of the famous Italian design house Pininfarina that created the look of the new model. The current Maserati two-doors, the Coupe and GranSport, were designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro of ItalDesign and have been criticized for not upholding the brand's design heritage. The all-new GranTurismo is based on the Maserati Quattroporte and uses a slightly more powerful version of the Ferrari-designed 4.2-liter V8 in that sedan. It puts out 405 hp and is mated to the same ZF six-speed automatic transmission just introduced on the Quattroporte.

Mazda Hakaze concept
Though not a “green” car per se, the gasoline-powered Mazda Hakaze concept is guided by earthy themes. This is the third of Mazda’s so-called Nagare concept vehicles, which have a design language that takes cues from the natural "flow lines" of wind and water. The small two-door Hakaze has rippled surfaces along its fender line, which Mazda says were inspired by the windswept surface of a sand dune. The car was designed in Mazda’s European design center near Frankfurt, Germany, and is expected to be the most production-ready concept of Mazda’s three Nagare design studies. The first was the Nagare itself, a futuristic roadster concept which was shown at the 2006 L.A. Auto Show, followed by the Ryuga, a coupe shown at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show. Mazda has called the concepts "more than just flights of fancy," and intends the Nagare models to influence the look of future models. “Hakaze is the first of this new and effective process of future development,” said Jose R.G. Santamaria, director of advanced product planning.

2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Mercedes-Benz will show off the update to its best-selling and smallest sedan to the public for the first time in Geneva. "Sport" and "Luxury" models should be available in the U.S. by late summer. Highlights for this longer and wider new generation include an adaptive suspension system on all models, featuring variable damping rates meant to automatically detect whether the driver is in cruise or attack mode and adjust accordingly. An optional upgrade dubbed Advanced Agility will provide the C-Class driver with choice of sport and comfort settings. Engines likely to make it to North America at launch are the same ones currently available, a trio of V6s that range from 204 hp to 272 hp in European trim. Three diesel engines have also been announced at launch, but the lack of a BlueTec version (designed to meet stringent U.S. emissions regulations) suggests that a diesel C-Class is not yet part of Mercedes-Benz’s plans for North America.

Smart Fortwo Brabus and Brabus Xclusive
The second-generation Smart Fortwo will arrive in the U.S. in early 2008, but by this fall Europeans will have the option of two performance-oriented versions set to debut in Geneva, the Fortwo Brabus and the Fortwo Brabus Xclusive. The Fortwo Brabus will feature a larger but still frugal Mercedes-Benz-designed 1.0-liter, three-cylinder powerplant, spinning out 98 hp. Estimated fuel economy is about 53 mpg combined city/highway. The 0-to-62-mph run still takes a leisurely 9.9 seconds, but that's loads better than the 18-second times provided by the 40-hp diesel engine in the first-generation Smart Fortwo still currently sold in Canada. The Brabus will also be lowered by 15mm, with a stiffer suspension, as well as offer unique wheels, wider wheel arches and a dressed-up interior. The Fortwo Brabus Xclusive receives the same power and handling upgrades, but with more of an emphasis on luxury. It features heated leather seats inside, a unique front spoiler and side skirts on the exterior, and comes in either a silver or black monochromatic paint scheme.

2008 Volvo V70
Volvo has been on a tear of late, announcing its fourth all-new product in the last two years — the 2008 V70 wagon. The 2008 model will be the first V70 with the option of a six-cylinder, a 3.2-liter engine producing 235 hp. The new V70 will offer a unique integrated booster cushion in both outboard rear seats, with a two-position setting which will accommodate growing children. The V70 will likely share the recently released S80 sedan’s lengthy list of safety technology, but add unique features such as a powered tailgate and power sliding rear floor. Volvo says the 2008 V70 will be on sale in early 2008, about a year after its Geneva unveiling. We expect an S60 sedan version of this wagon to follow soon.