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Upcoming MG, Bentley, Maybach, DeTomaso, Saturn

by Bob Hagin

June 17, 2001

New auto models are coming at us thick and fast as car makers scramble for bigger and juicier pieces of the various market segment pies. These are some unusual ones that are coming up soon:

MG TO RE-ENTER SPORTS SEDAN MARKET - Not long ago we noted that far from being an extinct sports car brand name like Triumph, Sunbeam, Austin-Healey and Elva, the new owners of MG teased American enthusiasts with a nibble of the for-Europe-only MGF at a show in Chicago. Now it seems that the new owners of the company are going into the sports sedan business as well. When BMW sold Land Rover to Ford a couple of years ago, the deal didn't include the Rover Group, which left MG and Rover out in the cold. Rover is a venerated name in England going back nearly a century. It's venerated, but not hot like MG, so the first thing the new owners did was to change the corporate name to the MG Rover Group. The Rover 75 (another old name in England) is being upscaled into the MG X10, a sporting version of the genre reminiscent of the MG Magnette sedan that disappeared in the '60s. Will the MG X10 make it to these shores? Since the the most lucrative auto market in the world, the question isn't "if," but "when."

RETURN OF THE PANTERA - Another old-time name that's on its way back is the De Tomaso Pantera, and like the original, it will be a mid-engined Italian exotic with American muscle. The original Pantera was a super-low, svelte two-seater coupe that had a 351 cid Ford engine stuffed amidships behind the driver. In '71, the irascible Alejandro De Tomaso had struck a deal with Ford to produce the supersportster to be sold by Mercury dealers along side their Cougars. It was fairly popular, but the name hasn't been in the new-car column for a long time. The new Pantera is being built using similar guidelines as the original, with a V8 engine, probably of Ford origin, under its bonnet. But even accounting for the difference in dollar value after 30 years, the price of the newest version will be a bargain at $120,000.

MAYBACH RETURNS TOO - You aeronautical historians will remember that Maybach was a guiding force behind the engines in the dirigibles that bombed England in World War I, but it was also the name of a very expensive pre-war German luxury car. Most car buffs are unaware of its background, since the last one was built in 1938. Through a very circuitous series of post-war mergers, sales and transactions, the name is now owned by Mercedes and a new Maybach is going to appear soon. And it's going to be very big. The "small" model will measure over 19 feet while the big one will be 18-inches longer. At over 5000 pounds, this land-yacht will need lots of power and buyers will get it in the form of a twin-turboed 6.0-liter V12 engine that will put out around 500 horses and enough torque to tow the Orient Express. Originally the car was to be labeled the Mercedes Maybach but the name was shortened to simply Maybach to differentiate it from the entry-level (only $140,000) top-line Mercedes S600 sedan.

ROLLS-BIMMER - The market that the new Maybach is targeting is so stratified that us common folk would need oxygen masks to get into it, but there will be competition there too. There's an upcoming new Rolls-Royce, due to be introduced in 2003, and it will challenge Maybach for luxury panache and exclusivity. The hallowed Rolls-Royce name is now owned by BMW, a happenstance that occurred in another one of those European buy-outs caused by British firms simply running out of money and enthusiasm. The yet-unnamed Rolls will be the result of an international team of designers and engineers but it will carry the universally recognized rectangular grill and R-R logo. Like the Maybach, the new Rolls is very big and needs lots of power. It too will be powered by a big (325 cubic-inch) V12 engine. Horsepower is reported to be "only" 450 but the torque will be about 550 pound/feet at only 2000 rpm.

SATURN SUV - A few years ago Saturn dealers were becoming a bit worried over the fact that the chutzpah of no-haggle, sensible small cars from a "new kind of car company" was wearing off. In response, the company Americanized the German Opel Vectra and labeled it the "L" (for large) series. For a variety of reasons, the bigger Saturn hasn't been a spectacular success. It's no secret that Saturn (or any car company) needs a variety of vehicles to remain a player in the business and to that end, the company recently introduced its own sport/utility vehicle (SUV) to the press and gave it a very catchy name - the Saturn SUV. Like the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V, it's one of the kinder, gentler SUVs that are built out of passenger car components rather than being a pickup truck with an enclosed and upholstered bed. The Saturn SUV uses the four and six-banger powerplants from the L-series and also has all-wheel drive. It's a little late, but welcome aboard the SUV bandwagon, Saturn.

Want more? Sorry, we'll have to wait for October to see what else is new.