Shakespeare once described the "seven ages" of a person's life. Clearly, he wasn't a car guy. For when it comes to the sheet metal in the driveway, there are actually just five stages of life and, thanks to new technology, each is poised for a dramatic makeover. From more powerful and efficient engines to voice recognition and Web access, automakers are introducing innovations designed to appeal to a variety of tastes. Here's what's coming to a driveway near you, next year and beyond.
Young Man with Attitude
He has poor cash flow but a desire to impress friends.
A first car doesn't have to be fast, but it helps. If only satisfying the yearn for burn (as in rubber) wasn't so darn expensive.
Well, soon it won't have to be. Inspired by the growing West Coast trend of highly modifying import cars, automakers are now introducing a crop of low-cost speed machines with high-tech, high-output engines. These factory-built mini-muscle cars manage to stuff close to 200 horsepower under the hood, while keeping the price just south of 20 grand.
Putting so much power in a small package isn't easy. Street-modified Hondas can pump out 400 or more horsepower when equipped with big turbochargers. But production cars have to meet strict emission and reliability standards. This effort has produced powerplants that rev up to 8,000 rpm. The valve system in Honda's latest engine, for example, which debuted in the 2002 Acura RSX and later will appear in the new Civic Si, takes metallurgy from Honda's Formula One cars.
Ford, meanwhile, is working with Britain's Cosworth Technology to develop a 180-horsepower version of its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine for the 2002 SVT Focus. With a suspension tweaked by Ford's special vehicles team, this sport sedan is at home on the highway or the autocross. Nissan brings back the Sentra SE-R for 2002, with 175 hp and sport-tuned suspension. Even General Motors will enter the fray in 2003, with the Vibe. Its unveiling will coincide with the U.S. intro of the new Mini-the revival of the car that, long ago, made England swing.
Boy, how times have changed.single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.