Way back when...May 1996And so, it's now May of 1996.
Our cover star is the W210 Mercedes E-Class.
Also, a review of the Geneva Motor Show is inside.
First official pics of the Megane Scenic are revealed, a car that would then go on to revolutionalise the family car sector.
More exclusives come in the form of Hyundai's Coupe, which was the first step towards improving the staid image of the Korean carmaker.
The final new car previewed is the Peugeot 106. Nothing very special there, for it looked rather similar to the previous one.
Renault's Megane is driven in Spain. Renault has ambitious aims for their family hatch, with a range of bodystyles (including the above mentioned Scenic), a pleasant enough design and comfortable and ergonomic interior.
Performance varies according to the engines, with the 1.6 petrol rather middling. The 2.0 16v engine performed better. Handling is good, but ride is a bit shaky, with road noise evident.
It triumphs over its rivals though, in the aspect of safety. The clever seatbelt pretensioner system is mentioned, and airbags are also standard. Other features include 'smart' wipers and an engine immobiliser.
Renault shows off their Next concept car, which 'successfully combines both internal combustion and AC electric power to reduce fuel consumption and emissions'. In short, an early hybrid, before Toyota got there. Who would have thought, eh?
Proton's Wira gets a facelift, which freshens it up for 1996. But it's still mostly the same cheap car inside. Still, quite an ideal budget car for people on a budget.
The magazine also ponders whether a BMW 318 Compact is better than a 316. The answer is no. For one, the 1.8 engine is the noisiest and harshest among the BMW range (so it says), the specially designed M-Motorsport mirrors being far too small and the stiffer suspension on the 318 jerks and fidgets about. It does provide for better handling, but that's scant consolation.
(P.S. After reading that, I do think that's a bit harsh. It seems to be taken a bit out of context.)
Rather exciting this. Three coupes up against each other, with Fiat's wacky Coupe alongside the Japanese duo of the Honda Prelude and Nissan 200SX.
Styling wise, the Fiat wins by a landslide. A classic even today, an absolute masterpiece in car design. The Prelude counters with its aggressive, beak-nose look, but it can only take second place ahead of the dull-looking Nissan.
However, in terms of performance, the Fiat slightly loses out because of its turbo lag below 2000rpm.. The Prelude therefore slightly edges ahead of the Nissan.
The Fiat hits back though through the corners, with exuberant handling that will put a smile on anyone's face. The Prelude corners neutrally, with no unruly behaviour. The rear drive 200SX however, snaps its tail out when pushed too hard, as is expected of a rear-driver.
But the Nissan finally wins something, with its smooth ride quality and great refinement when cruising. The Fiat in contrast is very choppy and a tiring experience over long distances, with the Honda taking middle ground.
Inside, the Italian style exercise continues, with the Fiat's interior the most vibrant and appealing. It can also seat four properly too, surprisingly, and has a decent sized boot. Quality is still just a tinny bit off the Japs. The Prelude decides to go the luxury route, with leather seats and a futuristic dash that just about hold its own against the Fiat, with the Nissan again losing out for being the most boring.
Conclusion: The 200SX finishes an obvious last against its two rivals here. While it is a generally good drive, it doesn't have much of an excitement factor compared to the other two.
The Prelude puts up a good fight, but up against the Latin flair of the Fiat, there's only one car that can come up tops. And that car is the Fiat Coupe.
The W210 Mercedes E-Class is compared to its predecessor, the W124, which has been a sales success in Singapore the past couple of years. And so the author seeks to find out whether the new one is an improvement over the old.
Put simply, yes. Bigger, better in terms of looks, handling, ride and most important areas, it is definitely an improvement.
The other review is of the VW Polo, with its cheeky canvas roof dubbed 'Open Air'. Other than the novelty of an open roof, the car is generally a solid performer, with chuckable handling that provides a barrel of laughs. The 1.4 engine provides decent performance, and refinement is excellent. Usual VW quality is also evident, with an extensive equipment list, all packaged into a neat mini-Golf body.
The Jaguar XK8 is undoubtely the star of the Geneva Motor Show 1996, being revealed six months ahead of schedule. Porsche too handed out first official pics of their Boxster, but it was slightly too late to get a car onto the show floors.
Among the notable road cars unveiled, Audi showcased their aluminium-bodied S8, the first of their S-series of performance cars.
There is also a brief mention of the Opel Sintra, which we shall just keep it at that.
Another major surprise was the VW Beetle. The show car had a sliding glass roof which I don't think made it to production, but otherwise it was the same car that was launched onto markets in 1998.
Ford showed their Lynx concept car, which went on to become the Puma. (P.S. Sorry DC, that's as far as it goes when it comes to the Puma)
Among the other interesting concepts were the Bertone Slalom, wearing an Opel badge, the DeTomaso Bigua (which became the Qvale Mangusta), the ItalDesign Formula 4 and the Renault Fiftie.
F1 visits Melbourne for the first time, with the Albert Park street circuit. Damon Hill winning the opening race of the season, ahead of Williams teammate Jacques Villeneuve. It was a great race, and Albert Park remains the venue of the Australian GP to this day.