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Cars of the future compared lists 5 of the cars that can be seen in the market in 2010 and beyond. These are the BMW Z8, BMW X1, BMW LC5 CLS Fighter, Audi 1, and the Honda FCX.

BMW will revive the Z8 roadster in its 2010 model. This 650Ci convertible will range from ,000-to-5,000. It will be powered by a 400-plus-hp turbo version of BMW's 4.4-liter V-8 mated to a new dual-clutch gearbox. Other engines--larger and smaller--may find their way under the hood as well.

The pint size BMW X1 will be added to the X5, the just-freshened X3, and a two-door X6 due in 2008. The compact SUV market might seem an unlikely place for a premium German marque, but BMW won't be alone. Audi will be there with the Volkswagen Tiguan-derived Q3, as will Mercedes-Benz with its GLK.

These three share common characteristics. Aside from the fact that they all have well-to-do female customers, they also would want to make the car seats higher, to surround their vehicles with lots of active and passive safety equipment, and to own a premium product with a versatile interior. They are less interested in size and high-performance engines. They are also value-focused, which is why the X1 will be priced about the same as a loaded Toyota RAV4.

At roughly 170 inches long, the X1 will combine the footprint of the 1-series and packaging similar to that of the X3. The large wheels and the suspension come from the X3. The underbody, the drivetrain, and the electronics will be taken from the 1-series. The X1's more carlike DNA is reflected in its target weight of 3400 pounds, significantly lighter than the X3. The X1 is principally a four-seater, but since the rear chairs slide and fold, an optional fifth seat could be integrated. BMW may offer a variety of opening and see-through roof treatments.

Indeed, BMW is readying a stretched version of the next 6-series, which would feature four doors and four seats under a coupe like roof.
To its credit, the BMW team is taking a somewhat different approach from Mercedes-Benz. The LC5 CLS Fighter will be seen without B-pillars. Instead, the structural integrity of the body will be supported by overlapping doors (the rear ones always shut first and open last) plus reinforced sills and side panels. All seats feature integrated belts and side air bags. The oval-shaped lateral aperture and the connected door skins are supposed to help spread out the energy in the event of a side impact. The engine lineup consists of four units: a 300-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged six; a 400-hp, 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8; an M version powered by a 550-hp, 5.5-liter V-10; and a 3.0-liter twin-turbo six-cylinder diesel.

Transmission offerings are to include a conventional six-speed manual and two automatics, where one is a dual-clutch design. Both automatics will feature seven speeds and optional paddle-shift operation. The gear selector is a joystick with two parallel shift modes: flick it to the left, and you're in manual; flick it to the right, and you're in automatic. Pushing a button on top of the lever engages park. Car enthusiasts will also see new electro hydraulic brakes, active steering, and wheels ranging in size from eighteen to twenty inches. It is not yet clear whether the new arrival will be part of the 6-series family or whether BMW would rather launch it as a 7-series coupe. Either way, the car is expected to reach showrooms in 2011, shortly after the next 6-series coupe/ convertible--and, coincidentally, around the same time as the second-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS, the car that started it all.

Audi will be launching its A1 minicompact. It will be smaller-than-A3 entry that emphasizes performance over economy. Unlike the discontinued European-market A2, the A1 will be a two-door hatch. An S1 version would likely use a 240-hp, 2.0-liter turbo; a less-potent turbo four would power the base car.

Finally, Honda's latest take on fuel cells is the FCX concept. Although its ultra-cab-forward body looks dramatically long, low, and wide, at 186 inches (15.5 feet) in overall length, the FCX is actually shorter than the Acura RL. It features a compact, Honda-developed fuel-cell stack in the middle of the car with two hydrogen tanks in the rear. The stack is much smaller than what is now technologically feasible, but Honda says that it shows "our dream."

The novel four-wheel-drive system has one front 80-kW electric motor with two in-wheels, 25-kw motors at the rear. The cabin has a mixture of traditional Japanese materials, such as a wood floor, plus the latest gizmos. The dashboard rises up toward the driver as speed rises, which is supposedly to hold the driver's attention.

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About the Author: Hannah Racey is a 35 year old native of Chicago, Ill. She has been a car afficionado since she can remember. She now works for an automotive company based in Detroit, Mi. as a consultant.

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