by Ted Laturnus

At all the various automobile shows making the rounds these days, the buzzword being heard throughout the industry is “crossover”. Vehicles that cross traditional lines and, theoretically at least, appeal to a wider range of buyers. Sedans are becoming mini-vans, hatchbacks are indistinguishable from station wagons, and sports cars are being passed off as sedans.

Except in the very upper end of the market, where, generally speaking, if it has two doors, it’s a sports car, if it has four, it’s a sedan, and if it goes off-road, it’s an SUV. About the only line being crossed in this stratospheric segment of the marketplace is the one between legal and illegal speeds. Virtually all top-end cars are blindingly fast….it’s one of the few things they have in common.

Lamborghini Murcielago
Lamborghini Murcielago
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And the king of the heap these days – even if it’s by a mere fraction of a second – is the Lamborghini Murcielago, which, with an unimaginable 580 horsepower on tap, can get the attention of law enforcement personnel in under four seconds. The Murcielago, which is named after a famous Spanish bull, is the first Lambo to be built under the aegis of Volkswagen-Audi, who now own the Italian company. It has a carbon-fibre composite body, with adjustable air intakes and a top speed of well over 330 km/h. The engine is a 6.2 litre V12, it has a six-speed transmission, oversize 18-inch wheels and tires, and “gull-wing” doors. And a price tag of $370,000.

Ferrari 360 Modena
Ferrari 360 Modena
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Perennial rival, Ferrari, meanwhile, has their 360 Modena, which is powered by a mid-mounted V8 engine. But this ain’t no garden-variety pushrod eight-banger. It revs to 8500 rpm, with a maximum output of 400 hp, and is mated to a Formula One-inspired six-speed transmission that allows the driver to change gears via steering-wheel-mounted buttons. The result: zero to sixty in about 4 1/2 seconds, and a top speed just under 300 km/h. The two-seater Modena is available as a convertible or hardtop, priced at $247,550 and $220,950 respectively. It’s joined in Ferrari’s 2002 line-up by the 456 GT 2+2 and 550 Maranello coupe for $315,000 and $295,000 respectively.

2002 Porsche 911 GT2
2002 Porsche 911 GT2
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Hot on Lamborghini and Ferrari’s heels is Porsche, who also have something equally exclusive for this year….sort of. Those wacky guys at Zuffenhausen have taken a perfectly good 911 Carrera Turbo, lightened it by about 200 pounds, injected an additional 40 horsepower and called it the GT2. It develops 456 horsepower at 5700 rpm, and will zip you from 0 – 100 km/h in about four seconds flat. Making it officially the fastest Porsche ever sold in North America. In its metamorphosis from a fast car to a really fast car, the 911 GT2 has lost both its all-wheel-drive and traction control systems. Experienced drivers only need apply. Price: $253,000.

2002 Aston Martin V12 Vanquish
2002 Aston Martin V12 Vanquish
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If something a little more dignified is to your liking, perhaps the new for ’02 Aston Martin Vanquish would be suitable. With a 460-horsepower V12 under the bonnet, the Vanquish, which replaces the Vantage as A-M’s flagship model, is a formidable looking two-door that has an all-aluminum body and can be had as either a two or four-seater, although rear seat passengers should be good friends. Among its many high-tech accoutrements, the Vanquish has a six-speed semi-automatic transmission operated via steering-wheel-mounted “paddles”…..standard equipment in a Formula One racing car these days. The Vanquish’s engine is actually a pair of Ford Duratech V6 blocks joined at the ends (Ford owns Aston Martin) with all-new plumbing, valve train, and other moving bits. Ingenious. Expensive. $345,000.

Bentley Continental T
Bentley Continental T
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If you require a little more elbow room, but don’t want to sacrifice performance, kindly direct your attention toward the Bentley Continental T. Let’s get the price tag out of the way right now, shall we? It costs $442,280, and is surpassed only by its convertible stablemate, the Azure, at a cool $523,690. However, what you’re getting for the money is a two-ton sedan that will whistle you from a standing start to freeway speed in about six seconds, and can hold its own through the twisty bits as well. Needless to say, it comes with a full complement of leather, wood, lamb’s wool, and ambience, and you get to choose your own paint and trim.

Rolls-Royce Corniche
Rolls-Royce Corniche
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Bentley’s kissing cousin, Rolls-Royce, continues to offer a trio of attractively-priced models: the Silver Seraph, Park Ward, and Corniche Convertible. This latter model has the distinction of being the most expensive car sold in Canada, at $545,000. Power for the Corniche is provided by a Rolls-Royce built 6.8 litre V8 that develops 329 horsepower at 4000 rpm, and, like the Bentley Azure, the Corniche has 82 cubic feet of interior volume and seven cubic feet of trunk space. Rolls-Royce is in a kind of no-man’s land these days. Current owner, BMW, will transfer ownership to Volkswagen-Audi in 2003, but until then, the model line-up remains unchanged over the past few years.

Merrcedes-Benz G500
Merrcedes-Benz G500
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Having the most potent car on the road is a wonderful thing, but what if you want to go off-road? In style, of course. If you want true exclusivity, there’s really only two choices for SUV enthusiasts. Ironically perhaps, both have their origins in the military, can take you anywhere you want to go in relative comfort, and have a very exclusive cachet. Mercedes’ G500, introduced to North American buyers last year, is based on the Gelandewagen, which was widely used in the German armed forces for years. Spruced up for this market, it has three locking differentials, a 292-hp/336 foot-pounds of torque V8 engine, the full zoot interior treatment, an electronic stability system, anti-slip traction control, and an engine-braking system for really steep descents. Oh, yes, it has a Global Positioning System as well and a price tag of about $105,000.

2002 Hummer H1 Anniversary Edition
2002 Hummer H1 Anniversary Edition
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The G500 is surpassed in its off-road abilities only by the venerable Hummer, the ex U.S. Army Humvee which was converted for civilian use in the early 90’s, and is now owned by General Motors The Hummer H1 starts at $150,600, while the new, slightly smaller Hummer H2 will start at ‘only’ $70,745.

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