Audi Ur-Quattro

Three decades of four-wheel drive
At the Geneva show 30 years ago, Audi introduced the Ur-Quattro. And the automotive world shook to the sound of Group B rally cars driven by the likes of Walter Röhrl and Michèle Mouton. For most of 2010, Audi will be celebrating the Quattro legacy, mainly in Germany, but if anyone is thinking of attending the Goodwood Festival of Speed (July 2 to 4), the Audi presence there might just swing the decision.

Peugeot RCZ Coupe

Coupe de grace
The 25th International Auto Show took place in Paris, France, this past February. Despite the name, it didn't really generate a lot of global noise. But it did make one good call. It voted the Peugeot RCZ Coupe as the "Most Beautiful Car of 2009." Sure, the car arguably owes its existence to the Audi TT, but being inspired by something good must always be better than copying something bad. And it isn't merely a concept, but a car that's on sale. What's more, Peugeot already has three previous "beautiful car" awards in its trophy cabinet.

2011 Lotus Elise

New look for Elise
It's hard to criticize the cute, nimble, lightweight Lotus, but if hairs were to be split, the styling was always a tad fussy (America never had the simpler first-gen model). Even this minor gripe has now been addressed with a re-styling for the 2011 model that introduces a resemblance to the new Evora. Two new wheel designs are available as well. Pardon this weak moment of subjectivity, but the whole thing gets a thumbs-up from us. It doesn't hurt that the drag coefficient has improved by four percent too. It still has the usual Toyota-sourced 1.8-liter engine, so let's hope that company's throttle issues are all sorted. At least there's no need to worry about sticking floor mats. The Elise doesn't have them.

Mini Countryman

Country estate
It's not an SUV, it's a Sport Activity Vehicle. That's how BMW/MINI describes the latest member of the MINI family, the Countryman. It's taller, longer and wider than the charming original, and has the option of all-wheel drive. Not too many worries on the fuel bill front, though. Looks like there will be a diesel version, while even the turbocharged gasoline-powered model will offer a stop/start feature and brake energy regeneration. But the question must be: How big can a car get before it can no longer be called a Mini?

Volkswagen Touareg

Utility belter
It's time for a new Volkswagen Touareg and the company is calling it the most technically innovative vehicle to wear the VW badge yet. So how surprised are we to learn there's a hybrid option involved? More interesting is an eight-speed automatic transmission and available V6 TDI engine. A "Terrain Tech Packet" is also on offer for greater off-road chops and a tougher transfer case. VW claims to have increased rear legroom, while the new Touareg is lighter (by over 400 pounds in the base model) and more aerodynamically efficient than its forebear.

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