But Jaguar takes a decidedly unhistoric tack with its powertrain -- a Ford-designed 4L V-8 with variable-valve timing and a ZF AG 5-speed automatic replace the inline 6-cyl. found in the old E-type. An XISM ragtop derivative will debut at the New York Auto Show this month.

Lotus Cars plc manages to highlight its new V-8 Esprit amid a swirl of rumors about a Korean buyout. The high-performance carmaker and engineering firm are considered to be in peril due to fallout from owner Romano Artioli's financial troubles.

Lotus executives deny there is any liability to Mr. Artioli's failed Automobili Bugatti Spa and its bankruptcy standing, but many industry insiders felt at showtime that a Daewoo Motor Co. Ltd. buyout of the British firm was imminent. In an official statement at the show Lotus says it would keep itself open to companies who wanted to bid on individual projects, but that no commitments had been made.

An innovative concept comes from one of Europe's newer manufacturers. Nedcar BV, a joint venture held by AB Volvo, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and the Dutch government, as it unveils its Access minivan-style vehicle. Although Mitsubishi and Volvo own NedCar, the Access represents a coordinated effort between NedCar's internal Product Design and Engineering (PD&E) and Dutch suppliers.

The car was produced specifically to showcase design and production possibilities, and NedCar President F.W. Sevenstern says there is less than a 5% chance the car will make it into production. But PD&E Managing Director Jan Mengelers is not so sure. He says there has been interest in the package as a production model from emerging Pacific Rim automakers.

Saab Automobile AB rolls back LL sleeves and unveils some muscle in Geneva -- 250-hp concept versions of the Saab 900 Coupe and Convertible. Saab's Special Vehicle Operation says they are likely to see limited production next year.

Other brand variation dominated much of the floorspace in Geneva. Mercedes-Benz AG showed off its C-class and E-class wagons next to yet another minivan offering -- the Viano. But Michael Basserinan, President of Mercedes-Benz North America, says only the E-class wagon will wind up in the U.S. He says expected sales volume for the C-class wagon and Viano is too small to justify imports. The U.S. debut of the E-class will wait until fall 1997, when it will carry M-B's next-generation powerplants.

French automaker Renault SA raised the bar another notch in Europe's crowded minivan market by introducing the Megane Scenic built on a small-car platform. The 163-in. (413-cm) vehicle with five bucket seats (the three in the rear are removable) is expected to appeal to fuel-conscious Europeans who might be reluctant to pilot a full-size minivan through Europe's tight city streets and parking spots. Insiders say that General Motors Corp., just hitting Europe now with its Opel Sintra minivan, also is looking at filling this product niche, along with Volkswagen AG and Fiat Spa.