In Paris, talk of the town was almost as much about electric showstars, as it was about the no-shows. Ford sidestepped the place entirely, as did Cadillac, and Mazda, and Aston Martin, Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Lotus, Rolls-Royce, McLaren, Subaru, Volvo, MG… With so much company it’s not like any one of them felt left out or anything.
Some carmakers did attend the biennial Paris motor show last week, and of course there were concepts, and electric cars everywhere, mainstream ones, from corporate giants, not start-ups. Cars that will be in showrooms in one generation.
After the murmurs of all the no-shows, and some compassionate contemplation on the lost romance of the motor show (there were no surprises, and carmakers are increasingly starting to notice the meagre ROI on these grand pageants of marketing budgets, as all those who clicked ‘maybe’ on the invites demonstrate), there were some cars to check out.
By which we mean crossovers, mostly, starting with the…
Mercedes-Benz Generation EQ
No vaunted pick-up from Mercedes… That’s likely to happen in America next month at the LA auto show or January’s Detroit show. But then we knew it wouldn’t feature because the Silver Star’s stage in Paris was prescript for EVs, lots of them, headed by this concept called Generation EQ.
According to Stuttgart the name EQ stands for Electric Intelligence so someone’s dyslexic. But we get it and it’s smart, and it debuts as a future platform ready to underpin an entire forthcoming battery-electric family of cars. Mercedes says the EQ — even though it’s a CUV-looking thing here — is suitable for SUVs, saloons, coupés, cabriolets and whatever they can think up. In Paris, Mercedes boss Dieter Zetsche was firm: “The emission-free automobile is the future.” So get ready for up to 10 electric vehicles from Mercedes from 2018 to 2025.
Infiniti QX Sport
Infiniti’s showstar was yet another generic crossover of course, but all the excitement was under the bonnet with the world’s first production-ready variable compression engine. This neat trick’s been around for decades but Nissan’s getting it to the street first with the company’s new tech it calls VC-Turbo — the engine mechanically raises or lowers the reach of the pistons and adjusts compression between a 8:1 ratio for high-performance use and 14:1 for economy. When it goes on sale this 2.0-litre four-cylinder will produce 270 horsepower and 390Nm of torque while promising significant efficiency gains. As for the QX Sport concept car itself, that’s basically Infiniti’s Audi Q5 fighter due in two years’ time.
BMW did the inevitable and guaranteed future sales with its entry into the compact crossover coupé wannabe segment with the X2. Although it’s in concept form in Paris, the X2 is most of the finished product visually and will slot neatly into BMW’s product portfolio, which is soon to include seven crossovers and SUVs. Well, once the X2 and US-built seven-seater X7 arrive.
Other big news? The kidney grille, it’s big, on the new X2… It’s a little detail that will spread throughout BMW’s range of cars. Look closely and the kidney grille sits lower than the headlights, and the central air intake is also lower to the ground, all for a bit of eye trickery. Once it’s on sale by about 2018 the X2 will be a sportier X1, powered by the same range of four-cylinder turbocharged engines. Let’s hope they keep the best bit from the concept car, the blue and white roundel on the C-pillars like on classic BMWs.
Speaking of the devil, here comes the all-new Audi Q5, which as you’d expect looks a lot like the previous one while adopting that hexagonal grille as per the Q2 wheels tested earlier this year in Berlin. In favourable trim it’s nearly 100kg lighter than the old car, though, largely thanks to the fact it’s moved on to a new VW Group platform. However, the car has still grown larger in nearly every other dimension and offer 10 litres more cargo space than before. The new Audi Q5 will launch with a 250-horsepower, 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine, and will land in our region by next summer.
Land Rover Discovery
After a glitzy launch near its home in Solihull, Land Rover launched the new Discovery on a 13-metre-high Lego bridge built out of 5.8 million Lego bricks. Yeah, it went all-out for this one and invited Bear Grylls, Sir Ben Ainslie, and Zara Phillips to the do, and a bunch more celebrities. Then the car was on to Paris, where we learned the three-row SUV will go on sale early next year priced from just over Dh200K.
Compared to the old dinosaur this one’s on a new aluminium platform and weighs nearly half a tonne less, so power from Jaguar Land Rover’s new 2.0-litre turbo Ingenium line of engines will suffice with 240bhp. City dwellers will welcome an all-new infotainment system and Bear Grylls will like the 283mm ground clearance and unrivalled 900mm of wading depth — bonus feature: new display has Wade Sensing, which shows real-time wading depth info. You’ll be dancing for rain.
The French upheld their tradition of fantasy concepts with the wildest one in Paris from Renault, complete with a clamshell canopy and a mysterious name, Trezor, because it’s got a Z in it and everything. The French like their Zs — in 2013 it was the Twin’Z and before that the Frendzy, DeZir, etc.
This one’s a proper Grand Tourer (it’s the size of an Aston DB11) fitted with 21in and 22in wheels, and powered by a 350bhp and 380Nm motor to accelerate the Trezor from 0 to 100kph in less than four seconds. Of course, we’ll just have to take their word for it all because Renault will never make the Trezor.
Ferrari 70th Anniversary
OK, seriously, enough crossover. Ferraris, yes, we need Ferraris, 350 of them. Ferrari chose Paris to reveal Maranello’s new 70th-anniversary logo, which will adorn on a select few cars chosen to celebrate this occasion. Ferrari revealed its sentimental idea of creating 70 unique liveries, each one to be used on one example of five models in the company’s current range, for a total of 350 vehicles.
In Paris, Ferrari showed us just five of these 70 liveries to come, and they include the “The Stirling” F12 Berlinetta inspired by Stirling Moss’s 1961 Tourist Trophy winning 250 GT Berlinetta SWB; “The Schumacher” 488 GTB, which is an homage to Ferrari’s dominant 2003 F1 car; “The Steve McQueen” California T inspired by the actor’s 1963 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso gifted to him by his wife in brown over camel leather; “The Green Jewel” 488 Spider, harking back to David Piper’s 365 P2 from the Sixties; and finally a white 488 Spider inspired by the 1953 375 MM Pinin Farina.
Honda Civic Type R Prototype
It looks like it was dreamt up by Michael Bay after a night of fits, and it is the latest Honda Civic Type R prototype in what’s increasingly becoming a family line-up of Honda Civic Type R prototypes. This one’s finished in a brushed dark aluminium wrap, with gaping intakes, carbon fibre spoiler and red accents everywhere. The side skirts too are carbon fibre, the wheels 20in in diameter and finished in piano black, and at the back there’s yet more carbon fibre in the form of an aero diffuser. Honda will produce this car in the UK, with global exports beginning around this time next year. Look out for it in Al Aweer earlier than that, though…
To underline how serious it is about performance and its new Nürburgring-headquartered speed shop, Hyundai showed off the RN30 racing concept wildly exaggerating a future production hot hatch. Looking ready for a Rallycross session, the RN30 comes powered by a 2.0-litre turbo making 380 horsepower and 451Nm of torque delivered to all four wheels. Next year, when the production version of the car arrives, it will be available in two trims of hot-hatchness ready to go up against VW’s Golf R and Ford’s Focus RS.
By 2020 Volkswagen has promised to sell this I.D., which can do up to 600km on a full charge of its batteries, powered by an electric motor worth just short of 170 horsepower. It’s not a concept (well, it is, but…), it’s green-lit, getting primed to go on sale in parallel with Volkswagen’s similarly sized Golf (The I.D. is actually shorter but with a bigger wheelbase). Not only that, but Volkswagen pledges to put this thing into production with a fully autonomous driving mode unleashed from 2025, and initiated by a push of that glowing badge on the steering wheel. Also by 2025, the Wolfsburg giant has committed to selling one million electric cars a year, making the I.D. merely one of a spade of upcoming EVs from VW.