There was very little of the moment at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show last week. Everyone looked blissfully towards 2025 announcing countless new electric cars, entire electric line-ups, and electrified spin-off brands. You could hardly see an exhaust tip anywhere. I think those big German guys in suspenders turned them away at the door. They couldn’t stop a thousand horsepower ultracar though…
Mercedes’ scarcely believable Project One is rewriting the supercar rulebook of the future, while the Koreans are doing the same for boring family cars. A shooting brake Kia concept in Frankfurt suggests they don’t have to be boring at all. Honda meanwhile, thinks the dwindling hatchback market can be revitalised, with a 1972 Civic from a parallel electrified universe… Actually, things are looking rather good…
Mercedes-AMG Project One
We already have to start thinking of what comes after hypercar, because the Porsche 918 Spyder, LaFerrari and McLaren P1 hypercar trinity are already old dogs — Aston Martin and Mercedes-AMG just euthanised them. We know about Gaydon’s Valkyrie designed by F1 genius Adrian Newey and built in partnership with Red Bull Racing, and now Mercedes-AMG is ready to put up a fight with the Project One and “bring Formula 1 technology to the road for the first time,” according to Daimler boss Dieter Zetsche. Using a 1.6-litre hybrid V6 engine straight out of Valtteri Botas’ and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 racing car, the thing develops 1,000bhp and revs to 11,000rpm. Front axle electric motors spin to 50,000rpm and help the all-wheel drive Project-One reach 200kph from zero in less than six seconds. Something like a McLaren 720S takes two seconds longer, which may as well be two years in the world of Formula 1 superlatives… It’ll cost Dh9.9 million and just 275 will be built.
Honda Urban EV concept
The electric champion of Frankfurt came surprisingly from Japanese giant Honda. They dropped their Toyota-chasing beige aspirations to rest for a moment, and dug deep within the company’s storied history to put a smile on every show goer’s face with the Urban EV concept harking back so sympathetically to the original 1972 Civic. You know, when Honda was cool. Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo promised the car would reach showrooms in Europe by 2019. The Urban EV concept sits a full 100mm shorter than a Honda Jazz supermini and comes with rear-hinged doors. The interior is open and airy (just check out those slender A-pillars) with a ‘floating’ dashboard that stretches across the cabin, housing a huge panoramic display. It’s all very showy, but let’s hope it translates well into the 2019 production model because Honda is setting a high bar with the Urban EV concept.
Kia Proceed concept
The Koreans finally dropped the stupid underscore from the Pro_ceed’s name and presented arguably a bolder future model than even the recent rear-wheel drive Kia Stinger GT. The new Proceed concept made its world debut in Frankfurt with a shooting brake style estate body, low and sleek, clean and devoid of sharp creases. Instead of edgy flame surfacing to lighten the bulk of the sheet metal that’s inevitable with modern high window lines, Kia’s Peter Schreyer design language makes use of concave lower surfaces along the profile to tuck the car inwards and underneath and make it look much lighter on its wheels than it is. The Proceed concept, it’s safe to say, looks fantastic, and Kia says the European-designed car (the Koreans have a styling department in Frankfurt) will make production leaving a lot of consumer brands panicking in their studios.
BMW X7 concept
BMW finally previewed its upcoming full-size SUV scheduled to be produced in the company’s South Carolina, US, factory for a global release - we’ll see a production model at a show next year before the sales date, but this Frankfurt concept gives you a very clear idea. It’s enough to make George Foreman sweat. The X7 is basically a six-seater grille. Preview in Frankfurt as a hybrid model, the X7 didn’t even have visible exhaust tips, but it did have size and presence on its side, with the biggest cabin of any BMW yet complete with four captain’s chairs and a massive panoramic roof.
Renault Sport Megane
The French want to take back the claim for the best hot hatchbacks on the market (since they ruined the Clio…), and Renault believes the new Megane with rear-wheel steering (the first hot hatch on the market with the technology) is the car to do it. buyers will be able to choose from two chassis tunes, with Cup including a proper limited slip differential and serving up 280 horsepower and 290Nm of torque.
If Honda presented the future of the supermini in the fabulous Urban EV, then Mercedes is getting ready for the future of the hot hatchback with a zero-emissions all-electric EQA powered by 270bhp worth of batteries — the company is preparing 10 all-new electric models by 2022 including a crossover and this EQA hatchback.
Suzuki Swift Sport
We’ve always loved the Suzuki Swift Sport for its great chassis and free-revving naturally aspirated engine. The Japanese small car specialist is back doing what it does best, with an all-new Swift Sport introducing a new design (it looks okay…) and a downsized turbocharged engine making 70Nm more torque than before for a 230Nm total. Best of all Suzuki has saved up to 80kg in the new Swift Sport with a quoted kerb figure of just 970kg, some 300 kilos lighter than something like a Mini Cooper S.
VW I.D. Crozz
Wolfsburg announced a plan to invest 6 billion euros (Dh26 billion) into electrification of the brand over the next five years - 2020 will be a key point, when VW launches a zero-emissions crossover previewed in Frankfurt by the world premiere of the I.D. Crozz concept. With a neat coupé-like profile, it’ll be just one of 23 all-electric offerings planned by VW by the year 2025, including a production version of the I.D. Buzz concept inspired by the original VW ‘Bulli’ Bus, and the I.D. compact hatch that’ll run around in the Golf segment. You couldn’t even hear a whisper about diesel.
Chinese-German brand Borgward is now selling its wares in the Middle East with the recently-announced regional partners established in the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait, but before it was extinguished in 1963 the brand was known for its classy Isabella sportscar — the name made a comeback on a four-door saloon concept that is supposed to preview the evolution of Borgward’s design language rather than an actual production model.
Land Rover Discovery SVX
You know Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) team from mental machines like the F-Type Project 7 speedster and the 600-horsepower XE SV Project 8 going straight after M3s and AMGs. Now SVO turned its attention to beating on mountains and dunes with the Land Rover Discovery SVX. The all-new Disco launched with the company’s Ingenium four-cylinder engines, which just didn’t do for the SVO boys and girls. So they chucked in a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 making 525bhp and 625Nm of torque. With Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tyres, hydraulically-actuated roll control, a suspension and body lift, and of course bright orange skid plates, this thing will laugh at the base of Al Faya’s dunes every Friday night… And they’re actually making the Discovery SVX from 2018.
BMW i Vision Dynamics
Apart from a six-seater grille, BMW also launched the i Vision concept car which previews an upcoming sedan in the company’s i brand portfolio to join the i3 supermini and the i8sportscar. The four-door is about 3 Series-sized, but affording drivers a zero-emissions range of 600km and zero to 100kph in just four seconds with a top speed of over 200kph.
Audi RS4 Avant
Remember when Porsche built an Audi in Zuffenhausen? In 1994 the four-ringed brand launched the first RS model, the legendary RS2 Avant, powered by an inline turbocharged engine and loads of Porsche tech, and hand-built by Porsche. The link is back - the new RS4 Avant has made a comeback with a Porsche-developed 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 engine worth 450 horsepower and 600Nm of torque, and it’s planned for release in the Middle East.
Bentley Continental GT
The Bentley Continental GT has been around since 2003 in Volkswagen’s hands, and we mean clearly in Volkswagen’s hands with parts plucked straight out of Wolfsburg’s bargain bins and sent to Crewe to be thrown into the interiors of these hand-made ultra-luxury cruisers. With the latest third-generation model siting on the same platform as the Porsche Panamera (don’t worry, with a W12 twin-turbocharged bhp engine still intact…) that was developed by the German company’s Weissach volk, this Conti takes things up a whole notch with a 48-volt electrical system running the car’s trick anti-roll control, three-chamber air suspension, and a totally redesigned, rather stunning interior. We can’t see a single VW switch in there either…
Mini John Cooper Works GP concept
Mini previewed an upcoming John Cooper Works GP hot hatch with a wide body concept featured box arches and some wild bodywork covering 19in wheels. There’s plenty of carbon fibre to go around, and a properly hard-core interior with a full roll cage, bucket seats and 3D-printed parts.
Audi R8 V10 RWS
Audi quietly revealed the first rear-wheel drive production car from the Ingolstadt brand, to be released for sale later this month with a limited run of 999 examples worldwide. The new Audi R8 V10 RWS (for Rear Wheel Series) gets rid of the propshaft, multi-plate clutch and centre differential to save up to 50kg over the standard all-wheel drive car, and comes with options like a red racing stripe. The 5.2-litre naturally aspirated V10 engine is intact, still worth 540 horsepower and 540Nm of torque.
Oh look, the Ferrari California doesn’t look rank any more. Also, it’s dead, replaced by a new name and a new design, so let’s all just forget the unfortunate Maranello rump we’ve had to stare at for the last nine years. The new Ferrari Portofino starts fresh with an in-house design that drops the old vertically-stacked rear end for a lower, wider look producing less drag and more downforce than the California ever could. The Portofino is also 35 per cent stiffer and 80kg lighter, while the carry-over turbocharged V8 engine went through a lot of changes, now boosted to make 600 horsepower at a heady 7,500rpm and 760Nm of torque. So, you know, see you on the Beach Road…
Fuji Heavy Industries, also known as Subaru, put an all-new Impreza hatchback on the show floor with an all-new design, that looks a lot like the old one. This company, with some of the highest brand-loyalty in the industry and dedicated return-buyers, isn’t about to fix what ain’t broke though, so expect flat-four engines, all-wheel drive, and a larger car overall - it’s 35mm wider, with a 25mm longer wheelbase, but a 10mm lower roofline.
Chery Exeed TX
The largest Chinese auto exporter, Chery, announced a new sub-brand to take on established markets like Europe. The new Exxed brand will surface with an SUV to begin with, previewed at the Frankfurt show b the TX crossover displayed in pre-production form. The model introduces a future look across the board of upcoming Chery vehicles, and it will debut in hybrid form with a 1.5-litre petrol engine combined with an electric motor to deliver over 260bhp.