The Frankfurt Motor Show is the biggest event of its kind in the world. Taking place every two years in the centre of the Germany's financial hub, it’s a crucial opportunity for the main European car brands to show off their latest models and outline their plans for the future.
Recent changes in attitude towards fossil fuel cars, as well as the Dieselgate emissions scandal that rocked German’s key manufacturers, means that this year’s Frankfurt show (also called IAA Cars 2017) is leaning heavily towards hybrids, fuel-cell cars and battery EVs. Some international brands have pulled out of the Frankfurt show altogether, including Volvo, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Fiat.
Today is the first of two press preview days, during which the majority of new car launches and ‘reveals’ take place. Here’s the lowdown on day one.
The best cars
Bentley's brand new Continental GT drew a huge crowd this morning. British brands have been punching well above their weight today, but the arrival of a new 'Conti' was always going to generate some hype. It looks and feels a lot like the old one, with a familiar 2+2 grand tourer format and the same muscular, sculpted looks.
You'll probably remember the EXP 10 concept that was announced a few years ago. This is the production version of that, and it will go on sale next year with prices starting at £156,700.
Under the bonnet is a 6.0-litre, 626bhp W12 engine (yep, 12 cylinders in a 'W' shape) which launches this British bruiser to 60mph in 3.6 seconds. What's more, it'll keep accelerating until it reaches 207mph. The Crewe firm expects the new Continental to be even more popular than the Bentayga that went on sale in 2016.
The best supercars
Mercedes might be playing on home turf here, but the furore surrounding the new 'Project One' hypercar is almost unheard of for the three-pointed star. Some of its vital statistics are hard to fathom - around 1,000bhp generated by four electric motors and an F1-derived V6, which itself has a startling 11,000rpm redline.
It's probably the most outlandish supercar designed by a mainstream manufacturer in recent years, feeling like a one-off show car or design study from some angles. Still, it's clearly been selling well, with most of the limited run of 275 already accounted for.
Don't hold your breath if you've put your name down, though. Orders aren't expected to be delivered until late next year, or even early 2019. Expect this £2m hypercar to arrive on British roads at the same time as its nemesis, the Aston Martin Valkyrie.
Ferrari is one of the few Italian brands at this year's Frankfurt Motor Show, and they've brought a new entry-level model. The Portofino is a convertible and it replaces the California T, with the same 3.9-litre turbocharged V8 but extra power and a new, stiffer chassis.
It'll hit 62mph in 3.5 seconds, which will feel extraordinarily fast when the roof is down. Ferrari says it's fitted a new wind deflector to make the sensation a little less abrasive, but we can't help wondering what the car's top speed of 199mph will feel like with the roof down...
Does the BMW M5 count as a supercar? With 600bhp now turning all four wheels and a 0-62mph time of 3.2 seconds, we reckon so. It just happens to have room for five people behind that fearsome 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8.
This is the first all-wheel-drive M car, which arguably reflects the fact that they're getting too powerful for the rear-wheel-drive format that has made them so popular over the past four decades.
The best concept cars
Motor shows offer designers and engineers the opportunity to stretch their legs a little. Frankfurt is no exception to this and we've seen a mesmerising array of concepts, design studies and show cars that give us a glimpse (albeit foggy) into the future of car design.
Easily our favourite is this sweet little Honda. Reminiscent of Guigiaro's Mk1 Volkswagen Golf, this boxy little electric city car concept looks fantastic. Its turbine wheels and simple interior match its straightforward two-door profile, and even if we aren't sure about that black splodge on the bonnet, it's conventionality makes it stand out among the largely hyperbolic concepts of the European manufacturers.
We're told that this all-electric model will actually be coming into production in 2019. It'll be the manufacturer's first EV in Europe, and its smallest UK model at 10cm shorter than the Jazz. The concept car's dashboard consists of one long monitor, which we can't help feeling might disappear from the roadgoing version.
Coming a close second is not strictly a concept car at all, more a concept camper. Citroen announced its Spacetourer Rip Curl concept a while ago, but it's been attracting a lot of attention at Frankfurt. It's a small camper van which purports to occupy a sweet spot between passenger car and van, with a relatively small footprint and slightly compromised interior space compared to full-size camping vehicles like Volkswagen's California XXL concept.
We're told that this camper can accommodate four people, though we suspect it will be a squeeze. We're very fond of the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo camper, as well as the cut-price 4x4 SsangYong Turismo Tourist, which we lived in at Goodwood's Festival of Speed.
Best new tech innovations
As part of the industry's gradual departure from diesel dependency, Mercedes-Benz has unveiled its hydrogen fuel cell SUV concept. Fuel cell cars run on hydrogen, which they use to create their own electricity, which in turn drives electric motors. There are some environmental benefits to hydrogen mobility, as well as profound advantages to the consumer over battery-electric vehicles - namely, the charging time from empty is measured in minutes, rather than hours.
Merc's new monstrous SUV combines this technology with that of the plug-in hybrid. The car can be charged up with electricity overnight at home, then on longer journeys its range can be extended with hydrogen top-ups. Its hydrogen tank is 4.4kg which gives it a range of almost 440km, while the lithium-ion battery will give it a range of 49km.
Mercedes has also announced that it will include a navigation system called what3words. This pioneering technique for sharing geographical 'addresses' involves a global grid of 3x3m squares, each of which is identified by a unique sequence of three words.
Drivers will now be able to use these memorable three-word addresses to navigate to a certain position on the planet, rather than relying on a cumbersome mixture of postcodes and street addresses. While what3words is not without its limitations, we here at ///manliness.speech.trout are excited about this innovation in navigation.
Quote of the day
Carlos Tavares, the boss of Peugeot, Citroen and Vauxhall, has harsh words for the headlong lunge into electrification dictated by European governments.
“We are moving from a technology neutral era into an instruction to go electric," he said. “From now on, the scientific responsibility is in the hands of Governments. So if in 20 or 30 years, there are health or safety issues [with electric vehicles], they will be in the hands of Governments.”