The Frankfurt motor show 2017 is now open to an inquisitive public after two full press- and trade-only days featuring a numbing schedule of more than 100 “reveals” of new production cars, concepts (some fanciful, the majority with an eye to production) as well as a host of projects embracing hybrids, hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion and battery-powered electric vehicles (EVs).
Here is our round-up of the most interesting launches at the show from all the manufacturers present. There are plenty more to come.
The Portofino replaces the California T as the entry-level Ferrari. It has an uprated version of the California's 3,855cc, 90-degree V8 and, due to greater efficiency with reduced friction losses, it develops 592bhp at a heady 7,500rpm with 561lb ft of torque from 3,000-5,250rpm.
That's sufficient for a top speed of 199mph, with 0-62mph acceleration in 3.5sec.
Like the California, it has an electro-hydraulic retractable hard-top. Ferrari says it has been completely redesigned, including a reduction in weight, and it opens or closes in 14sec, including at low speed.
More important, an increase of 38bhp combined with an 80kg overall reduction in weight should ensure improved agility and performance, as well as a reduction in emissions (although it's unclear how many people buy a Ferrari for its low emissions). PH
Sporting an impressively deep paintwork finish despite its well-used history, this Bugatti Chiron is a record-breaker by some margin, achieving zero to 400kmh to zero (0-249mph-0) in just 41.96 seconds with ex-Formula One and IndyCar driver Juan Pablo Montoya at the wheel.
Apparently, to get the video in the bag, they had to do this 17 times on the same set of tyres; they just put fuel in the 1,479bhp beast and carried on.
It's the distances that stagger here. From rest to 400kph took this 8.0-litre W16 quad-turbo monster just 32.6 seconds and 2,621 metres. At that point the car was travelling at 111.1 metres per second. Montoya stood on the anchors, the massive rear wing deployed and the car was static again 491 metres away 9.36 seconds later... The whole run was accomplished in just over three kilometres.
Just when you thought speed records were a dead duck, two contenders (the Chiron, and of course the British Bloodhound land-speed record car) come along together. This Chiron feat will form part of a series of record-breaking that Bugatti will be attempting in the coming 12 months. Stay tuned.
The Urban EV Concept is actually less of a concept, more of a production future for this pretty little gadabout from the Japanese firm, which marks the first appearance of Honda's new electric vehicle platform.
Its retro styling is charming. I love the "suicide" doors, which speak of early Fiat Cinquecentos and Citroen Traction Avants, there's also a load of "communicating" lights at the front - which are becoming a design de rigeur for small urban cars. It's 3.9 metres long, seats four and will go into production in 2019.
Honda has confirmed that electrified technology will feature in every new car it launches in Europe by 2025. The announcement was made by Honda president and CEO Takahiro Hachigo, during his speech at the reveal of the Urban EV in Frankfurt.
In the spirit of Le Corbusier, the great French Swiss architect and visionary, Renault’s Symbioz concept posits a world of the future where autonomous, electrically-powered cars not only transport us, but in the wealthiest households are also industrial design of the premier cru.
“Why would you park your car in a cold, dark, dirty garage?” asks Laurens van den Acker, Renault’s top designer. So, the Symbioz would not just drive itself into the house but also provide a seating place and entertainment hub and, like some vast mechanical St Bernard, it would follow you around from room to room.
It’s all absolute nonsense of course. Or is it? Autonomous driving means you don't need a crash or rollover structure, so designers can return to the glass house designs. “It’s like those General Motors designs of the Fifties, like a UFO,” says van den Acker.
It would, of course, mean a vast gasometer-like turntable outside your house and a car wash at the entrance, which makes van den Acker’s claim that the Symbioz would save on parking space seem slightly ridiculous, but at least you’d no longer have to walk from the car park to your house.
Some of us remember slightly less ambitious marriages of technology which came to a sticky end. Mercedes-Benz’s first Comand system, for example, was predicated on you owning a particular sort of mobile phone - which went out of production within six months of the system’s launch. Van den Acker agrees that such technology needs to be future-proofed.
“Up to now, we’ve specced the cars to be up to date on the day of sale,” he says. “We need to over-spec our cars to allow future technology to come into our cars. It’s a hard sell, but you need to have open upgradeable architecture for the car.”
And if that’s the only thing that the Symbioz does, then for all its pie-in-the-sky soothsaying, it will have been a success.
Paul Hudson writes: Back into 2017, and Renault's other star is the Megane R.S. hot hatchback - that's not RS, as used on fast Fords, but R.S. to denote Renault Sport. It goes on sale in the UK (or is that U.K.?) in spring 2018.
Anyway, it has an all-new, 277bhp engine and 4CONTROL four-wheel steering, with the option of six-speed manual or six-speed EDC automatic transmissions.
Fast Renault fetishists will appreciate the choice of Sport and Cup (with a limited-slip differential) chassis, both with revised front suspension. Most important for trackday fiends, the new R.S. Monitor Expert allows the real-time performance display to be connected to a camera and posted directly to social media
An even more track-focussed Trophy version, with 300hp and 400Nm of torque, will be available by the end of 2018.
More on the fearsome (or faintly ludicrous, depending on your point of view) Mercedes-AMG hypercar from our man with the sore feet, Herr English:
Dieter Zetsche, Mercedes chief executive, told us that “never before has racetrack technology been taken to the road more directly”. Hum, he should look at pre-war Bentley Speed Sixes, or the efforts of Ettore Bugatti, but all the same the Mercedes-AMG Project One is one fairly awesome beast.
The idea of putting a couple of little motors in the front wheels to manage the torque vectoring and the humongous power was, of course, pioneered by Honda with the current NSX, but as a celebration of Mercedes-Benz’s three recent Formula One world championships, the car is as near as you are going to get to an F1 car on the road.
The teaser images in the build-up to the show led me to think that the styling would be more like the current brand of sinister-looking World Endurance Championship contenders (Toyota had its WEC racer on the stand) and with all the deployable aerodynamics at bay it looks a little too smooth, but get up close and you can see it’s a very serious vehicle indeed….
The latest in a long line of Land Cruisers took a bow at Frankfurt, all new from stem to stern. It goes on sale in the UK next year and Toyota is looking forward to taking some sales out of Land Rover after the demise of its long-running Defender; there are even strong rumours that Toyota will offer a commercial version of the Land Cruiser, a market it left a long time ago.
So there's big cabin upgrade, although Toyota GB is still pondering just what spec it will import so that’s all tba. The engine will be a diesel and that’s that. And if that seems a bit agricultural, just remember how the Land Cruiser got its reputation for being an unburstable, go-anywhere companion that didn’t let you down.
“So if you want to tow the Isle of Wight across a ploughed field, we’ve got that covered,” said a spokesman.
On the subject of being tough and going anywhere, Toyota’s Hilux pick-up, a name which is 50 years old this year, is being celebrated with a 50th concept vehicle. Just so you know it’s a concept, they stuck a big sign in front of it saying "Showcar".
Actually, that’s stuff and nonsense, as we happen to know that the 50th anniversary edition is going to go on sale, so farmers, oil explorers, insurgents and lifeguards should form an orderly queue.
Under the skin, Vauxhall’s new Grandland X SUV is basically a Peugeot 3008; this was a deal done way before last year’s takeover of Vauxhall/Opel by PSA Peugeot-Citroen. Besides, it’s not a bad thing to stick a griffin badge on the front of the 3008, which won last year’s prestigious European Car of the Year award and has been pulling up some trees in the family SUV market dominated by Nissan’s Qashqai.
It goes on sale next year and there’ll be four trim levels and two basic engines, a 1.6 diesel and a three-cylinder petrol. Like the 3008, all the versions will come only with front-wheel drive and Vauxhall is confidently predicting that the Grandland X will have the second biggest retail sales volume after the Corsa. In fact they’re making it so, since fleet sales will be severely restricted.
Prices start at £22,500, which doesn’t seem to bad; pity about that name though.
The Vauxhall stand also features the Insignia GSi, a high-performance variant with all-wheel drive, an uprated chassis and Brembo brakes, along with the Insignia Country Tourer, a jacked-up estate with all-wheel drive and off-road styling in the form of plastic cladding around the wheelarches.
The Korean firm has revealed its Proceed Concept. Designed at Kia’s European design centre in Frankfurt, less than a lilometre from where it was unveiled, the concept indicates what the next-generation Cee’d family hatchback could look like.
Gregory Guillaume, Chief Designer Europe for Kia Motors, said: “With many European drivers now seeking performance alternatives to the three-door hot hatch, we began thinking about a different halo model for the Cee’d family. The Proceed Concept represents a bold new vision of how the vibrant soul of the pro_cee’d could be reincarnated and revitalised for a new generation of performance-oriented drivers.”
So it's low, with a raking roofline, the lack of a pillar betwen the doors making it look like a quasi lifestyle estate. We particularly like the striking sill section, while the Lava Red paint colour is fantastic.
The future looks bright..
The Stonic compact SUV, Kia's entry into Europe’s fastest-growing vehicle segment, makes its public debut before going on sale in the UK next month.
It is available in up to 20 two-tone colour combinations, with a choice of five colours for the roof. The interior offers a host of personalisation options, while Kia claims class-leading shoulder room and generous leg and head room.
Petrol and diesel engines will be offered, all with manual gearboxes. PH
The big news at Skoda is the Karoq, yet another compact SUV (have you noticed a theme developing here?).
As well as the usual guff about SUV offensives, the Karoq has "emotive and dynamic design with crystalline features characterising the brand's new SUV design language".
It has a relatively long wheelbase in relation to the overall length, so it should be reasonably spacious. Skoda also claims best-in-class luggage space, at 521 litres with the rear seats in place and 1,630 litres when they're folded. Thee is also the option of VarioFlex rear seating, with three separate rear seats that can be individually adjusted. When they're removed the total load volume is a van-like 1,810 litres.
It also features a fully customisable digital instrument panel in which the displays can be personalised and are linked to the infotainment system. Full connectivity and internet access are a given.
Five engines will be available initially, two petrol (both new to Skoda) and three diesel, with between 115 and 190PS. PH
I've got a soft spot for this tiny Japanese car-maker, which continues to plough its own furrow producing four-wheel drive Impreza hatchbacks with flat-four engines. Produced in yen, the Ford Focus-sized hatchbacks can be expensive, but they also have a staggering reliability record, which means people tend to hold on to them.
Subaru will be hoping this, the fifth generation Impreza since 1992, will attract all those owners and more. It's based on Subaru’s all new global architecture and has been on sale in the US since last year. It’s a five-door hatchback and is aimed at a small but valiant market of people who want all-wheel drive but don’t want an SUV.
We get the car this winter, initially with a revamped, 114PS 1.6-litre flat-four engine. A 156PS, 2.0-litre flat-four will follow, with a hybrid in 2019 and a battery-electric version in 2021.
All the models will have a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and four-wheel drive. Also standard will be Subaru’s Eyesight driver protection system, which includes: pre-collision braking and throttle management; adaptive cruise control; lane-departure warning; and lane keeping assistance.
No prices yet, but a high yen and low pound means it won’t be cheap.
Like everyone else, the French firm has leapt wholeheartedly on the SUV bandwagon. Its new offering is the C3 Aircross, a compact (B-segment, in auto industry parlance) SUV that's claimed to have the space and modularity of a people carrier with an emphasis on comfort and connected technologies.
Priced from £13,995 to £19,720, it will be in UK showrooms from November 1. The petrol and diesel engines range from 82 to 130PS, with CO2 emissions between 104 and 126g/km.
The examples at Frankfurt are presented in a variety of colour combinations to show the wide range of personalisation options.
Those with a lifestyle are treated to the SpaceTourer Rip Curl concept. It's a four-wheel drive camper van "aimed at outdoor adventurers". In other words, those who currently buy a Volkswagen California, although the Citroen offering is slightly smaller. PH
I didn't much take to the original Duster budget SUV, which was launched in the UK in 2012. Sure it was a rough and ready 4x4 at a bargain-basement price, but it was generally wildly over-specified, early models suffered rust problems and it wasn't particularly economical and had poor EuroNCAP crash safety scores.
The new model, making its debut at Frankfurt, is aimed at addressing all that and providing a better quality car at similar prices, which at the moment start at about £9,500. The chassis platform is carried over from the current model, but the bodywork is all new and a lot more attractive, with less of a slab-sided appearance. There’s also a new burnt-sienna body colour; you know this because all the cars on the stand are so hued.
It's inside where the Duster gets a big revamp, with not a switch, instrument or surface untouched. Engines will be carried over in part, although the new fuel consumption tests due next year means they’ll have to be reworked.
It won’t garner five NCAP stars either, as the necessary but expensive camera- and radar-based technologies won’t be fitted to keep the price down. The spec feels pretty good, however, in spite of it’s value-for-money positioning.
The new Duster feels more of an authentic choice now rather than a middle class affectation.
Of course, it's the new Bentley Continental GT.
We waited a long time for a small(er) car from Crewe. In 1985, when Peter Ward unveiled the "baby Bentley" concept, the Black Rat, the vital need for Bentley to have a smaller car was well understood, but there was no money. At the 1994 Geneva motor show, when the crate was lifted off Project Java, a BMW 5-series-based concept, the press went wild, but there was still no money - it took Volkswagen's ownership to change all that.
The Continental GT, with its extraordinary W12 twin-turbo engine and choice of just six colours, was launched in 2003 at £110,000 with a two-year waiting list. It formed the basis of cabriolets, saloon (Flying Spur) versions and boosted Bentley's production in Crewe to nearly 10,000 cars per year.
The second generation came in 2011 and now we have the third, based on the Porsche Panamera chassis, and it's a good deal lighter and (it is claimed) more sporting than ever before. It’s available now,with the 6.0-litre W12 priced at £156,700 with first deliveries late next spring.
It’s faster (207mph, 0-60mph in 3.6sec) and 76kg lighter thanks to its largely aluminium bodywork. There’ll definitely be a hybrid to come and most probably a V8, which will be the enthusiast driver’s option.
It’s horribly expensive, redolent of the Gatsby era of grand touring, hardly economical, but it’s also super luxurious, quite lovely - and one of my cars of the show.
Mercedes-owned Smart laid on an excruciating ‘Kids From Fame’ launch for its Vision EQ Fortwo, a cheeky autonomous urban concept, which posits a sort of Cuban taxi model of lift-sharing, plus an individual cab ride if you choose. Mercedes-Smart also suggest it could do parcel delivery work at night.
It’s controlled via complex algorithms but responds to smartphone hailing and voice control. There are only two seats, so it’s not as practical as a Cuban taxi - and it also has the dubious benefit of being able to tap into your social media accounts so it can discuss shared interests with you en route.
At this point I'm tempted to remind you of the benefits of walking…
Over at Mercedes-Benz was the EQA. We saw the larger battery-electric EQC study at the Paris show last September and that car is mooted to be just two years away - this electric A-class concept, however, was a better looking thing even if its further from production.
It’s quick, with 0-62mph acceleration in about five seconds, a 249-mile range and four-wheel drive, with one electric motor in the front axle and one in the rear. Total system output is over 200kW and 500Nm and just 10 minutes on a rapid charger gives about 62 miles of range.
The lines and proportions are pleasing, even if there is a bit of Vauxhall Astra GTC in there. There’s a load of LED malarkey at the front showing the car’s mood, which probably won’t make it into production, but could this good looking thing be produced?
“Unlikely,” growled a spokesman, before adding gnomically: “It hasn’t got enough doors.”
The boys from Munich had the honour of the first press conference of the morning, revealing the good-looking Vision Dynamics. Building on the design for last year’s Vision 100 concept, this battery-electric grand coupé concept is sleek, razor-edged and elegant. It’s not based on anything in particular, as Domagoj Dukec, the Croatian head of i and M design, says: “It will be earlier than 2030, but I can’t say exactly when.”
The idea of the commodification of the automobile must give the design community sleepless nights as all cars might end up looking like fridges. Or will they?
"No [they won’t],” says Dukec, using the example of airlines to explain. “Airlines all use the same planes, but why do people chose to fly with different carriers? It’s the service. So times are changing and we have to look at what is the quality of a BMW.
“In future you might be asked to test five different autonomous cars and they might all drive you to your destination, but the measure is how they make you feel.”