SHOW MUST GO ON

Fewer brands turned plenty of heads at Eu­rope’s ma­jor mo­tor expo

Mercury (Hobart) - Motoring - - MOTORING - JOHN CAREY

Does the old-fash­ioned mo­tor show have a new-era fu­ture? Some car mak­ers seem to have doubts. The Mon­dial Paris Mo­tor Show, Eu­rope’s ma­jor auto expo of 2018, opened with the long list of no-show brands out­num­ber­ing those that opted to at­tend.

Two of the world’s three largest brands, Gen­eral Mo­tors and Volk­swa­gen, were not at Paris (though VW Group brands Audi, Skoda and Porsche took part).

Toy­ota was the only one of the Big Three to put in an ap­pear­ance. Fiat, Ford, Jeep, Mazda, Mit­subishi, Nis­san and Subaru stayed away, as did Alfa Romeo, Volvo and Maserati. Brands with im­por­tant mod­els to re­veal did so ahead of the open­ing. In nor­mal times the Audi e-tron and Mer­cedes-Benz EQC would have been ma­jor stars — but in­stead the mak­ers un­veiled their new elec­tric SUVs well be­fore­hand in Stock­holm and San Fran­cisco re­spec­tively.

BMW

A new 3 Se­ries is a ma­jor mo­ment for Mu­nich. The larger but lighter sev­enth-gen­er­a­tion sedan will go on sale in Eu­rope from March and will reach Aus­tralia soon af­ter. Ini­tially, there will be 2.0-litre four-cylin­der petrol and diesel power, plus a 3.0-litre six-cylin­der diesel.

BMW en­gi­neers have thrown ev­ery tech­ni­cal trick in their book at it, with the aim of mak­ing it the han­dling hero of its class. It will also have richer stan­dard equip­ment than ever, in­clud­ing ad­vanced ac­tive safety fea­tures, in­fo­tain­ment dis­plays and driver-aas­sist tech­nol­ogy. Thank Toy­ota for the two-seat, rear-drive Z4 sports car. The com­pa­nies col­lab­o­rated to cre­ate two mod­els that use the same ba­sic set of BMW-de­signed com­po­nents. The Toy­ota Supra coupe and the con­vert­ible-only Z4 are tech­ni­cal twins, with im­por­tant dif­fer­ences.

Due in Aus­tralia late next year, the Z4 will

have four and six-cylin­der tur­bos. It is not aimed as a ri­val for the six-cylin­der only Supra

Ex­pect the 8 Se­ries coupe to be the most ex­pen­sive car in BMW’s line-up. This hefty all­wheel drive V8 is likely to cost even more than the 7 Se­ries limo. BMW says the 8 Se­ries will have looks, per­for­mance and tech­nol­ogy to make it an “ul­tra-pre­mium” model. The coupe will reach Aus­tralia in the first half of next year with a con­vert­ible and four-door coupe to fol­low.

FER­RARI

The lovely Monza SP1 and SP2 launch Fer­rari’s new Icon se­ries, su­per-ex­clu­sive lim­ited-run mod­els re­served for the brand’s most fer­vent fans. They will make up less than five per cent of Maranello pro­duc­tion.

The sin­gle-seat Monza SP1 and two-seat SP2, penned by Fer­rari’s de­sign cen­tre, make ex­ten­sive use of light­weight car­bon-fi­bre com­pos­ites. The cars evoke mem­o­ries of Fer­rari two-seat rac­ers of the ’50s but use the 588kW 6.5-litre V12 of to­day’s 812 Su­per­fast.

Fer­rari will pro­duce only 499 Mon­zas, at more than $2.5 mil­lion each in Eu­rope.

MER­CEDES-BENZ

The big GLE will have an op­tional third row of seats for the first time. The SUV will get the same kind of wide-screen dis­play seen in other re­cent mod­els plus the smart MBUX user in­ter­face. The party trick for top six-cylin­der and V8 mod­els with the op­tional air sus­pen­sion and E-Ac­tive Body Con­trol ac­tive sus­pen­sion is the abil­ity to kan­ga­roo-hop out of bog­ging in soft sand. Ex­pect the GLE early next year with six-cylin­der turbo en­gines, diesel and petrol alike. Mer­cedes is work­ing on a plug-in hy­brid ver­sion with elec­tric-only range of 100km, says R&D chief Ola Kale­nius

The new B-Class four-cylin­der mini peo­ple­mover is more spa­cious than the ver­sion it re­places and has the ad­vanced driver-aid tech, safety and user in­ter­face of the closely re­lated new A-Class hatch­back. It also in­tro­duces a new eight-speed dou­ble-clutch auto.

It’s not ob­vi­ous from look­ing at the A-Class sedan but the maker claims its co-ef­fi­cient of drag is a low, low 0.22. Bet­ter still, the four­door’s ex­te­rior style is eas­ier on the eye than the pre­de­ces­sor.

Mer­cedes-AMG’s wing-wear­ing A35 all­wheel drive hatch is the new gate­way drug. It will be the least costly car to wear the badge. With a 225kW turbo four, it will be quick, claim­ing 0-100km/h in 4.7 sec­onds.

The com­ing A45 will be even wilder.

PEU­GEOT

The E-Le­gend Con­cept is unashamedly retro and sporty, a homage to the lovely Peu­geot 504 coupe and a clear mes­sage from the French brand that it won’t build bor­ing cars.

The re­tractable steer­ing wheel sug­gests oth­er­wise but the E-Le­gend is de­signed to be driven and en­joyed when time and traf­fic per­mit. With a pow­er­ful elec­tric mo­tor (340kW/800Nm), it claims less than four sec­onds for the 0-100km/h sprint and 600km of range when driven sen­si­bly.

Peu­geot CEO Jean-Philippe Im­parato reck­ons there al­ways will be such de­sir­able cars in the cat­a­logue. “It em­bod­ies our his­tory. It is el­e­gant and has all the fea­tures of tra­di­tional well-de­signed French craft,” he says.

Head de­signer Gilles Vi­dal says: “The idea is to demon­strate that the fu­ture doesn’t need to be es­pe­cially bor­ing…but can be very emo­tional, pos­i­tive and in­ter­est­ing and can even take the shape of a vin­tage, homage car.”

RE­NAULT

“A robo-ve­hi­cle for pre­mium mo­bil­ity ex­pe­ri­ence.” So says Re­nault of its EZ Ul­timo con­cept, a limo mi­nus the driver. De­sign­ers can imag­ine classier fu­ture cus­tomers rid­ing in such a high-end mo­bil­ity pod but it’s hard to imag­ine any­thing like the EZ Ul­timo ever be­ing built.

The con­cept com­pletes Re­nault’s trio of elec­tric-pow­ered, hyper-con­nected and au­ton­o­mous-driv­ing 2018 con­cept cars. Ear­lier in­stal­ments were a fu­tur­is­tic ur­ban mo­bil­ity pod and last-mile de­liv­ery van.

The maker also showed a pro­duc­tion elec­tric SUV, the SA K-ZE.

SKODA

La­belled a con­cept, the Vi­sion RS is re­ally a sneak pre­view of the sharp-look­ing re­place­ment for the stodgy Rapid. Ex­pect to see the pro­duc­tion ver­sion in show­rooms next year.

Skoda has yet to re­veal what the new model will be called but its size means it will be an al­ter­na­tive to the VW Golf, some­thing the smaller Rapid could never do.

It will use a range of VW Group en­gines, in­clud­ing the new 1.5-litre turbo four. A go-fast RS ver­sion with a big­ger engine will join the line-up sub­se­quently.

SUZUKI

The new Jimny has the same rugged and prac­ti­cal look as a Mer­cedes-Benz G-Class but is half the size and a frac­tion of the price.

A proper off-roader, it has a sep­a­rate lad­der chas­sis, rigid axles front and rear and a dual-range trans­fer case. Built in Ja­pan, it gets a new 1.5-litre four-cylin­der pro­duc­ing 75kW, with five-speed man­ual and four-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion op­tions.

It’s a real light­weight at just un­der 1.2 tonnes empty but clearly ca­pa­ble of heavy-duty use.

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