SHOW MUST GO ON
Fewer brands turned plenty of heads at Europe’s major motor expo
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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.