Paris mo­tor show tour

Hilton Hol­loway’s show di­ary


Mon­day 1 Oc­to­ber, 7.01am

It’s an early train from St Pan­cras sta­tion (it­self 150 years old this morn­ing) to Paris for a pre­view of Skoda’s new Ko­diaq RS and Vi­sion RS con­cept. Although the lat­ter is dressed as an RS and pre­views the sporty sub-brand’s de­sign lan­guage, a pro­duc­tion ver­sion will ap­pear in De­cem­ber as a di­rect ri­val for the Ford Fo­cus. Skoda is cur­rently blow­ing the doors off its fac­to­ries, which are run­ning at max­i­mum ca­pac­ity. Sales in the first half of 2018 were up 11% glob­ally.

Tues­day 2 Oc­to­ber, 9.30am

No ques­tion that the Paris show is a shadow of its for­mer self, but there is still plenty of eye candy. Porsche’s stand is dom­i­nated by clas­sics, in­clud­ing a 959. The young chap on the stand who has an ex­tra­or­di­nary knowl­edge of the old cars is Maxime. He’s a stu­dent at the nearby ESTACA tech­ni­cal univer­sity (France has aca­demic, en­gi­neer­ing and busi­ness uni­ver­si­ties) and is study­ing au­to­mo­tive en­gi­neer­ing. On Satur­days, he works at a Porsche dealer, deal­ing with po­ten­tial buy­ers.

Such fo­cused de­greelevel en­gi­neer­ing and wider en­gage­ment with the car com­pa­nies is pos­si­bly why France’s auto in­dus­try is so ro­bust and the UK’S is so des­per­ately short of en­gi­neers.


No­tice at the Porsche shop that the com­pany is sell­ing a Porsche De­sign ‘vir­tual sur­round sys­tem’ mu­sic sound bar con­verted from the ‘orig­i­nal rear si­lencer and twin ex­hausts from a 911 GT3’. It costs €2900 and this black ver­sion is of­fered, nat­u­rally, in a lim­ited edi­tion of 911 units.


Over on the Audi stand, all the at­ten­tion (in­clud­ing no end of in­dus­try bench­mark­ers) is on the new E-tron elec­tric cross­over. While there’s no doubt that the Audi is a fes­ti­val of nano-tight shut­lines and a les­son in premium fin­ish, the E-tron’s (adapted) EV plat­form is an­other mat­ter. The nose is jam-packed with elec­tri­cal con­trol equip­ment and the boot is pretty shal­low be­cause

of the size­able mo­tor driv­ing the rear wheels.

Also on dis­play (and un­der heavy scru­tiny from Asian car en­gi­neers) was a cut­away of the E-tron’s bat­tery, which served to demon­strate just how fan­tas­ti­cally com­plex th­ese things are. You can say one thing for the Model 3 sa­loon on the nearby Tesla stand: de­spite it be­ing a smaller car, the pack­ag­ing of its twin­mo­tor bat­tery driv­e­train is far su­pe­rior to the Audi, of­fer­ing both a huge boot space and sub­stan­tial room in the nose.


De­spite hav­ing a whole stage to it­self, the new Toy­ota Camry hy­brid was prob­a­bly ig­nored by most vis­i­tors to Paris. The nameplate is back in Europe af­ter 14 years and Toy­ota says that, at 700,000 sales a year, it’s the big­gest-sell­ing D/E seg­ment sa­loon in the world. More im­pres­sive is the 2.5-litre petrol en­gine, which has a world-lead­ing ther­mal ef­fi­ciency of 41% – a fan­tas­tic en­gi­neer­ing achieve­ment.

A big hy­brid petrol en­gine in a big car that emits 98g/km of CO2 is worth not­ing. Best of all, the Camry has an ‘EV’ but­ton to en­gage elec­tric-only mode for ef­fort­less progress in the great British traf­fic jam. Mini­cab driv­ers should up­grade from a Prius.


Com­po­nent sup­plier Plas­tic Om­nium has one of the most in­ter­est­ing dis­plays at Paris, push­ing the idea of hy­dro­gen as a fu­ture fuel. The com­pany had two of its carbonfibre ‘fil­a­ment-wound’ hy­dro­gen fuel tanks – ca­pa­ble of stor­ing the gas at 350bar of pres­sure – on show and was mak­ing much of the fact that three min­utes of hy­dro­gen re­fu­elling of­fers as much as 497 miles of driv­ing range with a fuel-cell car. As the com­pany points out, hy­dro­gen can be cracked from sea wa­ter us­ing wind power. To me, it’s a re­minder that, like with diesel, the rush to heavy, ex­pen­sive and slow-charg­ing bat­tery­pow­ered cars may turn out to be a strate­gic mis­take.


Top marks to Alpine for dis­play­ing the bare alu­minium shell of the A110. In a show that was a fes­ti­val of all things elec­tri­fied and dig­i­tal, be­ing able to see the raw clar­ity of the new Alpine’s en­gi­neer­ing was a wel­come relief.


I re­cently trekked to Viet­nam to see the birth of Vinfast, a startup lo­cal man­u­fac­turer. Paris was the first op­por­tu­nity to see the fin­ished cars.

Based on the out­go­ing BMW 5 Se­ries and X5 re­spec­tively, the LUX A2.0 sa­loon and LUX SA2.0 SUV are in­ter­est­ing be­cause th­ese de­signs were de­vel­oped in just over a year, with­out us­ing clay mod­els. They went from draw­ings to full-size foam mod­els to pro­duc­tion sur­faces ex­e­cuted dig­i­tally. In­te­rior de­vel­op­ment was ex­e­cuted by a lead­ing Eu­ro­pean sup­plier. The sa­loon was par­tic­u­larly con­vinc­ing, as is the amaz­ing de­ter­mi­na­tion of Asian start-up com­pa­nies.

The raw clar­ity of the Alpine A110’s en­gi­neer­ing was a wel­come relief


It’s 50 years since the Jaguar XJ was launched at the Paris mo­tor show in 1968. It was a gen­uine rev­e­la­tion in its day be­cause up to that point, no big car had ever been so re­fined and so wieldy. Jaguar had a fine ex­am­ple in a pe­riod sludge colour on the stand. But in Au­gust this year, how­ever, a to­tal of just 222 ex­am­ples of the cur­rent XJ were sold by Jaguar. As fine as it is, was this its last tango in Paris?

7.01am Skoda’s Fo­cus ri­val re­vealed

10.00am Del­i­cate sound of thun­der

9.30am Clas­sic Porsches caught the eye

10.30am Audi E-tron’s bat­tery un­der scru­tiny

11.10am Camry’s traf­fic-friendly EV mode

1.40pm Alpine A110’s shell laid bare

4.00pm Au revoir to the Jaguar XJ?

2.05pm Vinfast’s first of­fer­ings look cred­i­ble

12.20pm Hy­dro­gen tank shows prom­ise

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