Frankfurt Motor Show 2017: Autumn Car Catwalk
by Sue Baker
Europe’s biggest motoring fashion show opened in Germany this last week and finishes on September 24. We’ve been taking a look at highlights from the biennial Frankfurt Motor Show.
Have motor shows had their day? Frankfurt begs the question, because of the number of major car makers who aren’t there at one of the world’s leading car events. Ten notable absentees are Peugeot, DS, Volvo, Mitsubishi, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Jeep, Nissan and Infiniti.
However, there is plenty of activity from the rest of the motor industry at this 67th Frankfurt Motor Show, with more than 50 motor manufacturers displaying their wares and an official opening by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
This is the prestige German car makers’ home territory, so Mercedes, BMW and Audi go a big step further than having lavish stands. They each have their own show halls. Like Las Vegas casinos, these vast emporiums are easier to enter than to find the way out again.
Everyone in Frankfurt wants to parade their green credentials, and electrification is the show’s constantly recurring theme. Here are some of the highlights from a very vibrant and frenetic show.
It may seem surprising to start with South Korean car maker Kia, but it has more new models on show than just about any other manufacturer, and as a result its Frankfurt stand is rammed with a busy traffic of visitors eager to see them.
A show star is the new Proceed concept, a sleek estate with a muscled body that looks gym-honed. Also grabbing attention is the Kia Stinger, a performance car and the company’s most powerful model to date, going on sale next month. There are also three new SUV-crossover models: the dinky Picanto X-Line, the compact-size Stonic, and the new seven-seater Sorento range-topper.
There is a sea change in the company’s naming policy, shedding the weird apostrophes and underlinings in some of its past car names – such as the cee’d and pro_cee’d – in favour of more normal badging. A sign, maybe, of Kia going much more mainstream.
A surprise of the show is SsangYong’s new Rexton, with a handsome body and a well-crafted cabin that shows how far a company once known for rather ugly, very rustic models has now come. The pricing is still budget, but the cars have taken a big leap forward in quality.
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On the Honda stand the key news is the updated Jazz with freshened design and a new 1.5 litre engine. Also featured is one of the cutest concept cars in the show, the Urban EV, a chummy-looking little electric car reminiscent of an early Mini. It’s mooted to go into production in 2019.
A sporty hot hatch from Hyundai? This is a first, and it’s slicky styled and has enough performance to rival a Golf GTi or Focus ST. Rather boringly called the i30 N, it is the first N model from Hyundai, co-called because its development included dynamic testing at the Nurburgring, Germany’s legendary ‘green hell’ race track.
There is keen interest in a home-grown babe. The Mini Electric concept car shows what a new model coming in 2019 will be like. Also on show is a very butch-looking John Cooper Works GP concept car celebrating the 50th anniversary of Paddy Hopkirk’s Monte Carlo rally victory.
Bathed in a dramatic overhead lightshow of changing colours, the Audi stand’s big news in the VW Group hall is the new A8 luxury range-topper, but its most fascinating exhibit is the Aicon concept car designed for a fully autonomous future. Are we ready for a car with a lounge-like interior and no steering wheel or pedals? Maybe not, but this is Audi’s time machine to what cars may eventually become.
The big news in BMW’s vast hall 11 at the show is a concept car telling us what the big new seven-seater SUV in the range will look like. It will be badged X7. There is also a sexy new 6 Series Gran Turismo, the latest high-performance M5, and a concept version of the new i5 electric saloon.
The star turn in Mercedes’ lofty dome of a show hall is the 217 mph AMG Project One hypercar, which is essentially a Formula One-powered piece of ultra-exotica for the road. Who else to introduce it but Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamilton? His appearance caused as much of a stir as the car itself. Also interesting is Merc’s new X-Class pick-up, an uppercrust version of close cousin Nissan Navara.
Here’s another big-name German brand, and Porsche’s highlight is the new Cayenne. It maintains its reputation as one of the sportiest SUVs around, now featuring new tech and a bigger boot.
The big news at Bentley is the new Continental GT. This is the third generation of the company’s sports tourer that seems to be the favourite transport of wealthy footballers. It has is a six-litre W12 engine, like two three-litre V6s joined together, and is said to have a top speed of around 207 mph. Expect to see it on UK roads from next spring.
London Electric Vehicle Company
Taxi! LEVC is what used to be known as the London Taxi Company, manufacturer of the iconic black cabs. Its star exhibit in Frankfurt is the new taxi, not black but beige, in homage to the traditional colour of all German taxis. It is a hybrid, called TX, and soon to start whispering around London streets. LEVC, like Volvo, is owned by Chinese motor group Geely. The name change makes way for extending its product range, with a new van coming later.
Although sister companies Peugeot and DS have stayed away from the Frankfurt Show, Citroen is in upbeat mood with its new C3 Aircross due on sale next month. Also grabbing attention is the funky E-Mehari, an electric open-top buggy
The new model of the cheap-and-cheerful Duster stars on Dacia”s stand, due to replace the old model sold in Britain since 2012. It has a curvier new look and a much improved cabin.
There is more muscle for the Mustang on the Ford stand. It has an upgraded V8 engine and a new ten-speed auto gearbox, as well as other minor tweaks.
After a recent London debut, the new E-Pace, Jaguar’s smaller SUV, is on public show for the first time ahead of going on sale early next year.
Won the lottery? On the Ferrari stand there is a gorgeous new arrival in the Portofino open top GT. With a 3.9 litre V8 engine and 199 mph top speed, it replaces the California T as the entry-level prancing horse model.
Tough decision. A lottery winner’s alternative choice might be the new Lambo Aventador S Roadster. That open top roof would ensure you hear the great sound of its 6.5 litre V12 engine.
Back to reality, and Suzuki is showing its new Swift Sport, a small hot hatch from the Japanese company. It has a turbocharged 1.4 litre engine, and an all-up weight of under a tonne.
Among many hybrids featuring in Frankfurt is Toyota’s C-HR Hy-Power, a beefy-lloking concept model that points towards the Japanese company’s future direction on the hybrid front.
The third SUV-crossover from Vauxhall, the new Grandland X, is making its debut, but the bigger draw is the sporty performance version of the Insignia. It’s called GSi, now that Vauxhall has abandoned the VXR performance tag.
Big news at VW is the arrival of the new Polo, the sixth generation of one of the most popular small hatchbacks. Except that it isn’t that small any more, at eight cm longer and 7 cm wider than its predecessor. There’s also the T-Roc, a close cousin of the Audi Q2 mini-crossover.
One of the most intriguing of all the new electric vehicles in Frankfurt is Renault’s Symbioz concept of an autonomous electric car. It’s four-door model with a glass upper body, face-to-face seating and no steering wheel.
Here comes another new small crossover. Seat’s Arona is one of a growing breed of pumped-up mini models that includes the Audi Q2, new Kia Stonic and new Citroen C3.
Boo to the disappearance of the Yeti, Skoda’s well-loved crossover. In its place is the new Karoq, less distinctive but more in keeping with the styling across the rest of the range.
Appearing for the first time in Europe is Subaru’s new Impreza, with freshened style and a greatly updated interior.
After an absence of more than half a century, Borgward has reappeared in Europe. It makes SUVs for China, but titivated interest with a svelte concept car, a coupe named Isabella.
Never heard of Chery? Not surprising, as the Chinese manufacturer is little known outside Asia. On its stand is the Exceed, a chunky SUV for Europe. Hybrid and EVs also planned.
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