Sunday 11 December 2016

All kinds of everything as Paris circles on roundabout to future

Published 29/09/2016 | 19:57

A worker polishes a car at the Volkswagen stand during the Paris Motor Show in Paris, France on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
A worker polishes a car at the Volkswagen stand during the Paris Motor Show in Paris, France on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

MOTOR shows reflect and herald change.

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That’s what they are supposed to be about.

This Paris show has all sorts of everything – and that is probably its theme. There is no outstanding major groundswell, or shift, in one direction as has been the case with a few previous shows. They have had a single, major identifiable theme – such as SUVs/Crossovers, plug-in hybrids, electric cars.

It seems to me there is a multi-theme to this year’s Paris array (65 premieres in total as well as upgrades and revisions).

A worker shines the grill of a new Volkswagen electric car during a press conference at the Paris Motor Show in Paris, France (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
A worker shines the grill of a new Volkswagen electric car during a press conference at the Paris Motor Show in Paris, France (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

The shift to ‘SUV’ is self-evident especially with Peugeot setting the pace in ‘converting’ from people carrier to Crossover (with their 2008, 3008 and 5008 7-seater).

The emphasis on electric cars is apparent too with Volkswagen’s I.D. making a dramatic entry, Renault extending the ZOE range to a claimed 400km and Mercedes showing their EQ concept (the first of four electric vehicles from them before 2020). Jaguar and many others are planning more and more electric vehicles.

Some are a few years off; some will be on our roads quite soon.

And then there are the concepts, the cars that shape thinking and expectations.

Katsushi Inoue (L), President and COO of Honda Motor Europe, poses with Senior Vice President Honda Motor Europe, Philip Ross. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Katsushi Inoue (L), President and COO of Honda Motor Europe, poses with Senior Vice President Honda Motor Europe, Philip Ross. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Such as Renault’s outrageous Trezor with its ‘roof’ acting as a door which highlights technologies and designs that are coming down the line.

Or the extraordinary Maybach.

Or the soon-to-be-made BMW X2 which is due towards the end of next year largely unchanged from the sharp looking vehicle on the stand here.

The breadth and variety of shapes and power-sources go on and on, reflecting, I think, the huge variety of motorists’ tastes that have evolved so dramatically over the past five years.

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Deiss introduces the new Volkswagen electric car. Photo: AP
Volkswagen CEO Herbert Deiss introduces the new Volkswagen electric car. Photo: AP

So it doesn’t really matter where I start to tell you about the main displays.

Why not with the first one I saw (and reported on yesterday), the new Land Rover Discovery?

Here’s a good excellent example of how things are changing so fast. Land Rover are targeting families big-time with this. The much softer profile, especially the rear flanks, reflect that. It’s got all the technological grip and grunt you expect from a big 4x4 but the cabin and seating underline the push to get families into its rather luxurious interior.

At the other end of the ‘SUV’ trend is Suzuki’s little Ignis, a rival for the likes of FIAT’s Panda 4x4. Fun little thing; lots of headroom.

Models pose next to the Skoda Kodiak 4 X 4 at the Paris Motor Show in Paris, France (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Models pose next to the Skoda Kodiak 4 X 4 at the Paris Motor Show in Paris, France (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Then there is the eye-catching Mercedes Generation EQ concept low-slung SUV with 402bhp and a claimed range of 516km. It is expected to be made from 2019. Eye-catching to say the least.

This is a great arena in which to show cars that are near what they are going to be like in production. For example, SsangYong showed their LIV-2 large SUV concept which will become the next Rexton.

On the other hand, Volkswagen told us their I.D. electric concept, which can cover 590km, will be made in 2020. I wonder what it will look like then.

Next year’s (2017) LaFerrari Aperta drop-top looks stunning already.

And Mitsubishi showed their GT PHEV concept. Look forward to seeing it in production.

The Lexus UX coupé-crossover concept Lexus is regarded as another hint at what future Lexus models will look like. Reports suggest it will be reflected in some way in an SUV that will replace the CT 200h hatchback.

A Toyota FGV Plus concept car on display at the Paris Motor Show in Paris, France, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
A Toyota FGV Plus concept car on display at the Paris Motor Show in Paris, France, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Skoda’s new Kodiaq 7-seater is generating loads of interest. We’ve seen and heard a lot about it – yet another large SUV in case you didn’t notice. There’s a nice bit of cabin room in this.

The big one for Audi is the new Q5 – another crossover. It’s 90kg lighter, looks really smart – I like the front a lot - and is packed with in-car technology but styling is more evolutionary than radical. It goes on sale early next year. They also showed the A5 Sportback and S5 Sportback.

Porsche’s Panamera 4 E-Hybrid made it public debut too.

SEAT’S Ateca, officially launched in Ireland next Monday, will get an off-roading sibling called the Ateca X-Perience – it is shown here too. And reports suggest it will get a smaller companion called the Arona as a rival for the Nissan Juke.

Renault’s Alaskan pick-up is also here and will come to Ireland at some stage. It’s based on the Nissan Navara.

I’ll mention BMW’s X2 again. Shown as a concept, it is due later in 2017 to rival the likes of the Range Rover Evoque. It struck me as a real stand-out car to look at.

Citroën’s Cxperience concept executive saloon with its plug-in hybrid petrol-electric powertrain shows how they are thinking about future designs. Also here is their C3. It is due in Ireland for January sales.

Dacia have their facelifted Sandero, Sandero Stepway and Logan MCV.

And Honda finally ‘formally’ show their next Civic which is longer, wider and lower. It’s quite sharply raked; the split rear screen has virtually disappeared (the ‘divider’ is almost a rear spoiler now). The Civic’s ‘Sensing’ technology will be standard, I understand. That’s effectively semi-autonomous driving in a small family car. Well, ‘small’ is a bit unfair. It has the same interior dimensions now as a Ford Mondeo.  

Hyundai’s new i30 hatch is a major advance in terms of looks and room. It’s due just before Christmas.

The hot-hatch i30N 4dr Fastback (a Golf Gti rival) is due later next year. And then there is the 375bhp RN30 concept. Wow.

Kia’s 5dr Rio marks a big improvement in the cabin – and it looks pretty decent outside as well.

Mercedes, meanwhile, have an array of AMG-GT and GT C roadsters. The AMG GLC 43 Coupé – with 352bhp – has its admirers as does the E-Class All Terrain (extra 35mm ground clearance and 4WD). But I love the AMG GT R - in green. Sensational.

MINI have their Clubman JCW - the most powerful version of compact estate to date.

And so we swirl around this mix-and-match menu of cars as we descend on the surprisingly graphic-looking new Nissan Micra. This is a big shift away from the car we have known (and many have criticised for being dull) for so long. The front is striking.

Toyota’s C-HR compact SUV hasn’t changed since Geneva and is due here in November. It is quite low, full of curves and there is fair room inside – no more. It gets a 1.2-litre petrol and a hybrid but no diesel as of now anyway.

The plug-in version of the Prius also makes its European debut.

And Toyota’s FCV Plus striking concept car is a ‘vision’ of a future hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle for, perhaps, a cleaner, green era of transport?

And maybe that’s where we should leave it – on a note of hope – as Paris circles the roundabout not entirely sure of which exit to take

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