Standout cars at Paris Motor Show
Variety showcased at Paris Motor Show
The Daily Telegraph motoring team grabs a baguette and bottle of Champagne and treks through the many halls of the Paris motor show to find the standout cars. And in no particular order, here they are:
The Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 concept car: now this is what you come to a motor show for. A car so phantasmagoric it makes your teeth ache. The bonnet is longer than my bed, the wheels taller than my dog and it drips money so much that the Great Gatsby himself would run an ignition key down the side of the coachwork.
You can't help wondering if they'd paid as much attention to the original Maybach instead of producing a car that looked as though it was a rejected Eighties Hyundai design, then the rebirth of Maybach might have been a bit more successful.
Mercedes is also using Paris to show its Generation EQ concept, an electric SUV that's in stark contrast in terms of design philosophy to VW's smaller, lighter ID concept, but conveys a similar message.
The EQ concept is a SUV that uses an electric motor on each axle (making it four-wheel drive) that's slated to go into production in 2019 as a rival to the Tesla Model X, albeit possibly slightly more affordable. It is said to have a range of approximately 490km from a single charge.
The EQ is not just a show car, but a signal of Mercedes building a whole new sub-brand of electric car. The company says that it is aiming to have 10 or more fully electric cars on sale by 2025, accounting for up to 25 per cent of its sales.
Also on the Mercedes stand was the E-class All-Terrain. "It's a niche, but it's a valuable niche," said one company insider. These all-wheel-drive estates with slightly raised suspension might be seen as the thinking woman's SUV, since they carry more, are nicer to drive, go round corners better and use less fuel. That said, they don't have the high seating position, which some folk love.
Anyway, where Volvo, Audi, Skoda and Volkswagen have made hay for the last few years, Mercedes-Benz is now venturing with the All-Terrain, which goes on sale next year. Standard equipment includes 4Matic all-wheel drive, increased ground clearance and rugged styling extensions including bumpers, grille, side skirts and wheelarch extensions.
In addition the automatic drive select software gets a new All Terrain setting.
The Micra has falled from grace in recent years, from king of the small cars to pretty much bottom of the pack. The new model, then, needs to be very good. Judging by the styling it's off to a reasonable start, with a much sharper and more edgy design replacing the Micra of old, in a car that is also longer and wider than before.
As per the Renault-Nissan Alliance's arrangement with the Qashqai and Kadjar SUVs, the new Micra will share some of its hardware (and a production line) with the next generation Clio. The idea is simple: to put the Micra back into contention with the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Skoda Fabia and Volkswagen Polo.
Engines will be three-cylinder petrol or Renault's 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel, so you can expect the Micra to be among the most efficient cars in its class.
Now the car has been shown the ramp up to production will be swift if Nissan is to bring it to market as planned early next year.
It's been exactly two years since Sergio Marchionne ousted Luca di Montezemolo in a palace coup at Ferrari. The chief executive of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles wasn't happy with the performance of Ferrari on and off the track and Luca's final press conference at the 2014 Paris motor show was camp farce of the highest order. Ferrari doesn't do irony, however and Marchionne didn't even turn up for this year's conference which takes place on the eve of next year's 70th anniversary celebrations.
What it did have to show was mostly tied in with this being its 70th anniversary year. There was the Aperta drophead version of LaFerrari, the electric/petrol hybrid supercar, plus the first appearance of the company's anniversary special models, which involve some 70 different liveries which will be released as a single, unique paint job on each of the current five models, adding up to 350 special models.
Typically Ferrari's usual ownership qualifications will apply to the Aperta LaFerrari. We lost interest about halfway through, but it seems to involve owning 2000 Ferrari models, sitting through at least half of Ferrari's gala dinners in one year, having a gold plated airship and a killer whale in your pool. Only then will you even be looked at as suitable to stump up over two million euros to buy one of these cars.
Anybody, however, is welcome to stump up for its other new car, the GTC4 Lusso T. Essentially this is a derivative of what was once known as the FF and earlier this year underwent a mild update to become the GTC4 Lusso, complete with the FF's V12 engine and four-wheel-drive system. Well, now Ferrari has brought in even bigger changes by offering a new turbocharged V8 model to sell alongside the V12.
So will Ferrari go down the path of some of its less exalted rivals in offering continuation models of its most famous historic cars? Will it, for example, ever go back and produce a few more 250 GTOs?
"The short answer is no," said Enrico Galliera, Ferrari’s commercial and brand director. "We have a long history in classics and a big number of cars in the market which fetch large sums. We work to help our clients, but only allow those with certified cars in Ferrari events."
At this point, Fabio Manzoni, Ferrari design head muscled the microphone. "I don't want to make replicas," he said. "We are going through a strange period where it is fashionable to create replicas of icons of the past. Our aim is to make the new icons."
Not content with the normal Ritzy eve of show extravaganza, Renault took its guests to the Academy Des Beaux Arts, sat them down to supper and gave them a pair of glasses.
Not just any glasses, of course, but Oculus Virtual Reality goggles, which enabled guests not only to look like total berks, but also to see a short virtual video of the car maker's Paris star, which marks the start of Renault's design boss, Lauren's Van Den Acker's next generation of design language.
The Renault Zoe. Picture/AP.
The Trezor is one of those low-slung sporty concepts that French car makers always come up with at Paris. It's part of an ongoing kidology that largely non-premium French car makers have with the French public.
The public know that there's almost no chance of the Trezor (or for that matter, Citroen's Cxperience) being made, but they've done it to show that they could make it if they wanted to. Does anyone actually believe this?
Anyway, the Trezor, through VR goggles at least, looks like a weird combination of the Star Wars Nubian Royal Starship and a pre-war record breaking MG.
The cabin slides off to reveal a virtual cockpit (natch) and the electric motors are supposed to be influenced by Renault's involvement in Formula E racing.
"It's a statement of beauty, the sort of car I would put on the wall of my bedroom. A more responsible car we will do next year," said Van Den Acker.
This was a good evening for VR goggles makers, since Volkswagen's new electric concept was also released virtually with guests at the VW Group preview night invited to don the dread things and view the new battery vehicle. VW is hoping that it will emerge from the toxic smog of 'dieselgate' by promoting electric mobility and is promising 30 new electric models by 2025. Renault countered with its revised Zoe electric car, which thanks to an upgraded battery now has a range from one charge of up to 248 miles. It goes on sale early next year.
"This is not four years away, it's now!" said Carlos Ghosn about the new Zoe.
He's got a point. The Zoe is probably the best and most useful electric vehicle on sale, especially at its price. Doubling the range can only make it more attractive, perhaps not as a family's only car, but certainly as the default driver. Trouble is, there's a catch, and that's a price that will increase by about 2,500 euros across Europe.
"It's a small price to pay for doubling the range," says Eric Feunteun, Renault's head of electric vehicles. He says that when Renault first starting building electric vehicles four years ago "the question was, 'is there public charging?'. Now it is 'is the charge point available and can I pay for it?'."
To solve the last question Renault is providing oa charge card which should allw Zoe users to recharge at most recharging points.
Like the Japanese tourists who swarm the shops on the Boulevarde Saint-Germain, Honda has a touching faith in Paris. In 1998, it celebrated its 50th anniversary in the La Ville Lumière and it continues to launch important new models at the biennial Motor Salon in spite of the fact the French shove them into a broom-cupboard of a hall and ignore them completely.
So having found the stand on the map and made the trek over, we did at least find the all-new Civic. It's built in Britain and Honda's thrown the kitchen sink and the section's gorilla at it.
Honda unveiling the Civic Type-R. Picture/AP
So under the skin the Civic at last returns to an all-new multi-link rear suspension with a MacPherson-strut front. The hip point is lower, too, but sadly for those of us with tall house plants or dogs, the Civic's magic seats are a casualty of the change, although more compliant and sporting handing should be the result.
Two new engines are offered: 1.1- and 1.5-litre petrol and a revamped 1.6-litre turbodiesel. The range will be all five-door, built at the company's Swindon plant including the Type-R high performance version, which for the first time will be exported to America.
We'll be driving it next year in the UK so it's a bit early to say much more, but wow, have Honda ever pushed the sporting button. Even the standard Civic looks like it just rolled off a Mattel Hot Wheels track and the Type-R is just bonkers.
The Kodiaq is a perfectly ordinary seven-seat SUV based on VW's MQB chassis technology, but if priced right, it could do some damage to sales of the Land Rover Discovery (both the smaller Discovery Sport model and the full-size Discovery, which was unveiled in Paris).
It's smaller than the new Discovery of course, but who really counts the space around those rear seats? We'll be reporting on the car in the near future, but for this first Paris press conference Skoda used that old dodge of changing a town's name for dramatic effect. In this case it was Kodiak in Alaska (Volkswagen "changed" the name of Wolfsburg to Golfsburg for the launch of the mark IV Golf), which became Kodiaq.
Locals appeared rather nonplussed by the PR stunt and strangely no one at Skoda thought to ask the local Kodiak Bears what they thought of the move either...
The General's charming president and finance chief, New Zealander Dan Ammann, paid a fleeting visit to Paris between European meetings and we caught up with him. With General Motors leveraging its battery electric experience into the Chevrolet Bolt and Opel Ampera E, how on earth did it forget to make a right-hand drive example for the UK where pure electric vehicles seem on the cusp of take off?
Ammann admitted it was an accident of timing, with work on the Bolt/Ampera E commencing just before he and Mary Barra, GM's chief executive, committed to build future models with right- and left-hand drive.
"We will be addressing that," he said, "but if you look at the world market for electric vehicles, it's still extraordinarily small. While Ampera E and Bolt offer a unique proposition in terms of performance and value, and have the potential to change the game, we don't actually know if they will. In the next 12 to 18 months, we will get more information about the real market and how big it really could be."
What about plug-in hybrid, we asked. Surely its favourable tax treatment in Europe and the UK makes it a shoe-in as a version of the forthcoming Vauxhall Insignia. Amman gave me a long hard stare and drummed his fingers which sort of indicates that GM will not be missing that particular open goal. -