Everything you missed from Day 1 of the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show
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The first day of the Frankfurt motor show 2017 is mercifully winding down. Our correspondent is off to soak his sore feet while writing up interviews with leading car industry executives after a hectic schedule of more than 100 “reveals” of new production cars, concepts (some fanciful, the majority with an eye to production) as well as a host of projects embracing hybrids, hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion and battery-powered electric vehicles (EVs).
Here is our round-up of the most important - and interesting - launches at the show from all the manufacturers present. There are plenty more to come.
Over at Mercedes-Benz was the EQA. We saw the larger battery-electric EQC study at the Paris show last September and that car is mooted to be just two years away - this electric A-class concept [pictured above], however, was a better looking thing even if its further from production.
It’s quick, with 0-62mph acceleration in about five seconds, a 249-mile range and four-wheel drive, with one electric motor in the front axle and one in the rear. Total system output is over 200kW and 500Nm and just 10 minutes on a rapid charger gives about 62 miles of range.
The lines and proportions are pleasing, even if there is a bit of Vauxhall Astra GTC in there. There’s a load of LED malarkey at the front showing the car’s mood, which probably won’t make it into production, but could this good looking thing be produced?
“Unlikely,” growled a spokesman, before adding gnomically: “It hasn’t got enough doors.”
More on the fearsome (or faintly ludicrous, depending on your point of view) Mercedes-AMG hypercar from our man with the sore feet, Herr English:
Dieter Zetsche, Mercedes chief executive, told us that “never before has racetrack technology been taken to the road more directly”. Hum, he should look at pre-war Bentley Speed Sixes, or the efforts of Ettore Bugatti, but all the same the Mercedes-AMG Project One is one fairly awesome beast.
The idea of putting a couple of little motors in the front wheels to manage the torque vectoring and the humongous power was, of course, pioneered by Honda with the current NSX, but as a celebration of Mercedes-Benz’s three recent Formula One world championships, the car is as near as you are going to get to an F1 car on the road.
The teaser images in the build-up to the show led me to think that the styling would be more like the current brand of sinister-looking World Endurance Championship contenders (Toyota had its WEC racer on the stand) and with all the deployable aerodynamics at bay it looks a little too smooth, but get up close and you can see it’s a very serious vehicle indeed...
The boys from Munich had the honour of the first press conference of the morning, revealing the good-looking Vision Dynamics. Building on the design for last year’s Vision 100 concept, this battery-electric grand coupé concept is sleek, razor-edged and elegant. It’s not based on anything in particular, as Domagoj Dukec, the Croatian head of i and M design, says: “It will be earlier than 2030, but I can’t say exactly when.”
The idea of the commodification of the automobile must give the design community sleepless nights as all cars might end up looking like fridges. Or will they?
"No [they won’t],” says Dukec, using the example of airlines to explain. “Airlines all use the same planes, but why do people chose to fly with different carriers? It’s the service. So times are changing and we have to look at what is the quality of a BMW.
“In future you might be asked to test five different autonomous cars and they might all drive you to your destination, but the measure is how they make you feel.”
In the spirit of Le Corbusier, the great French Swiss architect and visionary, Renault’s Symbioz concept posits a world of the future where autonomous, electrically-powered cars not only transport us, but in the wealthiest households are also industrial design of the premier cru.
“Why would you park your car in a cold, dark, dirty garage?” asks Laurens van den Acker, Renault’s top designer. So, the Symbioz would not just drive itself into the house but also provide a seating place and entertainment hub and, like some vast mechanical St Bernard, it would follow you around from room to room.
It’s all absolute nonsense of course. Or is it? Autonomous driving means you don't need a crash or rollover structure, so designers can return to the glass house designs. “It’s like those General Motors designs of the Fifties, like a UFO,” says van den Acker.
It would, of course, mean a vast gasometer-like turntable outside your house and a car wash at the entrance, which makes van den Acker’s claim that the Symbioz would save on parking space seem slightly ridiculous, but at least you’d no longer have to walk from the car park to your house.
Some of us remember slightly less ambitious marriages of technology which came to a sticky end. Mercedes-Benz’s first Comand system, for example, was predicated on you owning a particular sort of mobile phone - which went out of production within six months of the system’s launch. Van den Acker agrees that such technology needs to be future-proofed.
“Up to now, we’ve specced the cars to be up to date on the day of sale,” he says. “We need to over-spec our cars to allow future technology to come into our cars. It’s a hard sell, but you need to have open upgradeable architecture for the car.”
And if that’s the only thing that the Symbioz does, then for all its pie-in-the-sky soothsaying, it will have been a success.
Paul Hudson writes: Back into 2017, and Renault's other star is the Megane R.S. hot hatchback - that's not RS, as used on fast Fords, but R.S. to denote Renault Sport. It goes on sale in the UK (or is that U.K.?) in spring 2018.
Anyway, it has an all-new, 277bhp engine and 4CONTROL four-wheel steering, with the option of six-speed manual or six-speed EDC automatic transmissions.
Fast Renault fetishists will appreciate the choice of Sport and Cup (with a limited-slip differential) chassis, both with revised front suspension. Most important for trackday fiends, the new R.S. Monitor Expert allows the real-time performance display to be connected to a camera and posted directly to social media
An even more track-focussed Trophy version, with 300hp and 400Nm of torque, will be available by the end of 2018.
The R.S was one of several hot hatches to be revealed, with Suzuki's new Swift Sport among the other heavy hitters. Click here to read more about the Japanese hot hatch.
The latest in a long line of Land Cruisers took a bow at Frankfurt, all new from stem to stern. It goes on sale in the UK next year and Toyota is looking forward to taking some sales out of Land Rover after the demise of its long-running Defender; there are even strong rumours that Toyota will offer a commercial version of the Land Cruiser, a market it left a long time ago.
So there's big cabin upgrade, although Toyota GB is still pondering just what spec it will import so that’s all tba. The engine will be a diesel and that’s that. And if that seems a bit agricultural, just remember how the Land Cruiser got its reputation for being an unburstable, go-anywhere companion that didn’t let you down.
“So if you want to tow the Isle of Wight across a ploughed field, we’ve got that covered,” said a spokesman.
On the subject of being tough and going anywhere, Toyota’s Hilux pick-up, a name which is 50 years old this year, is being celebrated with a 50th concept vehicle. Just so you know it’s a concept, they stuck a big sign in front of it saying "Showcar".
Actually, that’s stuff and nonsense, as we happen to know that the 50th anniversary edition is going to go on sale, so farmers, oil explorers, insurgents and lifeguards should form an orderly queue.
The Korean firm has revealed its Proceed Concept. Designed at Kia’s European design centre in Frankfurt, less than a lilometre from where it was unveiled, the concept indicates what the next-generation Cee’d family hatchback could look like.
Gregory Guillaume, Chief Designer Europe for Kia Motors, said: “With many European drivers now seeking performance alternatives to the three-door hot hatch, we began thinking about a different halo model for the Cee’d family. The Proceed Concept represents a bold new vision of how the vibrant soul of the pro_cee’d could be reincarnated and revitalised for a new generation of performance-oriented drivers.”
So it's low, with a raking roofline, the lack of a pillar betwen the doors making it look like a quasi lifestyle estate. We particularly like the striking sill section, while the Lava Red paint colour is fantastic.
The future looks bright.
The big news at Skoda is the Karoq, yet another compact SUV (have you noticed a theme developing here?).
As well as the usual guff about SUV offensives, the Karoq has "emotive and dynamic design with crystalline features characterising the brand's new SUV design language".
It has a relatively long wheelbase in relation to the overall length, so it should be reasonably spacious. Skoda also claims best-in-class luggage space, at 521 litres with the rear seats in place and 1,630 litres when they're folded. Thee is also the option of VarioFlex rear seating, with three separate rear seats that can be individually adjusted. When they're removed the total load volume is a van-like 1,810 litres.
It also features a fully customisable digital instrument panel in which the displays can be personalised and are linked to the infotainment system. Full connectivity and internet access are a given.
Five engines will be available initially, two petrol (both new to Skoda) and three diesel, with between 115 and 190PS.
Skoda also rolled out the Vision E in a more production-friendly guise. Click here to read more about it, and its Volkswagen Group cousins from Volkswagen and Audi
Like everyone else, the French firm has leapt wholeheartedly on the SUV bandwagon. Its new offering is the C3 Aircross, a compact (B-segment, in auto industry parlance) SUV that's claimed to have the space and modularity of a people carrier with an emphasis on comfort and connected technologies.
The petrol and diesel engines range from 82 to 130PS, with CO2 emissions between 104 and 126g/km. The examples at Frankfurt are presented in a variety of colour combinations to show the wide range of personalisation options.
Those with a lifestyle are treated to the SpaceTourer Rip Curl concept. It's a four-wheel drive camper van "aimed at outdoor adventurers". In other words, those who currently buy a Volkswagen California, although the Citroen offering is slightly smaller.
Among the other quirky hatches revealed at Frankfurt was the charming little Honda Urban EV Concept. Click here to read more
Of course, it's the new Bentley Continental GT.
We waited a long time for a small(er) car from Crewe. In 1985, when Peter Ward unveiled the "baby Bentley" concept, the Black Rat, the vital need for Bentley to have a smaller car was well understood, but there was no money. At the 1994 Geneva motor show, when the crate was lifted off Project Java, a BMW 5-series-based concept, the press went wild, but there was still no money - it took Volkswagen's ownership to change all that.
The Continental GT, with its extraordinary W12 twin-turbo engine and choice of just six colours, was launched in 2003 with a two-year waiting list. It formed the basis of cabriolets, saloon (Flying Spur) versions and boosted Bentley's production in Crewe to nearly 10,000 cars per year.
The second generation came in 2011 and now we have the third, based on the Porsche Panamera chassis, and it's a good deal lighter and (it is claimed) more sporting than ever before. It’s available now, with first deliveries to the UK coming late next spring.
It’s faster (207mph, 0-60mph in 3.6sec) and 76kg lighter thanks to its largely aluminium bodywork. There’ll definitely be a hybrid to come and most probably a V8, which will be the enthusiast driver’s option.
It’s horribly expensive, redolent of the Gatsby era of grand touring, hardly economical, but it’s also super luxurious, quite lovely - and one of my cars of the show.
Mercedes-owned Smart laid on an excruciating ‘Kids From Fame’ launch for its Vision EQ Fortwo, a cheeky autonomous urban concept, which posits a sort of Cuban taxi model of lift-sharing, plus an individual cab ride if you choose. Mercedes-Smart also suggest it could do parcel delivery work at night.
It’s controlled via complex algorithms but responds to smartphone hailing and voice control. There are only two seats, so it’s not as practical as a Cuban taxi - and it also has the dubious benefit of being able to tap into your social media accounts so it can discuss shared interests with you en route.
At this point I'm tempted to remind you of the benefits of walking…
- Andrew English, Telegraph UK