Power play in Paris

The Paris motor show has just begun. Here are the highlights.


BATTERY-powered cars with extended driving ranges, even more sports utilities and crossovers and, of course, the usual smattering of exotica.

That’s the fare at the Paris motor show, which started today. Here are some of the key debuts:

Audi: The latest Q5 and A5 models don't change too much in appearance but they have new platforms, are lighter, roomier and more efficient. Both have Audi’s virtual cockpit, advanced connectivity – including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smart phone connectivity, of course – and improved safety features.

BMW: It’s billed as a concept, but the X2 small crossover is planned as a sporty alternative to the more practical X1. It’s also on BMW'S UKL front-wheel-drive platform, already used by Minis and the 2-Series Active Tourer. Also from Munich, the latest i8 coupe with a longer-range battery and a more powerful electric motor. That’s a production edition; the coupe with the same format is a styling study.

Citroen: All eyes on the new C3 small hatchback, already confirmed for NZ release next year. Also usually, it’s big on chic, adopting design features that appear on the C4 Cactus including those Airbumps.

Sharing the stage, the Cxperience plug-in hybrid concept that showcases Citroen's styling ideas for its large cars, one potential being a replacement for the C5. It also showcases the new "Advanced Comfort" technology that will replace hydropneumatic suspension.

Ferrari: Aperta – Italian for ‘open’ – is the convertible version of the LaFerrari hybrid, with identical performance figures and a similarly stratospheric price tag: Around $3 million here. On that note, ‘be quick’ doesn’t apply to sales – all have already found homes.

Honda: For the past two years Honda New Zealand has been assuring that the Type R Civic was coming … but in next-generation format. That’s almost the car unveiled at Paris today, alongside the mainstream European versions of the five-door Civic hatch. Almost? Well, yes, because it’s being described as a prototype “offering an insight into the styling of the next-generation Civic Type R which will be officially unveiled in 2017”. So nothing about the engine or any performance details, but lots of visual promise, with carbon fibre wings and so on, 20-inch wheels and 245 profile rubber, three – yes, three – tailpipes.  So the wait continues, but at least there’s solid proof it’s still coming to the boil …

Hyundai: Korea’s largest car maker revealed the i30 in mainstream form some weeks ago; it’s on the stand but all eyes will be on the performance special. The RN30 is the long-awaited hotshoe that is likely to be in New Zealand by the end of next year, by which time the standard hatch will have been well settled in: The show car is a concept and we’d hope most, if not all, its ‘wow’ comes to the showroom. Also on display: Hayden Paddon’s fantastic new i20-based rally car which clearly makes the most of next year’s new rules allowing for extra power and more dramatic styling.

Infiniti: If Nissan’s Lexus equivalent is to enter our market – and rumours persist that it will – then obvously a lot of its success should depend on its crossover fare, notably the new QX50, which delivers the elite brand’s latest design language – lots of flowing sculptural lines and short front and rear overhangs. Then there’s the new turbocharged, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder VC-T engine, which it says is the world's first production-ready variable compression ratio mill. The engine's technology enables it to choose an optimal compression ratio for combustion. This means the engine matches the fuel efficiency of diesels, Infiniti says.

Kia: Does the new Rio excite you? Perhaps it should. Even though small hatchbacks have been given the sales bash by small crossovers, Kia has determined to use this gen four car as evidence of its intent to be as respected as much for dynamics as it is for design and quality. The make asserts ride and handling were prioritized for improvement and says its driving style will also be boosted by having a "more mature character". It’s slightly roomier than the current car, has a better cabin and ride and handling have been improved.

Land Rover: Only one thing to consider here … the next-generation Discovery, with a softer, more fluid look than the current boxy model, a more upscale cabin with more space, a new entry engine and, Land Rover New Zealand says, a more premium pricing position for the top versions. It’s with us next June.

Lexus: Some say the UX concept that previews a potential small crossover aimed at young urban buyers will become the next generation of the CT200h. A good call if accurate, given that the current CT is a dull and unconvincing derivation of the previous generation Prius. This coupe-styled four-door wins extra points on its bold style alone.

Mercedes-Benz: Electrifying news … first, Benz will make a mid-engined hypercar to cash in on its enormous success in recent years in Formula One and putting the three-pointed star in into direct competition with the Aston Martin Red Bull project. Which is ironic given Benz owns a chunk of Aston Martin ..

Details are limited but they say it will be of all-carbon-fibre construction and will use an engine at least based on the 1.6-litre V6 hybrid engine used in the W07 Mercedes-AMG F1 car. The car will be built in strictly limited numbers and will more than likely cost north of – sit down for this – around $10 million each.

More electrifying news: A concept called the Gen EQ has been rolled out to signal that the world’s oldest brand is going big on battery performance, with talk that it and the subsidiary Smart brand will launch more than 10 electric cars by 2025. Expectation is that zero-emission vehicles will make up between 15 and 25 percent of overall Mercedes sales by then. The push is thanks to advances in battery technology and greater consumer acceptance of zero-emissions vehicles. And yes, if you had not already guessed, this new generation of EVs will be sold under the ‘EQ’ brand, and based on a new technical architecture developed specifically for battery-electric models.

More? Mercedes-AMG unveiled the two soft-top versions of its GT supercar we reported on a week ago.

Mitsubishi: The Grand-Tourer PHEV Concept showcases Mitsi’s latest hybrid powertrain and connectivity technologies. The concept has a plug-in powertrain with a petrol engine and three electric motors, one unit at the front and two at the rear, helping to give it an impressive 120kms driving range under electric power.

Nissan: Showgoers get to view the latest-generation Micra that’s bigger than the current model  benefitting from a higher quality interior.

Peugeot: This is the official debut occasion for two crossover models we’ve already written about as starters in NZ next year. There’s the medium 3008 that’s bigger that the current model yet also more economical, in part through being about 100kg lighter. Displaying alongside is the 5008, a seven seater in which the two seats in the third row can be removed or folded flat to boost cargo space.

Porsche: It’s all about the NZ-confirmed second-generation Panamera, notably the plug-in hybrid version that is more powerful than the first gen and has a longer electric-only driving range.

Renault: The Trezor EV has to be the show’s most dramatic styling study. And slthough this type of car per se is not set to make the showroom at least something of its shape is. Renault says Trezor "explores the essence and technologies inspiring upcoming models that embody both a vision of how mobility might be in the future."

Renault also revealed its Zoe electric car with a more powerful battery and a longer range.

Volkswagen: It’s a year since Dieselgate and the troubles caused by that issue are far from over for Germany’s biggest car brand.

How to divert attention from those black clouds? Easy, talk up the ID, a pointer to VW’s first purpose-built EV, similar in size to the Golf hatchback. This is an impressive vehicle: They’re talking an astounding single charge range of 400-450km. The interior space rivals that of the Passat thanks to its new MEB (modular electrification kit) platform developed specifically for electric cars. The battery pack packages beneath the floor. Like what you see? With VW promising the EV will have a distinctive design to differentiate it from their non-electric cars, there’s every chance the styling here could more or less make the road, too.