Did Mercedes-AMG win the battle of the clicks for news coverage from the 2017 Frankfurt IAA? The Project ONE hypercar was certainly one of the highlights – when did we last see an F1 engine in a road car? In the world of important new production cars, the VW T-Roc and Polo were the stand outs, while for futuristic prototypes, Audi was surely the winner with its Aicon concept.
Still nobody knows when or if autonomous vehicles will find favour on a mass scale. That small factor isn’t discouraging many OEMS from pouring vast amounts of money and man hours into the associated software and hardware, as any visitor to the IAA would immediately see. It’s fast becoming an arms race between, as of now, GM, Ford, the Volkswagen Group and Renault-Nissan. Toyota and Honda are to a certain extent, holding back. The same applies to Hyundai Motor Group but the situation is fluid.
We should see the big Japanese OEMs flexing their tech muscles on home ground in a month’s time at the Tokyo motor show, followed by China’s heavy hitters such as SAIC, FAW and Changan at AutoGuangzhou in November. And then before we know it, the LA and Detroit shows will be happening and the US makers will show us their next thinking on AD vehicles.
With the above context noted, the Volkswagen Group needed to make a splash at the IAA. Audi managed to keep the Aicon a secret until the very eve of the press days, which is when this giant Level 5 autonomous drive car was revealed. Measuring 5,444mm from end to end, the low slung limo could well be what a future, hypothetical A10 looks somewhat like. Why not A9? That number is supposedly reserved for two cars which would be aimed straight at the S-Class Coupe and Cabriolet.
Looking more production ready was Audi’s other concept, the Elaine. Again, the Artificial Intelligence initials appeared in this car’s name too. We’ve seen its general outline before, in the form of the e-tron Sportback concept. Confirmed for production in 2019, it might well have the same three motors powertrain and 370kW of power.
Continuing in alphabetical order, the Bentley Conti GT is another big car for the Volkswagen Group’s MSB architecture. The GTC comes next – probably at Geneva in March – and Bentley management also hinted at some kind of electric coupe which could appear in 2021 or 2022.
The BMW Group had a quiet-ish IAA compared to Daimler and Audi. Nonetheless, the replacement for the unloved 5 Series GT made its debut. For some reason, the 6 Series is even longer than the old model, which was one of the reasons for its unpopularity. Let’s see how G32 does once production starts in early 2018.
The X2 didn’t appear at the show, as had been expected, but it’s not far off. We’re still a year away from seeing the X7 in dealerships though. BMW used the IAA to ready the market for this big SUV, and also covered the bases for future tech with the i Vision Dynamics concept. This should prove to be a preview, at least in general outline, for an electric vehicle to slide into the i range between the i3 and i8. Look for it in showrooms from 2021.
Mini had the plug-in prototype of what will probably be sold as the Cooper E from 2019. Production of this three-door electric hatchback will be at Cowley. This fact was announced by BMW Group in July, and the drivetrain will be built at BMW Group’s Dingolfing and Landshut plants in Bavaria.
Borgward, which has proved the doubters wrong by being a success in China, showed a two-tone concept at the IAA which revived the Isabella model name. It looked a long way from being a production model, Borgward instead for the moment sensibly concentrating on an expanding line-up of SUVs. The brand’s German market introduction is now only months away so it will be interesting to see how it does after having been absent for many decades.
Another Chinese-controlled brand with plans for European markets is Chery Auto. A few concepts from previous home market motor shows were displayed, along with the Exeed TX. There were no firm details of when this SUV would be on sale, which markets would be first and other basic facts. We’ve had claims from the company before about its intentions to sell vehicles in Europe (and the US) but the Exeed TX seems a far more serious effort than previous models. How this will effect DR Motor, which imports modified Chery small cars and SUVs to the Italian market, is not yet clear.
It was a modest presence at the IAA for Groupe PSA, although Opel made a fairly decent splash with new versions of the Insignia and the news that it will give the new Grandland X a PHEV powertrain. There were no DS or Peugeot stands at the show, just one from Citroën which revealed the little C3 Aircross, which is the twin of the Opel/Vauxhall Crossland X. It looks good, if perhaps a little too similar to the existing C3? Certainly, the brand needs this model as its sales, while no longer tanking across European markets, could do with a boost.
Groupe Renault has given the Dacia Duster a major update, going so far as to call it a new model. One look at the glass, doorskins and official dimensions reveal that this is a comprehensive facelift, albeit with a new interior and the rake of the windscreen changed. It appears that Renault decided it could save a lot of cash by delaying refits for various plants if it kept the Duster on its now very old B-Zero platform. With that in mind, it does make sense to overhaul the Duster rather than to properly replace it. Will buyers notice or care? We shall have to see. At least Dacia is finally adding the safety gear which all it cars really should have: in a first for the brand, this is the first model to offer curtain airbags.
From the Renault brand itself we saw a return to some left-field thinking in the form of the Symbioz concept. A good looking car which you can supposedly drive or have driven (automatically) right into the middle of your home. The idea was fascinating and Renault suggests that something along these lines may even be headed for production in the early to mid-2020s. What matters just as much is the company doing things differently to any of its rivals. That’s a great way to attract the best up and coming people to want to work for it.
Ferrari was one of the few FCA brands to be at the show, the Portofino being a world debut. The car, elegant and highly desirable, is sure to help Ferrari in its quest to move towards an eventual 10,000 sales a year perhaps as soon as 2022. There is no official target for this number but it would be surprising if this wasn’t a secret aim within the company.
There isn’t much to say about Ford of Europe other than its uncanny ability to somehow make big profits when many of its rivals just can’t seem to break even. We’re still a year away from CX482, the next generation Kuga. The new model should become larger and may also be available in seven-seat form. This will be for two reasons: to allow the Escape to take on the seven-seat Honda CR-V in North America, and to give Ford of Europe direct rivals for the Nissan X-Trail and Qashqai. Currently, it has only the Kuga but with this model becoming bigger and more rugged looking, an additional vehicle, CX430, will take on the Qashqai.
Honda, a brand which continues to struggle in Europe, pulled a surprise out of the bag in the form of the Urban EV concept. No-one seemed to notice that the company had gone back on its former statement about selling a small EV in the region from 2018 – the following year was simply announced as when it will be on sale – which is a shame. A shame in that we’ll have to wait a while for what could well be a highly desirable electric car. That’s presuming that it looks as fresh as the prototype does. Probably there will be an updated concept at the Tokyo show, and perhaps the special China-only EV which Honda has spoken off will debut at the Guangzhou show in November.
Hyundai Motor Europe was upstaged by Kia Motors Europe at the IAA, as while the i30 Fastback and i30 N were great lookers, they couldn’t compare to the Kia Proceed concept. Most thought it a tie for best looking design study between the little Honda and this preview of next year’s successor for the pro_cee’d. Going to a five-door fastback/shooting brake body is a wise move too – buyers really seem to have fallen out of love with the idea of three-door C segment sports coupes from the non-luxury makes.
As for Jaguar and Land Rover, the former gave the E-PACE its show premiere and looking at the plunge in European sales for the brand, it’s needed in dealerships ASAP. The main problems seem to be the XE and XF, which while class leading in many areas, are hard to tell apart and already starting to look dated. An early facelift for the XE is expected, and the addition of the XF Sportbrake should help matters for the larger car. As for Tata Motors’ SUV brand, its sales have also flat lined in the region but that should soon change as the Velar is rolled out to more markets, but why neither the Range Rover nor Range Rover Sport have had facelifts is a mystery.
As noted above, Daimler was a big winner of the headlines war in Frankfurt, thanks to an armada of fresh metal. The Project ONE looked as striking as the darkened teaser images had hinted that it might, and its 1.6-litre Formula 1 engine is a thing of beauty. Again in line with the F1 car, Project ONE’s gearbox forms part of its structure. However, it will be an automated manual transmission. Fewer than 275 cars will be made, with production set to commence during September 2018. The range on electricity will be around 30km and the car will run on ordinary 98 octane unleaded. The top speed will be in excess of 218mph, Mercedes-AMG claims.
The confusion over what exactly EQ is was finally cleared up at the IAA. It turns out to be not just a sub-brand for electric cars, but for electrified ones too. So it was that the fuel cell PHEV version of the G-Class is also badged with the ‘EQ Power’ suffix. This is set to be built from 2018, albeit in limited numbers, but it’s good to see one of the German OEMs finally putting a hydrogen-fuelled vehicle on the market. Well, BMW might disagree with that, having made the Hydrogen 7 between 2007 and 2008 but the number of cars built was as small as the length of the production run.
As for the Concept EQA, another debut for Mercedes-Benz, this looked for all the world like it could be an electric version of the next A-Class. We also learned in Frankfurt that there will be long-wheelbase versions of the GLC-Class as well as next year’s A-Class sedan. These will be manufactured by Beijing Benz.
There were rumours going around Frankfurt about what might become of the Mercedes-Benz V12 engine. This was due to the facelifts for the Mercedes-AMG S 63 and S 65. The first of the two becomes the S 63+ 4MATIC Coupé and there is an S 63 4MATIC+ Cabriolet too. Out goes the 5.5-litre turbo V8 and in comes a 450kW/612PS & 900Nm 3,982cc bi-turbo V8. There is also now a a nine-speed automatic. Curiously, there is no additional power, let alone a new engine for the biturbo 5,980cc V12 in the S 65 Coupé & S 65 Cabriolet. Outputs therefore remain as 463kW/630PS & 1,000Nm and the auto transmission still has seven speeds. What is curious, is that the cheaper S 63+ is faster than the V12-engine S 65. What does this mean? Is there an S 65+ coming or does Mercedes-AMG intend to quietly drop the V12 at some stage in the next year or two?
Porsche caused a minor surprise with the new Cayenne Turbo, two other variants having already been shown to the media in August. As per the ongoing trend, the engine is of a smaller capacity than the V8 in the outgoing model, yet produces superior levels of power and torque but emissions are also improved. It goes on sale from March next year.
SEAT and Škoda were also all about SUVs at Frankfurt, this being the first public outing for the Arona and Karoq respectively. Both of these should do very well indeed and, like the T-Roc from Volkswagen, should finally convince German buyers to join the global trend for these types of vehicles. Europe’s largest market for passenger vehicle sales remains none too enthusiastic about the vogue for SUVs but this seems likely to change very soon. VW has the capacity at Setúbal for up to 200,000 units per annum of the T-Roc. The Portugese plant has until now been a low volume one, building only the Sharan and Alhambra twins, as well as the Scirocco.
It was a pity that Nissan, Peugeot, Volvo and others chose to stay away from the 2017 IAA, especially when they have much in the way of fresh products nearing production. The car business of course never sleeps, and soon enough we will be learning what new models are to be seen for the first time at events in China and the USA. Keep a close eye on this section of just-auto.com for all the global motor show news.