The future is definitely electric…
As governments around the world, from India to France, via the UK seek to outlaw all engines other than those driven by electricity, it was no surprise to see numerous stands in Frankfurt dominated by electric cars and concepts. Several major companies including Honda, VW, Mercedes and Bentley announced new initiatives as well as new cars. Honda, had arguably the smallest big hit of the show with its Urban EV concept, which takes styling cues from the original Civic and puts them in a thoroughly modern package. It also committed to a fully electric or hybrid range by 2025. VW announced plans for a new electric SUV, while Bentley signalled its intention to go ahead with an electric sports car. Mercedes also launched a new electric sub brand, with its EQA concept highlighting the intended direction. Brands already succeeding in the electric car business, including Mini and its parent, BMW, announced new models (including a new electric saloon from BMW, the i5).
…but it is also autonomous
The arrival of roads full of autonomous vehicles is either closer than you think, or a hopeless fantasy, and is either a dream or a nightmare, depending not on the facts but on whether your worldview directs you towards being a techno fantasist or a techno fatalist. Audi made an attempt to make a strong case for autonomous cars not only with its Aicon concept (the clue’s in the name), but also with the technology that will be available (if not useable) in its new A8 saloon from launch. In truth, individual manufacturers will have to wait some time before regulations and road infrastructure catches up with cars’ technology, but the signs at Frankfurt are that AI and automation remain as high on the agendas of today’s car executives as electrification. In the case of the Smart Vision EQ ForTwo concept, the future is both electric and autonomous.
The SUV bubble is not close to bursting
If long term, roads of the future will be populated with autonomous, electric vehicles, the evidence from Frankfurt suggests roads for the next few years will remain full of all sizes and styles of SUV. One popular example launched in Germany was the Jaguar E-Pace, a smaller sibling of the hugely well received F-Pace, the first Jaguar SUV. There was also a first public outing for the third model of Porsche’s Cayenne, arguably one of the cars with the most credible claim to having kick started the recent scramble to this category. It, like other non-sports Porsche’s such as the Macan and the Panamera, is definitely getting more elegant and acceptable with age. It may not be as much fun as the latest 911, but it’s not far off.
But neither is the popularity of the hot hatch
Ever since Golf launched the revolutionary GTI, the market for “hot” versions of popular hatchbacks has grown ever more competitive. The quality of car available continues to impress, with Frankfurt witnessing the arrival of a brand new Renault Megane RS, with which the French car maker hopes to set a lap time record at the legendary Nurburgring circuit. There was also a new Seat Leon Cupra R, which looks set to give it a decent run for its money. Elsewhere, if you need a big boot but still like the screeching tyre performance, then it’s worth looking at the monster new Audi RS4 Avant, which also launched here.
Car shows still thrive on concepts…
Most car shows would be pretty empty and desolate places if manufacturers were only allowed to bring cars along that were at least close to production. Part of the magic of the car show is not only picking out what you might want to drive next year, but what you might be driving way into the future. As already explained, at Frankfurt the future is most definitely electric, although it may not be anything you will actually drive (as many will be self-driving). As a result the interior designers are given more freedom than ever, creating miniature lounges and luxury cabins as much as conventional interiors built around rows of seats. Stunning concepts here included some already mentioned as well as BMW I Vision Dynamics, the Kia Proceed and Renault Symbioz and the oddly named VW I.D. Crozz II.
…As well as blockbuster launches
On the borderline between concept and blockbuster real launch was one of the stars of the show – the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE. This draws heavily on the brand’s success in F1 to pitch a full-on race car engine into a road car. With almost 1,000bhp, this is Mercedes entry to the hybrid hyper car sector and with a 0-124mph time under six seconds, it rightly puts the hype into hyper. Elsewhere, Ferrari unveiled its replacement for its entry level California, the Portofino, while Bentley took the wraps off the new Bentley Continental GT.