Paris 2012 Motor Show
Anonymous VW Golf VII Debuts In Paris
Renault Clio, Range Rover, Jaguar F-Type Vie For Spotlight
Luxury manufacturers Eschew Bling For Efficiency
As Europe’s troubled mass car manufacturers concentrate on just staying alive, the luxury car companies used the Paris Car Show to strut their stuff.
VW replaced its Golf for the seventh time, with a version barely distinguishable from the previous one. Renault’s new Clio won’t be turning heads either. Manufacturers seem to be designing cars that set out not to offend, rather than seeking to create a Wow! Factor.
Jaguar said it had spent much time designing its new F-Type, but succeeded in making a Maserati look-alike, if viewed from the front.
Premium automobile makers are concentrating less on speed and bling and bragging about technologies which increase efficiency and use less fuel, and will allow shameless public relations departments to embrace the environment.
“The definition of premium is undergoing a subtle shift from outright performance and luxury to technologies biased towards boosting overall efficiency,” IHS Automotive analyst Tim Urquhart said.
British-based and Indian owned Land Rover unveiled its new Range Rover, which is new from the ground up for the first time in almost 10 years. The new Range Rover is almost 40 per cent lighter than the old one, thanks to a new all-aluminum body shell. Again, its looks are evolutionary. The power plants don’t sound very green, with a 508 hp supercharged V8, although there are two less powerful diesels which promise outstanding fuel economy. All new Range Rovers have eight-speed automatic gearboxes.
Europe’s recession has crippled sales of expensive electric cars but that didn’t stop Mercedes Benz unveiling its SLS AMG Coupe Electric Drive, priced at $540,000 after tax in Germany, its most expensive car. The SLS Electric Drive shares its exterior styling, including gull-wing doors, with the petrol-engined SLS AMG. The SLS Electric Drive has motors at each corner, providing permanent four-wheel drive. Mercedes says the car will reach 62 mph from a standstill in 3.9 seconds and is electronically limited to a top speed of 155 mph. Mercedes remained silent about how far the car would go if the driver attempted to take advantage of the performance.
Against the new trend, McLaren launched its P1 supercar, which uses a Formula 1 electric boost system to generate 960 hp which might make it a challenger to the Bugatti Veyron as the world’s fastest car. The price? $1.3 million. Ferrari showed off its fabulous new F12 Berlinetta. Mass car manufacturer Peugeot though had arguably the best-looking car at the show with is Onyx concept. The Onyx is powered by a 3.7-litre diesel hybrid V8 and is made from carbon fibre. Jaguar’s new F-Type, with its Maserati-style face, seeks to replace the famous old E-Type form the 1960s.
Back in the real world Volkswagen, Europe’s biggest car company, took the wraps off its new Golf, probably the most important new vehicle at the show. This is VW’s biggest seller, and will also appear thinly disguised by its cheaper brands Skoda and Seat, and pricier Audi A3. The Golf offers no big technical development, apart from Active Cylinder Technology. This can deactivate two of the four cylinders to conserve fuel. The new Golf is much lighter than old one. That’s different.
Ford Europe launched its new Mondeo, a version of the U.S. Ford Fusion, and surprisingly decided to eschew a big welcome with a traditional press conference with all PR guns blazing. GM Europe’s Opel launched the little Adam city-car, and liked it so much it packed the stand with all manner of trendy-coloured versions, and didn’t show any of its other cars.
If there was a new trend to be seen from the mass car makers it was a new round of smaller SUVs, including the Peugeot 2008, Chevrolet Trax, Volvo V40 Countryman, Hyundai Santa Fe and Honda CRV. The new BMW Mini Paceman continues the company’s tradition of producing ever uglier, (or distinctive depending on your point of view), looking vehicles.
BMW, which had no new mainstream vehicles, showed its Concept Active Tourer, a front-wheel drive first for the German premium carmaker, which is also a plug-in hybrid. The engineering systems and 1.5 liter 3-cylinder engine will also be used on a future range of Minis, as well as 1 and 3-Series BMWs. This concept car looks like a small minivan and the engine has been designed to allow diesel or gasoline versions to share a majority of parts.
Ominously for the Europeans, Hyundai and Kia, the Koreans which are currently storming markets here, showed fuel cell and hybrid technology suggesting more tough times ahead
Neil Winton – October 1, 2012
*photographs © Paul Cox Photographic