1 October 2016

Paris Mondial de l'Auto 2016, the full throttle

Now that the frenzy of the press days at the Paris Mondial de l’Auto are behind us and we can catch up on ourselves, here’s the rest of what we saw besides our first day report and our thoughts on the continuation of the electric revolution, write Brian Byrne and Trish Whelan.

Alfa Romeo retains its focus on the Giulia saloon (above), not yet available in Ireland, which has graced its stand on most recent motor shows. For Paris 2016 the company brought a Veloce grade with 280hp petrol 2.0 and 210hp diesel 2.2 power. Both cars offer 8-speed automatics and have AWD as standard. Mild cosmetic tweaks to the Giulietta and Mito keep them fresh.

Audi’s presentation for the most of us is the all-new Q5 which comes to Ireland early next year. Somewhat larger and significantly lighter than the outgoing car, it features uprated engines, which will offer here four diesels and one petrol. The same kind of instrumentation/navigation graphics first shown on the TT will also be on the new SUV.

A new RS3 saloon has 400hp power and a 100km/h sprint performance of 4.1s from its 5-pot engine. Quattro AWD is standard. And though it has been around for a couple of years, the RS7 piloted driving concept (below) which actually works is always worth another look at.

Though they have more exotic stuff, the key player at BMW is the Concept X2, a compact addition to their X series SUVs and coupe crossovers range aimed especially at the urban owner. We’d kind of like them to reduce those wild air intake up front, but otherwise we liked it a lot.

In the electrics arena, the new i3 due in Ireland shortly is essentially as before with a 50pc increase in range from its battery, while the always crowd-drawing i8 has a new special edition, the Protonic Dark Silver (below).

For Citroen, the key debut is the new C3, which brings the nameplate right up to the front of the grid in the highly competitive supermini stakes. Drawing on the design cues that made the C4 Cactus an eye-catcher, the totally new C3 includes a variant of the airbumps protectors on its doors, a really outstanding front look, and the interior perceived quality has been notched up enormously. It’s going to do business.

The CXperience Concept is long and sleek and for those who have valued the C5 medium saloon, it shows that the company will be doing something special for that car’s next generation. The concept is powered by a plug-in hybrid powertrain with an electric-only range of 60km on a charge.

And for the sports enthusiasts, the C3 Racing WRC 2017 challenger has a special space, with the Irish and English flags of Paul Nagle and Kris Meeke gracing the c-pillars. They will be working hard to add to the 16 world titles already held by the brand.

Dacia, Renault’s very successful budget brand, isn’t featuring any new models, but there are upgrades to its Sandero, Sandero Stepway, and Logan MCV models. The exteriors feature new front styling and LED lights, and the rear lights are also redesigned. The interiors have also been improved, with better materials and more storage areas. The Duster gets a dual-clutch automatic transmission option for its 1.5 diesel, which will be available in Ireland towards the end of October.

DS, the new PSA Group premium brand, had a very special stand on which visitors could view the heritage and future conceived for the brand, all in one place. The exhibits included this DS 5, but not a standard one. Indeed, its French owner paid €25,000 over the ordinary price for the car to have it detailed to her own specification.

It took six months of collaboration between Metroz and the client to devise the special personalisation of the car, a service which will be offered to all DS buyers. For this lady, full nappa leather interior with matching luggage, a bespoke gear lever, and the creation of individual texture and design in seating are just part of the execution of the brief.

The stand also features how customers in DS Stores will get a 'virtual vision' get one-to-one attention when selecting their car's options, and another attraction is the chance to see the E-Tense electric concept shown at in Geneva, in a very special son et lumiere environment.

Even in these emphasis on green times there’s still a space at motor shows for supercar sound and fury, and this year the stage is left to Ferrari, with Lamborghini’s absence from the event. Two models are catching all the attention — the striking open-top version of the La Ferrari, the Aperta (above) with 963hp from its hybrid 6.3 V12 and 120kW electric motor setup, and the green TC4 LussoT racer (below), the first V8 turbo 4-seat Ferrari which has 610hp and a 3.5s 100km/h sprint. Gloriously inaccessible to most.

Not the sexiest, but probably the most important car on the Fiat stand is the new Tipo range, returning a nameplate and hopefully re-booting the brand’s place in the compact family car arena. Coming to Ireland very shortly, and available in hatch, saloon and estate formats, with a good range of engine options.

The gorgeous 124 sports car coming from a cooperation with Mazda and its MX-5 shows that Fiat has no problems bringing its own very unique styling to the project, along with its own powertrain. The Spider variant is certainly one for turning heads. There’s also a beautiful Riva yacht on the stand, linking to yet another variant on the Fiat 500. We'll just show the boat.

Hyundai hasn’t spoken of any plans to bring its Genesis luxury brand to Ireland but they will certainly be tempting European buyers. Their New York Concept in a special room at Paris revives thoughts of the Chrysler New Yorker ethos with us, and is a very sleek and smooth creation that is likely to translate well into a production car. Love the instruments setup.

This is the tenth generation of Honda’s Civic since it launched the model some 40 years ago, and they’ve come up with an all-new car that we figure brings the nameplate significantly forward. Lighter but larger, and with a much more determined look than its predecessor, it is likely to have buyers in the compact family space taking a second and even a third look. With new to Europe 1.0 3-cylinder and 1.5 4-cylinder petrol engines, the company claims ‘highly competitive’ fuel economy and efficiency. The Type R prototype (bottom) is likely to land without any changes, which will really bring in the niche buyers.

With a really sexy take on Hyundai’s i30-based WRC, the RN30 Concept is a taste of a quite likely hot hatch from 300hp from the Korean brand. For visitors, it will be putting a shine on what might otherwise be a disappointing shift in the i30 itself, which is a lot more plain than the outgoing car. Like a pendulum, maybe the style has moved a little too far from the swoopy and sculpted current car. The rear treatment is good, though.

Hyundai is also showing its Ioniq triplets (below), the hybrid version aimed straight at Toyota’s Prius, while the plug-in hybrid and the pure electric versions will address their own particular spaces. There’s certainly an advantage in using the same body for all three, we think.

This Q50 Concept from Nissan’s premium brand Infiniti was world-debuted at Beijing, but for Paris it was launching a new 2.0 turbocharged engine with an innovative variable compression ratio feature which allows either top efficiency or top power. It will appear in the next production version of the SUV in 2018, by which time maybe Infiniti will be sold in Ireland?

Kia’s new generation Rio is the fourth iteration of the model’s supermini, and its debut at Paris shows a restrained but elegant look to the latest version. It’s roomier and has a smart new interior design and execution. There are up-to-date electronic safety technologies. The now-familiar 3-cylinder 1.0 turbocharged petrol engine and a 1.4 diesel are power options. The brand was also emphasising its new small Niro crossover hybrid (below), due in Ireland in a couple of weeks.

Land Rover’s all-new Discovery arrived in a big pre-show event and is very clearly aimed at expanding ts role to premium crossover car as well as its traditional large off-road SUV. The new styling follows the trend set by the Discovery Sport and looks just as good. The aluminium structure begun with the Range Rover now underpins the latest Disco, and it is therefore lighter and more nimble. A 7-seater for most markets, it will be offered in 5-seat in some parts of the world.

Lexus is using Paris to preview a UX small crossover that is attracting a lot of attention for its very dramatic styling, but the company is spending a lot of hype on what it calls its ‘kinetic seat’ as shown in the car. The lady in the picture with the car is actually showing something of the technology of this seat in her dress, illustrating the fibre net construction. No doubt we’ll here more, about both car and seat.

Mercedes-Benz is using Paris to spotlight a future sub-brand to carry its electric vehicle future. The EQ range is previewed by a concept from which ten new electric models will be produced by 2025. The company is developing a new technical architecture for the series specially designed for battery electric models. The impetus for the initiative is advances in battery technology and a growing acceptance from consumers for zero-emission vehicles.

Mitsubishi’s main exhibit is the GT-PHEV Concept which shows where the brand is looking towards an all-terrain touring vehicle, and also indicates the style thrust of the company. An-electric-only range of 120km is envisaged from the plug-in hybrid system, a space where Mitsubishi has made significant reputation with its Outlander. Although shown at Geneva, the company also gives space at Paris to its eX electric SUV concept which is expected to launch by 2020 as a production vehicle in the compact segment.

Nissan’s emphasis is on the next generation Micra, previewed at Geneva 2015 as a concept and now a production car which hasn’t changed much from that concept. It does change the whole perception of the nameplate, though, offering a much more stylish and spacious car which is likely to be competitive on every front. A high level of safety technologies will be offered, and power will be from a 900cc turbocharged 3-cylinder petrol engine and a 1.5 diesel, both developing 90hp, with later a naturally aspirated 73hp 1.0 petrol unit.

Opel’s focus is on an electric future in the supermini space, with its Ampera-e being given major attention. As a production car, it already offers in excess of 500km range and depending on pricing is likely to shake up the pure electric car market even further. Not for RHD markets though, so it won’t appear in Irish Opel showrooms.

Peugeot had a thought: if we have a successful MPV pair but the public taste is shifting swiftly from that format, what will we do? Answer: change the models into SUV/crossovers. So the new 3008 and 5008 are reborn, and both with good strong presence as shown at Paris 2016.

In addition to the good looks and high-quality interiors, the cars showcase the latest version of the i-Cockpit instrumentation that’s been a success in the 2008 small crossover.

Porsche highlights a new version of its Panamera 4 E-Hybrid which offers an electric-only range of 50km for tootling around the city but still delivers a 4.6s sprint to 100km/h where conditions permit. It’s AWD too, and the 2.9 V6 biturbo is new, with 330hp.

Renault’s big emphasis is the new 400km range of its Zoe electric supermini, making sure that buyers know that is available now and not an aspiration. Real-world range is given at 300km, which is a doubling of the existing performance. As the biggest-selling electric car in Europe, that’s going to bring in new owners. The new generation Koleos also features, and that’s coming to Ireland in 2017, while the Alaskan pickup adds another wheel to the brand’s overall range.

But the ‘oh la la’ response is to the Trezor Concept with a powertrain developed from Formula E racecars and giving the Trezor capability to sprint to 100km/h in less than four seconds. The style details will find their way to future Renault cars.

As we write this, SEAT in Ireland are readying their Ateca SUV launch for this coming week. In Paris they’re concepting a more sexy development of their new SUV, the X-Perience. With Haldex AWD and a 2.0 190hp diesel, it is designed to show that while more than nine in ten Ateca owners will never drive offroad, that there will be a version for those who do.

Skoda is giving its first public showing of the Kodiaq medium SUV following a media preview last month in Berlin, and it looks as good here as it did then. Coming to Ireland in February, it is going to offer serious competition to the likes of Hyundai’s Santa Fe and similar, and likely to some of the compact players like Ford and Toyota too. Power will be from 1.4 and 2.0 TSI petrol engines, with 125/150hp outputs respectively, and 2.0 diesel engines of 150hp and 190hp and a 115hp available later in 2018. There are options of 6-speed manualand 7-speed DSG automatic in transmissions.

SsangYong is continuing its development of all-new SUVs and showcasing its intention to get into the high end of the business with the LIV-2 Concept. Each seat in the Concept reclines and has a massage function while connectivity includes monitors in each headrest to keep the rear passengers from getting bored on long trips. Power is by the brand’s own 181hp 2.2 diesel.

The company's Tivoli Rally Raid is likely to attract a lot more attention. It’s fully FIA-approved, powered by an unspecified 6-cylinder biturbo engine, and has a hydraulically-controlled suspension which can raise and lower the ground clearance to suit the terrain.

Suzuki has a new Ignis that will light up the brand’s fans for its small SUV cars. Based on one produced in Japan, it’s actually longer for Europe because of a bigger bumper, and looks a smart little beast. Power from a 1.2 turbocharged petrol engine, and the company will be emphasising the range of personalisation options.

Toyota’s main punter interest is in the new C-HR small crossover, aimed squarely at Nissan’s Juke and due in Ireland next month. It is very little changed from the concept seen at Geneva earlier in the year, and is powered by a 120hp hybrid engine system, though a 1.2 petrol turbo with 114hp is also an option. Manual and auto gearboxes are available, and the car can be had with FWD or AWD.

Toyota is also using Paris to introduce its new plug-in hybrid version of the Prius, and the hydrogen powered FCV Plus Concept (above) aimed at focusing attention on the possibilities of motive and stationary electric power provision from the same fuel cell stack.

Volkswagen’s thrust is absolutely on electric vehicles at this show, with the debut of the I.D. Concept which will result in a production car in 2020, with a claimed range of 250km that looks a little low compared to other ‘now’ EV ranges we see here. VW says the pricing will match diesel powered Golfs. The car will be shorter than a Golf, but will have a wheelbase close to that of the Passat, so should be roomy. The controls will be by touch, no knobs or switches, and it will be capable of what VW Group now labels ‘piloted driving’.

The German maker’s display also highlights the Budd-e electric MPV which will go on sale, the current e-Golf, and e-up!

And that's it from this year in Paris. Did we miss out Ford, Volvo, Mazda, Bentley, and Lamborghini? Nope, they're not here. But we were. Thanks for reading.