13 September 2017

Frankfurt 2017, the gospel from the ground

All pictures © Brian Byrne & Trish Whelan.
Well, the press days of the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show are in full swing, and here's our take after a frenetic opening day, write Brian Byrne and Trish Whelan.

The main line is that this year 'electric' is the story instead of being a significant start of the show. Every major manufacturer is showcasing current or in conception models which in one form or another are on their way to showrooms in the next few years.

One that won't be static in any showroom, because only a select 275 people will be able to buy one, at around €2.5m a pop, is the Mercedes-AMG Project One (above). With a 1.6 V8 engine from the M-B Formula 1 programme and a set of mighty electric motors, this is the street-legal hybrid to beat all hybrids, with more than 1,000hp on tap. Probably the overall star of Frankfurt 2017.

Mercedes was also showing its EQA Concept, which will become a production electric saloon in the compact-medium segment under the EQ brand which Mercedes-Benz is using for its EV programme. In all, there will be at least ten models available by 2022.

Daimler's Smart division is also going all-electric, and autonomous in due course too with the concept Smart vision EQ fortwo. The idea is that you'll call this one up on your smartphone and it will deliver itself to your door, then take you where you want to go. Note there's no steering wheel …

However, lest you think that Mercedes-Benz has forgotten its mainstream business, fear not. The upgraded S-Class had a couple of brand new siblings in tow, the Coupe and Cabriolet variants, which were attracting crowds with 'I want one' write large on every face.

And then back with the future, a GLC Fuel Cell prototype showcased the possibility of travelling 400km on a fill of hydrogen, along with the ability to go 50km on the battery should you get caught short between fill-ups.

Lots of interest too into the three-pointed star's foray into the world of pickups, courtesy of help from its partner here Nissan. The X-Class brings luxury to the genre.

On the way out, in case you missed it at Tokyo in 2015, we spotted this 'Vision Tokyo' concept of a self-driving urban 'limousine lounge'.  Wonder how much closer to this we are two years on?

The new third generation Porsche Cayenne was debuted with an emphasis on the Turbo high-performance variant. A new 4.0 V8, smaller than the outgoing car's, offers 550hp with an 8-speed autobox and AWD. Top speed is irrelevant, but the sprint to 100km/h in around four seconds isn't. The LED projector headlights are just one of several special cues that show this is the special one. The Cayenne S also revealed is a little less meatier, but a 2.9 V6 still harnesses 440hp.

Meanwhile, none of the foregoing rich enough for your blood? The 911 GT2 RS should sort you out there … if you can get through the crush.

Taking a break from the super power set, SEAT's small SUV Arona fits in below the Ateca already on sale in the crossover arena. Yet another of the ever advancing waves of crossover/SUVs, it features that nice edginess in style which the brand has developed. Should sell comfortably.

But SEAT wasn't going to be left out out of the excitement division either, so the much anticipated Cupra R graced the stand, with copper detailing lifting it above ordinary Leons. With 310hp, you need to get in quick, because there will only be 799 of them.

There have been a lot of people anticipating the new generation Polo, and Volkswagen was making the most of their attention to Frankfurt by highlighting the GTI variant in unmissable red. With a 2.0 pumping 200hp, it promises to be a feisty successor to the old one. Polo new style is, as ever, conservative.

The production star of the show for VW was undoubtedly the T-Roc small SUV, slotted below the popular Tiguan. With this one, the company is letting its conservative dress sense slip, and expect to see more colour detailing in the car when it starts selling before the end of the year. With three petrol and two diesel power options, a 4WD version is also promised.

Closer to production, perhaps, than any other of the concept electric cars at the show is this ID Crozz1 from Volkswagen, which has been updated to reflect more of what it will actually look like. Two electric motors, and a performance akin to the Golf GTI, VW says … though without the GTI's sound. It is also designed to be autonomous in due course, which maybe is why the showcar has a steering wheel that looks like it can be pulled out and thrown away ... sorry, stored.

The ID Buzz concept electric microbus which has been in development will also go into production, VW says. Apart from being a nice surface to do shadowgraphs on, it also has an autonomous future, as the interior shows … though that panel can come out to be a steering wheel when needed.

Audi's Elaine is an electric-powered SUV coupe that drives even without a driver on board. The Elaine concept is more than just a good looking near-future EV. Their idea is that you can drop it at a hand-over zone, and then the car drives itself off to a car park with automatic washing and valeting. The company also showed its Aicon four-door concept which has no steering wheel or pedals. It previews the exterior and interior design of the future. It’s also designed for purely electric operation and has a range of between 700 and 800kms on a single charge.

The sports car builder with arguably the biggest track cred, McLaren, took the outside track at the show with an open air display aimed at everyone passing by. Among the beautiful street machinery to be admired, caressed, and if you're lucky and can prove you are wealthy enough, to book a road test in, were  the 570S Spider and 570S GT, as well as the 720S. Powertrains go from 562hp.