Frankfurt 2017 – the car industry gets the third degree
There will be tough questions asked – and VW will be coming in for more than anyone else
Volkswagen’s T-Roc compact SUV on display during its world premiere event at Villa Erba Congress Center in Cernobbio, Italy recently. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
The star of the BMW stand is likely to be this 600hp new M5
Carmaker Dacia is bringing its crucial all-new Duster to the Frankfurt show
Frankfurt has, for the past decade or so, been home to the dramatic flourish. Whether it’s BMW’s in-hall test track, or Audi’s stand, which usually takes up as much space as a minor royal’s palace all by itself, the big German car makers have long used Frankfurt for their biggest debuts. The only major motor show to take place in Germany itself, Frankfurt is home to the big boys.
Big boys facing big questions, this year, and none more so than Audi itself. Thus far, the four-ringed premium brand has been quietly successful at keeping itself out of the range of the cow-poo hitting parent company Volkswagen’s fan.
That changed last week with the revelations about just high up the diesel emissions scandal goes, and how early senior executives may have known about the diesel cheating software before the firm admitted its nefarious efforts. At Audi this could well take the shine off the public reveal of the new (and rather conservative) A8 saloon that will be its star of the show. The new A7 will also make an appearance, as will the high-powered RS5 coupe, but they may well be overshadowed by (a) the scandal and (b) a likely appearance by the new Q8 crossover, probably in hybrid plug-in form.
Frankfurt is usually the biggest motor show of the whole year (certainly physically – its halls stretch for miles) but this year, there are a significant number of significant car makers not coming. Fiat-Chrysler, along with its subsidiaries Alfa Romeo and Jeep, will be no-shows (although Ferrari will be there to show off the new Portofino convertible, a facelifted California). Peugeot and Citroen are also going to be stay-aways, in spite of having just merged with local boys Opel, while Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Volvo are also all staying home.
That’s not to say that the show will be bereft of interesting metal, though. Far from it. Bentley will, at long last (and 15 years on from the original) show off the new Continental GT coupe, which is expected to be lighter, lower, sleeker, faster, and will definitely share a chassis with the new Porsche Panamera.
BMW will be having a seriously big show, the star of its stand most likely being the 600hp new M5 with its switchable four-wheel drive system. Other Munich stars will be the facelifted i3 electric car (which will also now come with a sporty S high-performance version), the 6 Series GT (actually a replacement for the old 5 GT), the all-new X3 SUV, a convertible version of the hybrid i8 supercar, and a concept showing off some of the styling of the supersized new X7 SUV.
Possibly significantly, Chery, a little-known Chinese carmaker, will show off an SUV rival to the likes of the Nissan Qashqai and Hyundai Tucson at the show. It will have a new badge, and has ben developed in a European-based R&D centre, and early signs of the car show that it at least looks competitive. Could it be the Chinese car that finally breaks through in Europe?
One carmaker already well established is Dacia, and it’s bringing its crucial all-new Duster to the show. Expect sleeker styling, more petrol engine options, more space inside and, crucially, a similarly low price tag.
Honda will bring along another big-selling SUV to the show, the updated CR-V, which will feature a revolutionary new hybrid powertrain that does away with a conventional gearbox altogether. There’s an updated Jazz hatchback too, with a new 1.5-litre engine option.
Hyundai is hoping to underscore its burgeoning premium credentials with the storming 270hp i30N hot hatchback, as well as a sleek-looking i30 fastback, which looks a touch like an Audi A5 Sportback for those on a budget. Those not looking for a car ending in “-back” might like the new Kona small crossover.
Jaguar will be at the show with its silly 600hp Project 8 version of the XE saloon, but more significantly its new E-Pace small SUV, a BMW X1 rival which Jaguar reckons will in short order be its best-selling model in Ireland. And, likely, the rest of the world too.
Kia will bring along its new Stonic compact crossover (which we’ll be driving for the first time very shortly) and a concept car which should give us some clues as to the styling of the new Cee’d.
Lexus will have the updated versions of the NX SUV and the CT small hatch, but these are really just facelifts of existing models. There’ll be a chance to see the big new LS too, before that goes on sale at the end of the year.
Mercedes-Benz may well have the star of the show on its stand – a remarkable hypercar built on the bones of its Formula One race car, using much of the F1 car’s powertrain and with some serious aerodynamics. It’s a Stuttgart Chiron, if you will. There’ll also be the new X-Class pickup, an S-Class convertible and coupe facelift, and a new concept car previewing some of its upcoming EQ electric model range.
Mini will give us a tease of what it has in store for its 2019 all-electric Mini hatchback, while Porsche will be making a big noise for its new Cayenne (but will it come with a diesel engine this time?).
Opel’s big debut will be the new Grandland X crossover, its Nissan Qashqai rival, based on the same chassis as the Peugeot 3008.
Renault will have its powerful new Megane RS on the stand, as well as a concept car which should drop some hints as to the look of the next Clio, while Skoda may be planning to spring a surprise or two – so far, it has only said it will be showing the Karoq SUV and the Vision-E electric concept which it brought to Geneva. Is there something else special rattling around the Czech’s cupboard? We’ll see.
New hybrid system
Subaru’s new Impreza will allow you to play spot-the-difference with the old one, but it should have a clever new hybrid system underneath, while Suzuki will bring along its cute new 140hp Swift Sport.
Volkswagen will, of course, have a big presence at the show, not least with the new T-Roc crossover and the quietly handsome new Polo. There’ll also be a minor (very minor) mid-life update for the spacious Golf SV MPV, as well as the ID Buzz electric camper van which has just been confirmed for production in 2022. Quite how VW will cope with the continuing questions over its diesel cheating remains to be seen. The diesel scandal will be “celebrating” (if that’s quite the right word) its second birthday at the Frankfurt show this year, and the motoring world has changed utterly in those 24-months. While everyone has to deal with the fallout, the city bans, the 2040 deadline for anything that is not a hybrid, VW will still be coming in for more scrutiny, and more questions, than anyone else. Home turf advantage doesn’t apply in Frankfurt.