Paris auto show promises panache - though ‘star car’ difficult to predict

Volkswagen will be centre stage in Paris, despite the efforts of French and Asian rivals

 

It’s foolhardy to try and pick a motor show “star car” before the show has even opened its doors. Car makers can spring a surprise and pre-show favourites can fall flat on their faces. But this year, ahead of the show, it is fairly certain that Volkswagen will be the focal point of the 2016 Paris motor show.

The show arrives on the anniversary of Volkswagen’s emissions scandal. If for nothing else, the panoply of recrimination that still surrounds VW – court cases, class actions, US and European fines, government-level investigations, car buy-backs and so much more – would keep the vast German company at the forefront of minds all through the media and public days of the show.

VW

However, VW is coming out fighting. With news that the overall VW Group has seen its global sales rise by 6.3 per cent, and that VW brand sales have risen by 4.7 per cent, there is a sense of bullish confidence returning to VW. Regrets? A few, most certainly, but in the global contest with Toyota to become the world’s biggest car maker, they may eventually be too few to mention.

And VW has an intriguing new car to show in Paris. Still un-named, slightly smaller than a Golf and powered entirely by electricity, the new EV is both a dramatic surge forwards in VW’s plans for switching from internal combustion to electric power, and a four-wheeled mea culpa, a way to begin apologising for the diesel debacle, not least because this new car will use some of the $2 billion that VW promised the US Department of Justice it would spend on zero-emissions’ research and development as part of its financial penalties.

We currently know little enough about the EV, other than that it will use the same MEB electric car platform as seen on the Microbus-like BUDD-e concept; that its interior will be enormously spacious and filled with gesture-controlled touch screens, and that it could, potentially, have a 600km maximum one-charge range (although a 400km range is more likely).

VW has not shied away from promoting the new concept, which should hit production in 2020, going so far as to call it as revolutionary as the original Beetle, and “a lighthouse to point to the future direction of the company”.

Whether the response is good or bad, it’s unlikely that anyone will walk away from Paris feeling indifferent about this concept, nor about VW’s plans to atone for its emission sins by putting the world on electric wheels.

Audi/Seat/Skoda

Other VW Group offerings will include the already-revealed Audi A5 Sportback, the new Audi Q5 (which will, if nothing else, be a useful cash cow to help pay all those Dieselgate fines), the likely appearance of the new Passat CC and the European version of the long-wheelbase, seven seat Tiguan. That car has a potentially more glamorous sister in the shape of the long-awaited Skoda Kodiaq which is already generating a great deal of pre-launch interest across Europe from value-hungry motorists with three kids or more.

It is possible we might see also a production version of VW’s Nissan Juke-rivalling small crossover, but it is more likely that car will be held back for the Detroit motor show in January. Seat will also launch its new Ibiza hatchback as it seeks to capitalise on the good reception for its new Ateca SUV. VW has announced that neither Lamborghini nor Bentley will be exhibiting at the show, as the group wants to concentrate on putting its best eco-friendly feet forwards.

Citroën

This being the Paris show, the French car makers will be going all-out to prevent VW from stealing all the limelight.

Citroën will bring its striking CXPERIENCE concept which seems to seek to blur the lines between the current Citroen lineup and its luxury DS models. It’s a low-slung, roomy hatch with some faint overtones of the original 1970s Citroën CX and it makes apparent that Citroën has not given up on the C5 segment of the market.

Citroën will also bring along another, more mysterious concept car which will most likely be a glance at a replacement for the current DS 3 or DS 5 models, as well as showing its new C3 hatchback to the public for the first time. There may also be a glance at the new C3 Picasso, but Citroën may hold that back so as not to overwhelm the launch of the C3 itself. There will be a World Rally Championship version of the C3 in evidence though, and already Citroën is quietly suggesting that there could be a C3-based rival to the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST and Opel Corsa OPC in the near future.

Peugeot

Sister brand Peugeot is aiming for Skoda and VW, as well as the Hyundai and Kia, with the new 5008. Once a people carrier, the 5008 has transformed into a tall, bluff seven-seat SUV, and Peugeot boasts it should have the lowest CO2 emissions and the biggest boot in its class – music to the ears of those who hold practicality dearest. We should also see an update for the 308 hatchback and SW estate, and possibly some hint of a replacement for the current 508, which is itself likely to go down the jacked-up, faux-SUV 508 RXH route.

Renault

Renault will have a full compliment of new production models on its stand, including a mild update for the Clio, a four-door Megane saloon which is referred to as a Grand Coupe and the chunky-looking Alaskan one-tonne pickup truck. There will also be the astonishing 271hp Clio R.S 16 in production form, an arrival which should win Renault the best hot hatch in show award.

A concept car? Yes, although Renault is for now being coy about what it will be. All we know is that it “marks the beginning of a new cycle of Renault’s ‘Life Flower’ car design strategy. This explores the essence and technologies inspiring upcoming models that embody both a vision of how mobility might be in the future and the vibrant passion associated with the automobile”. Okay then . . . no idea what that means.

Nissan

Renault’s sister company Nissan will certainly have something big to show off. Well, something small actually – the new Micra. That may not sound like the most exciting thing in the world, but Nissan is promising big changes from the current, rather disappointing model. Expect more cabin space, higher quality, much sharper styling and a sweet Renault-sourced 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine. Will it still be called Micra, though? Nissan has toyed with the idea of a name change, so significant is the expected improvement, but the brand recognition of the Micra badge is likely to carry the day. We expect a Micra moniker on the back, whatever it looks like.

Opel

Opel will also have its Ampera-e, a re-badged version of the Chevrolet Bolt electric hatchback, which has just been confirmed with a near-400km one-charge range, but is not yet certain for right-hand drive. For Insignia fans, it’s going to be next year’s Geneva motor show before the second generation breaks cover.

Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo may have its new Stelvio SUV at the show, although it’s more likely to debut at Los Angeles in November. Designed to be a rival to the BMW X3 and the Audi Q5, the Stelvio is potentially the most crucial car in Alfa’s hoped-for revival. More likely the Italians will have a relatively tame Paris show.

BMW

BMW’s efforts will be centred around the new X2 crossover, based on the same platform as the upcoming Mini Countryman (which is also being saved for Los Angeles in November) and an obvious rival to the Audi Q2. Suggestions were that the new 5-Series would debut in Paris but it now seems likely to be introduced at Detroit auto show in January instead.

Mercedes-Benz

A low-key show for Munich? It could be, but BMW’s rivals from Stuttgart, Mercedes-Benz, will be putting in a major effort for Paris. Merc’s stand will be massive, and will feature the off-roading version of the E-Class estate, the E-Class All-Terrain and the gorgeous, art-deco Maybach Concept 6 coupe. Oh, and a certain glamorous 500hp convertible AMG-GT C convertible.

More significantly (and justifying the enormous stand) Mercedes is also going to be giving some serious hints about its electric future. Set to be built around a new brand, called EQ, the first sight should be an all-electric SUV concept, a potential rival to Tesla’s Model X and Audi’s upcoming Q6 quattro e-Tron. Expect at least a 500km range and plenty of semi-autonomous driving tech.

Porsche

Speaking of electrics, Porsche has already launched the new, and rather gorgeous, Panamera saloon, but Paris will see the debut of the second generation of the Panamera plug-in hybrid, the 4 E-Hybrid will mix 455hp, CO2 emissions of 56g/km and claimed fuel economy of better than 100mpg. We should see the Panamera estate too, called the Sport Turismo and with some very sexy, and presumably not actually all that practical, estate bodywork. At last, the rival to the Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake we’ve been clamouring for.

Mitsubishi

Did we say plug-in hybrid? Well, Mitsubishi, which has seen some significant success with plug-in power, will show off the Grand Tourer Concept, which mixes an Outlander PHEV-style plug-in hybrid drivetrain with avant-garde new styling which is expected to make its way through, in some form, to both the next Outlander and the new Pajero. Mitsubishi will also have the eX concept, an all-electric compact crossover, which previews its next ASX model. We’ve seen it before, in Tokyo last year, but this will be its European debut.

Toyota

Toyota will give the much-anticipated C-HR crossover its final motorshow outing before test drives and sales start towards the end of the year, and Paris will also see the first European outing for the plug-in-hybrid version of the Prius. We might also get a glimpse at what Toyota has planned for the next-generation Avensis saloon and estate through concepts, though that’s speculation for now.

Hyundai and Kia

Both Hyundai and Kia will be bringing new hatchbacks to Paris – the new i30 is set to be roomier, classier and with a broader range of engines, including a high-performance new “N” variant. Kia will show off its new Rio small hatch, which looks much sharper than the current car and is far roomier.

Honda

Honda has already shown off the new Civic hatchback, but it will get a first public outing in Paris, and there are rumours that we’ll see a concept version of the next-generation 340hp Civic Type R too.

Land Rover

Land Rover will finally let us see the big new seven-seat Discovery in all its glory, having shown us a picture of the front of the car already. It will be much lighter, much more efficient, have a 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel entry level engine but will not likely cost less than the outgoing model.

Suzuki

Suzuki will be concentrating on its new Ignis, a small city car styled (apparently by Lego) to look like a shrunken SUV.

Lexus

Lexus will have its UX concept, a sharply-styled SUV which could be a preview of an upcoming Audi Q3 rival to sit below the NX and RX in the Lexus range, while the Japanese luxury firm will also show off a concept seat. The Lexus Kinetic seat uses man-made spider-silk spun into a spiders’ web pattern which allows the torso and shoulders to move which, claims Lexus, keeps the head and eyes steadier than a conventional seat and which reduces tiredness.

Ferrari

Finally, there’s Ferrari, which will bring the astonishing (in every respect, especially its price) open-top LaFerrari Aperta. With 950hp, 0-100kmh in less than three seconds and a top speed of more than 340km/h it should put the wind in your hair. If you can afford one. Or if you can find one that hasn’t already been sold. A star of the show? It’s dangerous to predict.

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