Paris motor show: Retro styling, electric charging and a bit of De Niro

Several delights to be found on the show floor despite some big name no-shows

Peugeot’s stunning concept car, the e-Legend coupe

Peugeot’s stunning concept car, the e-Legend coupe

 

The Paris motor show 2018 has been more low key than in previous years, due to some big name car companies ignoring the event. However, that seems to be more about car makers being strategic about how they show off their new wares, rather than a volte face on the whole idea of motor shows in general.

Besides, having somewhat fewer press conferences, and a schedule that’s less mad, has allowed us to stop and smell the automotive roses a bit more, if you will.

Star of the show thus far has unquestionably been the Peugeot E-Legend electric concept, with its styling that directly references the classic, 50-year old 504 Coupe, but which is packing some serious 21st century electric tech underneath.

Oh, and some rather gorgeous blue velvet seats inside. Peugeot has thus far steadfastly denied that the E-Legend will ever see a production line or the inside of a dealership, but the reaction to the car will surely have PSA Group at least considering the possibility of a Peugeot-badged Mustang rival. Surely?

On a rather more realistic and immediate note, Peugeot showed off its new plug-in hybrid powertain, in its 3008 SUV and in the new 508 saloon and SW estate. With as much as 300hp, optional four-wheel drive, and emissions of under 50g/km, these look like seriously desirable part-electric cars. On top of which, Peugeot was also showing off the “First Edition” model of the 508 SW sports estate. And let’s just say that if you don’t like the idea of a highly-polished wood floor lining for your estate car, then you can’t be our friend.

New BMW

BMW proved that you can still use a motor show to reveal a properly important new car for the first time and, impressively, managed to keep a lid on internet leaks of the new 3 Series until just hours before its official unveiling.

The new BMW 3 Series
The new BMW 3 Series

It’s a more muscular design than we’ve been used to in the past, and while we already know that it’s better than good to drive, BMW used the Paris motor show to lay down a gauntlet of challenge to its competitors, saying that the new 3 will have the best dynamics in its class, regardless of spec and price. It’s easy to assume that compact saloons such as the 3 Series are being overwhelmed by hordes of SUVs, but the 3’s importance to BMW, and to BMW’s balance sheet, says otherwise.

BMW’s rival, Mercedes, decided to push the boat out in Paris, and gave debuts to the new B-Class (rather dull, if worthy), a Golf-R-rivalling A-Class A35 AMG hot hatch (rather less dull), and the V6-engined version of its four-door AMG GT Coupe.

And it also had the little matter of the all-new GLE large SUV. This new take on the old ML-Class would once have been worth column inches all on its own, but it seems to have had a rather subtle debut in Paris. And that in spite of a clever new active suspension system that can rock the car back and forth to find extra traction if you get stuck when off-roading it.

Useful? Probably not for most of us, but rather cool nonetheless.

Why the lack of excitement, though? That’s hard to say. Have we all finally reached saturation point when it comes to SUVs?

That’s possible. Or possibly it’s just because the GLE will be primarily a diesel-powered vehicle, and that maybe makes it unfashionable.

The diesel debate is in full flow in Paris. Renault boss Carlos Ghosn bemoaned the fact that governments, especially the French government, have effectively legislated diesel out of existence. Not so, according to outgoing Mercedes-Benz boss Dieter Zetsche, who told Autocar magazine at the show that diesel was still an entirely viable power source for larger, more expensive vehicles.

Both brands were showing off new electric cars at the show. Mercedes had already shown us its EQC electric SUV (with its up-again, down-again one-charge range figure) while Renault rolled out its new affordable K-ZE electric crossover, which goes on sale in China next year, before coming to Europe in 2020.

Next door to Mercedes, the biggest name in electric cars was also showcasing its wares.

In a rather understated stand it showed off the new Model3 saloon, which is coming to Europe next year. With 420,000 orders taken to date, it might be a while before European customers get to collect their cars, but there was no doubt about the level of interest in the car on the show’s stand. Tesla is claiming an official range of 491km for the large battery version and 326km for the lower-priced smaller battery version. Prices, however, are not yet confirmed for Ireland.

Toyota’s new trio

Another car giant proving that Paris has its merits for a car show is Toyota, which used the show to introduce three big new arrivals. Top billing goes to the new Corolla range of hatchbacks and estates. The company called time on the Auris name and is sensibly going for the well-established Corolla moniker on its mid-sized cars from now on. The saloon isn’t here, but there is more than enough to be getting Irish buyers interested. And there’s more.

Toyota’s new Rav4 crossover
Toyota’s new Rav4 crossover

The new Rav4 is on the stand, looking noticeably more rugged than before. First introduced at the New York auto show last April, it's the first time many of us have got the chance to kick its tyres. Two-tone versions have a nodding similarity to the Volvo XC40, but the more traditional colour range still looks smart, with its squared-off wheel arches. Finally, and a car that many motorists have longed to see return to our roads, the new Camry is on show at Paris. Big, comfortable and remarkably smarter than the last models that ferried Garda detectives around the Republic, we reckon this will be something of a star performer for the brand when it lands next March.

Citroen’s luxury brand, DS, brought along its new DS3 Crossback small SUV, which will next year replace the little DS3 hatchback. That’s a divisive move, as the DS3 hatch had a loyal following across Europe, but crossovers are where it is at these days so the French brand had little choice. There will be an all-electric version with a range of 320km between charges, and the car will kick off something of a battery revolution at DS, Citroen, and further afield at Opel (a brand which was a no-show despite its French parent).

The new DS3 Crossback
The new DS3 Crossback

Seat meanwhile showed off its seven-seat Tarraco SUV (basically a VW Tiguan Allspace in a new suit) while Suzuki’s tiny Jimny 4x4 continued to win hearts, and if reports are anything to go by, big order numbers. 

Kia’s new Proceed sports estate looks good, and it rather perfectly asked Robert DeNiro to front up its global advertising campaign for the new all-electric e-Niro. After presumably confirming that Kia was, in fact, talking to him, DeNiro said yes . . .’’

There is also one entirely new brand at the show — Vinfast, which is looking to become Vietnam’s first globally renowned car maker. It rocked up at Paris with a pair of cars; a large SUV and a saloon, both of which look quite smart (their slightly Renault-esque styling is courtesy of both Italdesign and Pininfarina, which surely must be a first) while the 2.0-litre petrol engines and, allegedly, the chassis are bought in from BMW.

Of minority interest only? Yes, but it wasn’t so long ago we were saying that about Kia and now they’ve got Robert DeNiro doing their ads.