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2011 Australian International Motor Show: The Highlights Photo:
 
 
Tim O'Brien | Jul, 02 2011 | 1 Comment

It’s here, it’s filled with the stuff of dreams - cars to make you wet yourself – and the perfect antidote to a Melbourne winter.

Winter? Hold on, wasn’t Melbourne's Motor Show always a March thing?

The Melbourne Motor Show, now the Australian International Motor Show, had become as much a part of Melbourne in March as Moomba and the ‘birdman’ rally – when half the city becomes as mad as March hares and the other half watch.

In March, it was also loosely aligned with the Australian F1 Grand Prix, another Melbourne fixture.

And now it’s in July. So, whether the 2011 Australian International Motor Show pulls the 200,000-plus visitors of past years will be the nervous question for show organisers FCAI and VACC.

The new date has more than a few things going for it though. Where the March date had the Melbourne event tripping over major shows like Detroit, Geneva and Shanghai, a July date aligns better with the global motor show calendar – providing a wider window for manufacturers to get their special cars here.

In theory then, you’d expect to see more new releases, concepts and show specials.

So, has it delivered? Well, yes, this show has more on offer than we saw in Sydney last year and certainly more than we’ve seen at Melbourne Motor Shows past. And is certainly worth a visit.

Top of the pops for my money this year are two show specials at opposite ends of the automotive spectrum: Mazda’s astonishing Shinari concept - a perfectly-balanced melding of surfaces, light and automotive form - and Holden’s brutish and superbly penned Colorado twin-cab ute.

Each is a sublime expression of the designer’s art. Holden's end of the internationally-penned Colorado, 26-year-old RMIT graduate Ben Last, based in Holden’s Melbourne Design studio, would seem to indicate that at least one part of Australia’s design and engineering training is going right. The Aussie-designed Cruze hatch isn’t too shabby either.

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For sheer gaga fashion, Audi’s all-electric e-tron is impossible to ignore. It’s to be the basis for the R8 e-tron expected in 2012, and it’s nuts: green expression gone over the top.

With four motors, 230kW, 0-100km/h performance in 4.8 seconds, a 248km range and visually stunning ‘Samoa Orange’ paint, Audi’s e-tron is where the future is at.

Toyota put its low-slung FT-86 II on its stand (plus the super-cute, surprising new Yaris). In size and style, the FT-86 is more than a nod to Celicas past and it looks the goods.

Jointly-developed with Subaru, if ‘the big T’ can get this to market with its expected sub-$40k price-tag, buyers will be lining up at the doors.

Next, for me, is Honda’s CR-Z. If you loved Honda’s glass-backed CRX (and who didn’t), you will also love the CR-Z. That drooping snout – in the metal – simply ‘works’.

Hybrid-drive and sports performance, it’s expected in showrooms later this year and will win a lot of friends if the price is right.

On the Lamborghini stand, proving that it’s possible to come up with the perfect wet-dream for schoolboys, gangsters and successful business-people alike, is the astonishing Aventador.

A monstrous $750k price-tag, 512kW and 690Nm from a bellowing mid-mounted V12 puts Lamborghini’s new flagship somewhere in the stratosphere for most of us. But don’t miss it, even if only to dream a bit.

BMW’s Vision ED carries the Bavarian brand at this year’s show (and don’t go looking for anything else with a BMW badge). It’s a flight of electric-driven fancy, but, like Audi’s e-tron, a glimpse into a new world of high-performance motoring.

For cars for lesser mortals like you and I, the standouts are Hyundai’s Veloster – short, wide, fun and inexpensive - and its superbly-balanced i40 Wagon. The latter has the looks to cut a swathe into the family wagon market.

Range Rover’s classy five-door Evoque is also poised to shake up the family SUV/small wagon segment. It’s got killer looks and is surprisingly spacious inside, thanks to a very long wheelbase. It’s also affordable, with pricing around the $50k mark (and upwards for the premium-spec models).

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The perky Kia Rio is worth a look even if only to become convinced that Korea’s second brand is on the march - so too is Ford’s nicely penned Focus.

The Focus, launched to wide acclaim in Europe, is a very sharp-looking new entrant to the small car segment. With new engines to match its style, the new Focus, like the (significantly) updated Territory, is a sign of renewed energy in the local Ford line-up.

Of the rest, Nissan’s Leaf is proof that electric cars don’t need to look like they came from another planet. Skoda’s Yeti also looks intriguing (and, at an expected $28k, will be priced to compete in the hottest part of the market).

Mitsubishi’s plug-in hybrid PX-MiEV SUV concept, while interesting enough in itself, is perhaps of most interest for the design direction it appears to be signaling for Mitsubishi.

So, yes, a success for organisers in assembling some very heavy fire-power to the 2011 Australian International Motor Show. They will be waiting to see if Melburnians are prepared to venture out in winter in the numbers the event needs.

It’s certainly a return to form and a show worth seeing.

- Tim O'Brien
TMR Managing Editor

 
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