2013 FRANKFURT MOTOR SHOW
You’ve missed it, the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show has closed. How important it was, in a European market that is at a 20-year low, is for history to decide.
But while the market is down, there were some surprises coming from this show.
The biggest concerns a corner of the market that accounts for the tiniest slice of vehicle sales, but one that nearly every manufacturer is racing to cover.
And some are a long way ahead in getting into position.
We’re talking electrics: ‘full’ EVs, hybrids, and everything in between. At Frankfurt this year, you couldn’t escape them – an EV or hybrid occupied the stands of most manufacturers as the technical centrepiece.
So if you thought EVs were going to stay at the margins, think again, because here they come. Everyone has them in their barrows.
While you digest that information (and you’d better believe it), here’s our top-ten reasons – in reverse order – why “you shoulda been here to see it”.
10. Just making the cut: Honda’s NSX Sports Hybrid sneaks into the list. It’s not its first appearance, we saw it at Geneva, but this unconventional car is special.
It is also a sign that Honda is on its way back to discovering its sporting heart.
Underneath those lazer-cut lines, the NSX Sports Hybrid features electric motors at each front wheel and a mid-mounted V6 coupled to a third electric (Honda’s hybrid IMA system) driving through the rear wheels.
It is now made more enticing because the NSX, when it makes its production debut, is coming to Australia.
9. Volvo's amazing Coupe homage to the venerable P1800. Look closely, like, really closely, and you might, maybe, perhaps, just a bit, see some resemblance between this giant and the pretty Volvo P1800 that, an age ago, was the chariot of choice for The Saint, a young Roger Moore.
Its classy lines were only bettered by its turquoise-blue-clad attendants for style and grace.
8. The astonishing Mercedes pavilion: a giant domed three-storey ‘basilica’ in praise of automotive perfection.
It’s of a scale you have to see to believe. And here, lit from the heavens, was the new GLA, next to it the sublime jewel that is the S-Class Coupe Concept, also the CLA 45 AMG race car and everything else, dozens upon dozens, with a three-pointed star proud upon its nose.
Here also, like bad, bad boys at a ‘nice’ party, the bone-crushing Brabus display.
How many Newton-metres is too many? Try this, the Brabus 800; based on the SL 65 AMG, it pumps out no less than 588kW and 1420Nm (and will sprint to 100 in 3.9 seconds).
Or the Brabus 700 G-Wagon: six wheels, twin cab, a ute tub, and standing higher than a moose, it’s for anyone thinking they might need to move a small land mass somewhere.
7. It’s Australia’s best-selling car… and you don’t think that’s significant? Getting a look at the next big thing in Australian car sales is significant enough to this idiot abroad, so the new model gets a gong in Frankfurt’s top ten.
And it was the only car on display that had driven across continents to get there.
Driving 15,000km from Hiroshima, through Siberia, to Moscow, then Belarus, a convoy of new Mazda3s made a point about the new model’s robustness and integrity.
6. While Opel is up to its armpits in crocodiles, it found enough shekels at the back of the knife-drawer to build arguably Frankfurt’s most stunning and artful concept – the jaw-dropping Monza Coupe.
Front, back and side, it is automotive art at its purest and most sublime.
As fresh as tomorrow, its cheeky lines might be enough to pull Opel ‘back into the black’ in Europe.
5. It’s perfectly nuts; it makes no sense at all without a backdrop of camels, oil rigs and a palace the size of a European principality.
And while it may have appeared a month earlier at Pebble Beach, the Cadillac Elmiraj still manages to astonish for its sheer size and extraordinary coachwork.
Described by Cadillac as “a new dimension of Art and science philiosophy”, under the bonnet is a 4.5 litre twin turbo V8.
It’s a concept, but look closely at its name and you will see where it is pitched: this is one for the oil sheikh who doesn’t quite have everything… yet. Money can’t buy happiness but, let’s face it, having the Elmiraj in the drive won’t burden anyone with misery.
4. The impossibly gorgeous Alfa Romeo 4C. With the first shipment expected in Australia early next year, is it too early to start auctioning the silverware to raise the funds to jag one?
With 176kW and 350Nm from its ‘very-Alfa’ 1750cc powerplant, a double-clutch TCT auto, and a superlight carbon fibre and alloy chassis, the 4C has been worth the wait.
3. Porsche’s freakish 918 Spyder. Another hybrid, another monster sports car from Porsche. This one is sublimely beautiful, it harkens to an earlier age of Porsche design, but its sporting heart is all 21st century.
With a 95kW electric motor, a 447kW V8, and a combined output of 661kW and 1275Nm of torque, it’s no shrinking violet, but this car too conveys a thought beyond those supercar performance numbers.
Everyone, but everyone, is now looking to an electric or hybrid/electric future.
2. Tesla Model S: another model we’ve seen in earlier shows, but the Model S is an absolute show-stopper.
Released in Europe in August, with a range of 426 kilometres and producing 310kW from its rear-mounted motor, this all-electric marvel is set to make history for the small brand.
In the right place at the right time, just when the trickle to electrics is about to become a flood, there it is, gorgeous, supercar-fast, brilliantly engineered… and all-electric.
1. In top spot, not for what it is but for what it says, is BMW’s i3. This car, from this brand, may be the game-changer for electric cars and their acceptance by buyers.
With its i Series, BMW is making a pitch for the future. And it’s not a brand to misjudge the market.
With the i3 – and the accompanying i8 – comes an overwhelming sense that the electric car has come of age. The i3 looks good, better ‘in the round’ than these images suggest, and it feels like a BMW when you open the door.
Both it and the i8 are coming to Australia, the i3 arriving soon (we’ll be driving it), and a handful of i8s by the end of the year.
As BMW Australia boss Phil Horton told TMR in August, the i-Series is “a massive, massive thing for the company”.
“These are very convincing motor cars,” he said.
Yes, so that was Frankfurt 2013. It brought with it one overwhelming and compelling thought: the shift is on; here come ‘the mainstream electrics”, the EVs that even you and I will consider putting in the garage.