AS THE dust settles from the opening media days at the world’s biggest motor show, we take a look at the vehicles that stoked our fire, and those that extinguished our joy.
It’d be easy to put the Mercedes-AMG Project One or Porsche 911 GT3 Touring at the top of this list but, desirable as they are, no other car sparked as much discussion in the office or elsewhere like this adorable little EV. Honda blindsided everybody by revealing it completely out of the blue, and then raised the bar by confirming it for showrooms in 2019.
Naysayers have accused Honda of derivative design, but to our collective eyes this tiny, retro-inspired city hatch hits the nail on the head with styling purity many could learn from. Inevitably the production version will lose some of the concept’s details, but if it’s anything near this it’ll be on the top of many shopping lists.
MISS: BMW X7
Have you ever been presented with an ugly baby? It’s hard to know what to say. “Ooh. He’s a bruiser, isn’t he?” was about the best I could come up with when my cousin showed me her newborn. To be frank, he looked as if he’d been attached by the umbilical to a Hungry Jacks grease trap rather than a placenta.
I had the same feeling when confronted with BMW’s new X7. What is there to say? The vast baleen plate of a grille, and piggy little headlamps aren’t a great touch and the gratuitous slashes of aluminium behind the front wheel and on each corner do little to break up its slab-sided, galumphing bulk. I’m sure it’ll be a lovely thing to drive and it’ll spawn the Rolls-Royce Cullinan which can’t possibly look so ungainly, so it’s not all bad. It’s just a bit of a bruiser.
HIT: Suzuki Swift Sport
Weighing in at less than 1000kg with a rorty, torquey engine and a manual gearbox, the third-gen Swift Sport has all the ingredients necessary for simple, accessible driving enjoyment. If it lands in Oz at around $25K, like the old one, this little hatch should be a cracking performance bargain.
Existing Swift models have engaging handling and clever packaging, but are in some way compromised by their drivetrain configuration and/or spec level. The Swift Sport should right those wrongs, and we can’t wait to drive it.
MISS: Aeromobil Flying Car
There’s nothing like a flying car to top off a European motor show experience. It’s just one of those things you need to tick off along with Knight Rider yoke steering wheels, outdated Fatboy Slim launch music and sexagenarian men with red trousers and pomaded mullets. This year we have the Aeromobil flying car, which looks like an utterly ghastly car and a woeful aeroplane all rolled into one.
On the ground, the model is powered by an electric front wheel drive system which gives it an optimistic-sounding range of ’approximately’ 700km and a top speed of 160km/h. The company claims it can be converted to flying mode in just three minutes, although we think we could shave that down to two minutes if we really rushed it and cut a few corners.
It’s then powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder boxer engine that develops 224kW and proffers a maximum range of around 750km. Should the Aeromobil develop some sort of terminal fault and plummet to the ground, you’ll be reassured to hear that it’s equipped with dual-stage airbags and a parachute.
According to Aeromobil chief technology officer Douglas MacAndrew, “Integrating flight and car travel is not simple, but having condensed approximately 60 man-years of research and development into three, the AeroMobil flying car is designed to meet the current legislative requirements.”
We reckon that if they’d hurried and cut a few more corners they could have condensed that into two. Slackers.
HIT: Audi RS4 Avant
Fast wagons are cool. A fast wagon based on the Audi A4 that so narrowly missed out on 2017 Car of the Year victory promises to be even cooler. Audi’s fourth-gen RS4 ditches the old 4.2-litre atmo V8, replaced by a twin-turbo V6 just like the original B5 RS4. It’s the same engine as found in the new TT RS – a 2.9-litre unit with 331kW and 600Nm.
It’s lighter, faster and comprehensively kitted out as standard. Zero to 100km/h acceleration is dealt with in 4.1sec, and it’ll go on to a top of 250km/h.
“The Audi RS4 Avant is our RS icon with an incomparable history,” said Audi Sport chief, Stephan Winkelmann. It’s hard to think of a better candidate to occupy the ultimate single car garage.
We sometimes hear of a car manufacturer dipping out of one or two shows in the season, but this year it seems that almost everybody had a sick note. Yes, the big German manufacturers were all present, desperately trying to outdo each other in terms of square metres, but the list of no-shows was huge.
Volvo, Alfa Romeo, Peugeot, Aston Martin, Nissan, Fiat, Jeep and Mitsubishi all failed to present themselves. Some of them you can understand because their model ranges consist of tired old dreck but surely there’s value in showing cars like the Aston Martin DB11 V8, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, the Nissan GT-R Nismo, Volvo’s lovely XC60 and the latest variants of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio?
They might have been seen elsewhere, but Frankfurt remains Europe’s biggest show and gets huge numbers of paying customers through the door. Must try harder.