Frankfurt Blog - Bill Thomas, Wheels Editor

As expected, day one at Frankfurt was dominated by the Big Three from Germany - Mercedes, BMW, and the VW Group.

Frankfurt Blog - Bill Thomas, Wheels Editor

As expected, day one at Frankfurt was dominated by the Big Three from Germany - Mercedes, BMW, and the VW Group. It's been a little quiet, though, because there have been few surprises - most of the cars revealed here today we'd already previewed. And the effects of the double-dip recession are bubbling away under the surface. It's far from a lavish show.

For me, the highlights have been the Mercedes-Benz F125 concept, BMW's 'I' cars and the VW Up, with honorable mentions for Ford and Porsche.

The F125 is a pointer to some of the styling cues of the next S Class, due in 2013. More importantly, it showcases Merc's next-gen drivetrain tech, particularly its hydrogen fuel cell hybrid system. Mercedes has very firmly nailed its colours to the fuel cell/hydrogen mast rather than fully electric, and expects to have a hydrogen-powered fuel cell B Class on sale in 2014.

Whether their route is the 'right' one remains to be seen… The F125 has an aluminium chassis with its hydrogen tanks integrated into it, and four brushless electric motors driving each corner. Mercedes says its hydrogen consumption will be about 0.79kg per 100km, or the equivalent of 2.7l/100km in a diesel.

BMW has gone down the fully electric, hybrid and range-extender route with its I sub-brand, treading a very different path to Mercedes. The first cars of the brand, i3 and i8, are impressive, with the i3 a pure electric city hatch (with a petrol range-extender engine an option) and the i8 a powerful plug-in hybrid coupe, with a 1.5-litre direct injection petrol engine developing 164kW, supplemented by an electric motor developing 96kW. Both look striking and distinctive in the metal.

Then there's the humble VW Up, the new sub-Polo city car that'll be coming to Australia next year. VW does small cars exceptionally well and no doubt the Up will be brilliant to drive. Frankfurt has seen the reveal of some Up concepts, too, including a sporty Up GT with a 75kW 1.0-litre engine, fully electric e-Up (coming in 2013) and the Eco Up with a natural gas-powered engine producing only 79g/km emissions.

Ford and Porsche? Both quietly impressive.

The Fiesta ST, with a 135kW 1.6 turbo Ecoboost engine, looks good and seems to have just the right amount of power, and with Jost Capito leading the chassis team it should handle brilliantly, too. And my first look at the new 911 was no disappointment - I reckon they've got the looks spot-on. Not too fat, not too heavy, with a great stance, this is a superb evolution of the 911 theme. It's good inside, too, maintaining enough of the classic narrow 911 character but adding modernity and quality.

We'll have more from the show as day two progesses, and a full wrap in the November issue of WHEELS.


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Bill Thomas

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