Sizing up Frankfurt
Segment-busters, spanking new shapes and, yes, a couple of duds
Photo credit: JIM FETS PHOTOS
- Reinventing the Automobile
- In Europe, no sales retreat yet
- Audi debates bringing Q3 crossover to U.S.
- Jeep CEO: Pickup at least 4 years away
- GT concept designed as Kia halo
- 3 German brands roll out sporty EVs for crowded cities
- U.S. may get 5 new M-B models
- Volvo You concept is the shape of things to come
- GM must distinguish Chevy, Opel in Europe
- Thankfully, it was still a car show
- Eurostars ceremony spotlights leaders of Europe's automotive industry
- Audi boosts global sales forecast for '11
- Prius chief fears brand dilution
- VW: U.S. won't get Up small vehicles
- Hyundai restyles Elantra Touring, i30
- Fisker’s sporty wagon
- Rechtin: Frankfurt Show Highlights
West Coast Editor Mark Rechtin toured the sprawling displays at the Frankfurt auto show. Here's his take on the winners, losers and everything in between.
This blew away every designer I talked to. Kia's design has straddled the line between affected and adolescent, but this concept of the brand's coming rear-drive sedan was cool and contemporary. It's not derivative, unless you count a modernizing of a Lamborghini Espada to be a rip-off. Bravo, Peter Schreyer.
Design boss J Mays says most of what is seen in the car will translate into Ford's global design language. It's a sharp new look, but it's also derivative of the Mazda Shinari concept and Mitsubishi Evo. The scowling face gives off an air of displeasure, as if it stepped in something.
Mercedes-Benz B class
This five-door hatchback, which comes to the United States in late 2013 or early 2014, has a turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder engine teamed with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. If it comes as a 2.0-liter engine like its A-class cousin, it could have as much as 260 pounds-feet of torque.
The five-door will be preceded by a swoopy sedan similar to the larger CLS, and be joined by a compact crossover and the snazzy A-class three-door hatch. The five-door hatch will be fast, with a stylish interior. Maybe this is the car that finally cracks the "mass luxury" code for Mercedes.
Four more inches of wheelbase give the car a more planted stance, especially over the rear wheels. Some say it's the best-looking 911 ever, but those are fighting words in many a Stuttgart beer hall. The headlights are a return to the air-cooled days. The engine vents are a sculptor's dream but a stamping machine's nightmare. The only downside is that there's still no room in the backseat for more than your camera bag.
The original A2, with its constant-radius roofline and latticelike design cues ripped straight from the London Eye Ferris wheel, was adored and loathed equally. It made a real statement about where Audi was headed with styling. The new A2 concept takes a more straightforward form-follows-function approach with passenger packaging in mind.
While the dynamic lighting and closed grille are intriguing cues, the silhouette of the car is more traditional VW/Audi compared with the bold commitment of its predecessor.
Designer Ian Callum swears this two-seat sports car concept is not a 50th birthday celebration of the E-Type. It bears a few similar cues, especially the rear glass and haunches. But mostly it looks like the modern XK's little brother. Callum said the car is "95 percent buildable," meaning most of the parts are already on the shelf. All Jaguar needs is enough tweed cap wearers to place orders for Castle Bromwich to start cranking them out.
That's the best iteration of a next-generation compact city car? Too much glassware hides the actual shape of the vehicle, if there was one. This concept car looks like an Art Center design student's graduation project, when it's 3 a.m. and he's run out of ideas.
Land Rover DC100
You can't live in the past, although the Land Rover Defender tries its best. The creaky artifact hasn't really changed its styling since Sean Connery played James Bond. This concept borrows a few cues from Tonka and the Toyota FJ Cruiser. It looks brusquely drawn with a Magic Marker, and that's a good thing. Even the tire treads are macho. But is that what Defender owners want?
The extended-range hybrid gets a four-seat wagon variant. The styling is intriguing, but is it an answer to a question no one asked? Henrik Fisker says he only needs to sell 2,500 Surfs worldwide to make a profit. But if the price is anywhere near the Karma sedan's $95,000 sticker, can there be that many buyers?
The lamest idea since the Chrysler TC by Maserati. The storied Italian brand has decades of racing and design heritage, but this concept vehicle is a silly chase of a segment that is rapidly shrinking -- based on a Jeep/Dodge platform that is hardly exotic. It looks like a big Hyundai Tucson, and not in an appealing way.
This would get a down arrow if it weren't so damn gorgeous. The problem is that it could be anything. Volvos don't need to be boxy, but this sure isn't a Volvo. Slap almost any badge on it, and it works. Generic design, no matter how beautiful, doesn't say anything about the brand.
Someone has to play the straight man, and sadly the CX-5 concept crossover that arrives here in February got lost amidst all the amazing unveilings at Frankfurt. But stick a CX-5 next to a RAV4 or a CR-V and it jumps out. Crisp edges and good proportions. The shield-shaped grille mouth is a bit of a screamer, but it's better than those smiley faces Mazda is ditching.
American Honda product planners take note: This is the interior we wanted. The instrument panel and center stack of the European Civic are sleek and stylish, not the garish, multitone, faux metal, cheap plastic claptrap we've got. Get this in the midcycle change before it's too late.
Mini Cooper Coupe
I love the regular Mini Cooper. But this one looks stepped on by an elephant. Straight on, it's OK, but the coupe roofline is badly abbreviated. It's a confluence of many bad lines.
Opel Astra GTC
So popular with attendees that Opel dragged out a Vauxhall-badged version on the second show day. Budget performance looks pretty good these days, so U.S. Chevy and Buick dealers can fight over who gets it.
Of course VW gets an up! arrow. This was the most fun car at the show. Everyone expected just an ordinary one-box city car, but VW stylists cranked out derivatives like Gremlins dipped in water. A cute crossover, a snazzy GT aero package, a dune buggy -- with interiors to match. There even was a nautical-themed roadster, with seats and flooring evidently pulled from Ferdinand Piech's mega-yacht. Oh, and the Beetle GT kicks butt, too.
You can reach Mark Rechtin at firstname.lastname@example.org. -- Follow Mark on