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.