Every other year, the City of Light polishes its wares, throws open its doors and blows its best cigarette smoke in you face for the Paris auto show. We sent David Undercoffler there to take in the sights, equipped with a floor map, a notebook and his penchant for bon mots. Luckily, he speaks fluent car.
Paris: City of highlights and lowlights
Nissan Micra: You might want to sit down for this, but someone actually designed a bite-size car that doesn't look like it was ripped out of the styling poorhouse. This little gumdrop doesn't come to the States, but its platform underpins our Versa Note hatchback -- a hugely popular subcompact despite the fact that the current model has the design chops of a sweat sock. That means the next-gen Versa Note should echo the Micra and also punch above its weight in the looks department.
Renault Trezor: We're not sure about the name (Does Trent Reznor know he has a car named after him?) or the off-putting red glass, but this wild concept was easily the star of the show. The highlight was the one-piece clamshell hood/windshield/roof mechanism, an old concept-car gimmick designers have been using since before Sergio Marchionne was wearing adult-size sweaters. Bonus points for proportions to die for and the fact that it teases Renault's next design direction.
Audi's U.S. attention: Three cheers to the four-ring brand. A pair of models formerly off-limits to the U.S. market will land here in 2017: the 400-hp RS 3 sedan and the A5/S5 Sportback. The additions will add power and flair to Audi's U.S. lineup to offset a well-executed but dull crossover lineup (see below).
Honda Civic Type R: Like Audi, Honda had a feel-good "coming to America" message in Paris: the long-awaited Type R. No powertrain details were announced -- Honda needs to wring this PR gold mine for all it's worth -- but the prototype that debuted is essentially what the production model will look like when it starts tearing up U.S. roads next year.
Audi Q5: Let's start by making one thing clear: The redesigned Q5 crossover looks fine. There's not an ungainly line or angle on it. But "fine" is easy. We want swagger. This debut marks the second consecutive crossover (after the Q7) on which Audi has squandered a chance to reinforce the earlier model's design flair. With mainstream VW phoning it in on styling, we hoped for better from the swanky Audi folks. It figures that the display model was a NyQuil green. The looks are just as good at putting you to sleep.
VW I.D.: In the weeks leading up to the Paris show, VW promised a vehicle as groundbreaking as the original Beetle. Then it showed up with an automotive egg timer that won't hit production until 2020. That's a long while to wait for a compact EV hatchback, and plenty of rivals will launch their own competitors in the meantime. Hopefully, its expected range of 250 to 370 miles will be worth the wait.
Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta: This gorgeous 949-hp, hybrid, open-top hypercar was actually one of our favorite debuts in Paris this year. So why is it on this list? Because we can't have one. Heck, no one around here will likely even get to drive one. (Ferrari, if you're reading this, email me.) We'd like to say it's because of the $2 million price tag, but even oceans of money won't help the cause. Just 200 were made available to Ferrari's favorite clients, and naturally all of them sold. One longtime customer even sued Ferrari for not getting the chance to buy one, though he later dropped the suit. We should all be so lucky.
Lexus UX: This might be the foie gras talking, but wow, is this thing funky. We get that "UX" follows the brand's nomenclature, but we're wondering whether UG might be a better name for this subcompact concept based on the upcoming Toyota C-HR. The good news is that the styling will get toned down for the production version, and although the concept's details are dizzying, its shooting-brake profile has potential.
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