Postcard from 2016 Paris Motor Show

Geneva? Pah! Our man finds out firsthand that there’s a surprising amount to see at the 2016 Paris Motor Show. Including a former WRC champion

Superlight shoes with marshmallow soles are recommended for anyone attending the Paris Motor Show, something I wish I’d been told ahead of time: after two days fast-walking from one hall to another with several lenses and a tripod, the Apple Health app on my iPhone was only too happy to inform me that I’d taken 32,214 steps, or just over 22km.

Paris might share its bi-annual spot on the calendar with Frankfurt and many of the year’s prime motoring goodies have long since been unveiled at Geneva, there’s still more than four oversized halls to walk through at Mondial de l’Automobile, each of which contains its fair share of European and Asian specific entries.

Ferrari certainly didn’t disappoint with two high-profile launches. Well, sort of. The newly named LaFerrari Aperta made its global debut, but with everyone attending aware that each of the 200 customer examples were already sold (and for a jaw-dropping $2 million, according to some sources). The big hype then surrounded the launch of 70 bespoke models ahead of Ferrari’s 70th anniversary next year. Examples? The ‘Green Jewel’ displayed on a 488 Spider in Paris tributes the colour combo worn by Ferrari customer outfit David Piper Racing, who took overall victory at the 1965 and 1966 Kyalami 9 Hours with the 365 P2.

Unsurprisingly, racing proved a big deal in France: even Mercedes-AMG dropped a bomb when it confirmed it will build an ‘F1-inspired’ hypercar to rival the new RB001 from Aston Martin and Red Bull Racing (sorry, no further details yet).

Although the brand new – and much better looking – Panamera took most of Porsche’s spotlight, Stuttgart also unveiled its new, more powerful 485bhp 911 GT3 Cup racer ahead of its 2017 competitive debut. Similarly, Stephan Winkelmann signed off his first official appearance at Audi when he unveiled the new RS3 saloon and its LMS racing alter-ego. Tuned for the global TCR touring car series, the LMS carries one truly badass bodykit, but also fires 330bhp from its 2-litre TFSI four-cylinder. Not that the road-going model lacks grunt: Audi’s first RS3 saloon outguns even the 355bhp CLA 45 from rivals Mercedes-AMG with its 400bhp 2.5-litre TFSI turbocharged five-cylinder.

One unlikely show-stealer was Hyundai, who previewed its new 2017 World Rally Championship-spec i20, and unveiled the insane RN30 Concept. The very-hot hatch represents the first of an eventual new production model that will headline Hyundai’s new ‘N’ performance sub-division, and could even form the basis of the new i30 hatchback. ‘Stunning’ can’t justify – we’d go with ‘brutal’ – but the ‘N’ centrepiece certainly wow-ed the French crowd with its ‘floating’ front wheel arches, aggressive rear diffuser, and scissor doors. Toyota wasn’t about to let its Korean neighbours steal all the rallying thunder though, with four-time WRC champion Tommi Mäkinen unveiling the Yaris WRC he will manage when Toyota makes its official return to the series next season.

On the more sensible side in Paris was Land Rover and BMW, who unveiled their new Discovery and Concept X2 respectively (the former of which we go into further detail HERE). Bimmer executives were keen to emphasise that the X2 remains a concept at present, but given it’s X1-type proportions and the ‘need’ to plug gaps in the line-up, an unveil seems imminent. We’ll have no objections if the slick angled windscreen and CSL-type C-pillar mounted BMW emblem stay where they are on the production version. Power? Your guess is as good as ours, but a 189bhp 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder seems likely.

After several hours of fighting and pushing through exhausted and occasionally hostile attendees, we got to the electric side of the 2016 Paris Motor Show, easily the most eye-catching of which – sorry Volkswagen – was the new Renault Trezor two-seater concept. Don’t get excited, because much the previous Le Corbusier concept, Renault will almost certainly never make it, given that the design references Renault’s future ‘DNA’ set to roll out under new design boss Laurens van den Acker. A shame, since the 350bhp Formula E motor driving the rear axle could speed the 1600kg lump to 100kph in ‘less than four seconds’.

Neither Mercedes nor Volkswagen though were messing around with their new Generation EQ and I.D., the former set to appear in 2019 and the latter being geared up to lead VW’s all-electric field from 2020 onwards. Unsurprisingly, design and fuel-efficient technology went hand-in-hand for both. The Mercedes EQ SUV – or ‘Electrical Intelligence’ – is already eying up Audi’s e-tron Quattro, and could even be the genesis of a new sub-brand alongside AMG and Maybach. Indeed, the rear-mounted electric motors and accompanying drivetrain have been specially developed to host all-electric Daimler vehicles, and not just those on an SUV platform.

Volkswagen’s radical design though previewed ‘a new era’ of alternatively fuelled, autonomous driving: the windscreen panoramic roof; no front grille; digital headlamps. Each are set to fashion a bespoke – and very sleek – design language for VW’s future all-electric fleet. Size-wise, the I.D. is only a hair larger than the Golf, but uses a new MEB platform, designed to house its lithium-ion batteries within the structure itself to offer more room in the cabin. All part of VW’s master plan to sell at least one million electric vehicles per year by 2025.

A personal favourite of mine was the newly face-lifted NISMO Nissan GT-R. It’s the most expensive GT-R to date, the new revised interior – full of Alcantara and hotness – expressing where the money has gone: it took an official Nissan rep three visits to get me out of the car so others could see it.

But our star of this year’s Paris Motor Show was the Honda Civic Type R. It remains a prototype at present, Honda not wanting to draw too much attention away from the newly launched ninth generation Civic. Yes, the Type R is wider, lower and longer than its predecessor, and yes, a Nürburgring record run is inevitable. But more importantly than that, it looks absolutely mental. That’s good enough for us.

Enjoy our 2016 Paris Motor Show postcard? 

Be sure to check out more Paris Motor Show stories HERE

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