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Frankfurt auto show coverage

> Paul McVeigh

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Automotive News Europe

September 11, 2017 06:01 CET

At this week's Frankfurt auto show, German automakers will be vying to show that upstarts such as Tesla Motors won't overtake them in a future where cars are powered by long-range electric motors, can pilot themselves without ever needing driver intervention and have full connectivity.

BMW will debut a new EV concept for its i subbrand, while Mercedes-Benz will preview the volume-seller for its EQ marque. Audi focuses on advanced autonomous applications with its show debuts.

Germany's powerful industry is belatedly shifting its focus to autonomous and battery-powered, zero-emission cars as it faces a huge domestic backlash over harmful NOx emissions, including possible bans on diesel cars in cities. Volkswagen brand, for example, will seek to put its diesel-cheating scandal further behind it with a new concept for its I.D. electric subbrand.

Other challenges loom for Europe's traditional car companies. Chery Automobile and Great Wall Motor will be among Chinese automakers showing vehicles they believe match Western cars in quality, equipment and connectivity.

Europe's SUV boom shows no sign of slowing and there will be new high-riding models aplenty in Frankfurt. Hyundai, Kia, Citroen and Seat will debut late-arriving entries in the increasing crowded subcompact crossover segment, while Porsche updates the Cayenne and BMW previews its three-row X7 SUV flagship.

Frankfurt doesn't escape the trend for some brands to avoid a hugely expensive presence at car shows in favor of stand-alone debuts outside the show calendar. Fiat Chrysler, Nissan, Volvo and the Peugeot brand are among notable absentees. Ford is taking a lower-key approach and will not have a press conference to announce its products to the world.

Frankfurt's showstopper likely will be the Mercedes AMG Project One $2 million hypercar, while Ferrari's Portofino will also attract lovers of high-performance models.

The show's press days are Tuesday and Wednesday. Here are some key debuts.


Audi is highlighting its ambitions for self-driving cars with >two concept vehicles

that have advanced "hands-free" autonomous functions. One of the concepts is a full-electric large sedan designed for long journeys where the car drives itself and the occupants do other tasks. It's capable of Level 5 hands-free driving and has a range of 700 km to 800 km. Audi's other concept is a coupe-styled SUV based on the Audi e-tron Sportback concept. It's capable of Level 4 conditional hands-free driving. Audi's new A8 will get a show debut. The company's flagship sedan is capable of Level 3 autonomy that allows hands-free driving at low speeds, which makes it the most advanced self-driving production car, Audi says.


Bentley is giving its >third-generation Continental GT

technology and performance upgrades to keep what has been its most critical nameplate from being overshadowed by the Bentayga SUV.

Bentley Continental GT

The redesigned model is lighter, more powerful and more aggressively styled than its predecessor in a bid to attract a younger segment of the world's wealthiest car buyers. It moves to Volkswagen Group's new MSB platform, which also underpins Porsche's latest Panamera sedan, from underpinnings previously shared with the VW Phaeton. This chassis and a new aluminum body help the Continental GT shed 80 kg (176 pounds). The car's 6.0-liter turbocharged W-12 engine makes 626 hp, up from 582 hp.


BMW will debut a >concept for a full-electric sedan

that will be sold under its i subbrand. The production model will likely be called the i5 and is set to go on sale by 2021, positioned between the i3 battery-powered hatchback and the sleek i8 plug-in hybrid supercar. BMW says it plans to sell 12 full-electric EVs by 2025.

The company also is expanding its range of SUV/crossovers with the >X7 seven-seat model

. An X7 concept will debut previewing a rival to the Mercedes-Benz GLS. The latest X3 will make its show debut after the SUV was revealed to journalists in June.

The new M5 will also put in an appearance on BMW’s show stand. BMW has added four-wheel drive to the performance sedan for the first time. Its 4.4-liter V-8 engine has its power increased by 40 hp to 600 hp.

BMW's other show debuts include concepts for the >Z4 roadster

developed with Toyota, and >8 series

, a potential 7-series-based rival to the Mercedes-Benz S-class coupe and Bentley Continental GT, along with the production 6-series Gran Turismo and revised and sporty versions of the i3.


Borgward is expected to unveil a sports car concept that could become a halo model. The German brand went out of business in 1962 and has been> revived by Chinese heavy-truck and bus maker Beiqi Foton Motor

. Borgward aims to begin European sales early 2019 with vehicles it plans to build in a new German factory. The company, which is >led by Daimler's former China chief Ulrich Walker

, already >sells SUVs in China



Chery Automobile will debut a near-production compact SUV concept that will lead the Chinese automaker's entry into the European market. The SUV is first in a family of models that Chery intends to sell in Europe across multiple segments underpinned by an all-new platform. The new range will be powered by electrified powertrains, including hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles, Chery said.


Citroen's C3 Aircross subcompact crossover will replace the C3 Picasso minivan as the brand arrives late in the fast-growing subcompact SUV/crossover segment.

Citroen C3 Aircross.

The >C3 Aircross

extends Citroen's new styling language, first seen on the C4 Cactus and the latest-generation C3 hatchback, with high-mounted slim horizontal headlights and colorful trim accents. Buyers will be able to create 90 different exterior color combinations, Citroen says.

For engine choices, the C3 Aircross will have either a three-cylinder PureTech gasoline engine with 82, 110 or 130 hp, or a four-cylinder Blue HDi diesel with 100 or 120 hp. A six-speed manual will be offered with all power plants, with a six-speed automatic available with PureTech 110 engines. Though Citroen calls it an SUV, only front-wheel-drive versions will be available. A suite of driver assistance systems includes active braking, hands-off parking assist, alertness warnings and hill descent control. Interior features include wireless cellphone charging via magnetic induction and a seven-inch touchscreen. It will be front-wheel drive only, so not a true SUV.

The C3 Aircross will be built in an Opel plant in Spain, alongside the Opel Crossland X. The C3 Aircross will share the Frankfurt spotlight with other new subcompact SUV/crossovers including the Hyundai Kona, Kia Stonic and Seat Arona.


Renault's Dacia budget brand has given its >Duster SUV an extensive face-lift

, with a freshened exterior that gives the SUV a more assertive look. Exterior changes include a broader grille to make the model appear wider, changes to the hood's crease lines to give the SUV a more assertive stance and a larger skid plate. The Duster also gets Dacia's rear lighting signature of four red stacked squares. The rear skid plate is wider too.


Ferrari’s Portofino will replace the California T as the brand’s entry-level car. The hardtop convertible is powered by a V-8 engine that accelerates from 0 to 100 kph (62 mph) in 3.5 seconds. It produces 592 hp, 40 hp more than the California T and its top speed is 320 kph (198 mph).

Ferrari Portofino

The> Portofino

gets Ferrari’s E-Diff 3 electronic rear differential to improve traction, and electric power steering. It has a new chassis, which weighs significantly less than the California T's, to improve the car’s rigidity.

The interior has an infotainment system with a 10.2-inch touchscreen, a new air-conditioning system, a new steering wheel and electrically adjustable seats with a new backrest design that increases legroom for rear passengers.

The Portofino is named after a picturesque village on the Italian coastline. The supercar is expected to be priced at about 200,000 euros in Italy. The California T costs just below 200,000 euros.


Ford is scaling back its Frankfurt presence as it focuses more on social media and marketing events outside traditional auto shows. Its big show debut is the >EcoSport subcompact SUV

that has been face-lifted for Europe with an all-wheel-drive option added. Production of the vehicle moves from India to Ford's factory in Craiova, Romania.

Great Wall

Great Wall Motor, China's largest maker of SUVs and crossovers, has said it is interested in buying Fiat Chrysler Automobiles or just FCA's Jeep brand to support support its global ambitions. The company will will showcase its new upscale Wey brand.


Honda will unveil Urban EV Concept, which it says previews its first EV for Europe. The company offered no details ahead of the concept's show reveal but the word urban in its name suggests it could be a small SUV designed for cities. Honda will also show a near-production concept of its CR-V crossover with a full-hybrid drivetrain that will replace the diesel version.


Hyundai showcases its Kona subcompact SUV and new variants for its i30 compact family. The >Kona

will fill a critical gap in the brand's lineup, competing with models such as the Renault Captur and Nissan Juke. It's built on the same platform as the Accent and the Kia Stonic, which also debuts in Frankfurt.

The brand's i30 family adds a four-door fastback, which replaces the three-door model, and high-performance N-badged versions.


Jaguar will be devoting its stand to its new E-Pace, which will expand Jaguar’s crossover lineup to two vehicles. The compact-sized E-Pace is expected to become Jaguar's top-seller, overtaking the larger F-Pace crossover.

Jaguar E-Pace

The >E-Pace

is underpinned by an adapted version of the Range Rover Evoque's steel transverse-engine platform. The entry E-Pace will be front-wheel drive while higher-spec models get all-wheel drive. All the E-Pace’s engines are from JLR’s Ingenium family of four-cylinder, 2.0-liter powerplants. In Europe, three diesels and two gasoline units will be offered.

The design of the car was created to make it look as sporty as possible, Jaguar design chief Ian Callum says. That was helped by having short front and rear overhangs, a so-called “teardrop” shape made by the side windows, and large wheels up to 21-inches in size.


Kia sees its Stonic as a key conquest model in the booming subcompact SUV/crossover segment. The Europe-designed >Stonic

has a sporty look with a sweeping roofline and a low center of gravity that Kia said is inspired by the larger SUVs in its lineup, such as the Sportage and Sorento. Like the larger models, the Stonic has the brand's tiger-nose grille. It will be sold in Europe with a choice of two gasoline engines and a diesel. Kia said the Stonic will be its "most customizable" car to date.

Kia will also debut the Proceed sleek wagon concept. The concept previews design elements of the next Cee'd compact model line and a possible four-door fastback that could replace the three-door Cee'd.


Lexus gives European debuts to its face-lifted CT 200h compact hybrid hatchback and NX midsize crossover. The CT gets a more aggressive front end while the NX's design is tweaked to give it a sleeker appearance. Both get interior upgrades including an optional a 10.3-inch touchscreen, along with more advanced safety and comfort equipment such as pre-collision warning and automatic braking to avoid an accident.


With the $2 million >Project One

, Mercedes-Benz bring its Formula One technology to a road-ready vehicle. The two-seat supercar concept uses a F1-based, 1.6-liter V-6 engine assisted by four electric motors to produce 1,035 hp. Its steering wheel, digital dashboard and cabin shape are F1 inspired. The Frankfurt car will be a near-production prototype. Mercedes plans to make just 275 units of the final version, which will be a halo model for its AMG performance subbrand.

Mercedes will also debut the EQ A, the latest concept for EQ electric subbrand. The EQ A previews a full-electric hatchback that is expected to be the volume seller of the EQ lineup. It's the second EQ concept after the EQ C crossover unveiled at last year's Paris auto show and will also have styling cues for the next-generation A-class compact car. Mercedes plans 10 long-range electric vehicles by 2025 in a bid to become the global leader in EV technology.

The brand’s first pickup, the X class, also gets its first auto show outing. The X class is based on Nissan’s Navara NP300 platform. Another Mercedes debut will be a GLC crossover equipped with a plug-in fuel-cell powertrain.


Mini will >preview its new EV

due in 2019 with a concept that it says brings the brand's "iconic design and customary go-kart feeling" into the electric mobility age.


Opel's Grandland X is the former General Motors brand's latest model underpinned by a platform from its new parent, PSA Group. Opel has suffered from its lack of SUVs and crossovers and says the >Grandland X

is a stylish newcomer that is "ready to attack" in the booming compact SUV/crossover segment.

Opel Grandland X

The Grandland X has a sporty, off-road look and a heightened seating position typical of an SUV, but the model will not offer all-wheel drive. Its smaller sibling, the Crossland X subcompact crossover, also does not have awd. Opel said the Grandland X will offer a feature it calls Grip Control that improves traction in diverse driving situations such as snow and ice or sand and gravel.

The Grandland X will have many of the safety features found in the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport midsize sedan that launches in June, including automatic braking in an emergency, such as when the vehicle identifies a pedestrian on the road. The new crossover also offers a parking assistant as well as a 360-degree camera function for maneuvering into small spaces.


Porsche is >boosting the third-generation Cayenne's performance

by reducing weight, adding horsepower and introducing new steering and suspension features to improve the SUV's cornering and acceleration. The Cayenne’s 3.0-liter engine has its power increased by 40 hp to 340 hp, while the 2.9-liter V-6 boosts output by 20 hp to 440 hp. The SUV’s driving dynamics are improved with standard active all-wheel drive.

Porsche Cayenne

It has rear-axle steering already available in the 911 and Panamera, which gives the vehicle a tighter turning radius and helps with high-speed maneuvering. A new eight-speed Tiptronic S transmission offers shorter response times and sportier gear ratios. The wheels grow an inch to 19 inches to improve stability and driving dynamics on bends. The Cayenne also gets Porsche’s 12.3-inch full-HD touchscreen launched last year on the new Panamera.

The Cayenne is longer and lower which helps to give it a more streamlined look and boost interior space. At 4918mm (194 inches), its length has grown 63mm while the wheelbase is unchanged at 2895mm and roof height is reduced by 9mm. The luggage compartment volume increases by 100 liters to 770 liters.


The Phantom flagship sedan will be the first Rolls-Royce built on the automaker’s new in-house aluminum architecture instead of a re-engineered platform supplied by owner BMW Group. Among features designed to attract the super-rich is an option that allow owners to embed bespoke artwork behind glass on the dashboard. The gallery is part of Rolls-Royce’s desire to increase personalization within its cars and distance it from "mass luxury" brands, the company says. With its new underpinnings, the> Phantom is lighter, stiffer, quieter

and more technologically advanced than the previous model. Its Magic Carpet Ride is the smoothest offered by the brand to date, Rolls-Royce says.


With the >Symbioz design concep

t, Renault will highlight its vision for a future dominated by fully connected, all-electric self-driving vehicles. Teaser pictures released by Renault ahead of its show debut show a coupe-like, sleek car.

Renault will debut the Megane Sport, the latest high-performance variant of its compact car.


Seat aims to ride the SUV/crossover boom to sustainable profitability. The Arona, its first subcompact crossover, has robust styling that follows the design of the larger Ateca compact SUV.

Seat Arona

The >Arona

is underpinned by Volkswagen Group's MQB A0 architecture also used by Seat's latest Ibiza subcompact hatchback and the new VW Polo. At 4138mm-long, the Arona is 79mm longer and 99mm taller than the Ibiza. It also has a greater ground clearance and has a larger trunk with a capacity of 400 liters. The Arona will be offered with a choice of two, three-cylinder gasoline engines with 95 hp or 115 hp, a four-cylinder, 150-hp gasoline unit and a 1.6-liter diesel with 95-hp or 115-hp. A 90-hp, 1.0-liter compressed natural gas engine will be available in mid-2018. It will have driver assistance and infotainment systems offered in other Seat models such as adaptive cruise control, driver fatigue recognition and multi-collision braking. Connectivity includes Apple Car Play, Android Auto and Mirror Link.


Skoda, like its VW Group sibling Seat, is also focusing on broadening its SUV range. Its Karoq compact SUV gets a show debut.

The> Karoq

will replace the Yeti crossover in Skoda's lineup and join the Kodiak, Skoda's first large SUV. Skoda touted the model's roomy interior and large trunk as selling points. Among the Karoq's features is a flexible arrangement of three separate rear seats that can be removed to expand trunk capacity to 1,810 liters, turning into a "van-like" SUV, Skoda said. With the seats folded down rather than taken out, capacity is 1,630 liters. Without the seats folded, capacity is 521 liters. The front seat also folds down to transport long items. Skoda is also said to be developing a subcompact SUV.


Smart's Vision EQ autonomous EV concept based on the ForTwo microcar highlights the Daimler brand's vision for future transport when people needing a vehicle will simply order a fully autonomous car that will drive itself to their location. The >Vision EQ ForTwo

is powered solely by electricity and has no steering wheel and no pedals because it is designed to meet the needs of customers who will ride in, not drive the car. Daimler currently uses Smart cars for its Car2Go car-sharing scheme, and says it currently has 2.6 million customers worldwide.


Toyota's new >C-HR compact crossover

has a striking, some say even polarizing design. With the C-HR Hy-Power design study, Toyota says it is exploring ideas for making its hybrids sportier. The concept has been developed by Toyota's European design center to emphasize the C-HR's "emotional and powerful look" while hinting at future expansion of Toyota’s hybrid powertrain lineup within its core models, Toyota said.

Toyota also gives its face-lifted Land Cruiser a global debut. The body-on-frame SUV gets styling tweaks.


Subaru will give its Impreza a European debut. It's the second model to launch on the company's new Global Platform that has increased rigidity and a lower center of gravity, improving handling stability and increasing steering response. The car gets new safety equipment such as automatic braking to avoid collisions and adaptive cruise control.


Volkswagen brand boss Herbert Diess >wrote in an internal company

publication that he sees Tesla as VW's main competitor in the new automotive world while in the old world it is Toyota, Hyundai, and the French carmakers. With its I.D. family of full-electric cars, VW believes it can catch up with and overtake Tesla.

The brand will debut a >further developed version of its I.D. Crozz

crossover that will give a better glimpse at what a future production version will look like. VW showed the first concept of the coupe-styled I.D. Crozz at the Shanghai auto show earlier this year, saying it heralded a production version due to go on sale in 2020.

By 2023, VW brand plans to launch a range of I.D.-branded long-range, fast-charging EVs including: an I.D. hatchback targeted at Europe and priced along the lines of the Golf’s diesel version; a larger crossover than the Crozz to appeal to American consumers; and a sporty four-door sedan, likely to be called the Aero, to compete with Tesla's Model S.

In Frankfurt, VW also will debut a new small crossover, the T-Roc, and its latest Polo. VW says the >T-Roc

will set the benchmark in its class with its functionality, dynamic handling and technology.

The brand is positioning the T-Roc as its second offering in the compact SUV segment in Europe, where it will be sold alongside the larger Tiguan. At 4234mm long, the T-Roc is 252mm shorter than the Tiguan. VW said the T-Roc will be priced in the 20,000-euro class in its German home market.

VW expects the new >Polo's bigger size

and wide range of active safety equipment will help to maintain the car's popularity. The 12,975-euro base version has automatic braking to avoid a frontal collision as standard equipment. New options include a semi-automated parking assistance system for exiting parking spaces. The car's adaptive cruise control can now be activated at speeds up to 210 kph. The new Polo is 81mm longer than the current car with a 94mm longer wheelbase. It is VW Group's latest model to get a small-car version of the MQB platform called MQB A0 that underpins the recently launched Seat Ibiza.

Douglas A. Bolduc, Luca Ciferri, Nick Gibbs, Christiaan Hetzner, Andrea Malan, Graham Kozak, David Undercoffler and Jack Wallsworth contributed to this report

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Paul McVeigh at >


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