Are we celebrating the amazing automobile or seeing the end of the car as we know and love it? Germany's Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung or International Auto Show is the world's largest auto show; it's a place to reveal exciting innovation, amazing style, and power. In September of 2019, this made it one of the world's largest targets for environmental protesters. Frankfurt's convention center hosted fans who were exploring the latest in vehicle technology; while, outside in the streets, a crowd protested anyone and anything associated with cars. In Stuttgart, just down the Autobahn and home to both Mercedes and Porsche, there's a move afoot to convert the city to a center of bicycle-centric innovation. National media are calling the protests as an apocalypse for this world-famous auto show. Will this celebration of engineering and style become nonexistent?
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The URBANETIC is Mercedes' answer for getting people and goods around town. It provides a versatile platform that quickly changes to serve the greatest need, whether it's goods transport, public transportation during rush hours, or some other custom use. URBANETIC not only presents an electric vehicle platform that can be adapted throughout the day to handle goods transport and people moving, but it incorporates advanced self-driving technology which adapts using real-time traffic data.
Boldly going where no Audi has gone before, this vehicle looks more suitable for use as a Mars rover than personal Earth-bound transportation. The Audi AI Trail 2019 concept car incorporates autonomous driving under electric power with four-wheel-drive off-road agility. Enjoying a panoramic view like a helicopter, drivers can choose autonomous operation modes for around town or on roads through the forest.
A raised and styled version of the existing A1 Sportback, press coverage of this crossover before the IAA portrayed it as a sign of the auto industry malaise. Manufacturers are presenting slight variations on existing products, adding hybrid power to others, but not really thinking outside the box and energizing the market for 2020. The Citycarver, a couple of branches on the family tree away from the Allroad, is another crossover being fine-tuned for the younger, urban market who still have a sense of outdoor adventure.
The BMW Vision M Next is a concept car, and divisional retool in one. Some say that the Motorsport division was given a box of batteries and motors and told to make something M-worthy with it; others point to the i-series and say this is the natural course of events, with the i3 going conventional and this sleek beast ruling as the i8 replacement. It looks like an electric supercar, and apparently it is destined to become one.
The new 4-series is going to devour the competition literally from the looks of it. That's one big set of jaws represented by the oversized kidney grille, grotesque beyond the popular mouth of recent years. The future of coupe driving this model's called, and the sleek, chiseled design definitely moves BMW style into an aggressive, minimalist future.
One of the new generation of urban Tuk-Tuk substitutes, the Honda E electric vehicle has a 137-mile range for puttering around cities and large towns and looks like a cross between a Jeep Renegade and a cartoon Minion. Like many of the models show in Frankfurt, U.S. versions are not being announced for this model, but it is getting plenty of buyer names on the reservation lists for Europe. Perhaps Honda's taking note of its early U.S. Insight experience, and thinking that quirky doesn't sell in the States. Why not?
Hyundai's i10 city car, which some have compared to the Fiat Panda in the past, is getting a big upgrade in style and sophistication. It faces a problem of irony in Europe, as small economical cars like this are being required to undergo expensive refits to meet new EU environmental standards, and the protesters outside the IAA hall won't let manufacturers forget this trend. The i10 line includes gas, electric and diesel options including a novel Kappa engine.
Whether the N-variation is named for Hyundai's Namyang research and development facility where this performance beast was envisioned, or the Nurburgring where it proved its substance, it's a sign that driving is still supposed to be fun. This carbon fiber-enhanced hot hatchback updates a line currently available in Europe but not the U.S., where the sporty Veloster is still the performance choice. The C also has multiple meanings, from a track designation at the Nurburgring to Carbon fiber to the low center of gravity or CG.
The concept car of the future with a retro Camaro-style design, which, echoing the 70s and 80s muscle car, gives it a futuristic sort of street cred. Hyundai has acknowledged that the spacious interior may accommodate an autonomous version in the future. They are also apparently working on a high-end project with Rimac of Croatia, a performance car producer who will probably suggest that Hyundai think twice about lending test vehicles to The Grand Tour's Richard Hammond.
One reviewer called it an "electrified bull," and the design of the 819 HP Lamborghini Sian will make you whistle almost as much as the $3.6 million price tag will. Hybrid supercars enjoy the fast-start advantage of electric motors, with under 3-second zero to sixty times (2.8 estimated for the Sian) and expletives from test drivers as they suddenly sink into the seat foam. This V-12 model is Lambo's fastest model yet, with a unique super capacitor-based hybrid system.
Sought-after by many IAA visitors, this restyled and updated Land Rover model will be reintroduced to the U.S. market after a long absence. It boasts a new, more aggressive styling with a ferocious front end presentation and can be set to a maximum of 11.5 inches of clearance for off-roading. Hybrid and gas models will be available, and, of course, infotainment is now up-to-date with a few Land Rover enhancements like "always-on" power for convenient and quick use.
Mercedes is fine-tuning their entry-level A-series offering with enhanced electronics and instrumentation inside and hybrid power under the hood. Meanwhile, the Vision EQS concept takes S-class luxury into the future with electric power and a rolling profile vaguely reminiscent of ancient Rolls-Royce models. Unlike the Rolls, however, Mercedes has taken a sustainable, artificial path to luxury in the interior.
Hybrid power is coming to Mercedes' crossovers, popular with soccer moms and vacation-home-owning families. The GLE 350de takes plug-in hybrid one step further in combination with a diesel power plant with a 256 mpg potential. For Londoners and others who need to run electric-only at times, it's capable of 62 miles on battery power. The GLC 350e Frankfurt announcement is a battery upgrade for increased efficiency.
The Mini kind of lends itself to electrification as an around-town car, but the gas version is traditionally the young person's road trip car, somewhat like a VW Beetle. Not to worry, though: to make a point about range, Mini drove an electric 2020 Mini Cooper SE up from Munich where parent BMW is located to the show in Frankfurt, albeit at a max speed of only 93 mph. The trip was about 248 miles, with only one stop at a charging station. Since it has DC fast charging capability, charging stops can be relatively quick: time for a snack or take the dog out to pee and wander around.
The noise about Porsche's quiet electric Taycan has been building in the weeks leading up to the Frankfurt show, and finally, fans could get up close and personal with this nearly 800 hp all-electric luxury Autobahn sled. Porsche intends for it to catch up to the Tesla Model S and, with an interior full of gadgets and goodies, stay in the passing lane. Tesla can still outrun the Taycan, though, by about 110 miles of range, estimated.
One of the key non-electric focal points of the show, the Porsche Macan Turbo arrived in Frankfurt with a new Porsche Communication Management system for driver information and entertainment and a twin-turbo V-6 with the same 434 horsepower in the Panamera and Cayenne. The Sport Chrono pack includes launch control for this compact bullet, which reaches 60 mph in an estimated 4.1 seconds.
During Hurricane Dorian in Florida, a Smart car owner pulled his vehicle into his kitchen to protect it from the wind which would surely blow it away. The electric version would be much safer to park in a room in your house, tiny and well-constructed with a bit of power to make it fun to drive. Unfortunately, for North Americans, Smart has left the market. Europeans will enjoy this new EV version with an estimated 99-mile range, almost double what the U.S. EV version had. Upgraded trim and infotainment make a nice, if tiny, around-town package.
VW introduced its ID electric line at Frankfurt with the ID.3, first shown in Paris in 2016 as a concept car. It's based on their MEB electric car platform shared with other Volkswagen Group companies, including Audi, SEAT, and Skoda. The ID.3 returns to the "car for the masses" concept at VW's origin, providing a Golf-like hatchback with faster charging and other features available as options to keep the base price low. No word is available on future U.S. availability or entry into the EV-happy China market.
Another exciting offering which isn't coming to the U.S. anytime soon is VW's T-Roc Cabriolet, and the high performance R version which will be shown in Geneva. These are small SUV designs, created to cross the crossover with the hatchback and produce a baby SUV that's fun to drive. Or something like that. The newest version of the Scirocco, also never offered across the Atlantic, will be retired at the same time. The word is that the T-Roc is fun to drive, personalized with lots of gadgets and safety gear, and four-wheel-drive is available.
Cross your fingers. Just as Germany's signature CeBIT IT trade show faded while computing broadened to a universal utility, Frankfurt IAA, says the country's Deutsche Welle media outlet, is bound for a similar fate. Individualized performance, luxury and personal transport in general, it is said, are yielding to generic, hybrid or all-electric city transport and public transport for longer distances. Fahrvergnuegen, Volkswagen's one time "driving joy" motto, is now being labeled by protesters and concerned observers as a dangerous, costly extravagance which need not be celebrated. After all, everything fun can be had in Virtual Reality, right?