The 2019 Frankfurt motor show is one of the most interesting events of its kind this year. Unlike Geneva, which takes place on neutral Swiss soil, Frankfurt is very much home turf for the German manufacturers, which have faced significant headwinds in recent times thanks to dieselgate, shifting consumer trends and political changes.
Because the Frankfurt show happens every two years, alternating with Paris, rather than annually (every other show is a commercial vehicle event, focusing on vans and lorries) a lot has changed since we were last here.
The new Land Rover Defender is arguably the standout new car of the show, but here are the others worthy of consideration.
Honda released prices for its cute little battery car at the show, although the design of this four-door hatchback isn't as charming as the original concept and many were heard to draw parallels with the VW's Concept 1 which begat the bulbous modern Volkswagen Beetle or Porsche's lovely Boxster concept, which grew bigger (and uglier) in the production version.
The Honda will be available from £29,600 not including a £3,500 Government grant. Base models will run on 16-inch wheels, with a 134bhp electric motor, the Advanced top model will cost £32,100 (minus grant) and will run on 17-inch wheels with a 152bhp electric motor.
Both models have a torque output of 232lb ft and a range of 137miles. Deliveries start next summer, but expect supplies to be strictly limited. Rivals will include Peugeot's battery e-208 and other battery-electric superminis in the PSA stable including Vauxhall's new Corsa-e and, if it gets its skates on, Hyundai's 45 battery concept.
Audi AI: Trail
Fourth in a series of wild electric concept cars (AI Race, AI Me, AI Aicon), the Trail model points the direction to the future of Audi's SUV design according to design head Marc Lichte.
It looks like something from the set of a sci-fi movie, but there's some really clever things on it including tyres which can increase their radius by as much as two inches when the going gets tough, along with headlights mounted on drones which fly up and light your way through the jungle.
With four in-wheel electric motors, traction should be extraordinary and the planned output of 429bhp and 738lb ft of torque gives a mooted top speed of 81mph as well as a range of 249 miles on Tarmac and 155 miles off-road. The theme of the series has been a new way of gaining access to cars including shared ownership – but surely you'd want to own one of these.
Hyundai i30 N Performance Project C
Eyebrows were raised among Hyundai UK staff when they were told about the cars to be displayed on the stand at Frankfurt.
These include a new limited edition "Project C" version of the company's well-received hot hatch, the i30 N Performance, seemed like just the ticket for UK driving enthusiasts. A stripped-out, lighter version of the high-performance hatch was inspired by Hyundai's development engineers at their South Korean testing base. Carbon-fibre was mentioned, new alloy wheels and aerodynamic revisions also.
Then the sting in the tail; all 600 versions would be in left hand drive only...
After the Land Rover Defender, Porsche's first purely electric sports car has been one of the most eagerly awaited new cars of the year (or most hyped, depending on your view).
Although Frankfurt is its official world debut, the four-door saloon has been previewed many times already, including a world premiere a week ago held simultaneously on three continents, as well as an appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July.
It's offered in Turbo and Turbo S forms, both with all-wheel drive, although how (or why) they added a turbocharger to a battery-powered car eludes us... A less powerful version will follow, with a crossover-styled Taycan Cross Turismo towards the end of 2020.
The Turbo costs from £115,858 with the Turbo S from £138,826 (excluding any government grant) - both are available to order now for delivery from January 2020.
The Turbo accelerates from 0-62 mph in 3.2sec, with the S taking 2.8sec. Both have a top speed of 161mph. In terms of range, the Turbo can manage up to 279 miles, with the S capable of 257 miles.
The Taycan is claimed to be the first production vehicle with a system voltage of 800 volts instead of the usual 400 volts for electric cars. Porsche says that, using a high-power DC charger, the Taycan takes only about five minutes to be sufficiently charged to do 62 miles.
In stark contrast to busy, scattergun Porsche facias of yore, the Taycan's interior features a clean look with a freestanding, curved instrument cluster ahead of the driver and a 10.9-inch touchscreen in the centre, while the number of switches and buttons has been greatly reduced thanks to touch- and voice-operation.
There's no leather, either, with interior materials fashioned from recycled materials.
With electric motors on each axle, the Taycan has permanent four-wheel drive. There is a two-speed transmission on the rear axle: a low "first gear"enables strong acceleration from a standing start, while a longer "second gear" ensures efficiency and equally high power reserves.
VW presented the ID.3 all-electric family hatchback at its traditional eve-of-show event showcasing the various VW Group brands.
Perhaps in an effort to distance itself from diesel emissions scandals, VW the ID.3 is said to "reflect the realignment of the Volkswagen brand, and is also the first model with the new Volkswagen logo".
This first production model of VW's mooted ID range of electric vehicles, this is based on the new modular electric drive matrix (MEB) platform that will underpin the whole range (and, doubtless, feature in future Audi, Seat and Skoda electric cars). It has a rear-mounted electric motor, spelling the end of front-wheel drive as a staple in hatchbacks. As with most rivals, the heavy batteries are mounted in the floor to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible.
VW claims that the long wheelbase of the MEB layout, combined with very short overhangs, results in a particularly spacious, five-seater interior that sets new standards in the compact class.
All of the vehicle functions are operated by touch or voice command, with the exception of the electric windows and hazard warning lights.
At series production launch, the ID.3 will be available with three battery size options. The entry-level 45kWh version provides a claimed range of up to 205 miles. It will cost less than €30,000 (£26,770) in Europe.
A 58kWh variant has a range of 260 miles, while the top-model 77kWh version should be capable of 340 miles.
VW claims that with a 100kW fast-charging set-up the ID.3 can be charged to supply a range of about 180 miles in about half an hour.
fast charging capability, it is possible to charge the ID.3 sufficiently for a range of around 290 kilometres (WLTP) within 30 minutes, using a charging output of 100 kW.
Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet
Volkswagen claims the T-Roc Cabriolet fills a gap in its range, though some less charitable observers have queried whether this particular gap really needed filling. Either way, this will be Volkswgan’s only convertible now that the Beetle Cabriolet and Golf Cabriolet have been discontinued. Convertible SUVs are a guilty pleasure of mine, and while the T-Roc itself is a fairly bland car, the soft-top version is actually pretty cool, albeit in a deeply uncool way.
Land Rover Defender
It’s got a lot to live up to. The Defender, and every ‘proper’ Land Rover that came before it, had and still has an active, loyal fanbase, despite the formidable shortcomings of the vehicle itself (and I say that as a former 90 owner). Traditional Land Rover fans have been less than impressed by pretty much every JLR model since the Discovery 3, so it’s hard to imagine the new Defender living up to their expectations.
That said, initial feedback from those who’ve seen the new model in the metal (I have not) are positive. And the countless leaked photographs that you can find with a Google search suggest the new car will be moderately attractive. Quite whether the new Defender will be a ‘proper’ Land Rover in anything but name remains to be seen, but we expect JLR to steal the show at Frankfurt this year - whether for good reasons, or bad.
We fell in love with the E - known then as the Urban EV Concept - when Honda unveiled it at the Frankfurt show back in 2017. It was chunky, cute and it harked back to a bygone age of hatchback design that we all have a soft spot for. Honda says it takes its styling cues taken from the first-generation Civic (though many critics felt it reminded them more of Giugiaro’s Mk1 Golf) and promised us that the production version would stay true to the show car. From what we can see, they’ve kept their promise, and the finished car will be as characterful as the one we saw here two years ago.
BMW M8 Convertible
Alongside its attractive but less flamboyant Coupé brother, the M8 Convertible is one of the more rakish models set to be launched at Frankfurt. Unlike the soft-top VW T-Roc, which is endearingly unsexy, the M8 might go rather too far in the other direction, but there’s no denying the raw appeal of a powerful German convertible. It joins the 2-Series, the 4-Series and the regular 8-Series convertibles already on the market.
The new Vauxhall Corsa is closely related to the new Peugeot 208, which I’m also excited by. Far from the rarified world of performance cars and luxury off-roaders is the supermini market, which is the largest segment in the UK and probably the most attainable type of car for younger drivers. The new Corsa comes with conventional engines, with prices starting from around £15,000, but also a brand new battery-electric powertrain that’ll set you back £26,490. A claimed range of 205 miles means the e-Corsa could be a viable option for buyers who’ve previously only considered a small-displacement petrol engine.
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