The best part about the biennial Paris Motor Show is always Paris itself. Coming to the city of love where all clichés are true is always a pleasure. This year I faced a bit of trouble with traffic snarls and rain playing spoiler every now and then. But one walk down the Champs-Élysées and it was all forgotten.
I must, however, come straight to the Mondial de l’Automobile, 2010. Over the last few years, the environmental theme has run so deep at global motor shows that now it’s more or less a given. And so at Paris, too, the big talk is electric. But the big difference is that now we can see production models, and not just futuristic concept cars. With the global automobile industry enjoying a massive sales bounce-back in almost every market—for almost every brand the last few months—the euphoria is evident in Paris. So there is no recessionary gloom here, as we saw at other world motor shows in the last two years.
Quattro concept: Audi is showcasing the concept car designed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Sport Quattro that was shown in 1980. Bloomberg
So this year it’s also the return of some big, expensive, sporty cars that run on fossil fuel—though engines have become smaller and more efficient. The line-up begins with the impressive CLS-Class from Mercedes-Benz. The car that started the four-door coupe trend in auto is back in a new generation. Mercedes compensated for this by also showing its all-electric A-Class E-Cell that will be available to buyers in Europe soon. Expect the CLS to come to India in a few months, but not the A-Class.
Rival Audi is showing the Quattro concept designed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Sport Quattro that was shown in 1980. That car heralds Audi’s popular feature—Quattro or all-wheel drive. BMW has its new concept car, which indicates the direction the new 6 series will take very soon. But it’s premature to speak of the market launch.
Staying high-end, Land Rover has unveiled its most exciting product in years. The Range Rover Evoque is a small and compact mini-SUV. The car is based on the LRX concept shown in 2008, and has retained most of the concept’s drop-dead-gorgeous looks. The Evoque is designed to suit urban needs and is the first Land Rover to be offered as a two-wheel drive; four-wheel drive will be added as an option later. It is currently debuting only as a three-door, but there will be a five-door version by next year, and I expect that to be assembled and sold in India by late 2011 or early 2012. The prices could be in the Rs 15 lakh range. The Evoque has both diesel and petrol options.
Staying in the Tata fold, Jaguar shocked and surprised many with the C-X75 concept—named so for being an experimental concept celebrating Jaguar’s 75th anniversary. This is a sports car with a difference. It is run by four electric motors that are combined with a pair of micro-turbines which run on diesel. This helps extend the range of the electric drive and offers combined efficiency greater than small hatchback hybrids. The company isn’t sure if it will actually produce this car just yet, but it is certainly a show of strength from Jaguar, considering its sales were plummeting just last year.
Also aiming to impress is the Renault DeZir. It’s an outlandish sports car concept with two doors that are hinged differently. But more than its looks, once again it’s the promise of electric power which retains sporty driving dynamics that the DeZir sets out to offer. This is the home show for the French and so it’s natural for Renault and PSA Peugeot-Citroën to go all out. Which is why we got the new Peugeot 508 and Citroën’s C4. Both irrelevant to India for now, though sources in PSA say the company is close to taking a final decision on setting up a large manufacturing facility in India by 2014.
On to more humble cars. While Ford is launching its new generation Focus platform, the one I care about more is the Suzuki Swift. The car has been a high-volumes seller for the Japanese company—especially in India—and so its new generation had to be even better. While I will reserve final judgement till I drive the new car, purely on looks I’m highly disappointed.
The new Swift marginally addresses the problem of cramped interiors in the outgoing model. The styling is very similar to that of the old one—a thumbs down from me since it doesn’t even look significantly different until you stare at it long enough. Engines in Europe include the same 1.3 litre diesel we have, as well as an updated 1.2 litre petrol with variable valve timing. In India, the new Swift will debut in early 2011, with the same engines it currently sports and prices in the same range as the outgoing car.
Another car going up a generation is the Volkswagen Passat. The sedan has been refreshed but this change too is not a big one. It has been made more stylish and modern, and the interiors have been given a leaner and fresher look. The Passat’s next generation will also debut in India around April.
General Motors launched four new Chevrolets this year. The all- new Orlando is a seven-seater multi-utility vehicle that would be a great fit for India in the Toyota Innova segment. But it is unlikely to make it into our market. The Cruze hatchback is another new car not driving to India. But the facelift of its Captiva SUV and the next generation Aveo hatch are certainly going to arrive in 2011. The cars look fresh, though I am not too crazy about the Captiva’s new face now. The new Aveo, though, looks promising. The diesel avatar is also expected to debut in India with the new generation. Its pricing will stay in the Rs 4.5-6 lakh range. The next generation Aveo sedan will follow in a few months, and that too will come to India—again in both diesel and petrol variants.
Besides all this, there’s plenty of action in Paris from the likes of Fiat, Ferrari, Hyundai, and many more. The show is on till 17 October, so if you are headed to Paris between now and then, drop by the Porte de Versailles. You will not be disappointed!
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar is editor (auto), NDTV.
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