Frankfurt Auto Show: It Ain't Easy Not Being Green
If you’re a gearhead monitoring the international media, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Frankfurt Auto Show was run by and for Friends of the Earth. Low-emission Mercedes! Low-consumption VWs! Hydrogen Kias! Ethanol Saabs! Non-existent plug-in hybrids! A casual visitor to this event might wonder if he’d gone to the wrong show. Why is it that all the interesting new cars premiering in Frankfurt are non-green? Why do people crowd around sexy new cars such as the 1-Series BMW, while nobody (save the press) gather ‘round the various not-quite-developed Mueslimobiles?
Frankfurt’s eco-mania a sign of the times I suppose, when it’s not enough to do well; you have to be seen to be doing good. Well good for them. As for me and my fellow pistonheads, we’re more interested in the more exciting not-so-very-PC fare: sexy new sheetmetal concepts and machines ready to leave donut marks on any road paved with good intentions.
Let's start with the car that thousands of North Americans Bimmer fans are lusting for: the BMW 1-Series Coupe. I had to touch base with my inner pedant to think of any niggles… Since when is the two-door sedan version of a hatchback called a Coupe? Why does a small sports car have to have electric seats, electric sunroof, electric everything? Surely there’s a better play: make it all manual and charge the snot out of Bimmer’s long-suffering optionistas. Otherwise, the 1 could be The One: Neo– I mean, Bangle’s best.
The new Audi A4 is another sure-fire hit. Ingolstadt’s once entry-level model oozes sophistication in an entirely A5 kinda way. The exterior has grown more elegant and substantial. The car's new architecture, with the engine moved back for better handling and a shorter snout, promises a better drive. If it works as well as it looks, then I predict a runaway success.
Audi interiors still set the bar. Anyone coveting a Cadillac CTS’ cabin should have seen the envious looks non-Audi executives were giving the cabin as they stood in line to sit inside.
I can't predict such success for the new Jaguar XF. Sure, it looks OK. As a relative to the new, long and wide Ford Mondeo, it has a nice stance. But is it special enough to put Jaguar back on its pedestal? If it drives better than the competition, then we will say congrats to Jag, and good riddance to retro styling. Otherwise, thumbs down.
Speaking of Mondeo-related, I liked the new Mazda6. The design is suffused with Lexus-like elements, but it’s so anonymous that it’s almost invisible. (Did I say “but?” Perhaps I should have said “and.”) Nobody really seemed to care about the poor thing. There it sat. Unappreciated. Unloved. Under-admired. Ready to kick ass in the marketplace.
The new Cadillac BLS Station Wagon would probably be happy to be anonymous. Does anybody have the foggiest idea of what GM is thinking with this thing? I'll be ****** if I do, but let’s speculate.
First stage: uh, let's do a small Cadillac and sell it in Europe– no harm in that, right? If that doesn’t work, we can also not sell it in Mexico and South Africa. Second stage: Nobody is buying the BaconLettuceSalami, so let's slip a FIAT diesel up front. Chapter three: the BuLlShit is still a flop, so let's try a station wagon. Jeez, what's next, a BLSamino pickup truck just for our friends at Jalopnik? This is a car that nobody asked for, or ever will.
Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, I was curious to check out the new Fiat 500. They’re advertising it with the slogan "You Are, We Car.” No; it’s not one of those bi-lingual in-flight magazine translations. It’s supposed to be enigmatically cute. I wanted to feed– I mean like the 500, but the We Car’s inside is cramped and gimmicky and the whole thing is not even as nouveau retro as the old New Beetle.
And that is about it. Yes there is a Mini Clubman, which is about as exciting as a mini club sandwich. And Mercedes served-up a C-Class Station Wagon, which has enough carrying capacity to transport a decade’s worth of C-Class Station Wagon brochures. VW’s got a mini-SUV for those who STILL don’t get it, and a pleasant Skoda station wagon for those who do.
Next up: concept cars. Guess how many are green themed?
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Re: the BLS A page full of car enthusiasts and I'm the only one who knows about GM's Random Car Generator? For shame.
NickR: tell us about it, please