The Paris Motor show was one of mixed emotions. The trying times for the European economy has defiantly reflected in this years show with manufactures doing their best to keep a brave face and launch new product in an ever more crowded market.
Dr. Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Landrover, reveals the brand new Range Rover to the world, 420 kg lighter than its predecessor. And Volkswagen will present its sevent generation of the Golf, one of the bestselling models in history.
But despite these numerous new launches, European car makers face tough headwinds. Lukewarm European car sales, ever stronger competition from Asian car makers, higher energy costs and a stronger euro are putting pressure on industry margins.
Latest European car sales numbers published by ACEA show sales slipping by 8.6 percent in the first eight months of the year. The ongoing euro zone debt crisis is central to the decline in sales. Sales in Italy fell by 20 percent and sales in Finland by 25 percent. France's car market shrunk by 11 percent, and even in Germany sales slowed by almost 5 percent in August.
McLaren has simple but lofty goals for the P1: “To be the best driver's car in the world on road and track.”
Ron Dennis, the company's chief executive, echoed sentiments he expressed last week, when the first images of the P1 were released. “Twenty years ago we raised the supercar performance bar with the McLaren F1, and our goal with the McLaren P1 is to redefine it once again,” Mr. Dennis said, referencing the limited-edition supercar from which the P1 clearly derives inspiration. “Our aim is not necessarily to be the fastest in absolute top speed, but to have the quickest overall lap times on a circuit.”
The McLaren P1 was designed from the outset to priorities aerodynamic performance. P1 has much higher levels of down force than any current road car – 600 kg is achieved well below maximum speed. That is approximately five times as much down force as a McLaren 12C.
The focus and laterally thinking that has gone into the P1 is astonishing. As an example, the rear spoiler will only deploy to its full 300mm setting when the P1 is in track mode, something that the gossips claim will happen automatically when the on-board GPS senses that you've arrived there.
There are also moveable flaps in the front spoiler that channel the incoming air to create the most effect ground effect; in fact, the car is riddled with clever aero-features, all of whom are black carbon fibre on the Paris show car, just so you know what's there for sound engineering purposes and what is there just to clothe the mechanical bits.
Prices will be about £800,000 in the UK and the production total will be less than 500.
On the up side Paris motor show revealed a number of great concept cars, but far from the futuristic alien creations usually associated with the term, this year's show showcased concepts that are far nearer to production.
Audi reveals the S3 version of the new A3, significant for its ability to squeeze 296bhp from just two litres of highly turbocharged engine. With an optional double-clutch gearbox it's enough to propel the S3 to 62mph in 5.1sec, providing a significant headache not only to rivals such as the BMW M135i, and forthcoming Mercedes A45 AMG, but also to Audi's colleagues at Quattro GmbH, who must now put clear air between the S3 and its forthcoming RS3.
The A3 Sportback is less likely to grab the headlines than the S3 but it's a far more significant car, likely to account for the bulk of A3 sales over time. More than just a five-door A3, the Sportback had exploited the versatility of its Volkswagen MGB Platform to extend the A3 wheelbase by 35mm and overall length by 78mm to provide crucial extra space in both the back and the boot.
The Nissan Juke Nismo, modified by the company's in-house tuner, uses an uprated version of Nissan's 1.6-litre direct-injection turbocharged petrol engine from the DIG-T model. It is fitted with a bespoke aerodynamics package and receives a chassis set-up designed to "deliver an even more engaging driving experience".
The Juke Nismo features new front and rear bumpers, wider wings and side skirts, a different grille and a new tailgate spoiler. Nissan says these features are functional aerodynamic items, rather than for pure visual effect.
The Indian auto company Tata bought Jaguar Land Rover for $2.3 billion in 2008, betting big that it could revive two venerable British brands that had lost a bit of luster over the decades. The new F-Type, the first Jaguar two-seater in a half-century, is the first major Jaguar design shepherded through by the new owners.
There are two different supercharged engines: a 3-liter 6 cylinder with 340 horsepower for the normal F-type and 380 horsepower for the S; there's also a 5-liter V8 with 495 horsepower. Jaguar says the 0-60 time is 5.1 seconds for the normal F-type; 4.8 seconds for the S and 4.2 for the V-8. The car has an 8-speed transmission with automatic or manual
The body is aluminum, and evokes the E-Type in details like the center hood bulge, the line of the body and the rear flare. But Jaguar is going out of its way not to do a retro E-Type.
The lines are clean on the inside, pared down considerably from many newer cars. Rather than now commonplace touch controls for everything, the heating and ventilation are old-fashioned rotary knobs.
Jaguar Land Rover has been a huge part of Tata's recent success. Sales for the second quarter of 2012 rose 30 percent, largely based on growth in the Chinese market. The car goes on sale in spring 2013.
It still remains the question whether potential buyers looking at the Porsche 911 or the Mercedes-Benz SL will see the F-Type as a real alternative. Fifty years is a long time to wait between models, and memories of the good old days have faded.
MINI has doubled its compact SUV offerings with the launch of the intriguing Paceman 3-door model.
Just when you thought the Mini brand couldn't be stretched any further, the MINI Paceman is announced. Essentially a coupe version of the high-riding MINI Countryman, the Paceman could prove to be an unlikely rival to the more expensive Range Rover Evoque.
The oily bits are shared with its Countryman sibling, but the bodywork is quite different. The rear doors are gone, and the roof and windscreen have been reprofiled to give a sportier stance. New rear light clusters complete the makeover.
Customers will be able to choose from front-wheel- or 4-wheel-drive chassis configurations, depending on engine, as well as 6-speed manual and automatic transmissions. The base MINI Cooper Paceman gets a 1.6-liter 122-horsepower 4-cylinder engine, while the Cooper Paceman S features a turbocharged mill making 184 horses.
On the diesel side of life, the standard oil-burner is a turbocharged 2.0-liter for the MINI Cooper D Paceman and the MINI Cooper SD Paceman. The SD comes with 143 horsepower and 225 ft-lb of torque.
Land Rover has taken a different approach with this Range Rover, pitting it against luxury saloons, not just luxury SUVs. It's every bit as much a rival to Mercedes and Bentley as it is an alternative to regular SUVs. Worry not: The off-road ability hasn't suffered for its newfound on-road ability.
While the Range Rover's exterior is nice, the interior is winning the most praise here in Paris. The richness of the materials, the sheer luxury it offers, even the ease of getting in and out — all are a marked improvement on the outgoing car and show how worried the competition now ought to be.
The big news was the composition of the metal, rather than the look of it. It is made of aluminium, the first SUV so crafted, and the weight saving is up to 400kg, weighing less than a BMW 3 Series chassis. Thus a new V6 diesel version is now as sprightly as the outgoing V8 diesel, and notably more fuel efficient, of course.
Customers will be able to pick from a supercharged petrol V8 engine, or turbocharged diesel V6 and V8 engines. These engines will help deliver the flexible and muscular performance that previous Range Rover owners are accustomed to. The Range Rover further benefits from modern features like electric upper and lower tailgates, advanced driver aids and a Meridian surrounds sound music system, which will help deliver that upmarket experience we've come to expect from Land Rover's premium products.
A rocketship. The Ferrari F12 Berlinetta is Ferrari's replacement for the 599 GTB and the company has thrown everything at it to ensure it's vastly quicker than its seminal predecessor, but also that it's more enjoyable at low speeds. The headlines are that's it's considerably smaller (50mm shorter, 60mm lower, 20mm narrower and with a 20mm shorter wheelbase), 70kg lighter at 1525kg (dry), produces more downforce and has a much lower centre-of-gravity. But you'll need to have exceptionally deep pockets to get into one: it costs from £239,736.
The F12 Berlinetta is the fastest product Ferrari built to this date. 730 horsepower is created by a racing tuned 6.3 litre 12 cylinder engine and delivers a masterful driving experience to the wheels through a race car type technologically advanced transmission.
Of course there's so much more. The F12 gets the latest evolution of Ferrari's adaptive magnetorheological dampers (SCM-E), which react much more quickly, improved carbon-ceramic brakes and, as ever, the relentless evolution of the many traction and stability systems sees huge gains in control and speed. Then there's the already famous ‘aero-bridge' – ducts set into the front wings – which reduces drag and improves down force, plus active brake cooling ducts that only open when the discs are getting really hot, to reduce drag. The list of technical highlights is almost endless. Ferrari has retained an aluminum chassis for the F12 but new materials increase stiffness and reduce weight.