The electric future is on full, ambitious display — at least, from a few brands
The 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show presented a mixed bag this year. Auto-makers facing major trade headwinds are attempting to hedge against Brexit and steeling themselves against generalised market weakness in Europe and abroad.
Many brands, including Aston Martin, Ford, Fiat, McLaren, Mitsubishi, Volvo, and Nissan, decided to skip Frankfurt altogether. Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lamborghini, Porsche, Volkswagen, and Land Rover took the opportunity — and all the additional space — to flaunt big debuts live in Germany, especially on the electric front. Here’s the best of the bunch.
BMW Concept 4
An enlarged grille, pushed forward as if by the curved front hood and massive wheels, is the most stunning component of the edgy preview of BMW’s 4 Series line of cars, including an M3 and M4. Company executives say the design is inspired by historic models such as the 328 and 3.0 CSi, but have not revealed any performance specs.
Audi AI: TRAIL
The Audi AI:Trail Quattro Concept is the fourth in its series of crazy futuristic concept cars that include the Aicon, PB18, and AI:ME. This four-door electric vehicle packs serious off-road capabilities and combines them with autonomous driving. Its 22-inch wheels and 33.5-inch off-road tyres give it more than a foot of ground clearance and the ability to ford water more than 18 inches deep. Inside, it has a traditional steering wheel and pedals but can also be activated to drive itself at low speeds. The 429 hp-equivalent lithium ion battery will go from 399 to 499 km on one charge — at least, hypothetically.
Porsche unveiled models of its new Taycan electric car at simultaneous global debuts in Canada, China, and Germany on September 4. The first editions are the 750-hp Taycan Turbo S and the 670-hp Taycan Turbo. The Porsche Taycan looks much like the Mission E Concept that debuted at the 2015 Frankfurt show, minus the suicide doors and futuristic disc wheels, gone mainly due to safety concerns. It has seating for four and a trunk big enough to hold two large golf bags. Two electric motors, one at the front axle and one at the rear axle, allow the Taycan Turbo S to go from zero to 100 kmph in 2.6 seconds, while the Taycan Turbo can do it in 3 seconds. Top speed for both is 259 kmph. Company executives at the debut event in Niagara Falls, Canada, said the range would be 450 kilometers. Less powerful — and less expensive — variants of the all-wheel-drive cars will follow later this year. Another derivative, called the Taycan Cross Turismo, will arrive at the end of next year.
Mercedes-Benz Vision EQS
Imagine this as what an all-electric Mercedes-Benz S Class might look like: a big 469-hp (350 kW) sedan with an all-electric range of 700 km. From the outside, the car uses what Mercedes executives call the “one bow” line, a roof that gracefully sweeps the length of the car from the front to the back. A continuous illuminated strip of blue encircles the car, while the stunning grille contains 940 individual LEDs on 188 circuit boards embedded in a black-panel section. The whole thing is lined by digital headlights that give it a 3D look. The EQS can charge to 80 per cent power in less than 20 minutes on a high-powered charger.
Volkswagen I.D. Crozz Concept
Volkswagen is calling this its “first electric car for the masses”. Few details are confirmed about the small, urban vehicle, though it is the latest part of VW’s multibillion-dollar push into electric mobility, and it does include some modern accoutrements, including a 10-inch touchscreen center console, heads-up display, wireless charging, and keyless entry. The ID.3 will come in three variants, which will have a range roughly from 330 to 547 km, and will be delivered in mid-2020.
Lamborghini’s first hybrid is named after the Italian word for “thunderbolt.” The Sian maintains the V12 engine, which delivers 774 hp, the highest ever reached by a Lamborghini engine, and it adds a 48 V electric motor for combined power of 807 hp. No other mild-hybrid vehicle has ever had a direct connection between the electric motor and wheels. All told, it has 720 Nm of torque, a zero-to-100 kmph sprint time of 2.8 seconds, and top speed is 349 kmph, with all-wheel-drive and a seven-speed transmission. Its lean body was inspired by the edges of the Countach and is made of carbon fiber. Just 63 will be made.
Land Rover Defender
Debuting 70 years after the original, the new Defender looks beefier than its 1940s predecessors and has two variants — one two-door, one four-door — with such upgrades as roof racks and grill protectors galore. It can wade in three feet of water and clear rocks a foot off the ground, and the eight-speed automatic transmission can get to 100 kmph in 7.7 seconds. Inside, the Defender offers technologies such as smartphone-based entertainment and enhanced vision, including a 3D surround camera. The Defender Connected Navigation Pro system learns your preferred routes and suggests faster alternatives in the event of delays.