The Top 10 Paris Motor Show 2010 Debuts
In the pantheon of major auto shows, Paris is right up there with Geneva, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Detroit and, increasingly, Shanghai in terms of prestiege and importance to automakers. The City of Light is home turf for Peugeot, Citroën and Renault and thus an ideal place to pull the covers off their latest voitures. However, foreign makes also like to save some of their best for this biannual Galic get-together, and the 2010 rendition is no exception.
Even as wet-blanket-wielding outside forces loom ever larger – and more and more eco-friendly concept and production models are trotted out in hopes of appeasing said forces – the industry showed it still isn’t ready to resign itself to building self-guided toasters on wheels just yet, having debuted a fleet of fast and exciting cars, some more ready for the showroom than others. Some of these new rides are even quite green while still managing to be mean. Here, in no particular order, are our 10 favorite premieres from Paris.
Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale
If anyone was accusing Maserati of building nothing but softly-sprung grand tourers following the end of MC12 production, they stopped when they feasted their eyes on the GranTurismo MC Stradale. Essentially a street-legal version of the GranTurismo-based race cars, the MC Stradale subtracts weight, adds power (for a total of 450 horses), and wears massaged bodywork that makes better use of the air for helping press it into the pavement at speed without increasing drag. Magnifico!
Jaguar C-X75 Concept
While it would be all kinds of unfair to call Jaguar’s current top cat – the 510hp XKR – underwhelming, we’d still love to see the storied marque build something even more extreme. (Blame it on being raised on a steady diet of XJ220s and IMSA GTP racers.) Apparently Jaguar management felt the same way; why else would they choose to honor their diamond jubilee with the C-X75 concept? This low-slung supercar features an electric motor behind each wheel, for a total of 778hp and 1,180 lb.-ft of twist. Mummy dearest. Those motors draw current from batteries charged by a pair of small gas turbines. Jag claims a top speed of 205 mph, but reaching it would probably eat into the 560 mile range. Maybe Kermit’s been wrong all along.
Audi Quattro Concept
When compiling a list of the most significant cars of the last century, mass market hits like the Model T and Beetle are gimmes, but most such lists seem to ignore cars that brought forth technological and engineering innovations that are now commonplace. Audi’s original Quattro of 1980 was just such a car, being the first commercially successful all-wheel-drive passenger car. Thirty years on, it’s no surprise that the Four-Ring fraternity is celebrating this anniversary with a faithful yet thoroughly modern reimagining of the Ur-Quattro called, quite simply, the Quattro Concept. A turbocharged inline-five, a “real” manual transmisson and AWD in a taut, fastback coupe body was a winning combination then and, if you ask us, still is. Your move, Ingolstadt.
Ferrari SA APERTA
As far as investment-grade cars are concerned, you can’t do much better than a front-engine, 12-cylinder open Ferrari. And the latest car to join that long line – the SA APERTA – is sure to retain (if not gain) its value as well. But because it’s based on the 599 GTB Fiorano, you probably won’t be able to keep the mileage very low, since the temptation to get out and drive it will be so great. But do be careful, as only 80 are being built (in honor of Pininfarina’s 80th anniversary). Of course, if your name wasn’t on Maranello’s list, you aren’t getting one anyway. Le sigh…
Porsche 911 Speedster
Speaking of limited edition droptops, Porsche used the Paris show to unveil the latest iteration of the 911 Speedster, based on the not-long-for-this-world 997 platform. Available in blue or white, the first Speedster of the 21st century features, like its predecessors, a “chopped” windshield and a hard tonneau cover to hide the back seats and recontoured soft top. It also has a 408hp flat-six and PDK twin-clutch 7-speed tranny out back to compromise your coiff faster than you can say “L’oreal!” Order yours yesterday.
Bentley Continental GT
The Continental range, while quite successful for Bentley, is showing its age. Good thing, then, that the British-by-way-of-Germany company is beginning its refresh of its “starter” lineup, and the 2-door Continental GT is first on the list. Front and rear styling have been massaged, the interior has been redecorated, and the twin-turbo W12 under the bonnet (sorry, “hood”) has been tweaked to produce extra power and run on E85. Lastly, budget- and/or eco-minded buyers will eventually be able to opt for a V8 version. Pity even that one will be a few time zones out of our price range.
Lamborghini Sesto Elemento Concept
Ask any petrolhead who follows the industry closely what one of the worst things about modern cars, and chances are their response will be that cars keep getting fatter and fatter. Unfortunately, fuel economy and emissions standards might just do what bitching and moaning from enthusiasts who want better acceleration, braking and handling could not. Whatever the impetus, Lamborghini seems commited to putting its next-gen models on a serious diet. Exhibit A: The Sesto Elemento. Thanks to a carbon composite body and skeleton, this little bull has a dry weight just a tick over 2,200 lb., yet still packs a 570hp V10. If this is the future, we gotta wear opaque shades.
Lotus Esprit Concept
Most automakers like to preview new models that are one or two years from production by way of concept cars that are 70 to 75% identical to the final product. Lotus, as we know, is not most automakers. At Paris, they’re showing off five (yes, five) thinly-disguised production cars, a couple of which are five (there’s that number again) years away from showrooms. Crazy? Like a fox…or Britney Spears during her Mr. Clean phase; it’s too early to tell. Anyway, one member of the quintet that has us all agog is the Esprit Concept. Like the original Esprit, which was with us for what seemed like 20 U.S. presidencies and 5 geological epochs, this new one is a wedge-shaped sports car with the engine in the middle. This Espirit, however, will use a supercharged Lexus V8 producing 620hp and be teamed with an optional F1-inspired kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) for even more muscle. Look for this beast to hit the street in 2013.
Lotus Elise Concept
The other Lotus sneak peak that set our collective tongue a-wagging is the 2015 Elise. We’re big fans of the current model as well as its fixed-roof sister, the Exige, but it sounds like next time around both types of lid will wear the Elise nameplate. The next Elise will also feature a turbocharged 2.0L four-banger from Toyota producing 320hp and a choice of a 6-speed manual or paddle-shift automatic gearbox. Lotus predicts a 0-62 mph time of 4.3 seconds and a fairly-reasonable $55,000 price tag. That’s the good news. The bad news? Curb weight will climb…by about 400 lb. Call us crazy Lotus, but we’re pretty sure your founder once said, “Adding power makes you faster on the straights; subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere.” Just sayin’…
Ford Focus ST
They might not like to admit it, but Ford has a downright atrocious track record when it comes to sending its most exciting European wares over here. About the closest us Yanks have gotten to a hot Euro Ford was the Merkur XR4Ti and, if you ask your parents, they’ll probably tell you even it was rather half-baked. Now that the Blue Oval’s subcompact (Fiesta) and compact (Focus) lines will be essentially identical on both sides of the Atlantic, though, they’ve apparently decided that now’s as good a time as any to start bringing us the real good stuff. First up will be the Focus ST. Set to land here for the 2012 model year, this hot hatch will boast the new 2.0L EcoBoost turbo four with 247hp, a 6-speed stick, and a trick Torque Vectoring Control system to squelch torquesteer, understeer, and all the other unwholesome varieties of -steer endemic to high-po front-drivers. We can’t wait to *ahem* drive one.