Electrification was the billion-dollar word at this year’s Frankfurt auto show, where automakers from around the world gathered to show off their latest and greatest.
The show itself took place in the land of beer and schnitzel, but that doesn’t mean that every debut over the Atlantic will stay there.
Frankfurt is the German auto industry’s chance to shine, but what we saw from BMW, Volkswagen, and Mercedes-Benz boiled down to some mixed messages. The BMW building—yes, the Frankfurt show is so large that each group has its own hall—had new sports cars, a ways-off rival to the Tesla Model 3, and a much-needed three-row crossover that could finally give Munich’s number-one automaker a dog in the lucrative premium family car fight.
Visiting the Volkswagen Group revealed the potential of a pint-size crossover for our market, plus a new Audi A8 flagship sedan and a much-ballyhooed 0-400-0 record. That’s naught to 400 kph and back to a stop, which was performed by pro racer Juan Pablo Montoya just weeks before the show.
At Mercedes, there was as much talk about pod-like self-driving cars as there was a Formula 1 racer for the road.
That’s not to say that other continents merely skipped the show, however. Honda showed off two important vehicles not quite ready for showrooms, Kia gave us a hint of what’s to come, and Jaguar wowed us with a decidedly sexy take on the pint-size crossover segment.
Here’s a look at what we thought was newsworthy—and why.
BMW X7 Concept
BMW has a car for nearly every conceivable need, but when its owners decided that they want more than five seats, they’ll find themselves shopping crossovers like the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class. That’s all set to change with the BMW X7. Let’s just hope that the production model tones down the gaping maw of the thinly (but hopefully thoroughly) veiled X7 Concept.
Honda CR-V Hybrid
Honda’s CR-V is among the crossovers most likely to be found in your driveway—if not yours, then at least one of your neighbor’s. But what this successful crossover has not yet done is tap into the gasoline-electric segment, where Toyota has seen much success with its RAV4 Hybrid. For now, Honda’s staying quiet on what to expect from what’ll inevitably end up in showrooms, but upwards of 35 mpg combined seems like a feasible target.
Honda Urban EV Concept
So cute we wanted to pinch its cheeks, the Honda Urban EV Concept hints that electric cars don’t have to be the automotive equivalent of bars of soap. It’s as much a nod to Honda’s past as it is a reminder that the original Volkswagen Golf’s Italian-penned shape wasted not a single angle. Honda tells us that a production version of its Urban EV is Europe-bound. Now’s when you should start writing letters to the company’s American outpost, too. We’ve already drafted a few.
2018 Jaguar E-Pace
Crossovers are king, and while the Jaguar F-Pace has been a hit, there’s certainly room for a smaller companion. Enter the E-Pace, which may very well be the least expensive Jaguar when it shows up here for the 2019 model year. It’s just right in every way, with decent room for four and their luggage, a commanding seating position, and the promise that it’ll offer F-Pace-like driving dynamics in a more size- and budget-friendly package.
Kia’s twin to the upcoming Hyundai Kona is the more dapper of the two, even if its name shouldn’t have made it past the suggestion box. This itty-bitty ‘ute isn’t earmarked for us, but Kia brass hinted, winked, and nodded when we asked if something similar might make it our way. Just why Kia needs to change anything other than the Stonic’s name before seeing if it plays in Peoria has us scratching our heads, especially since it’s so much more dapper than the Kona.
Mercedes-AMG Project One Concept
No, you can’t have one. Well, you can, but that means you’ll be one of 275 people globally willing to plop down $2.3 million or so for what’s really a F1 race car with an electrified, high-performance powertrain and enough body panels and safety bits to please regulators for road use. What the Project One says more than anything is that Mercedes is serious about electrification at every level, and it’s willing to lean on its racing team for guidance.
Like the Stonic ,the T-Roc has a dumb name. Like the Stonic, the T-Roc is a small, crossover-like vehicle good for two passengers, four in a pinch, and five in dire situations. Like the Stonic, the T-Roc isn’t coming here, at least not in this form. VW’s executives made all the same noises and motions as Kia’s did when we asked if we’ll ever see something similar here. In other words, look for perhaps slightly more conventional styling and a simplified powertrain lineup when the Volkswagen [insert future name here]subcompact crossover arrives here to slot in below the Tiguan.