Paris Auto Show – 2006: Home to art and architecture, food and wine, culture and creativity, Paris is also crammed with cars. Small cars, big cars, even a Cadillac or two prowl this city of love and lights. This is especially true when the Mondial de l’Automobile opens, kicking off the international auto show season. Running from Sept. 30 to Oct. 15, the 2006 Paris Auto Show features some cars that will come to the U.S., some that might land on our shores, and many that won’t stray far from the Seine. We focus here on the first two kinds of vehicles debuting in Paris.
Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione
Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione: Like most Italians, Alfa Romeo is willing to make sacrifices to bring beauty to life. The production version of the 8C Competizione concept pictured here will be limited to a few hundred copies, potentially powered by a Maserati-sourced 4.7-liter V8 making about 450 horsepower and installed within a carbon fiber body attached to a space frame chassis. Alfa wants to return to America, and the 8C Competizione would help the company make a stunning entrance.
Audi R8: Taking its name from the most successful LeMans Prototype racing car of all time and based on Lamborghini Gallardo running gear, the new Audi R8 supercar will closely resemble the concept model pictured here. A 610-horsepower Lambo V10 was installed in the 2003 LeMans Quattro concept, but the production R8 is rumored to get the same 420-horsepower V8 as the Audi RS4 with the twin-turbo V10 a maximum performance – and prestige – option. Either engine is to be mounted amid-ship behind the front seats, driving all four wheels.
Bentley Arnage: Bentley boosts power in the Arnage lineup for 2007, bumping the R model to 450 bhp and the sporty T to an even 500 bhp. A six-speed automatic replaces the old four-speed transmission for greater performance, refinement, and efficiency. Subtle styling updates help distinguish these new, more powerful Arnages from older models.
BMW X3 3.0si
BMW X3 3.0si: New engines, revised styling, greater interior refinement, and added safety features characterize BMW’s X3 for 2007. The inline six makes 260 horsepower, up 35 from last year, and is matched to a six-speed manual or automatic transmission driving all four wheels. Regardless of transmission, acceleration to 60 mph takes about 7 seconds. Subtle styling revisions give the BMW X3 a more cohesive look, and the interior is upgraded for a more luxurious ambience. Safety upgrades include enhanced stability and traction systems, as well as adaptive brake lights.
Chevrolet WTCC Ultra Concept
Chevrolet WTCC Ultra Concept: In Europe, Chevrolet races in the World Touring Car Championships (WTCC), and has actually beaten BMWs on the track. The WTCC Ultra Concept is a nod to the Chevy team’s success, and a shining example of GM’s global design and engineering potential. Developed in Europe, powered by a Korean common rail turbodiesel engine, and assembled in Japan, the 190-horsepower WTCC Ultra Concept is a real car with real performance. Whether that translates into real sales in the real world remains to be seen.
Dodge Avenger Concept
Dodge Avenger Concept: With the success of the Caliber in North America and Europe, Dodge’s move toward fun and functional hatchbacks has been validated. The Dodge Avenger Concept debuting in Paris replaces the dull old Stratus sedan and rides on the same platform as the all-new Chrysler Sebring. For America, the powertrain lineup will mirror the Chrysler with a standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder, a step-up 2.7-liter V6, or a 3.5-liter V6. Roomy and spacious, expect the chiseled Avenger to also feature the same tricked out MyGig infotainment system as the Chrysler when it goes on sale later this year.
Ford Focus C-Max Concept
Ford Focus CUV Concept: Efficiency and utility are of paramount importance to families residing in Europe’s urban centers, and Ford sells a slick little mini-van/wagon called the Focus C-Max to serve the need (shown here). At the 2006 Paris Auto Show, a potential replacement for the C-Max debuts in concept format. Don’t count on anything like the C-Max making it to the U.S., however, because Ford is still milking the previous-generation Focus wagon for what scant profits it can return.
Ford Mondeo Concept
Ford Mondeo Concept: Remember the Ford Contour? That was an Americanized version of a European sedan called the Mondeo which didn’t meet sales expectations in the U.S. and died. Today, we have the Fusion to serve our midsize needs, while Europe is set to get a production sedan close to what you see here, wearing what Ford calls its “kinetic” design vocabulary. Let’s hope some of that energy translates to the States, and soon.
Honda Civic Type R
Honda Civic Type R: Vroooom! Vroooooooooom! Rev that puppy, and leave it abroad, because the chance of seeing the Honda Civic Type R in the U.S. is slim. The last Civic Si Hatchback was virtually ignored by Americans, and since the new Type R is making virtually the same amount of power as the current Si Coupe and Sedan at 198 bhp and takes 6.4 seconds to reach 60 mph, it offers no real performance advantage. Plus, the design is a bit, umm, advanced for some tastes.
Hyundai Tiburon: Four years after the current generation Hyundai Tiburon debuted, it still looks good. Too bad it doesn’t drive that way when you pressure its standard four-cylinder or optional V6 engine. For 2007, the Tiburon gets a styling massage that retains its handsome silhouette, but soldiers on with the same mechanical package as before.
Land Rover Defender
Land Rover Defender: It’s been almost 10 years since a lack of airbags sent the hardcore Land Rover Defender packing back to Europe. Today, these prized off-roaders are far from luxurious or practical, mainly serving as image vehicles for spoiled American brats and insecure men suffering mid-life crises. An update to the Defender for 2007 isn’t likely to land it in the U.S., despite a revised interior and fuel-saving common rail diesel engine.
Land Rover Range Rover Sport TDV8
Land Rover Range Rover Sport TDV8: Fuel economy is not one of the Land Rover Range Rover Sport’s strong points, so in Europe, where a single tank can run the equivalent of $150, a new turbodiesel V8 for 2007 is extremely good news. However, Land Rover isn’t likely to send the TDV8 our way, especially now that we’ve discovered more black gold under the Gulf of Mexico.
Mercedes-Benz CL-Class: Mercedes already released details of the redesigned CL-Class, shown here, so it’s possible that a performance-tuned CL65 AMG will debut in Paris. That would mean a twin-turbo V12 with astounding acceleration; bigger wheels, tires, and brakes; a sport-tuned suspension with recalibrated safety nannies; styling tweaks; and a luxed-up interior with sport seats. Or, it might just trot this car out and grab a little more limelight.
Mini Cooper: Look closely, and you’ll see what Mini says is a completely redesigned Cooper from top to bottom. The good thing is that it looks plenty like the car that taught Americans that small cars don’t need to be cheap cars. The better thing is that the 2007 MINI Cooper ditches its old Chrysler engines for BMW-sourced units. Enthusiasts may lament a swap from supercharging to turbocharging, but the Cooper S makes lots of torque across a flat rev range to virtually eliminate lag. An extended-length Traveler model may be the big news from Paris.
Mitsubishi Pajero: The Mitsubishi Pajero is the same thing as the now-dead Montero, the seven-seat SUV that didn’t sell when big trucks were popular and slid into obscurity with the rise in gas prices. The new Pajero retains its traditionally boxy lines but possesses better balance and a more stable look. Mitsubishi says it gets an improved 4WD system, a more luxurious interior, and new engines. But the top-choice 3.8-liter V6 still isn’t enough to move this rig with authority. The Pajero will only come to America if gas heads south of two bucks a gallon.
Nissan Qashqai: Designed in London and representing a cross between a hatchback and SUV, the Nissan Qashqai is likely to find tremendous success given the six-month waiting list for the similar Dodge Caliber. It’s not just Europeans who want something like this, however, and Nissan has a giant product hole under the Xterra and Murano that needs to be plugged. If the Qashqai makes it across the Atlantic, Googlers everywhere will wonder why nobody is writing about it because they won’t know how to spell its name, much less say it.
Opel Antara: Replace that Opel lightning bolt on the grille of the new Antara SUV with a red Saturn insignia, and you’ll get a good view of the next Vue, due for 2008. There are two downsides to this redesign. First, GM’s deal to install Honda-sourced 3.5-liter V6 engines in the current Vue will likely expire, to be replaced by the 3.5-liter or 3.6-liter V6 engines that power the new Aura sedan. Second, the new Saturn VUE won’t have dent- and rust-resistant body panels. Otherwise, nobody will miss the old Saturn VUE.
Porsche 911 Targa 4/4S
Porsche 911 Targa: By adding a panoramic glass roof that slides back underneath the rear window of the 911 Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S, Porsche creates the new 911 Targa 4 and 911 Targa 4S for sun lovers who don’t want a true convertible. Yep, you read that right – the Targa is available for the first time, and exclusively, with all-wheel-drive, making it a perfect four-season sports car. Note also that the Targa gets a rear lift-glass to make it easier to load items into the back seat.
Subaru Outback: Subaru dresses up the 2007 Outback with a classy chrome grille, reshaped lights, revised front sheetmetal, and snazzy new wheels. The result is an upscale appearance the Japanese automaker has been seeking for years, one that might finally justify the premium consumers find on the price tag. Now that the exterior look matches the quality of the interior, all the Subaru Outback needs is more cabin space.
Suzuki Splash Concept
Suzuki Splash Concept: Small cars are hot in North America, where rising fuel prices have forced consumers to face the same challenges that other developed nations have known for years. The Suzuki Splash Concept previews a new small, fuel-efficient, and roomy model that Suzuki could bring to the U.S. if consumer demand for small cars continues. A production version of the Splash would slot under the all-wheel-drive SX4 in the lineup.
Suzuki Swift Sport
Suzuki Swift Sport: Fans of small cars know how much fun the Suzuki Swift Sport would be to drive. This lightweight sport compact will make about 125 horsepower when it goes on sale in Europe right after the Paris Auto Show. Suzuki has no plans to bring the Swift to the U.S., but the next-generation model might be available if consumer demand for small cars holds steady.
Toyota Yaris TS
Toyota Yaris TS: Consumers can’t get enough of the Toyota Yaris, thanks to a funky advertising campaign, sky-high gas prices, and clear improvements over its predecessor, the Echo. If there’s a fly in the ointment, it’s with the meager 106-horsepower output from the single engine Toyota offers. The Toyota Yaris TS offers a glimmer of hope in the form of a larger engine making upwards of 130 horsepower. Fuel economy suffers, of course, but that’s the price of performance.
Volkswagen Cross Golf
Volkswagen Cross Golf: Don’t confuse this with the upcoming Volkswagen Tiguan SUV: The Cross Golf is for Europe, VW’s take on the classic Subaru Outback recipe but without the handy all-wheel-drive system. Rather, the Cross Golf is a front driver with gray plastic cladding, roof rails, a fake brush guard up front, and a raised suspension. Without AWD, maybe VW should have called it the Cross Dresser.
Volkswagen Iroc Concept
Volkswagen Iroc Concept: Perhaps Volkswagen is riding the coattails of another sport coupe concept car, the Camaro, with its Iroc show vehicle. When the Iroc lands on the market, which is almost a certainty, it will be called Scirocco. VW fans remember that car well, sold in the late 1970s and early 1980s as the sporty German alternative to gaudy Z28s and Trans-Ams. The new Volkswagen Scirocco will offer two turbocharged four-cylinder engines making 170-240 horsepower, connected to a standard direct shift gearbox. The rear hatch opens to expose a large cargo area, and prices will start in the low $30,000 range.
Volvo C30: Active lifestyles are out, and “intense, urban lifestyles” are in. Whatever. The production version of the Volvo C30 Concept differs little in look and feel from that Detroit show car, and is the hottest little three-door hatch to debut since the Mini Cooper. The Volvo C30 can’t trade on retro style like the Mini, but it doesn’t need to because it’s an attractive piece of work in its own right. The Volvo C30 arrives in the U.S. as a 2008 model.
Photos courtesy of the manufacturers