The Frankfurt auto show, officially known as the International Motor Show or IAA, is the largest of its kind both in terms of scale and the volume of new vehicle debuts. It's also a chance for the European auto industry to shine and for German car companies to unveil their most important models and coolest concepts.
This year it was also an opportunity for beleaguered German brands embroiled in the diesel emission imbroglio (which broke two years ago during the biennial Frankfurt show) to look forward to a brighter future filled with electric and autonomous vehicles, although there were still plenty of good old-fashioned petrol-fueled performance sports car to be found at the massive Messe Frankfurt fairgrounds.
Mercedes-AMG Project ONE
The talk of the show, the Mercedes-AMG Project One is the only road-legal production supercar with a genuine Formula 1 hybrid powertrain and other mechanical parts shared with the automaker's grand prix race car. With more than 1,000 horsepower on tap, this supercar can reach top speeds above 200mph and rockets from 0 to 124mph in under six seconds. But the sexy two-seater beast will also set you back $2.5 million.
Smart Vision EQ Concept
Also in the massive Mercedes-Benz pavilion in Frankfurt was the Smart Vision EQ, parent company Daimler's vision of an autonomous robo-taxi. It features translucent doors and a front screen that can display messages or the names of the people it's picking up. The self-driving Smart Vision EQ has no steering wheel or pedals, but there’s a large touch screen to show occupants a map of their route and destination, and the car can connect with occupants' portable devices to create a profile based on their preferences for, say, music and other content.
Bentley Continental GT
The dash-to-axle ratio of the latest Continental GT has been extended to make the luxury coupe look even longer, lower, and sleeker than its predecessor. And with a 6.0-liter 626-horsepower engine that propels the new Conti GT from 0 to 62mph in 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 207mph, it's also more powerful. Of course, occupants are cossetted in an opulent interior that features brushed metal, lush leather, and lavish wood trim, while the center console rotates between three different configurations.
Land Rover Discovery SVX
Leave it to Land Rover to develop a high-performance variant of the legendary Discovery that can go almost anywhere while still delivering a posh experience for passengers. The Discovery SVX received an overhaul by Land Rover's Special Vehicle Operations treatment, which tweaked the 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 engine to deliver 517 horsepower and added extra ground clearance, unique bumpers, and skid plates, and a standard winch that allows the lux rig to get out of any jam.
As the successor to Ferrari l California convertible, the Portofino keeps its predecessor’s 3.9-liter twin-turbo V-8, but gets an additional 39 horsepower that puts it at just under 600 total and gives it a 0 to 60mph time of 3.5 seconds and a top speed of "at least 199mph," according to Ferrari. It also keeps the California’s retractable hardtop that makes the car looks gorgeous whether the roof is open or closed.
Borgward Isabella Concept
This automaker’s moniker may sound like something out of sci-fi thriller, but it dates back to a defunct German car brand that disappeared in 1961, and has been resurrected by Chinese backers. After launching a pair of SUVs in China, the brand unveiled the Isabella concept coupe in Frankfurt that combines the two-tone color palettes and elegant exterior of the brand’s past cars with modern touches such as an electric powertrain, sliding doors, a three-piece steering wheel, and a multi-layer touch screen that flows from the center of the dash.
Honda Urban EV Concept
There was almost as much buzz about the Honda Urban EV Concept as the Mercedes-AMG Project One, but for entirely different reasons. While it looks like a concept and Honda provided few facts on it, the automaker did confirm that a production version of the Urban EV will go on sale in Europe in 2019 (no word on whether it will come to the US market). It also previews a new EV platform as well as a bold new design direction for the normally conservative Japanese automaker.
Renault Symbioz Concept
The Renault Symbioz was one of the wildest concepts shown in Frankfurt in that the car is designed to integrate into a modern home. It's meant to be driven into a house instead of a garage, where it doubles as an extra room. And since it’s an EV, the Symbioz can either pull juice from the house or send it the other way once fully charged. Oh, it’s also self-driving and has 670 horsepower.
Not every car in Frankfurt was autonomous, electric, or exotic. The Hyundai i30N is the Korean automaker’s entry into the hot hatch segment and designed to compete with budget boy-racers like the Ford Focus ST and Subaru WRX. With 271 horsepower and dynamics tuned on the famous Nürburgring test track, the i30N will likely be a welcome track-day weapon for the masses.
Toyota CH-R Concept
Toyota’s C-HR HY-Power concept is a hybrid version of the automaker’s new C-HR midsize crossover that not only sips fuel, but boosts power and performance above the 122 horsepower of the tepid gasoline-only European version. Toyota said it doesn't plan to offer the C-HR HY Power in the US, but hopefully it will bring the hybrid’s hipper styling here.
Chery Tiggo Coupe Concept
One of the cool things about the Frankfurt Auto Show is seeing all the Chinese automakers’ crazy concept cars. Case in point is Chery’s Tiggo Coupe, an autonomous plug-in hybrid with a sleek shape and ample LED lightings all around the car. Inside are four armchair-like seats that swivel to turn it into a mobile living room, complete with several large screens for personal entertainment.
Audi Aicon Concept
The Aicon Concept is Audi’s vision of an autonomous driving future that has no steering wheel or pedals. The car uses eye tracking, voice control, and haptic surfaces for passengers to communicate with PIA, an “empathetic electronic vehicle assistant.” (The AI in the concept’s name stands for artificial intelligence.) In place of traditional headlights are more than 600 individual front-facing pixels that also serve as a digital display to present information to other vehicles and pedestrians.
Audi Elaine Concept
Displayed next to the Aicon on the Audi stand was the Elaine concept electric SUV that the automaker said will be available "in a few short years." It features an electric motor on the front axle and two on the rear to power all four wheels, while a battery pack delivers a range of over 311 miles. Like the Aicon, the Elaine concept also uses artificial intelligence to anticipate the wishes of drivers or passengers.
Porsche is known for its more powerful variants, and less than two weeks after unveiling the new 2019 Cayenne the automaker unwrapped the 2019 Cayenne Turbo version of the midsize SUV in Frankfurt. The new Cayenne Turbo is faster than the prior-generation Cayenne Turbo S, thanks to a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine that produces 550 horsepower. It also features Porsche’s new double-row front lighting for night driving and an adaptive rear roof spoiler designed to enhance acceleration and braking.
Mini Electric Concept
After teasing the Mini Electric Concept leading up to the Frankfurt show, the BMW sub-brand finally took the wraps off the production model, which is expected to go on sale in 2019. The lines of the car are unmistakable Mini, but with visual cues indicating that it’s an EV, such as headlights, a front grille, and other body parts sporting a plug icon. There's no word on the car's range, specs, or cost, but since the Mini Electric shares an electric drivetrain with the BMW i3, the two vehicles will have roughly equal performance.
The Kia Stonic is the Korean brand’s compact crossover, and corporate cousin to the Hyundai Kona that also debuted at the Frankfurt show. It features the automaker’s familiar 1.0-liter 3-cylinder gas engine and 1.6-liter diesel used in Europe and the company’s trademark "tiger-nose" grille. The exterior also has black plastic cladding, a "floating" two-tone roof, and a raised ride height. The Stonic goes on sale in Europe next month, although pricing was not announced.
BMW i Vision Concept
Considered BMW's future Tesla fighter, the i Vision Dynamics concept is an electric four-door coupe designed to fit the wide gap between the i3 and i8. While still a concept, BMW is targeting a 373-mile EV range, acceleration of 0 to 60mph in 4 seconds, and a 120mph top speed. The interior wasn’t shown in Frankfurt but the size of the vehicle and its full-length glass roof indicate a large and airy cabin.
Aspark Owl Concept
While it didn’t get the attention of the Mercedes Project One, the Aspark Owl electric supercar prototype also boats 1,000-horsepower—and a staggering price tag. Backed by a wealthy Japanese tech entrepreneur, the Owl claims to be the world’s fastest accelerating electric road car, and the most expensive at $2.7 million. The Owl sits just 39 inches tall—an inch lower than the Ford GT—and its 3.5 inches of ground clearance will make it barely road legal.
Lamborghini Aventador S Roadster
This new open-top version of the Lamborghini Aventador gets its hardtop sibling’s naturally aspirated V12, which packs 730 horsepower and has a 0—60mph time of three seconds and a 217mph top speed. It also keeps the coupe's four-wheel drive system and active suspension and—in a move that’s sure to peeve purists but please average Lambo owners (if there is such a thing)—the Aventador S Roadster also gets Apple CarPlay.