There was another huge auto show this year in Frankfurt, Germany — the massive every-other-year affair that splits time with the smaller but still special Paris Motor Show on the global automotive calendar. Spread out across a dozen exhibition halls covering a mile of real estate, the 65th IAA show featured wares from virtually every automaker on the planet. It is at Frankfurt, for instance, where you can learn about cutting-edge technology like heated armrests (no, we’re not kidding) and then walk around the corner and sample the same technology in a 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. If the question is asked, “Wasn’t that car shown at Frankfurt?” chances are, at least for now, the answer is “yes”. Ditto on whether said car saw extensive press coverage. With that, here’s a rundown of the best of Frankfurt — not just the big names, but the ones that made us take notice.
MORE AUTO SHOW-STOPPERS: 10 Best Cars of the New York Auto Show | Best Concept Cars at The Detroit Auto Show | Best Trucks at Detroit 2013
Audi Sport Quattro Concept
The attention-getter for the Ingolstadt automaker was the Audi Sport Quattro Concept. This throwback to the Quattro’s Group B rallying heyday in the 1980s boasts a turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 and an electric motor punching 700 hp to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic. The buff styling (do we detect a hint of a Camaro kick in the aluminum rear fender?) and a hybrid powertrain capable of 31 electric-only miles, a sub-4 second 0-60 mph time, and a top speed of 190 mph make the 4,100-pound Sport Quattro a no-brainer for limited production. Audi will do just that, as early as 2015, priced at about $150,000.
Bentley Continental GT V8 S
Bentley’s decision to drop a V8 rather than a V12 into the Conti back in 2011 might have been seen as a letdown, but enthusiasts found the eight offered a howl of an engine note and similar power with less weight — especially up in the nose. Now Bentley has taken the V8 a step further with the S designation, which means output from the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 is up by 21 hp to 521 hp, while the chassis is upgraded, lowered and stiffened for more “sporting” pursuits. The S models will be on sale in early 2014, priced somewhere in that $200k range.
The stunningly sleek two-door i8 production version of the sports car is so close to the 2011 concept that it’s breathtaking. And that’s before you punch up the hybrid powertrain, one that combines the torque of an electric motor with a 1.5-liter, three-cylinder twin-turbo engine to make 362 hp, 420-lb-ft of torque and up to 94 mpg. In a 3,300-pound car. The i8 is the one you’ll want for those long drives across Montana and through the twisties of the Rockies. It goes on sale by mid 2014, priced at $136,000, less incentives for buying green.
Bugatti Grand Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse Jean Bugatti Legend
Trimmed in clearcoated black carbon fiber, the Jean Bugatti recalls the La Voiture Noire (“The Black Car”), a jet-black Bugatti 57SC that served as the private car of Jean Bugatti, the eldest son of Bugatti founder Ettore. Today’s version is powered by the same drivetrain featured in the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse, an 8.0-liter W16 engine that produces 1,183 hp and 1,106 lb-ft of torque. Bugatti notes that only three Jean Bugattis will be made, each priced around $3 million.
Ferrari 458 Speciale
What would a major European auto show be without a new Ferrari on display? A lesser show, that’s what we think. The Italian supercar maker unveiled the 458 Speciale, a striped and stripped-down version of the 458, with 34 extra prancing horses churning from its mid-mounted 4.5-liter V8 engine for a total of 596 (compared to the garden-variety 458’s 563 hp). Technology like Slip Slide Control (Ferrari’s version of active traction and stability control) and active aerodynamics borrowed from F1 help keep this beautiful Italian beast on the tarmac. Price: $320,000, give or take a few thou.
Infiniti Q30 Concept
The new Infiniti design language appears to be best executed in this sporty, semi-rugged concept. The Q30 was the handsomest of the compact crossover entries at the Frankfurt show, combining the best attributes of coupe, hatchback and crossover in one finely tailored package. Built on the same small-car chassis underpinning the Mercedes-Benz CLA and the upcoming GLA crossover, the Q30 won’t stay “concept” for long. All the pieces are in place for an introduction early next year.
Before you dismiss Jaguar’s C-X17 concept as a pipe dream, ask whether this purveyor of proper British motorcars should build an SUV as a way of growing profits to develop ever-better XJs, XKs and F-Types. After all, without the Cayenne, Porsche’s 991 version of the 911 might still be on the drawing boards. The C-X17 sport crossover looks good in the metal and had Jaguar design boss Ian Callum smiling for cameras and doing interviews for hours.
Mercedes-Benz S500 Coupe Concept
The German automaker’s S500 Coupe Concept won’t stay in concept form for long — look for production to start on the 449-hp replacement for the Benz CL line in mid 2014. If that’s too far in the future, might we suggest the brand’s top-of-the-range rocket ship, the 2014 S63 AMG? Revealed at Frankfurt and driven immediately thereafter by journalists from around the world, the S63 AMG pushes 577 hp through standard 4Matic all-wheel drive to give the car a 3.9-second 0-60 mph time. It goes on sale in the U.S. in mid-November, priced at $140,000 and worth every penny.
Porsche 918 Spyder
Despite repeated reveals and journalist reviews, it remains a show-stopper as an interesting jump into one possible future of supercars. A 4.6-liter V8 engine and twin electric motors combine to produce 887 hp; it rounded the Nürburgring in a record 6 minutes and 57 seconds, but with a beyond-Toyota Prius fuel economy of 71 mpg. Want one? Bring your $845,000. It goes on sale late this year.
Volvo Concept Coupe
It was a pleasant surprise to see the stunning Volvo Coupe Concept at Frankfurt. Volvo says the concept represents the next generation of the P1800 from the 1960s and ’70s, brought into the 21st century with a 400 hp plug-in hybrid powertrain based on a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. If this is what happens when Swedish safety and practicality are blended with Chinese cash and Asian aesthetics, we say “build it”.