EVs such as the Porsche Taycan and the Mercedes-Benz EQC dominated the IAA, aka the Frankfurt Motor Show, though exotics like the Lamborghini Sian showed that gas-powered supercars are not dead. Here are some of the most eye-catching debuts.
Most major auto shows take place under one roof, but the record-busting biennial IAA, aka the Frankfurt Motor Show, is spread across a dozen massive "halles." German automakers like Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen and its various brands even have their own dedicated buildings to show off their latest vehicles.
But this year's IAA was noticeably smaller and more subdued than in previous years due to the perfect storm of challenges in the auto industry, such as US trade wars, Brexit, sinking sales in China, and the emergence of alternative forms of personal mobility and propulsion technologies.
This last factor was on auto executives' minds and on automaker's show stands as EVs such as the Porsche Taycan and the Mercedes-Benz EQC dominated the list of debuts, although exotics like the Lamborghini Sian showed that gas-powered supercars are not dead.
Audi always unveils a showstopper at IAA, and the AI:Trail concept didn't disappoint. And not just because it can deploy a flock of drones to send video images of what's ahead to the cockpit and light the way while off-road. The AI:Trail runs on four electric motors, one at each wheel, powered by a battery pack with a range of just over 300 miles. It has Level 4 autonomy for on-road driving and Level 3 off-roading so the pilot can enjoy the scenery like a passenger.
BMW Concept 4
BMW's Concept 4 got lots of attention, mostly for its massive BMW trademark "kidney" grille that makes it look like the otherwise svelte coupe has big buck teeth. While we've seen the supersized grille on concepts like the iNEXT crossover and iVision Dynamics, with its sloping hood and fastback rear end, the rest of the Concept 4 looks like a smaller rendition of the new 8-Series. BMW says the Concept 4 is the "new face of the 4-Series range," which means the production model will likely keep that crazy grille.
Byton has shown various versions of its M-Byte all-electric five-passenger SUV, but this one is headed for production, with plans to go on sale in China by 2020 and in the US by mid-2021. Cost is expected to be about $45,000 with a choice of batteries that provide a range of about 225 miles or 300 miles. While the M-Byte looked conservative compared to other vehicles at IAA, inside is a screen that spans the width of the dashboard and another in the steering wheel that remains right side up even when the wheel is turned.
Volkswagen ID 3
It was during IAA 2015 that the Dieselgate scandal surfaced, eventually sending VW execs to jail and causing the world's largest automaker to go all-in on electric vehicles. Four years later, the ID 3 EV hatchback represents VW's alternative-fuel future by debuting a new vehicle platform that will be leveraged to spawn a range of new EVs. The First Edition gets a 58-KhW battery with over 250 miles of range; a 45-kWh battery with about 205 miles of range and a 77-kWh battery good for about 340 miles will come later. The ID 3 won't be sold in the US, but the ID 4 crossover and ID Buzz will make it stateside.
Even Lamborghini (kind of) joined the electric bandwagon at IAA with its sexy new Sian. The hybrid supercar ditches the more mundane battery pack for a supercapacitor to power an electric motor and supplement the gas-eating V12 engine. The supercapacitor only adds 34 horsepower by supplying a 48-volt motor installed in the gearbox with juice, but together with the V12 it provides 819 horsepower to go from zero to 62mph in under 2.8 seconds. Only 63 Sians are being produced and all are already sold at $3.6 million each.
Land Rover Defender
With all the curvy cars that debuted at IAA, the new 2020 Land Rover Defender stood out by sticking to its boxy heritage, although it's more rounded and stylized than its predecessors. The Defender 110 that goes on sale in the spring will come with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder 296 horsepower engine, while the smaller Defender 90 that hits showrooms later in the year will get a mild hybrid powertrain made up of a 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine paired with lithium-ion battery packs for a total of 395 horsepower. While the Defender is made for hardcore off-roading, most buyers will rarely leave the pavement, so it has commuting-friendly features such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and a new head-up display.
Mercedes-Benz Vision EQS
Tesla has changed the way car buyers look at EVs and has caused luxury brands like Mercedes-Benz to play catch up. That's a good thing when Mercedes creates concepts like the Vision EQS. Until now, the Mercedes EQ model and concepts have been practical, crossover-like people movers, but the EQS gives us a glimpse of what a mashup between the brand's EV lineup and its S-Class flagship sedan might look like. Not to be outdone by Telsa, the EQS sports two electric motors that produce more than 469 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque. The production model—perhaps sans the digital grille with 940 LEDs—will still turn heads with a "light belt" that wraps around the body, with more than 200 star-shaped lights at the rear of the car.
You guessed it: The "E" in Honda’s new hatchback stands for EV. This production model looks a lot like the original cute concept and will carry over features such as flush pop-out door handles and a five-screen digital dashboard that includes dual 12.3-inch LCD touch screens. With only 137 miles of range and a smallish 35.5 kWh battery, the Honda E is designed as a city car rather than a highway cruiser and its electric motor delivers up to 152 horsepower. The Honda E will cost between about $36,000 and $40,000 before rebates, although it won't be sold in the US.
Hyundai Concept 45
Hyundai has been on an auto show roll lately with its futuristic concepts, and it continued this streak with the sleek Concept 45 that debuted at IAA. The wedge-shaped electric vehicle has an ultra-thin roof and no B-pillars to interrupt the side glass, while the doors slide open barn-door style to reveal a futuristic interior cabin with swiveling lounge chairs that make it easier to get in and out of the vehicle and can face each other in autonomous mode. While the 45 won't see production in its current form, Hyundai says it signals the automaker's design direction for future EV models.
Great Wall Wey X
Chinese automakers always provide great eye candy at the IAA, and Great Wall's Wey's X concept stood out with its luminous baby-blue paint and futuristic shape. The Wey X is designed as an autonomous EV with a range of about 300 miles. The exterior has a screen in front and another in the rear doors to communicate with passengers while inside is a "virtual" dashboard and "floating" seats and a large center console with a built-in monitor.
Even though Porsche revealed its much-anticipated 202 Taycan EV ahead of IAA, it was still the talk of the show. The introduction of the first all-electric model ever produced by the legendary performance car brand coincided with the Taycan going into production at a brand-new factory. The Taycan has a 93-KwH battery and a range of around 270 miles. Top speed is 161mph and zero to 60mph acceleration clocks in at 3.2 seconds. The Porsche Taycan starts at $152,250 for the Turbo and $186,350 for the Turbo S.
A stone's throw from the futuristic Hyundai 45 concept sat the new and stodgy looking Alpina B3 Touring. But don't let the low-key exterior fool you: With a straight 6-cylinder bi-turbo engine that pumps out 462 horsepower on tap, the B3 sportswagon is the most powerful BMW 3 Series available and has a top speed of 186 mph. And if the exterior is too staid, you can always add optional 21-inch wheels.
Mystery Chinese Car
This car was eye-catching, but what are the stats? We'll have to wait and see. There was no literature or signs on it at IAA other than the Chinese writing on the car, and those at the booth were pretty tight-lipped.