IAA Frankfurt Show – September 2007

This weekend saw the most ambitious Forum meet to date, and the first one that took place overseas. A trip to the Frankfurt Motor Show, attended by 5 Forummers, and a couple of friends. And very enjoyable it was, too. After the challenging logistics of trying to gather people together at Donington, I feared that with attendees coming from different airports and with varying levels of proficiency in the German language, this could be hard. But no. As the Flybe flight from Birmingham on which Piers, Mike (Pugwash) and I had arrived was taxi-ing around the airport, we spotted a BA flight touching down, which had Tom, and my mate Olly and his girlfriend on it. The ever useful mobile phone and SMS service meant that we were able to meet them as they walked into the arrivals hall, with no problems. Those mobile phones were to prove invaluable throughout the next 2 days, as trying to stay with one person, let alone five, was one of the harder challenges.

Everyone tells you that the Frankfurt show is huge. They are right. It is far larger than any other show I’ve visited, and that includes Detroit, Geneva and the NEC. Far from worrying about whether we would have enough to see and do in 2 days, we left having felt that we had just scratched the surface of what is there. Oh, and knowing that we had walked many miles! As well as 10 exhibition halls, laid out in the Messe campus along more or less a straight line that is as long as small town, there are outdoor display areas, an off-road course (see pictures later), a karting track, a whole area set out to collect test cars, and loads of stalls mostly selling beer and sausages. On the Saturday, the event was packed out. Really packed out, so moving around was hard, seeing stuff was harder and getting into anything interesting was all but impossible. From about 5pm, the crowds did reduce, but it was still quite busy at 7pm when the show closed. Sunday was generally less busy, though the Italian hall was still bursting with people, and was unbelievably hot and sticky.

So, what did we see? Here follow a (very large) number of photos, and my impressions of just some of the displays. I’ve grouped things into categories as best I can. The over-riding theme of the show was definitely “green”. Except, “green” is “blue”, with Bluetec, Blue Motion and also sorts of other marketing hyperbole, mixed with some clever technology. Barely a manufacturer missed the opportunity to have some form of display of their “green” credentials. Even the train that took us back to the airport had jumped on this band-wagon, proclaiming that it “would make the world more beautiful” !!) and that its consumption was the equivalent of 2.8 litres/100 km. Stand by stand, then, here are some pictures and comments.


This was the first stand we visited, and was, unsurprisingly, one of the busiest. The largest crowds were around the new A4, of which there were 4 examples to see, one on a turntable and three that you could fight to get into. This has to be one of the most impressive new cars of the show. It really is little more than an A5 saloon, but the detailed design is very impressive, it’s beautifully finished, and looks, in my admittedly, slightly biased eyes, even better than the outgoing model

I’m still disappointed, though, that there is no new S4 yet, which means that my next car choice is far from certain. One thing it won’t be, sadly is the RS6, of which 2 Avant models were on show. This looks quite subtle in the flesh, and, again, beautifully finished. Waiting to see if the RS4 magic has transferred to this car, though is a little academic, as I know I cannot afford one.

It won’t be an R8, either, though like everyone else, I still think this looks like a cracking car, well worth the adulation of the press that it has recently received. A lone white R8 was so engulfed on the Saturday that we did not spot it at all, but on Sunday, it was much easier to get a close up view.

Plenty of other recent new Audis, including the new TT Roadster, and the face-lifted A8 range, along with the e Models and a 1.4 TFSI version of the A3 range were all drawing the crowds.


Probably the largest single stand area was allocated to VW. High up on the wall they had some acrobat, who indulged in some dizzy-making acts, trying to make the Tiguan underneath look interesting! The new Up! Concept Car was displayed on a turntable by itself and certainly looks better than the Fox, not that this is saying much.


This hall was absolutely packed. We struggled out, in the oppressive heat, but it proved quite difficult to get close to anything much. The plan had been to return on the Sunday, when it was less crowded, but sadly we never made it back there. The novelty here was the X6, which was officially billed as a Concept, but looked production ready.

Since I think there might be a risk that the forum has not seen enough of the new M3 yet, here is my picture of it:


There was a whole hall, on three levels, allocated to Daimler-Chrysler, with a convenient separation for the now divorced American Company. This area was packed out, and was the first place where we managed to lose each other. A full range of all Mercs was on display.

Most impressive, I think, was the C63 AMG
Also, several examples of the new C Class wagon, which looked to have a large, practical load space.

he F700 was a slightly odd looking vehicle, which we examined from a distance. Not sure the market is ready for anything that looks like this yet, but I am sure some of the clever technology in it will find its way into the cars we drive sooner rather than later:

At the end of the first day, as we were preparing to leave the show, I spotted a McLaren SLR parked up outside. When I got up close, I could see that there were also 5 Maybachs and a McLaren SLR Cabrio as well.


The Italian Cars

As reported from Press Days, this hall was the most crowded of all.


The new 500 was attracting the crowds. Big Time. And everyone I heard talking about it was unanimous in their approbation. I have to say that this is my “Car of the Year”. The interior is actually very nicely done, using modern materials that are redolent of the ivory bakelite of the 50s, but brought up to date. The car just looks “right”. Fiat had built a huge 500, several times real size, and we discovered that this was actually a “garage” and several different 500s were resting in there, to be brought out to vary the displays.

In addition to the 500, Fiat had the “greenest” car of the show, the special Panda that only generates 69g CO2.

As well as a rather nice orange Punto, the new Linea was on display, tucked into a separate area. Considering this car is really an elongated Punto, you’d never guess from the looks outside or inside. Some of the interior quality was a bit patchy, but on the whole this looked an interesting prospect for rental car fleets in the south eastern Med and eastern Europe, its target markets.


Star here, of course is the 8C. Probably the winner of the “most beautiful” new car award. Just stunning. Let the pictures speak for themselves.

No pictures, but we did sample the 159s and the duck-egg blue GT. Consensus view is that Alfa still do the very nicest of leather seats, and even the less Alfa-isti of our group found many nice things to say about these cars. Shame that the under-bonnet view is now a large plastic cover, rather than the chrome induction pipes that used to grace my 156 and 164!


Huge crowds thronging around this stand all day. Cars of interest were the F430 Scuderia, of course, and the still gorgeous 599GTB in an unsual shade of grey.


Pride of place went, not surprisingly, to the GranTurismo

A couple of racers were on display, too. Fangio’s 250F from 1957 seems to have eluded my camera, but the other non-road car was not so evasive.


Tucked away at the bottom of the Italian hall was Hyundai, with a large stand, showing the disparate model range that they now offer, and making much of their sponssorship of next year’s Euro 2008 competition. Most interesting car was their concept offering:

Back in the real world, the Captain felt the need to see if the new i30 Wagon would be a possible replacement for his trusty Focus. Verdict from all of us is that the i30 is perfectly adequate and inoffensive, if not at all exciting, but shows the huge progress, especially in interior design that has come from Korea even in the last few years.


This was the first stand we came to in the hall with some of the smaller manufacturers. Pride of place went to the new Lancer, with yet another showing of a “concept” Evo X.

Rallying heritage was evidenced with a 30 year old Lancer on display, to show that the Evo Minus 5 or so, was actually a formidable competitor in its day, in the mid 70s:


Lots of nice cars on this stand, and a really gruesome Cayenne, that I just could not bring myself to picture. Best of all was the 911 GT2, I think:


A stand with three cars on it, all in black. 2 Phantoms, and the new Drophead:


This was one of those stands with restricted access. We were unsure what you needed to do to blag your way on and decided not to bother. We could see the desirable cars with the undesirable side stickers on them from the outside of the stand.


A large stand, which was one of many where the human interest was perhaps prettier than some of the cars. And if you wanted to sit in any of the cars, you did not even need to start the chat up conversation………. as young Tom (and Andy) demonstrated! Big play was being made of their hybrid and alternative technology cars, including the well known Insight and Civic IMA, as well as the hydrogen powered FCX Clarity.

More immediate was the concept for the 2008 model Accord Tourer, which looked good, though this is another car that has grown in size and is now definitely up there with Volvos rather than in the true mid-size of its origins.

Some rather nice reminders of Honda’s racing heritage completed the display.


Full marks to Ford for the “bar”, which was dispensing very welcome complimentary cups of coffee and glasses of water. The cars were pretty nice, too.

Let’s start with the most promising – the Verve. With minor changes, this could really be the new Fiesta, and if it is, then it may have the same impact as the first Focus. Very nicely presented, and a bold shake up of super-mini styling.

There was only one example of the face-lifted Focus.on a turntable and an ECO version. All the other Foci on show were the outgoing model. My opinion – and I know we have debated this already – is that the new front looks good. Surprised to see that just about panel has been changed, but you need to study the car in detail to realise this.

And there was the Kuga. A lone example on a turntable. This impressed me far more in reality than it had done in the pictures. It came across as a neatly styled, well executed small(ish) SUV, and I look forward to testing one as soon as they hit the rental fleets, as they surely will! Far more interesting to look at than the Tiguan.

Several new Mondeos featured, including a couple of Ghias, with that disgusting-looking fake wood trim that really is tasteless, and at least one which looked it needed wheels a good 3″ bigger than they were. Still a nice car, though, and the quality impression is much greater than in the new Laguna.

The highlight, of course, is the new DBS, which I thought looked stunning, in silver.

Big stand for this fast-improving Japanese brand, with pride of place going to the new Mazda 6. The outgoing model was always let down by the cheap feeling interior, but this one looked and felt orders of magnitude better (take note, Freres Renault!!). Nice looking car.

There was a 3 MPS on display, but as we had our fill of this a few weeks ago, courtesy of the now-banished Ben, I did not spend time on this one, and looked instead at the new Mazda 2, which looks good, though not quite such a quality product inside as its bigger brother.


Lots of new cars on this stand, but overall, I have to admit to much disappointment. The new Laguna was the prime culprit. The hatch looks OK, but a bit bland, but the estate, wagon, sport tourer or whatever they call is, is just awkward looking at the back. Inside, there is an illusion of quality, with soft touch plastics, but poking around it a bit more revealed that this is more illusory than reality. The gearchange had a long throw and felt vague. I’ll be interested to drive one, but it came way behind the Mondeo and Mazda 6 in static mode.

The new Laguna Coupe Concept, however, struck me as stunning. I am sure the production version will be toned down more than somewhat, but if the basic styling survives, this car will make the 407 Coupe look even worse than it already does.

Then there was the new Kangoo. Announced with little fuss, this one is based on the Megane, and offers derivative styling over the old model. I know its intended as a cheap utility car so perhaps that excuses the cheap feel to the inside.

There was a cut down to size smaller Kangoo Concept, which just looked, well a bit odd.

The joint venture with Samsung will yield the Koleos SUV, which was shown in Concept form again, like it was at Geneva.

Then there was the Clio Estate. Again, not a looker. For small estates, the Fabia has this and the hideous 207 well beaten.

Having poked around all the sport models at Donington the weekend before, I did not spend much time on them here, but the display was nice.


One for the “why did they bother” category was the facelift to the Micra.

It would seem that at least some European markets are now going to get a more conventional hatch to replace the Almera, in the shape of the Tiida. This car – with an awkward to pronounce name – is not new. Indeed, I would have thought that it is probably only a year or so from being replaced. We were spared the gawky three-box version, at least from the show stand.

The new X-Trail is apparently all new, even if it does not look it.

The Mixim was certainly something very new. The accompanying young lady was doing her best to look interested, too.


Suzuki were making a Splash with their new Splash. Seems like a huge improvement over the execrable Wagon R+ and Agila, but then almost anything was going to achieve that (though we did discover one manufacturer who would stand no chance, but that’s for later).

Rather more striking was the Kishazi concept car. Will this be produced in this form? and if it is, would people buy it with a Suzuki badge on it? Probably the answer to both is “no”, but it was certainly an arresting sight.


Lots of cars, most of which look the same. Lots of girls, most of whom did not look the same. I have to admit that I was lured into sitting in a Toledo, because the young lady asked me so nicely. And inside, it’s not that bad! Only newcomer was the concept Tribu, which, it is said presages the next set of Seat styling cues. Oh good!


Another stand with huge crowds to penetrate if you wanted to see the cars. And most people, did, especially the Reventon. Very derivative styling, meaning it took a second glance to work out that this was indeed a totally different model, but as you look at it in detail, you realise it really is.


Our efforts to get on the stand at one minute to 7pm were thwarted, with a polite, but firm “we are closed”, so we decided to make an early start on this one, and try again. Access was strictly controlled, with just a few people on the stand at a time, but a 20 minute wait was rewarded with the opportunity to sit in all the cars. I was particularly keen to see the new XF. In the flesh this looks better than I had thought, and far less Lexus like. The inside is well done, too.

After trying this, it seemed like a great opportunity to see what G has to put up with, so we decamped to the XJ. It might be decried as being old fashioned, but the traditional charm and elegance of the interior is still very appealing. Still not convinced about the rather gauche facelift, but otherwise, this is still a very nice motor car indeed!


2 concept cars on display here, the C-Airscape, which is said to be very close to the new C5 saloon, and the rather off C-Cactus. Form your own conclusions!


>My general dislike for the current Peugeot range is well documented. And I saw nothing here to persuade me to change my mind! Not even the 908, sadly:

The 308 was prominent on the stand, of course, with many examples of the production hatch on display, an early preview of the SW, badged “Prologue” , and the rather better looking RC-Z. The interior, while still looking like a Peugeot has indeed advanced a long way in quality terms, but the styling, sadly, has not.

The 207 Wagon won’t win any points for beauty. either, and it really does look like a scaled down 407.

Not an official offering, but on the Heuliez stand was a 4 door convertible 407. I thought this looked quite reasonable. The removal of the roof seems to help to balance out the proportions. What the body rigidity is like remains an interesting question.


Nothing much new on the Toyota stand, apart from their sub-Aygo car, the iQ.


Another debut here, that practically no-one noticed. The new Justy. Yes, it is the same as a Sirion, but with 4WD.

Several examples of the new Impreza, too. This was the only one that looked even vaguely interesting.


This stand had a mix of the former Daewoo products and some more American sourced stuff. First up, the replacement for the Kalos, now called Aveo.

The three concept cars shown in the US earlier in the year were there, too, supposedly to test market reaction, and I guess perhaps as a potential replacement for the Matiz.

A couple of more interesting concepts were the Camaro Convertible, and the Chevy Volt

And finally, one of the less likely contenders to be transformed from “Reasonably Priced car” into something more worthy of a track……..


Two new offerings here: the new CTS, which has had very good write ups from the US press; and the BLS Wagon. Both are still very American, which is probably the reason why they have sold so few in Europe.


A large stand for the ever improving Kia range to be displayed. Production newcomer was the Pro-Cee’d, which manifest itself as a perfectly worthy 3 door hatchback.

More interesting was the concept coupe, the Kee, which would have been striking even were it not finished in such a conspicuous colour scheme.


Oh dear! Sadly, it is claimed that the unfortunate styling of these vehicles is actually deliberate. I am sure that the poor quality interiors, with dreadful gearchanges are not intended, but all the models we sat in seemed so afflicted. There was a new luxury saloon, which is presumably intended for the far eastern market. Given western market reluctance to spend money on something this large with a VW badge on it, I cannot imagine that Ssangyong would sell any of these:


Continuing their reputation for a bewildering array of micro cars, there was a display of the new Cuore, the Copen, the Terios and the hideous Materia, as well as a couple of new concept cars.

The Chinese


A big presence from this make. Almost all of the cars were locked, which may indicate that they did not want too much scrutiny, however, the BS6 was open, and I was able to sit in it. My impression was that this was where the Koreans were a few years ago, and I am sure that the Chinese will be catching up quickly. The BS3 (Coupe) even looks quite reasonable.


Rather more shoddily built, but with very low price tags on them, we came across these:

this was memorably called the “Martin Motors CEO”.
AND FINALLY………. The “OMG”……. aka LADA

It’s been several years since I have seen inside a Lada. If anything, things have regressed. There was a “Global Premier”, for the newly facelifted version of the slab-sided 110/111/112 range. This one was locked so we could not see inside it.

We were able to sit in the Kalina hatch, though, and were just appalled at the nasty plastic trim, by some margin the worst on show, the poor quality seat trim, and the shoddy finish. This car really seemed so bad in comparison to anything else we saw, that we did feel sorry for the people charged with the task of selling them.


An elaborate course had been set up outside, where a whole array of 4WDs were being demonstrated. There were 2 separate courses, one with steeper inclines than the other, and there was one special bit only for the Hummers. Notable that Land Rover did not appear to be participating, but everyone else, including some surprising soft-roaders such as the XC70 and the Altea Freetrack was there. Sadly the queues to sign up for a ride on this were rather long, so we had to forego the experience.

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