Showrooms of the Champs-Élysées – February 2013

Although I spent one entire day enjoying the 2013 Retromobile, a late flight back to London meant that I had all of Sunday to find other things to divert me in Paris. The forecast suggested that there would be flurries of snow on and off all day, and that temperatures would struggle to get more than a degree or so above freezing, so I decided that plenty of indoor time was the order of the day. I headed for the centre of the city, with a plan for the morning which entailed a leisurely stroll down the Champs-Élysées, stopping off at the 5 car showrooms that I had enjoyed seeing on previous visits. Judging by the numbers of people who surged in (and out) of most of them, I was far from alone in coming up with such a plan, but when you read on and discover what I saw, it is perhaps not that hard to see why this is quite such a popular Sunday morning activity.

Even before I reached the first haven of warmth, I had seen all sorts of interesting machines heading up or down the wide boulevard – ranging from a duo of Ferrari 458s, to a Porsche 928,  a couple of Gallardo, a Rolls-Royce Phantom (gosh, is that quiet!), a cheeky little Autobianchi Bianchina and then I spotted this, parked up at the side of the road.



Walking up from the Place de la Concorde, the Renault showroom was the first one to which I came. I had read that major reconstruction work had been undertaken in 2011, but the place did not look that different to me, although I think there is a new front to the building ! A new display is created every couple of months or so. The one running currently is called “No Limits” and it is a very colourful sight to behold.

Unsurprisingly the new Clio makes its appearance here. This was the first one I had seen in the metal, though I did spy just 2 more out on the roads over the weekend. First observation is that with yet another increase in size over the outgoing car, this truly is no longer even close to being a “small car”. The thing is big in every dimension. I know the press raved about the interior, but I did not like it. Not only is it stylised, but the plastics are unpleasant to look at and pretty horrid to touch. Although sales are reasonable in France, it is being beaten by the 208, so I do have to wonder if this really is the Rescue Mission that Renault so desperately need.


The Zoe certainly won’t be that car, though it is actually quite neatly presented outside, even if the inside also sports the same horrid quality plastics.


I did not see a single Twizy on the road over my weekend visit, but there were a couple of them on show here.


The latest Megane RenaultSport RS265 was on show


Pride of place went to this 1956 Etoile Filant (Shooting Star), which is powered by a helicopter turbine generating 270 bhp. It was taken to the Bonneville Salt Flats and achieved 306 km/h over a 5 km distance, an impressive performance indeed.


Also impressive has to be this car, the 1978 Alpine A442B in which Renault won the 1978 Le Mans, the first turbo car to do so.


This replica of the 1925 Type NM 40CV is a most incredible looking device. It achieved 250 km/h at Montlhery. Given the marginal visibility and rather weak brakes the driver must have stocked up on brave pills before getting behind the wheel!


The same could be said of this 1902 Type K, which was used for the 4 day Paris-Vienna race, which it won at an average speed of 62 km/h, beating far larger machines thanks to its light weight.


Bringing things right up to date was a reminder of Renault’s contribution to modern day Formula 1.



The Citroen facility beats the others easily for impact, as it constitutes a series of turntables places above each other stretching from basement to the fifth floor of a glass fronted building.  Unfortunately, the current display concentrates on the 2013 product range so the interest level falls off rather quickly. That said, the basement car was the WRC DS3, and this was attracting a lot of interest.


The ground floor saw the DS4 Racing Concept staging another appearance. Citroen need this car to lift interest in the regular DS4s which have achieved nothing like the level of approbation of the smaller DS3 cars.


Going up the building, there were familiar models, and one that at least to date has not made it to the UK, the C Air Cross, Citroen’s adaptation of the Mitsubishi ASX.




Peugeot has the smallest showroom so it is usually the least interesting place to visit, and that was especially so this time, with just 4 examples of some wackily named limited edition of the ungainly 3008 on show. No pictures as it was that dull!


Things were rather better at Mercedes, even though the lighting remains a challenge for the photographer. Two SLS are always a good start.


Even better news, though, was that there was a CIII to stare at.


Tucked away at the back was a 300SL Gullwing. Proof that they weren’t actually all at Retromobile, even though I had wondered!



Perhaps the greatest surprise awaited me chez Toyota. On previous visits, their displays have always concentrated on technology, with exhibits to show how their Hybrid system works. Sure enough, upstairs there was both a cut away and a complete version of the new Auris. This was the first one I had seen to sit in, and I really did not think the trenchant press criticism of the dash is warranted, as what I saw was quite neatly presented and far lee gawky than the over-stylised mess of the last model. I suspect the car will be very Toyota-esque to drive, so pretty anodyne, but it looks neat enough if not exactly distinctive.


Rather better to drive, of course is the GT86 and there was one of these on show as well.


Final car in the technology section was the leMans entrant from 2012.


It was downstairs where I found lots to interest me. The display here was in celebration of Toyota’s 75th anniversary, and it combined some familiar models such as the first generation Celica and the Corona 1500 with the Sprinter version of an early Corolla with the diminutive 800 Sports and the best Toyota ever, the lovely 2000GT. Fabulous!








Final stopping point as at the Maserati showroom, just off the Champs Élysées. The omens were good when I spotted an Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari parked up outside.

Inside there were lots of nice cars. Best of all was this fabulous Ghibli. Shame it was in a glass case, so reflections meant getting decent photos were hard.


There was a first generation Quattroporte that was equally protected a couple of floors down, too.

This Khamsin was not hidden behind glass, but it was tucked in a rather dark corner, sadly.


There was a rare 3500GT Convertible, too. Very nice.


The current range was well represented by a Gran Turismo and Gran Cabrio, as a well as a reminder that these cars do take the tracks.


Tucked away in the corner of the basement was an Abarth 695 Edizione Maserati, the first one I have ever since in he metal. The burgundy paint would appear quite a bit darker than I was expecting. This car has the same “flappy paddle” gearbox as featured in the Ferrari version, but is very nicely trimmed and does of course sport the convertible roof. I look forward to seeing a few of these out on the road.


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