Canary Wharf Show – June 2013

Having attended the Gloucestershire MotorShow on the Saturday, you may well wonder why I felt the need to go to another UK show just 48 hours later, namely the so-called MotorExpo, taking place at Canary Wharf in London. Well apart from my seemingly insatiable appetite for things automotive, there turned out to be another good reason, in that the event in Gloucester was focused on the mainstream brands, whereas the Canary Wharf event, in keeping with its location and potential target client set, was more focused on the premium brands, so with the exception of a couple of marques, there was actually almost no overlap at all, and the combination of the two amounted almost to a “complete” UK Motor Show, something which does not now happen in the UK in its own right. The Canary Wharf event has been running for several years now, and has had to adapt to fit the available display space in the area, with cars spread between a couple of open squares and the foyer of the One Canary Wharf building. I managed to pop along for a couple of hours one afternoon, neatly missing the lunchtime crowds, and was delighted to find that almost everything on show was either making its UK debut or a very recently launched product.


Although the body style have not changed much in the past couple of years, Aston assert that so many changes have been made under the skin that the current cars are effectively new models. When they look as good as this duo of Vanquish and DB9, why change the styling anyway?

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UK premiere for the SQ5. The performance numbers for this Biturbo diesel model are very impressive, and I can see this model proving very popular. It was joined by a Q3 model.

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The Continental Speed had a prominent place inside One Canary Wharf.

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Perfect timing to highlight the launch of the 3 series GT, which officially goes on sale on 12th June. The sales lady I spoke to volunteered the fact that the 5 GT has not sold well, as it is ugly – which is probably true, but was almost unnecessarily blunt – but she thinks that the 3 GT is “much better”. Looking at the over-stylised rear light clusters and the pointless false vents on the front wings, I’m not convinced that this will go down in history as one of BMW’s more beautiful designs, either!

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Of the current crop of BMW, there is one which is supremely elegant, and it was on the other side of the stand. Take a bow, the M6 Gran Coupe. It is also fearsomely expensive, of course, with a prospective buyer unlikely to see any change out of £100,000 once the car is optioned up and on the road. Still nice, though.

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A bargain by anyone’s definition is the third car on show, the M135i.

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In a separate display in Cabot Square were the 3.0d version of the X3 and the 125d M Sport.

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There were two examples of the utterly bonkers Wildcats on show, one of which proved impossible to photograph, thanks to light streaming in. Here is the other one.

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Although it is still some months before its UK on sale date, there was an example of the new Q50, the sports sedan that replaces the G37, and which Infiniti hope will sell in far greater quantities in Europe than the outgoing car. I’ve always liked the G37, and the couple I have driven have further endeared them to me, but I cannot get on with the looks of the latest model. Help could be at hand, though, as one of the biggest rivals was also on show, and it looks even worse.

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The current range were also represented.

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No prizes for guessing the most popular car of the entire event. Yes, the stunning new F Type was much in demand, and Jaguar must have guessed  it would be, as they had 2 of them on display. I can see this car being particularly popular with many of those who work in the Canary Wharf area (and plenty more people besides).

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Also on display were the XFR-S, the XKR-S, the new XJR and an example of the Sport Break XF.

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Sole exhibit was the facelifted Grand Cherokee. The salesman with it had clearly his entire speech and wanted to practice it on me, so he pointed out the new front end styling, the 8 speed gearbox, the much improved interior (and it is, finally looking like the luxury-ish SUV that Jeep always wanted the Grand Cherokee to perceived to be), as well as the practical features that make it still a Jeep.

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UK premiere for the pro_Cee’d GT, which will be going on sale in the UK later in the summer. This is not going to be the hottest hatch on the market, with around 200 bhp, but its restrained styling enhancements, and all the benefits of Kia ownership could make this quite an attractive proposition for those who want something a little more measured than a Focus ST or a Megane. A 5 door model will follow.

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There were examples of the rest of the range, as well.

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No outdoor display or “off-road” course this year, just space for 2 models parked up inside. Both were the imminently available new Range-Rover Sport, and unsurprisingly, both were attracting plenty of attention. I have to say that this is an impressive vehicle, whose biggest drawback may well turn out to be the stereotyped image of the owners!

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Despite its long running production life, the Gallardo is still a crowd puller, and it was notable that this car seemed to attract more attention and more photos than either the Ferrari or the McLarens that were near to it.

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Here, in pride of place in the Lexus area, was that rival to the Infiniti. The all new IS. It goes on sale on 12th July, so we are going to have to get to used to its awkward and gawky looks. Well, that will be if they manage to sell more than the handful that constitutes the sales achievement of the outgoing model. Interestingly, the only thing that the sales staff appeared to be emphasising the low CO2 rating, and absolutely nothing else. If this model is as anodyne to drive as its predecessor – and the really reports suggests that it might be a bit less unmemorable – then it will hardly register a murmur on the sales success of the 3 Series, C Class and A4. I know that I could not bear to open the curtains in a  morning and have to look at something so visually unpleasant, so it is most definitely not the car for me.

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There were examples of some of the rest of the Lexus range, providing a reminder of what they look like. The new GS, in particular, a year on from launch would seem to have sold as well, or rather badly, as its predecessor.

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A trio of Lotus on show, with Elise, Exige V6 and the Evora Sport Racer all reminding us that despite the rather parlous state of the company, they can still engineer some very impressive driver’s machines. Let’s hope that they find a more stable future and can grow and prosper once again.

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Following the launch of the Spider, both models are simply known as 12C, making the name less of a mouthful than before.

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Almost everything on display here was new. Pride of place went to the recently unveiled W222 version of the S Class. The interior is very nice indeed, but the external styling does not work for me, with the droopy rear looking particularly unfortunate.

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Mind you, that’s nothing compared to the CLA which I really think looks terrible. With its awkward rear access and limited space inside, this is definitely a 4 door 2 seater, and the prices are nowhere near the bargain levels that the press so confidently predicted a few months back, starting at a few pounds under £25,000 for a rather weedy petrol engined CLA 180 and quickly clearing £30k for the more powerful CLA220 CDI and better trim. The sales staff tried to tell me that absolutely everyone just loved it, which frankly I do not believe.

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The gargantuan new GL has just gone on sale in the UK. I did like the old model, but in America, where its size is nothing like the issue that it would be here. Again, the sales lady I spoke to tried to deny it, and she asserted that it is just the sort of car that “lots of people” want and need. Hmm! I don’t even think the new look is an improvement, either.

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The more I see them, the more I conclude that  this observation applies to the facelifted E Class, too. The rear light clusters on the saloon are particularly bland. On show here was an estate and a coupe

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There were a couple of longer running cars, as well, an SLK and a C Class saloon, as well as the A Class in rather brash AMG Sport trim.

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There was not space for an example of all the different models in the MINI range, so only a subset could be shown, with some of the more recent additions to the line-up getting priority. The sales man I spoke to told me that the JCW GP has sold out, but they are trying to get a larger allocation for the UK, and then went on to say that it really is intended as a track car for occasional road use and not the other way round. Viewed in these terms, it makes a lot of sense.

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Four Porsche in total were on show, but in the main thoroughfare of One Canary Wharf and so hard to get close to, let alone to photograph.

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Occupying a display space inside the One Canary Wharf building was this RXC, the latest Radical road legal track car.

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There were five and SC three door versions of the new Leon on show, as well as the latest Ibiza. After struggling to define their identity in recent years, these sharp looking machines deserve to do well, offering almost everything that you get in the equivalent VW, but for a lot less money.

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The Mii was on show in Cabot Square.

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My first sighting of the facelifted Superb, and I have to say that I think Skoda have done a great job here, getting rid of the slightly awkward detailing.

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The new Octavia was also on show, in hatchback and Estate models. A careful evolution from the familiar second generation car, this looks good, too.

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Tucked away on the edge of Cabot Square was the Tesla display and a Model S, accompanied by a company representative who remembered me from Geneva. He said that they are hoping to get UK market right hand drive cars by late this year, though Tesla currently cannot build the model fast enough to meet demand, so this may slip. The car was attracting a lot of interest.

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Examples of the current range were all on show, and the observant will even spot the very subtle facelift that has been applied to most of them.

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This display proved a most interesting diversion for a good couple of hours. That it was free, and given the weather that followed during most of the rest of the week, that it was not raining was a double bonus!

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