On every recent trip to Paris, I have managed to fit in a visit to the car showrooms of the Champs-Élysées, and whilst it is true that all of them are rather hoping that at least a few of the visitors might just want to buy a car, the six showrooms have far more to offer, with a rather good brasserie in the Atelier Renault and plenty of branded merchandise, ranging from models to books and clothing on offer at all of them. They are clearly a popular attraction, with crowds of people thronging through the doors of each of them. The average stay is probably not long, but it is clear that those out to browse the shops that line both sides of this famous Parisian boulevard relish the opportunity to see the latest products not just of France’s three domestic brands, but three others as well. Here is what was on show during my visit in February 2014.
Citroen recently opened a second showroom in the vicinity, called DS World, but sadly it is not open on Sundays. This meant that there was only one Citroen facility to look at, the striking C42 building which is right by the Metro spot from which I emerged onto the Champs-Élysées, and hence the first showroom I visited. C42 is a glass fronted building, so there is plenty of light, especially on what started out as a bright and sunny February morning. The cars on show can be seen in a sort of “tower”, with a display turntable both on and between each floor, with a single car positioned on each. Those who ascend by the stairs rather than the lift get an excellent view of each exhibit, and can go up close to those cars at each full floor increment. There was no particular theme for the cars on show, with a spread between some current production cars, and an array of machines from Citroen’s “Conservatoire” collection.
The ground floor exhibit was the Survolt, an all-electric concept car that was first shown at the Geneva Show in 2010.
In the basement, Citroen’s WRC winning DS3 was on display.
Up a floor and it was the marque’s second production model, the 1922 Type B2, with Torpedo body, that was on display.
Production cars available for closer examination were the recently launched C4 Grand Picasso and the DS5.
Final display cars were DS based, with an 1961 road car joined by the prototype V6 model that was developed for potential rally use.
What had once been a showroom solely for Abarth and Maserati appeared to have been rebranded, and now contains cars and merchandise from various brands from within the Group. The site’s footprint is small, on a corner of a road at the bottom of the Champs-Élysées, and some of the cars were presented inside a glass case. the reflections from which made photography a challenge.
The Fiat 595 Abarth 50th Anniversary, one of 200 such cars to be produced, was on display in the basement, where the lighting made the matt white paint look more like the Funk White of the regular 500/595 cars.
Lone Lancia on show was an Ypsilon.
A Jeep Grand Cherokee was also imprisoned in one of the display cages, but on the top storey, I came across this Alfa 4C Competizione, unprotected from additional glass casing.
This showroom is usually the most challenging for the photographer, as it has tended to be rather low on light. Not this time, with lots of bright yellow coloured backgrounds around the various display cars. The first car to be seen was an example of the legendary 300SL
Heading further back into the showroom, and the latest small saloon, the CLA was attracting modest attention.
Most people were more interested in the three vehicles which lay behind it, of which the “Pagoda” 230SL was probably my favourite.
The long-lived G Class is on my “guilty pleasures” list, though you would need a very deep pocket indeed to buy and run an AMG G55 like this.
Tucked away at the very back was an SLS AMG, still an elegant looking Grand Tourer to my mind.
The Peugeot showroom is smaller than that of its French rivals, which could be why it always seems to be far busier than the others. This did make it quite challenging for the photographer! The brand new, and well received RCZ R was at the front, to the left of the door, though surprisingly it was not attracting all the attention.
More interest seemed to be generated by this, the 404 Diesel Record Car.
This 207 based Fire Tender concept was certainly novel.
The most interesting cars in the Atelier Renault were the two that you could see from the street, and both of them were cars I had seen here before. To the left was the Renault-engined Red Bull RB8 Formula 1 car, and to the right, the incredible “Étoile Filante”, a purpose-designed fibreglass bodied machine aimed at record breaking efforts. 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.
Some of the latest road cars comprised the rest of the display, with the newly facelifted Megane joined by the latest Clio, the Captur and the Zoe and Twizy.
Theme in the Toyota showroom was around Hybrid drive, with examples of all of the current models on show, including a number of sectioned vehicles to show more about how the technology works.
Most intriguing was the ABAT concept truck which had pride of position by the front door.
Tucked away at the back of the ground floor display was Toyota’s le Mans entrant.
As ever, the tour of these showrooms occupied an absorbing couple of hours before I headed back to the Place de la Concorde and to some of the other Parisian landmarks. A fitting finale to an excellent weekend in the city.