Canary Wharf Show – June 2014

Although there is a huge interest in car events across the UK, for some reason, the concept of a National Motor Show has failed and no such thing has been held in the country for some years now. That means that if people want to be able to see a range of new cars, they have to go to a regional or local event, and there are a number of these held during the year. One of the better known and more prestigious is the MotorExpo which takes place at London’s Canary Wharf in mid June and is now in its 19th year . Following the completion of a massive program of development, this is now a thriving and busy area, with a lot of office workers, many of whom are employed in the financial sector and more than a few of whom have significant disposable income once their bonuses have been paid, so putting an array of tantalising new metal right on their doorstep would seem like a good way to getting your product in front of potential customers. Even better, it is all free to attend, with cars on display in and around the Canary Wharf tube station. I  timed my visit with what should have been the end of lunchtime, and the event was absolutely packed out. After 2pm, things did get a lot quieter and I was able to have a better look at the cars on show, take some photos and chat to some of the stand staff. This is what I saw:


Two cars here, which were generating lots of interest: a V12 Vantage S and a Vanquish Volante. The former appealed a lot, the latter appears too brash in the detailing for my tastes.

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Sole Bentley in the show was the Continental GT V8S, a new version, I think, of a car that you see pretty often in London. Bright yellow is a little conspicuous, but in all other respects this is an impressive car that doubtless goes and sounds well. There were some more models out on the street for test drives.

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The BMW display was probably the most interesting of the lot, with three cars making their UK debut. Pride of place went to the very striking i8 supercar. This is an amazing looking machine, striking, to my eyes at least, the right balance between futuristic styling without being too radical to frighten people off. I do wonder about the scissor style doors, though. All very well until you are in a multi-storey car park or some other place with limited height, and I suspect you will struggle (though less than in a Mercedes SLS AMG, of course). The first customer cars are due in the UK in a matter of weeks, but if you were to order one now, I learned that it would be at least 18 months before you could expect to take delivery.

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You will wait far less time to get your hands on the new M3 and M4, right hand drive examples of both of which were on display. The M4 had a manual box, whereas the M3 was an automatic, which seemed to have the same idiotic lack of Park on the gearlever as the M5 I recently drove. The stand staff shrugged their shoulders, suggesting that this is really not an issue, and whilst I agree that once you are used to the extra complexity, it seems that BMW’s logic is flawed in thinking that this is a better way to do things. That apart, and the rather ambitious price tags on both cars, they did impress.

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I was not so taken by the latest X5, which I think is bulky and brasher than its predecessor. According to the BMW chappie I spoke to, I am the only person who has ever ventured this opinion, which I simply don’t believe. When he then looked to one side and castigated the Jaguars as being ugly (he pointed at the F Type), I did wonder if his loyalty had gone a little too far in defending his product!

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There were 2 road cars on show, but it was the Red Bull F1 car that was attracting all the attention.

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Infiniti’s best seller in the UK – and “best” is a relative term, as absolute volumes remain pitiful – is the recently renamed QX70, formerly known as the FX30d, FX37 and FX50. These cars are good to drive in America, but are too big, and have too few dealers in the UK to make them a compelling proposition compared to a raft of rivals.

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Those problems beset the Q50, too, which slipped onto the market earlier in this year, almost unheralded. It got some very luke warn reviews from the press at the time, and I cannot recall seeing a single one out on the road. It’s such a shame, as its predecessor. the G37, was an excellent car, albeit one that with a potent but thirsty petrol engine was never going to sell beyond penny numbers in Europe. This one looks worse, and is apparently hugely more costly to run than the equivalent 3 series or C Class.


Jaguar had a big presence at the event. There were two trios of F Type Coupe models lined up on the Jubilee Concourse at the entrance to Canary Wharf tube station.

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Inside the lobby area was another F Type Coupe.

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And then they had a display of current cars, which included F Type Coupe and Convertible, the newly launched XFR-S Sport Brake, an XF Saloon and an XJR. I had a long chat with one of the stand guys, who was from Jaguar UK, and he said that there is huge confidence permeating the company at present. And deservedly so, too. These cars are all very impressive to look at, to sit in, and the ones I have driven have all been excellent. I told him I was looking forward to the XE and the forthcoming production version of the Crossover that was such a stunning looking concept, and he said that from what he knows, I was unlikely to be disappointed. I hope he is right!

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There were a number of Land Rover models scattered around the event, too, including some tuned/customised versions from Kahn and Overfinch.

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Centrepiece of the Lexus display was an LF-A, and this was attracting a lot of interest. It may have been a bit of an own goal, as everyone seemed to be completely ignoring everything else that was on show. Several people asked if they could buy one, and I was dismayed to hear the stand lady tell them that the car is now worth “millions”. Whilst I am sure you would need a six figure sum to get your hands on one, they are not (yet, or likely) anything like as valuable as she was trying to suggest with her ill-informed comment.

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As to the rest of what was on show, well, no-one seemed at all interested in the GS300h, a cheaper Hybrid of the car that was supposedly going to take share from the Germans and which has sold as poorly as its predecessor, and the CT was also being ignored. A few people poked around the RX450h and I saw a couple looking at the IS300h., but this one has also failed to generate any more interest than its predecessor. Indeed, in Germany, in April, more Ferrari F12s were sold than Lexus IS models!

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Three Lotus cars on show: an Elise, an Evora and new for this event, the limited edition Exige 81S, a car named after the 81 Grand Prix won by the Lotus F1 team over the years, just 81 of which will be produced.

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Although there was a GranCabrio on show, the focus was very much on the saloon models which will deliver almost all the sales for the next couple of years. Quattroporte and Ghibli are quite hard to tell apart from some angles, though the extra side window of the bigger car does mean that if you see them side on, you can identify the model quite easily. I still prefer the styling of the old Quattroporte, but these are elegant cars, with lovely interiors and when you hear them fired up, they sound well. One of these days I will get behind the wheel of a Ghibli to find out how it drives.

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An orange 650S was attracting lots of attention and interest, and McLaren were kindly letting people sit in it so they could get the feeling of what it is like from the interior. I have to say that is is very impressive. I always liked the 12C version, but this one looks even better. I’d probably take one over a Ferrari 458 Italia, if I had the money (I’ve not!).

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No official presence from Mercedes this time, but there were a couple of used C63s that a dealer had, up for sale.

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The two most recent designs were on show, a Paceman and the third generation 3 door hatch. Neither of these are what you would call pretty, or cheap. The third generation car, whilst just as space inefficient inside as its predecessors does at least now have a much better dash layout with instruments in front of the driver that you can actually read.

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The target customer set for Porsche doubtless work in the vicinity, so you could reasonably expect a strong showing from Porsche. Surprisingly, there was no Macan, or even a Cayenne, on show. Displayed were the latest Panamera eHybrid, a 911 Carrera 4 Cabrio and the Boxster and Cayman, the latter in newly released GTS format.

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On show indoors were a Wraith and a Ghost, and both were attracting lots of interest. The Wraith looks good in lighter colours, despite being a big and heavy design. A second example was parked up outside ready for demo drives.

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The Model S is about to go on sale in the UK, and the two stand cars were almost being mobbed all the time I was there. There were a couple of cars plated up for test drives, as well.

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A nice display of current Volvos, with several of the V40 joined by the facelifted S60 and a V60 Plug-in Hybrid as well as an XC60 and XC70. Making its UK debut was the limited edition V60 PoleStar, a 350 bhp car only 125 of which will be available in the UK.  Volvo have a range of good looking cars, with some lovely interiors. The latest engines are said to be very impressive indeed, so there is hope that the sole remaining Swedish manufacturer can continue to survive and prosper.

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Although I was entertained for a while looking at the cars on show, I thought this was a pretty poor event. Every year for the past few there has been less and less to see, with fewer manufacturers or dealers present, and this year was the weakest by some margin. In previous years the cars were spread about more locations, but this time they were all either in the lobby area of One Canada Square or the Canada Square Park outside, and that was it.  There were none of the special displays of classic cars that once sat in the lobby of another of the large buildings. On the evidence of the 2014 display, I’d say that this is an event that is worth visiting if you are in the area, but not to make much of a special journey to see.

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