This week in the Porte de Versailles in Paris, the world’s automakers unveiled their best new cars at the Paris Motor Show.
And there was plenty to see, especially for those dismayed by the ongoing diesel scandals and excited by the prospect of electrification. Jaguar showed the electric I-Pace SUV meant to capitalize on Tesla’s latest woes; Audi displayed the electric and track-ready eTron Concept and the eTron SUV; while Mercedes-Benz brought the gleaming electric EQ Silver Arrow Concept.
Plus, as China becomes an even bigger market for efficient cars, Renault rolled out several all-new electrics on its home turf, including the EZ-Ultimo and K-ZE, while Smart offered a tiny electric two-seater called the ForEase.
But no auto show is going fully electric, at least yet. Porsche debuted a new color (red) on the Speedster Concept that has been making the rounds this year and announced it’ll make 1,948 of them. BMW showed off a brawny new 8 Coupe, a svelte Z4, and the new 3-Series.
And Ferrari brought the two Monza race cars it hyped earlier this year – they provided some almost Old World-feeling sparkle to a show otherwise devoted to the future.
Here is the best of what we saw.
The Mercedes-Benz EQ Silver Arrow electric concept supercar pays homage to the record-breaking Mercedes W 125 racecar from 1937 and the latest in a line of extremely futuristic electric cars Mercedes has produced in recent years.
The EQ Silver Arrow has only one seat and a body style "intended for straight-line acceleration," said designer Gorden Wagener. Though it won't go into production, it will serve to influence forthcoming cars made by the Stuttgart-based brand.
Renault’s all-electric and autonomous EZ-Ultimo is meant to be offered as an on-demand service for private trips and premium ride-hailing offerings.
Designed for a luxurious ride, its interior is paneled with wood, which Renault says is a nod to traditional Parisian Haussmann-style apartments, while the worktops are marble and the bench seat and armchair are upholstered in leather.
Renault also unveiled its latest battery-powered car, the K-ZE. According to the French automaker, the affordable electric crossover will have a range of 250km and will be made in China, where it will go on sale along with in Europe next year.
BMW’s best-selling 3-Series demonstrates how manufacturers have moved away from luring customers with luxurious trimmings and engine choices. The latest iteration has gadgetry like smartphone entry, auto-reverse and an in-car assistant that learns drivers’ routines, aimed at delivering a crucial sales bump after growth slowed.
And a high-performance M version of the sport sedan will be the first in the family to use enhanced autonomous driving systems that will control the car for longer periods of time than before, plus it will have a newly developed 360-horsepower, 3-liter turbocharged I6 engine.
But the exterior of the new cars remains largely familiar, with BMW's distinct kidney grilles, blunt front nose, and slightly arched roofline.
Mercedes also gave the public its first glimpse of the new EQC electric crossover, which was unveiled in Stockholm last month. The EQC is Mercedes' first fully electric crossover. Its targets include the Tesla Model X, the Jaguar I-Pace, and the iVision Next vehicles from BMW. The electric SUV, which Mercedes initially debuted as a concept in Sweden, is roughly the same size as the Mercedes GLC.
On the outside, it has thick chrome trim and a new oversized Mercedes grille. Besides EQC badging, the rest of the body of the vehicle looks similar to the standard Mercedes lineup.
Inside, too, much of the car remains familiar. Mercedes says EQC’s interior is inspired by the world of consumer electronics, with its recently new large surfboard style screen at front and rose gold accents on the buttons and vents. It comes with electric motors that generate 402 horsepower and 564 pound-feet of torque. Mercedes puts preliminary figures at 0-100km/h of 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 180km/h.
A new Smart ForEase celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Daimler-owned brand. The brand is calling the two-seater an electric urban concept. It comes without a roof, in order to maximize "youthful, carefree" attitudes, according to the brand. (Domes set behind the seats provide protection if needed.)
The ForEase is the latest from Smart, which says that from 2020, it will be marketing only battery-electric cars in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
Ferrari's open-top Monza supercar is billed as the closest thing to a Formula 1 racer ever built for the public market. The carbon-fiber, 810-horsepower Monza will come in one-seat and two-seat versions. The company has picked 499 of its most loyal customers to get the chance to buy one of the €1.6 million racers.
The Mercedes-Benz AMG A35 is notable as it’s an all-new entry-level model for the brand. Based on the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class, it’s powered by a newly developed 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo engine with 306 horsepower and all-wheel drive.
Car fans call it a "hot hatch," and it comes with a number of unique drive modes, including Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Individual, and Slippery. The AMG A35 goes on sale in Europe in early 2019; it will not be sold in the U.S.