On the eve of the Frankfurt Motor Show, 2352 journalists from 43 different countries assembled for the Volkswagen Group's pre-show preview. Called Group Night, the event allows VW and its many brands to preview some of the new production and concept cars that will be shown at the Frankfurt show.
Volkswagen's new city car, the Up!, emerged from the stage floor amid an illuminated smoke show. The cute little hatchback is going into production, and the two versions on display here -- the White Up! and Black Up! -- looked very close to production ready. Although the Up! will be extremely small, fuel-efficient, and affordable, its makers insist it is still a quality vehicle.
"The Up! is Volkswagen, clearly Volkswagen," said VW board member Ulrich Hackenberg. "It's affordable innovation for all."
CEO Wolfgang Durheimer called the Bentley Continental GTC, "British motoring proved on the German autobahn." The new car benefits from a wide range of revisions and, as demonstrated by two models driving the GTC on stage, permits well-to-do couples to enjoy open-top jaunts through the country. "For the engineers at Crewe [where Bentleys are built], the duty was to look at everything and improve every part of it," Durheimer said.
A video slideshow on the history of porcelain preceded the debut of the Bugatti Veyron L'Or Blanc, which is slathered in the shiny white materials. The Veyron's days, however, are numbered, as the company has already sold every copy of the coupe that will ever be built. As for the future, Bugatti executives promised the brand would continue to serve as a "laboratory for top performance" within the Volkswagen group. There was no mention of the long-rumored Galibier, a sedan that will succeed the Veyron.
Audi revealed the A2 concept, a small-but-premium hatchback that will eventually go on sale as yet another urban car designed for tighter emissions laws and pricier fuel. "The A2 concept is our answer to tomorrow's requirements," said Audi chairman Rupert Stadler. "It's our vision of a modern, premium urban mobility solution."
Audi did not show off the S6, S7, and S8 performance cars that are scheduled to make a public appearance at the Frankfurt Motor Show, instead revealing the revised RS 5 coupe. It has better electrically assisted steering, which reportedly improves steering feel, and lots of other tweaks.
"Lamborghini stands for extreme designs, high-performance engines, and advanced lightweight construction," said brand CEO Stephan Winkelmann. His brand's presentation began with a flaming block-letter Lamborghini logo, dancers spinning spark-spitting torches, and big fireballs erupting from the stage. It was followed by the public debut of the Gallardo Super Trofeo Stradale, a road-going car inspired by Lamborghini's racing machine. The red-on-black paint scheme, big rear wing, and abundant carbon fiber body add-ons combine for a really compelling car.
Winkelmann also talked about the Sesto Elemento concept, which employed complicated carbon fiber construction to achieve an incredibly low weight and, thus, performance. Lamborghini will indeed build the car, but just 20 copies of it. Winkelmann described the Sesto Elemento as, "A car that emerges when you give absolute freedom to the designers and engineers."
As if saving the best for last, Porsche began by displaying a line of every generation of past 911. After that, the all-new 2012 Porsche 911, called the 991 by Porschephiles, arrived on the stage. Its revised proportions are immediately noticeable when compared to the 997 (current) or 996 (prior) generations of the car. And Porsche chairman Matthais Muller promises it will be even better than its predecessors.
"This icon is clearly even more, it is the expression of the sports car," Muller said. "It represents the [Porsche] brand's values in its purest form."
Of the nearly 700,000 Porsche 911 Carreras sold, Muller said that about 80 percent are still registered on roads today.