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2016 Paris Auto Show Hits, Misses, and Revelations

The good, the bad, and the Lexus UX

With the 2016 Paris Auto Show press days in the rear-view mirror, our staffers managed to peel themselves away from France’s famous wine and cheese to pick their biggest hits, misses and revelations.

The Hits

Audi RS3 Sedan

While it’s not as practical as its hatchback European cousin, the 400-horsepower, five-cylinder RS3 Sedan is still as mental as it ought to be, hitting 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds and carrying on to 174 mph top speed (if you opt for a special package that removes the 155 mph electronic limiter). While the RS3 Sedan benefits from Audi’s tastefully understated styling in most areas—no boy-racer wing here—the flared fenders and more aggressive aero styling tip off the cognoscenti to the extra cylinder under the hood. – Nelson Ireson

 You won’t hear us complain about Audi delivering on its promise to bring more RS performance cars to U.S. shores. Just call it gravy then that the Audi RS3 has an honest-to-Ingolstadt 400-hp turbocharged five-cylinder engine, shared with the TT RS. Consistent with previous RS cars, the RS3 looks the business without going overboard, which should help set itself apart from more heavily styled competitors like the Mercedes-AMG CLA45. Given that the S3 is already an understated stud, its badder brother can’t get here soon enough. – Eric Weiner

Citroen Cxperience

Long, low, sleek, and just about the closest thing to the glory days of the brand’s past as we’ve seen in recent decades, the Citroen Cxeprience concept is a study in elegant lines and futuristic details. The interior is even lined in a hyper-yellow mesh cloth that adds a surprisingly human touch of warmth–a rarity in sleek, futuristic concept cars. – Nelson Ireson

 Coys Mondial de l’Automobile Paris Auction Lots

British auction house Coys will be holding an auction during the show’s public days and many of the cars up for sale were rounded up in a corner of one of the pavilions. Among the several dozen classics were a 1983 Renault 5 Turbo 2, 1969 Ford Shelby GT350, 1972 Jaguar E-Type Coupe, 1988 Ferrari Testarossa, and a pristine 1990 Lamborghini Countach. – Kirill Ougarov

 Honda Civic Type R

My better judgment wants to hate the Type R for being so rude and overwrought, but it’s just so freaking cool that I can’t. Ugly isn’t an unfair word to use here, but there’s something about the scattered teenage angst of the Type R that makes you forgive its trespasses on good taste. Some people won’t forgive its price, though, which is expected to be in the neighborhood of $40,000 despite being front-wheel drive and down on power compared to its chief rival, the Ford Focus RS. Honda is calling this car a prototype, but insists that only small tweaks will be made before its long-awaited break into the U.S. market. Hopefully they clean up the front end a little bit—the mix of functional and aesthetic trim pieces is kind of a hot mess. – Eric Weiner

Sure it’s brash and boyish, but how can’t you be excited that the Type R is coming back to America? And this car is a hatchback to boot. I’m so excited to get behind the wheel. I just hope the super-dark tint from the show car comes standard, because I don’t want anyone seeing me drive this beautiful boor. – Chris Nelson

Hyundai RN30 concept

Hyundai is preparing to launch a performance sub brand called N (which supposedly references some sort of test track), and used the RN30 as a showcase for what it has cooking. So far, color us intrigued. The concept, which is based on a Hyundai i30 (the Elantra in the U.S.), utilizes a 2.0-liter turbo pushing past 370 horsepower and 333 lb-ft of torque, mated to a dual-clutch tranny. The RN30 looks the part of a rally racer, with flares and wings in all right places. Don’t expect the production version of the coming i30N (which could make it here as an Elantra GT) to come near those numbers, but if it’s even in the ballpark of the RN30’s claimed performance envelope, we’re looking at another potential killer hot hatch, and that’s just fine by us. –Mike Floyd

Mercedes-Benz Generation EQ Concept

There’s nothing particularly heart-stopping about the way this EV concept looks, but its implications for the future of Mercedes-Benz, and EVs in general, are enormous. The future of electrified luxury cars people can actually buy is coming ever more clearly into focus. Not only does the Generation EQ promise to usher in a new sub-brand of electric Mercedes on a dedicated new platform, but when the first production version arrives in U.S. showrooms, it’ll look damn close to the crossover we’ve seen in Paris. Benz even says that when the car launches, it’ll cost the same as a reasonably equipped GLC crossover, so figure about $50,000. It’s a big deal that we’re already seeing a nearly finished concept despite the fact that it’ll be at least three years before anything arrives in showrooms. After all, the biggest obstacle for EVs remains infrastructure, and Benz’s investment in the EQ brand is a big step toward making the technology mainstream across the industry. – Eric Weiner

The Generation EQ concept is yet another EV crossover concept that doesn’t really speak to me, but I’m excited to see what the newly launched EQ brand can do. All-electric SUVS, sedans, coupes, and convertibles built using aluminum and carbon fiber coming in the next four years? You should be excited. – Chris Nelson

Toyota FCV Plus

The hydrogen fuel car is curious and cute enough to be a hit – Robert Cumberford

Volkswagen I.D.

Design editor Robert Cumberford thinks the I.D. looks like “a student’s design”, and I don’t disagree. But I like the I.D. not because it’s handsome or cool or anything like that, but because it’s the first EV I’ve seen that integrates the high-dollar tech required for real autonomy into a carefully thought out, entry-level package. – Chris Nelson

Wall-Mounted Formula Cars

Seemingly every OEM that was at Paris and participates in Formula 1 or Formula E had their car mounted on a wall. Some were horizontal, some vertical, all made for awesome décor. – Kirill Ougarov

The Misses

BMW and Mini Pavilion

You could almost hear the crickets here. When the only thing you’ve got to show is the X2 Concept, a sporty version of the X1 crossover completely lacking in imagination or inspiration, people quickly forget why they even stopped by your stand. The only detail I even like, the roundel on the D-pillar that harks back to the famous Hofmeister kink, will likely be ironed out for the production version. – Eric Weiner

BMW X2 Concept

If BMW can get any further away from its once-core values, the X2 is the vehicle that will take it there. Looking like nothing so much as a completely generic mall runner, the X2 proves that just because you can build (and sell) a car, it doesn’t mean you should. – Nelson Ireson

Ferrari GTC4 Lusso T

Sure, it’s the first four-seat Ferrari with a turbocharged V8, but to some ears, that’s just a laundry list of everything that’s wrong with the car. From where I sit, it’s just an FF without its two coolest features: the V12 engine and the totally bizarre but awesome twin-transmission/all-wheel-drive setup. – Nelson Ireson

Mitsubishi GT-PHEV

Hideous in a way only Mitsubishi manages on a regular basis, the GT-PHEV is a look into the dystopian future of a frequently, and accurately, maligned nameplate: the Outlander. As ugly as this beast is, it’s not the worst Mitsubishi could have done—after all, hatred is closer to love than it is to apathy.  – Nelson Ireson

Renault Trezor

Trent Reznor? Like, the lead singer of the Nine Inch Nails? I got excited when someone asked me if I’d yet seen the “Reznor”, because that’s what I thought they were saying, that the musician was walking around the auto show. He would’ve been way cooler to see than this cellophane nightmare with the roof of a Sterling Nova. – Chris Nelson

 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive

There’s nothing wrong with the car itself (it’s an electric Smart, it is what it is), but Daimler really should have used the launch of the new model as an excuse to stop using a name that shares an acronym with a male anatomy disorder. – Kirill Ougarov

This guy’s suit

Come on, bruh. – Chris Nelson

Virtual reality

On display were about a dozen different virtual reality simulators of all shapes, sizes, and sorts, but I didn’t try any of them. Not because I didn’t want to but because I couldn’t stop watching middle-age men with beer bellies whip their heads back and forth and softly graze the air with their hands. They’re clearly not ready for the “real thing” yet. Give them augmented reality, then go from there. – Chris Nelson

The Revelations

 A nightmare 70th

Ferrari is celebrating its 70th birthday in 2017, so it decided to throw itself a party by creating a special series of cars (and also no doubt creating a pile of birthday cash as a result). The 70 historic-themed liveries Ferrari created across its five model lines for a series of 350 cars probably seemed like a great idea at the time, but in practice Ferrari’s chief marketing officer Enrico Galliera admitted “it was a nightmare” to execute the program. A nightmare for them, sure, but the end result is 350 exclusive, appreciating four-wheeled assets for its customers. – Mike Floyd

 Infiniti VC-T variable compression engine: While the idea of a variable-compression gasoline engine is nothing new, Infiniti’s bold move to be the first carmaker to offer such an engine for production points up the consequences of tighter emissions standards and wider adoption of electrification technology: the increasingly good payoff of ever more advanced and efficient internal combustion engines. The industry as a whole is definitely heading toward more and more electric cars, but fortunately for those of us who love the sound, the character, and the history of power sources that go boom several thousand times per minute, there’s still a lot more efficiency to be squeezed from our remaining allotment of dino juice. – Nelson Ireson

 Not everyone thinks carbon fiber is the answer for EVs

While BMW is betting big on carbon fiber to help reduce weight for its Project i electric vehicle program, Mercedes-Benz isn’t buying it. As Benz gears up over the next few years ahead of the production launch of its newly-minted Mercedes-EQ electric division, it doesn’t plan to work outside its current production network. That means it won’t start making carbon fiber, like BMW does at its Moses Lake plant in Washington. Dr. Thomas Weber, Daimler board member in charge of development for Mercedes, told me that he thinks carbon fiber is not the solution because of concerns related to cost and manufacturing. For Mercedes-EQ, we expect some innovation on the materials side, but lightweight aluminum and advancements in battery energy density is a safer bet. – Eric Weiner

 Pure show cars can still matter

I probably would never have bothered to rush over to the Renault stand for anything other than pain au chocolat, but the outrageous Trezor Concept was the talk of the show. From the giant clamshell hood that also opens the cabin to entry, to the aggressive side scoop and teardrop rear window, the Trezor proved you don’t have to make a concept car that has any foundation in reality to get people’s attention. Nobody actually believes there’s any future to this strange mash-up of sports-car design cues, but then again I never believed I’d be distracted enough by a Renault concept car to forget to smuggle out a few extra pain au chocolat. – Eric Weiner

 Range fluctuations

The Opel Ampera E, Opel’s version of the Chevy Bolt, is rated at 500 kilometers of range and Opel plastered that number all over its stand at Paris. That equates to about 310 miles. You may recall that the Bolt, which uses the exact same powertrain and is essentially the same car, is EPA rated at 238 miles. Where is all that extra range coming from? The New European Driving Cycle ratings system, that’s where. It employs a much less strenuous testing approach than the EPA’s regimen, which utilizes air conditioning, city and highway driving, and harder acceleration. So yeah, those Ampera E owners are likely going to be a little perplexed as to why their car’s range probably won’t get anywhere near the 500-kilometer mark. But hey, it’s a nice round number for Opel’s marketing team! – Mike Floyd

The Controversy

Staffers dissented on the Lexus UX concept. A rather radical creation, it received one vote as a hit and two votes as a miss, but we’ll call it a tie via executive priviledge.

 Why it’s a hit:

I found it refreshing to see a design team push past boundaries with a concept like the Lexus UX. The UX’s design, developed in large part by a France-based team led by Alexandre Gommier (interior) and Stephan Rasmussen (exterior) of Toyota Europe, is chock full of intriguing details, such as its laser-etched tires with integrated wheels set back into the tire itself (no more curbed rims!) and boxy wheels wells that partially lift off of the body work that are also designed to aid with air flow. A version of the Lexus Kinetic seating setup, which looks like a strappy, upright hammock, and a 3D, gesture-controlled center stack are among the key interior bits. – Mike Floyd

 Why it’s a miss:

I respect Lexus for shedding its reputation for making boring and staid cars for fans of Werther’s Original and “Murder, She Wrote.” The LC, NX, and RX are polarizing designs but they ultimately stay true to Lexus’ core values. I do not respect Lexus for letting the unsuspecting public lay eyes on this horrific monstrosity. It looks like a race of alien insects got a hold of a car from Mad Max, and the seats strike me as some sort of futuristic torture device. Design editor Robert Cumberford and I mostly just stared at it speechless until we couldn’t take it anymore.

It’s not a bad idea for Lexus to introduce a compact crossover based on the Toyota C-HR and its new TNGA platform, but it needs to seriously scale things back a bit. The last thing it wants to do is push out the customers it’s worked two and a half decades to cultivate, while scaring everyone else away. – Eric Weiner

 I absolutely loathe everything about this car’s exterior, especially its tires. The idea of the UX’s interior, I sort of like, although it should be less strappy, less BDSM, and aspire to have the feel of a Herman Miller Aeron. – Chris Nelson

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