As the auto industry surfs a sugar high of 17-plus million cars sold this year, and buyers are eying low gas prices and tall SUVs, the carmakers of the world have come together at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show not to exploit this temporary insanity, but to continue forging paths in more efficient—and yet much higher-performance—directions, from electric cars to turbocharged gasoline engines and everything in between.
It’s a double win for enthusiasts, as several of the most significant of these high-tech, high-performance wonders are also exceedingly attractive machines.
Porsche Mission E Concept
Among the best in the show is the Porsche Mission E. A cracking 600 race-bred horsepower, sub-3.5-second 0-60 mph times, 310-mile range, 15-minute charge time, and one of the most stunningly perfect exteriors to hit the show circuit in a decade, the Porsche Mission E is the front runner to dethrone Tesla’s death grip on the luxury electric market—when it finally hits the streets, in somewhat revised production form,
Audi e-Tron Quattro Concept
Across the aisle at the Volkswagen Group, Audi unveiled an almost equally impressive electric crossover, the e-tron Quattro. Despite the unpretentious use of capitalization, the big BEV promises sports car-like performance (495 hp), big range (310 miles), and super-slippery aero (0.25 Cd). The exterior is more super-sized hot hatch than burly crossover, but its readiness for Tesla battle duty is perhaps less certain.
Mercedes-Benz IAA Concept
Though it sounds like a blatant play to the German crowd (and it is), the Mercedes-Benz Concept IAA’s name also stands for Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile, and it’s as smart as it is stunning. An eight-segment active aerodynamic tail extends automatically at 50 mph, extending a boat tail 15 inches to the rear; flaps in the front bumper grow an inch forward and nearly an inch to the rear, further enhancing airflow. The result is a Cd of 0.19 despite a very large four-door footprint and imposing road presence.
The Jaguar F-Pace may have one of the dumbest names of the year, but it’s one brilliant-looking crossover. Staying true to the C-X17 concept’s design was no easy task, but Jaguar has done it, and managed to infuse a full dose of its luxury/sporting DNA along the way. With up to 380 horsepower, all-wheel drive, 0-60 mph times as low as 5.1 seconds (all of the above included for as little as $56,700) the F-PACE may be the new performance/value buy in the luxury crossover arena.
Porsche 911 Carrera S
Back at the VW Group, Porsche took the wraps off its updated 911 Carrera and Carrera S. While the exterior change are as incremental as ever, it’s what’s hanging out past the rear axle that matters this time around: the 3.0-liter twin-turbo flat six engine. Rated at 370 hp for the Carrera and 420 hp for the Carrera S, the new cars gain 20 horsepower and more than 30 pound-feet of torque, as well as greater efficiency. The increased torque should deliver even greater flexibility to an already brilliant chassis—and the turbos in the base cars mark a new era for the 911.
A chimeric combo of hatchback, coupe, and crossover, the Infiniti Q30 brings the Etherea concept’s themes to a much more stylish, sporty reality. Though nominally a concept itself, this production-intent design wears its curves, kinks, and surfaces with youth and vigor, traits hopefully backed up by strong engines and proven chassis-tuning ability.
The Bentley Bentayga is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated (and expected) reveals of the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show—and also one of the most dubiously received. Some can’t get on board with the look, and some can’t figure out the more-compact-than-expected packaging, but everyone has to appreciate that this is a new foothold for the nominally off-road SUV/crossover segment: true ultra-luxury, high-performance exclusivity.
Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe
One of the most unlikely and utterly impressive come-ups of the latest round of high-performance mid-size luxury cars is the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. With the unveiling of the Coupe at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, Mercedes cements its leadership of the segment against the excellent Cadillac ATS-V and BMW M3/M4, wrapping the luxurious interior and proven performance in an even sexier exterior package.
Lamborghini Huracán Spyder
Yes, the engine and transmission are built by Audi (but tuned for the Huracán by Lamborghini). Yes, you could buy the Audi R8 for a little less money. No, you shouldn’t dismiss the Lambo as the eccentric Italian cousin. It’s the best Lamborghini the company has ever built, and it’s now even more stunning in drop-top form, taking off its roof with much more grace than the Gallardo before it—and than nearly anything else in the field.
Ferrari 488 Spider
Why “nearly anything else”? Because the Ferrari 488 Spider was unveiled just a few hundred yards away. With all of the balance of the 458, all of the turbo thrust of the 488 coupe, and more style than even the Huracán Spyder, the retractable hard-top 488 Spider is the 661-horsepower gorilla in a segment full of mean, fast gorillas. Does it drive as well as its hard-top doppelgänger? That’s a question I’d love to answer—and hope to, soon.