Still on the fence about whether the future is going to be gasoline or alternative energy-powered? World automakers don’t seem to be. At the 65th annual Frankfurt International Automotive Show, open through Sunday, most major manufacturers hybrids, EVs, or both on display. It’s clear that automakers are relying on them to meet the aggressive new fuel economy and emissions standards imposed in the US, Europe, Japan and China.
The other major trend at Frankfurt is the growing popularity of small sport utility vehicles, aka “compact crossovers.” Manufacturers that already had them in their lineups are revamping the ones they had and those who didn’t – even some unlikely brands like Jaguar – are adding them, hoping to lure both younger buyers and families wanting more cargo-carrying capacity but not a full-size SUV.
There’s lots of gorgeous sheet metal on display in the show’s 2.5 million square feet of exhibition space. More than a thousand exhibitors from 35 different countries are participating with 159 world premieres, both production and concept models. While hybrids, EVs and crossovers are big trends, there are still many gas-powered vehicles to choose from.
Among plug-in hybrids, the biggest buzz surrounded BMW’s sleek i8, on sale in the U.S. next year with a price tag of $136,000. The automaker’s i3 compact all-electric city car, which rolls out this fall is more affordable. BMW touts it as the first “built from the ground up” EV.
People who think hybrid or electric means underpowered need to take a look at the Porsche 918 Spyder. The plug-in hybrid sports car does zero-60 mph in just a tad under 2.8 seconds, delivers 94 mpg – and costs just south of $900k. The Nissan ZEOD RC zero-emission racing car can hit more than 185 mph on electric power alone. A real surprise in this segment is the Toyota Yaris Hybrid-R with a gas-electric combined 420 hp. Audi’s entry in the fast hybrid class is the Sport Quattro Concept with a 3.7-second zero-62 mph acceleration time of 3.7 seconds. A bit slower, but answering the question of how far an EV can go on a single charge, is the VW e-Golf, sporting a 118-mile range and a top speed of 87 mph. It’s a year or two away from US showrooms.
The biggest buzz in the crossover segment surrounded the Infiniti Q30 concept, Jaguar C-X17 Concept, Audi Nanuk Quattro concept and Kia Niro concept. The Infiniti is actually a combo crossover-hatchback-coupe that is impressively styled, although not much is known about what’s under the hood. Who would have expected a crossover from Jag? This concept is all about the maker’s “advanced aluminum unibody architecture.”
The Nanuk crossover has gull-wing doors, can reach 189 mph and do zero-62 in 3.8 seconds.
Critics either love or hate the Lexus LF-NX Crossover concept’s aggressively angular styling and unmistakable grille, but if/when it becomes a production model it will fill a smaller-size SUV gap in the Lexus line-up. The powertrain still is unknown but given Toyota’s hybrid development record at least one version must be a hybrid.
Kia’s Niro concept oozes attitude with matte-black finish and silver-trimmed seats. It has a 158-hp 4-cylinder engine. Will US hamsters be driving it in the future? Kia says “maybe” if it generates enough interest.
Mercedes-Benz is showing its GLA crossover with a 208-hp 4-cylinder engine. Mercedes also excited crowds with the S-Class Coupex. It’s got self-driving features like highway or stop-and-go traffic braking and acceleration and steering on straight or slightly curved roads – in U.S. showrooms soon.
Some other standouts include a Volvo Coupe concept, the cute Smart FourJoy concept without doors or roof and the European-only Ford S-Max concept that tracks the driver’s heart rate. There’s much more in Frankfurt to get hearts beating. Some of it will be coming to a showroom near you.