Two years ago I wrote, ‘I suppose that, as a car enthusiast, you must be well aware of the Parisian Mondial de l’Automobile and this season’s new car launches (including that Jaguar). What you probably don’t know is that only in France can you buy a Motor Show-branded disposable lighter… However, about those cars…’ Fast forward two years and everything is still true. The Paris salon is still in the psyche of us car enthusiasts, Jaguar is on a roll with the F-type fanfare and, yep, just €2 lets you light your Gauloises in style.
So the F-type: yep, it works. Panic averted. Luckily, in the metal, it gains its own identity without suffering the XK’s bloated-ness. Picture how the Corvette or a 350Z is huge yet taut, without straying into an Aston-esque upscale effect. Cast your mind back to Geneva and the Bertone B99 concept too – especially the tail treatment.
Having a retrospective thumb through my library, there is a striking déjà vu moment. Our man in Paris, Steven Ward, sat in the hand-stitched hot seat, so I will let him reflect on the driving position. While strolling the Jaguar stand, AROnline checked out the XF Sportbrake – and rather neat it is too, if rubbish as a load carrier.
We know this because the hand crafted cycle on its optional roof carrier system subliminally tipped us the wink this a lifestyle estate. The loading lip a l-o-n-g way from the ground alerted our physical senses. However, the air suspension will always keep you level, a pretty useful consideration for those who tow. Beautifully integrated, the saloon to station wagon transformation is highly effective but seemingly barely bigger than an XK hatch internally. My advice is sell your children and use the money to buy a Sportbrake.
Sharing a stand with JLR’s sleek executive toys, the new Range Rover stood tall. Inside evolution not revolution is the key. Outside ditto. The incredible single-piece windscreen pillar to rear tail lamp pressing (see images) is a work of art – maybe the Louvre should invite the Range Rover over again? Shame the front door is spoilt with a faux-louvred panel below the door mirror.
Unusually, on 22in(!) wheels, it looks correctly tyred. Fiat Marea Weekend owners will appreciate the 20/80 per cent split tailgate, though its shooting seat durability might be in question. Downsides? The back seat – if you need a mobile office, that might be a problem. I’m 5’10” and it is a lofty spring into the back seat (over the noticeably rather firm seat bolstering) while that integral console will prevent you entering one door and exiting on the other side of the pavement too. Not a huge amount of legroom either. All rather suprising really…
Other surprise on the JLR stand? No sight of the Skyfall Defender – maybe Bond needed it for a mission.
The plucky MINI stand featured more new special editions – at a guess the City X, Campus, Popular Plus, B&Q models should be with us before Christmas. My new favourite is the ‘Docklands’ model. The MINI Clubvan appeared again in a fresh livery and thankfully the faux-cockney barrow boy outfits of the Geneva Show MINI staff must be in a Swiss clothes recycling bank now. The Austrian-made Paceman is very pleasant in a kind of ‘latest Civic have they changed it/is it the new one/are we bothered kind of way’. Maybe the metallic brown revolution will end with the dowdy show model. Oddly MINI eschewed any French flair on the stand, a generic all-English approach at odds with my last visit.
Rolls-Royce offered a traditional reserved stand (unlike the Bentley gin-palace in the VAG hall) which featured a Ghost drophead with a gentleman’s sporting perch as a bootlid – I hope the Solihull chaps had a quick look. They also attired the stand with some fabulous poster images with an art-deco twist. Elegance personified for the Goodwood team. Next stop was VAG where the hall had so much stage lighting that I left with a tan. A rather sage Glaswegian I lunched with remarked he might calculate exactly how many Bluemotion Polos needed to be built to offset the CO2 created by the electricity surge when the lights went on. Audi showcased the awfully named ‘Crosslane’ Paceman rival. Think of a sport quattro-ised version of 2010’s beautiful quattro concept. Someone with a ruler might just see how far away the hard points actually are for me.
Those in the market for an MG6-sized hatch car had plenty of choice. SEAT offered the new Leon (following on from the Alhambra with the looks and now feel of a VW inside) and the Toledo. Luckily, the Toledo avoided the slash cut sides (think current Ibiza/Laguna) of the Leon and has a saloon-aping body style. Oddly, its sexier twin came from Skoda with the Rapid, its version of the Toledo (funnily enough the highly-polished VAG marketing machine neglected to mention everyone’s favourite 911 homage – surely, as a four door, the Estelle badge might have been more apt?)
Regardless, MG has a fresh double-pronged threat in the bigger-than-a-Golf-but-smaller-than-a-Passat sector. Is the unasked question that Europe might just prefer a Roewe to an MG?
Ford showed off its new Aston look with the latest ‘Bondeo’. You couldn’t touch alas (cruel rumours abounded because of lacklustre quality concerns) but the hatch had great style for those who lust after a modern Rover SD1, yet find an Audi A5 vulgar. For the first time in ages Ford have released a station wagon variant which looks a mess, with a Jennifer Lopez-style back end. The nose of all three shared the ‘Bondeo’ style grille with the Fiesta facelift. The Focus must be next (especially as the same grille treatment exists on the electric Focus already). Finally, at Ford, you could sit in the Turkish Transit and a nice experience it was too, even if the key-operated bonnet meant we never peered into the oily bits. Just a shame the stand appeared to have been dressed by the man who normally fits out Primark stores…
Dacia quietly wheeled-out a new three-cylinder 898cc turbocharged petrol triple for the base model Logan – 90bhp and 99lb ft. This does trouble us at AROnline though, given Renault’s less-than stellar reputation for technology in most post-millennium models. Will Renault ever learn? With four new car launches in Paris, Dacia seemed unstoppable. Luckily, though, parent Renault completely overshadowed the humble Dacia outpost with at least 6587 new Clios (estimated*) on the neighbouring stand. The Clio (albeit original Mégane-size now) is a pleasant thing indeed, though we did struggle to find a lowly cloth-trimmed base model on the stand to un-cloud our lust.
For us Brits, the excitement of seeing a virgin Grand Espace and a Koleos in the metal was a guilty pleasure. Maybe it was the soft mood lighting and lounge cushioned stand that suckered us – everything the VW stand needed.
Anyway, there you have it, the Paris run-down. See you in 2014?