Hottest Cars of Frankfurt

Performance cars still rule despite electric vehicle mania

by SCOTT NEWMAN

THE Frankfurt Motor Show is one of the biggest events on the automotive industry calendar. It offers key insights into the future of motoring as each of the German car making behemoths attempts to out-do its rivals at their home show.

Predictably, the buzzwords were electricity and autonomy, with most manufacturers keen to spruik their vision of a zero-emissions, zero-responsibility future, though Jaguarís announcement of a one-make race series for its forthcoming battery-powered iPace SUV, which will support Formula E from 2018, was a little left-field.

Thankfully for us red-blooded enthusiasts, the cars that actually earn manufacturers money still make noise, burn fuel and transport the driver from A-to-B as quickly and as entertainingly as possible if he or she so wishes. Therefore, in stark contrast to the silent, all-knowing concepts, a riot of droolworthy performance metal also made its debut in Frankfurt.

Mercedes-AMG stole the show with its F1-engined Project One hypercar, however, performance hybridisation is still the preserve of the top end of town with the (slightly) more attainable offerings powered by the traditional means of turbo four-banger (Swift Sport, Megane RS), forced induction V8 (Cayenne Turbo, Portofino, Discovery SVX) or just plain old cubic capacity (R8 V10 RWS, Aventador S Roadster).

A number of European marques skipped Frankfurt this year, including Volvo, Citroen, Fiat, Aston Martin and McLaren, while the major Japanese manufacturers will be saving their headline acts for the Tokyo Motor Show in late October.

Refreshingly, 10 of our 11 Frankfurt stars are productionready Ė the exception being the Mini Works GP Concept, which is likely to make production anyhow Ė and all will make their way to Australia, catering for every budget from $25,000 (Swift Sport) to approximately $5million (Project One). The future of performance is still unknown, but the present still looks bright Ė for now.

Mercedes-AMG Project One

AMG aims to redefi ne production car speed with its wild F1-engined 740kW hybrid hypercar 01 MANUFACTURERS love to talk about technology transfer from their racing operations to their road cars but few have gone as far as Mercedes-AMG with its new Project One hypercar.

Nestled midships is effectively the same hybrid powertrain that propelled Lewis Hamilton to the 2015 F1 title, consisting of a 450kW 1.6- litre turbo V6 that revs to 11,000rpm assisted by a quartet of electric motors: one on the turbo, one linked to the crank and one on each front wheel to provide all-wheel drive.

Total system output is at least 740kW (and rumoured to be as high as 900kW) which launches the roughly 1200kg Silver Arrow to 200km/h in less than six seconds and on to a top speed in excess of 350km/h.

A new eight-speed hydraulicallyoperated manual transmits the power through massive Michelin Cup 2 tyres (285/35 front; 335/30 rear) while handling is taken care of by racestyle adjustable pushrod coilover suspension at both ends.

The styling is much more restrained than the mechanicals, the body shaped by the needs of aerodynamics and heat extraction.

Just 275 Project Ones will be built and all are spoken for by carefully selected customers, including eight Australians who have each paid around $5million for the pleasure.

Renault Sport Megane RS

Benchmark driversí hot hatch scores fi ve doors and loads of tech in a bid to best Civic Type R 02 THE debut of the new Renault Sport Megane RS was awaited with baited breath, as speculation and rumour surrounded the car during its development. Would it follow the Clio RSís lead and ditch the manual? Would an extra pair of driveshafts cause its weight to balloon drastically?

As it turns out, our fears were unfounded, as the Megane RS will remain a turbocharged front-driver, however there are a number of key changes. First of which is a downsized engine, the new 1.8-litre turbo four producing 205kW/390Nm to be shared with the forthcoming Alpine A110.

Itíll send that power through either a manual or dual-clutch gearbox (both with six speeds) to the front wheels, with Renaultís PerfoHub independent steering axis front suspension reducing torque steer. Cars fitted with the Cup chassis option will also receive a Torsen mechanical limitedslip diff to aid traction.

The Cup chassis option also brings 19-inch wheels with a more focused tyre option, a specific suspension tune and the option of aluminium front hubs to reduce unsprung mass, though both models benefit from hydraulic bump stops and all-wheel steering while the rack itself is 20 per cent quicker.

The bodyshell is swollen by 60mm front and 45mm rear to cover bigger wheels and wider tracks and is now five doors as standard. The silver Ďbladeí across the front bumper is a nod to Renault F1ís program, vents behind the front wheels extract hot air and a huge rear diffuser helps stability at the Megane RSís expected 260km/h top speed. No performance data has been released yet, but we anticipate 0-100km/h will take around 5.7sec.

If this all sounds a little bit tame, Renault has whetted enthusiast appetites by announcing a more focused Trophy version will join the range in late-2018 with 221kW/400Nm and an even sportier chassis setup.

Local pricing is not yet announced but expect a sticker of around $45,000 when it arrives in dealerships in the first half of 2018.

03Mini GP Concept

Frankensteinís hot hatch a potential hardcore Mini preview OFFICIALLY, the Mini John Cooper Works GP Concept is just that, a motor show special, but we werenít born yesterday. Mini has released Works GP versions of both previous generations of new Mini so it doesnít take Nostradamus to foresee a toned-down version of this concept appearing in showrooms in 12 months or so.

The conceptís most striking feature is its wild aero kit, including the bulging guards, which cover the wider tracks and larger 19-inch wheels yet still allow air to travel along the bodysides. The front splitter is made from carbonfibre while the giant rear spoiler is accompanied by an equally immense diffuser.

Inside, the concept has been stripped to its bare essentials, a pair of hip-hugging bucket seats joined by a roll cage and little else in an effort to reduce weight.

No mechanical details are given bar the presence of paddles on the back of the steering wheel, which indicate the use of Miniís six-speed automatic gearbox currently found in the Cooper JCW hatch and cabrio.

Should the Works GP make production, weíd expect a slightly power hike from the JCWís 170kW/320Nm 2.0-litre turbo four, a significant weight reduction and a much more aggressive chassis setup.

The last Works GP was an absolute riot and our 2013 BFYB winner; hereís hoping a new one is on the way.

04Audi R8 V10 RWS

Audi R8 goes rear-wheel drive ON THE face of it Audiís decision to delete the front driveshafts from its R8 to create the V10 RWS isnít particularly ground-breaking.

After all, the R8ís sister car, the Lamborghini Huracan, has existed in rear-drive LP580-2 guise for some time now.

The R8 V10 RWS becomes more significant when you consider itís the first performance Audi to forgo four-wheel drive. All of a sudden, the recent rebranding from quattro to Audi Sport makes a lot more sense.

Itís a toe in the water initially, Audi producing just 999 RWSs worldwide, across both Coupe and Spyder, with a limited number (though potentially as many as 50) coming to Australia from March 2018 with a price tag in the region of $400,000.

Itís powered by the 397kW/540Nm version of Audiís 5.2-litre atmo V10, rather than the more powerful 449kW/560Nm version found in the R8 V10 Plus, but despite its traction limitations Audi claims the RWS Coupe can hit 100km/h in 3.7sec and power on to 320km/h, with the Spyder a tick behind on both counts at 3.8sec and 318km/h respectively.

Deleting the all-wheel drive system saves 50kg and Audi claims the ESP system is set up to allow ďcontrolled driftsĒ in Sport mode, while the steering is ďcompletely free of torque steerĒ. Well, it would be, wouldnít it, being rear-wheel drive?

Audi Sport CEO Stephen Winkelmann, formerly of Lamborghini, describes the R8 V10 RWS as ďmade for purists. A limitededition for customers with an appreciation for driving. It brings the driving concept of our R8 LMS racing car to the streets.Ē

05 Porsche GT3 Touring

Not too hardcore, not too soft Ė just right BOUGHT a 911 R? Kept the receipt?

In fairness, the new 911 GT3 Touring isnít a 911 R by another name, lacking that modelís weight-reducing composite panels, bespoke chassis tune and limited build run.

It is, however, built to the same ethos: a 911 that can be used everyday and prioritises fun over achieving the lowest possible lap time. Mechanically, itís identical to the regular 991.2 GT3, including the 368kW/460Nm 4.0-litre flat-six, however, it can only be specified with the new six-speed manual gearbox.

The interior loses the roll cage and fire extinguisher options and replaces Alcantara with leather for a more luxurious feel.

But by far the most obvious Touring change is the removal of the regular GT3ís spoiler, replaced by the pop-up item from the 911 Carrera. Itís the GT3 for the introvert.

At $326,800, the Touring is identical in price to the regular GT3 and the first cars will land in Q1 2018.

06Cayenne Turbo

Pulverising performance for Porscheís new profi t generator THE original was arguably the first true performance SUV and the new Porsche Cayenne Turbo looks set to raise the bar again in terms of whatís possible from a quasi-off-roader.

In true Porsche fashion the styling is evolutionary despite the all-new underpinnings. The latest Cayenne shares its MLB platform with the Audi Q7 and Bentley Bentayga, which allows it to adopt the 48-volt architecture that in this case powers the active anti-roll system.

Extra chassis wizardry comes courtesy of adaptive air suspension, torque vectoring, optional rearwheel steering and enormous tyres measuring 285/40 front and 315/35 rear wrapped around 21-inch wheels.

Thereís even an active rear spoiler that can function as an air brake.

Under the bonnet is Porscheís new 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 feeding 404kW/770Nm through an eightspeed automatic. Acceleration is immense, 0-100km/h taking 4.1sec (3.9sec with Sport Chrono) with a claimed top speed of 286km/h.

On the inside thereís been a massive lift, with a giant central touchscreen, redesigned console and new 18-way electric seats. The new Cayenne Turbo will land in Australia in mid-2018.

Ferrari Portofi no

07 Ground-up replacement for California T pops up out of nowhere Ė and has us frothing 07 WELL, this came out of the blue. It may sound like a fancy handbag, but the Ferrari Portofino Ė itís actually a small village on the Italian riviera Ė is an all-new roadster, replacing the California that has occupied this market segment since 2008.

The Portofino was a surprise reveal pre-Frankfurt but made its public debut at the show and as with seemingly every new Ferrari these days it represents an enormous step forward over its predecessor.

Key to this is its performance.

Ferrariís latest 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 appears, producing 441kW/760Nm (though only in seventh gear due to Ferrariís torque management strategy) which results in 0-100km/h in 3.5sec and a top speed in excess of 320km/h. Even more impressive is the 0-200km/h time of 10.8sec; for reference, the 458 Specialeís claim was 10.4sec.

Ferrariís clever E-Diff appears in its drop-top GT for the first time, along with electric power steering, which debuted in the 812 Superfast. The latest generation magnetorheological dampers take care of ride and handling while giant carbon ceramic discs do the stopping.

An all-new platform has allowed engineers to shave 80kg from the kerb weight despite a 35 per cent increase in body stiffness and revised styling has reduced drag. As for the styling itself? You can make up your own minds, but it should be a less polarising design than the California.

Expect to see the first Portofinos on Aussie roads in early-2018 with a price tag of around $400,000.

Given the current demand for Ferrari products, weíd get in quick.

Land Rover 08Discovery SVX

Disco gains supercharged V8 fi repower THE Land Rover Discovery SVX is perfect motor show concept fodder.

An off-road SUV with garishly coloured body highlights, massive wheels and an unlikely engine, in this case a 386kW/625Nm 5.0-litre supercharged V8.

The only difference in this instance is that Land Rover is putting the SVX into production in 2018, with local deliveries expected to begin in Q3 for an as-yet undisclosed price.

Despite the tyre-tearing engine, Land Rover is positioning the SVX as a proper off-roader, with 275/55 all-terrain tyres wrapping its 20-inch wheels, a dual-speed transfer box and the first Discovery application of Land Roverís Terrain Response 2 and Active Roll Control systems, which enhance off-road performance by improving traction and wheel articulation respectively.

Hopefully, those active anti-roll bars can also stiffen and give the SVX some hope of putting its enormous power reserves to the ground, as even the road-focused Range Range Sport SVR can be a tad wayward at times.

The SVX is the work of Jaguar Land Roverís Special Vehicle Operations and completes an SUV triangle that already consists of the SVR and Range Rover SVAutobiography.

Audi RS4 09Avant

Fast family wagon tale returns to twin-turbo V6 origins WHEN it comes to fast wagons Audi does it as well as anyone and the new RS4 Avant is further evidence. Itís difficult not to mourn the passing of the wonderful 4.2-litre atmo V8, but in a way the RS4 is returning to its roots by adopting a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6.

Developing 331kW/600Nm, it propels the 1790kg RS4 to 100km/h in just 4.1sec.

Helping keep it glued to the road is quattro all-wheel drive with further options including a sports rear diff, dynamic steering, adaptive dampers and ceramic brakes.

Swift 10Sport

Crash diet for fast Suzuki THINK an MX-5 is light? At 1009kg itís a veritable porker compared to the new Suzuki Swift Sport, which weighs just 970kg. Despite the diet itís had a serious injection of grunt, a new 1.4-litre turbo four producing 103kW but a meaty 230Nm, a whopping 70Nm more than the current model.

A six-speed manual is your only option and the suspension has been overhauled to improve handling. This could be one of the most fun cars of 2018 and for a projected price tag of around $25,000!

Conti GT

Pony to get bigger sting in its tail 11 LIKE the Swift Sport, the new Bentley Continental GT has undergone a decent diet, though in this case itís less obvious as it still weighs a hefty 2244kg.

But thatís okay, because it has a 467kW/900Nm 6.0-litre twinturbo W12 to motivate it, resulting in 0-100km/h in 3.7sec and a 333km/h top speed.

The chassis has had a huge overhaul to offer true engagement as well as luxury, while the interior is coated with all manner of leather, wood and metal as well as, crucially, significantly updated electrical/infotainment systems.

Yours for around $420K. M