2008 London Motorshow review
– Shaun Lay (in the UK)
Let’s start with who didn’t have a stand at the London Motorshow; Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Fiat, Skoda and Volvo amongst others. With an absentee list like this you’d be thinking I was talking about the Brisbane Motor Show. But no, this is an article about the London Motor Show. Granted though that Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Skoda and Lamborghini are all part of one big company, this doesn’t bode well for the show.
Despite the absentees, there are some significant world premieres including the Ford Fiesta Econetic, Vauxhall Insignia (read Holden Vectra), Lotus Evora, Nissan Qashqai+2 and Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed.
In addition, there were a number of notable concept cars including the likes of the Chev Beat, Mazda Furai, Renault Megane, Honda CRZ and Lexus LFA Roadster.
But compared to the other big motor shows on the calendar there’s not alot going for the London Motorshow. If I was planning a European tour and wanted to tie in some cool automotive things to see, this wouldn’t be on the list.
Anyhow let’s focus on the positives at the show. The Mazda Furai still amazes me. Mazda’s new design philosophy is simply breathtaking and having heard this car at full noise on the Goodwood hill climb, I know that it is the business. You can not to be awed by the way the curves of this car come together so aggressively and purposefully. The curves come together so well, I’d easily put this as the best looking car at the show.
Having had a quick sit and walk around of the new Ford Fiesta and it’s sister car, the Mazda 2, I reckon the interior of the Mazda is a much nicer place to be. It feels sportier and ready to go, whereas the Ford lacks an edge. Not sure what it is exactly but the Mazda just does it better. I’d like to think it’s the design philosophy is filtering down and influencing their production cars. Whatever it is have a look, you be the judge.
The Lexus LFA Roadster is a sublime looking car. It’s sleek coupe body and alternative rear end come together extremely well. Speculative folk would say this has some design cues of the up and coming Supra. If it is, then they’re onto a real looker. We’ll just need to find out what’s under that bonnet and chassis.
The Hyundai Genesis Coupe graced the stages and it looks fantabulous in the flesh. The press photos of this beast does not do it justice. If Hyundai manage to put a decent suspension and driveline package under this body then they may lick their el’cheapo car stigma. Fingers crossed, come on Hyundai, don’t do what you normally do.
Something that I hope matures a little before making it to Australia is the whole electric vehicle fad. G-Wiz’s (the car Clarkson loves to hate) dominated the electric vehicle stand with demos of the charging stations that are currently installed in London City to keep your G-Wiz or electric vehicle topped up.
However, with a range limited to 60-100kms and top speed of 60-70km/h, the current generation vehicles are OK for city use but are next to useless in the countryside. And if you can fit a family’s weekly shop into this car, you must be a tetris champion of some sort.
The biggest let down of the show was the Vauxhall Insignia. This car is destined to arrive on Australian shores as the replacement for the Holden Vectra. I found the car uninspiring, bland and not a fit replacement for the Vectra. However, this has to be taken entirely on face value. Who knows, the powertrain may be smooth and powerful, the new AWD package may give oodles of grip but when you look at this car, it says boring. So enough said about that, we’ll just have to drive it and see.
On the plus side we have the Spanish AFR Aspid. Similar to Caparo building the T1, AFR built the Aspid. AFR supply components to the big boy OEMs and thought a good way to showcase their technology would be in an exclusive road car.
The Aspid is constructed of an aluminium spaceframe chassis bonded with aluminium honeycomb and covered with carbon fibre body panels. Engine options include a modified naturally aspirated 2L Honda engine and a supercharged version tipped to pump out 400hp. With the car weighing only 700kg, this thing will hussle. Other new technologies include new wiring and internal communications system and a very compact hydraulic suspension package. Given that the guy looking after the car was struggling a little with English, that’s about all the detail I could get out of him.
And lastly, a victory for micro mini cars. The Toyota IQ may just work. Toyota calls this a 3+1 and believe it or not it sort of works. The designers have moved the front passenger forward so that their legs are located where the steering column should be. This frees up legroom for one side of the rear bench seat.
I wouldn’t want to be in this car for say the Brisbane to Sydney drive but it does the trick for short trips. It looks like the future cars will get smaller and smaller. Is this a good or a bad thing?
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