Frankfurt Auto Show

September 16, 2011
Hits

BMW i3: Due for production in 2013, this urban driver uses a combination of lightweight composite materials and lithium-ion batteries to deliver a 100-mile driving range per charge. Its motor has a maximum 170-horsepower equivalent with power flowing to the rear wheels. Recharging time, using a high-speed charging apparatus, would restore 80 percent of battery power in less than one hour. The i3 is a subcompact that would fit easily into urban parking spaces. More important, it eliminates tailpipe pollution in congested urban areas.

BMW i8: This is meant to show that electric cars can be sporty and luxurious, something BMW apparently learned from its association with electric-car manufacturer Tesla. It is a plug-in hybrid, much in the manner of the Chevrolet Volt, which combines electric power with a fossil-fuel engine to extend the car’s driving range. The i8 also makes news with its headlamps, which employ laser technology — the first time that has been done on an automobile.

Volvo C30: Another hit. It’s all-electric.

Ford Evos: Forthcoming. Of particular note is the Evos’s planned use of driver-assistance technology, including the electronic monitoring of human heart rates and vision focus. Going too fast? Driving well beyond your level of current competence? The Evos will tell you to slow down and take a breather.

Misses

Maserati Kubang: Do we really need yet another luxury sport-utility vehicle, and this one from Maserati in cooperation with Chrysler? Maserati unveiled the Kubang, a concept luxury SUV based largely on the Jeep Grand Cherokee platform. The last time Maserati and Chrysler got together to produced something, they turned out a disaster, the moral equivalent of a high-toned Chrysler Sebring wearing a Maserati badge. My fear is that the Kubang, a truly good-looking Jeep Grand Cherokee if ever there was one, will fair no differently. Here’s hoping that Chrysler and Maserati keep this one under wraps.

Final hit

Opel Insignia: I took a quick trip to nearby Russelsheim to test-drive the latest Insignia cars and wagons from Opel, a General Motors subsidiary. The Insignia platform nowadays is used for what we know as the Buick Regal, which has become a hot seller in the United States. Now, I know why I like the Regals so much — terrific product quality, great engineering. Kudos to GM and Opel.

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