Fall is approaching, and that mean’s it’s just about time to kick off Auto Show season again. Up first is the Frankfurt Motor Show, which is the largest event of its kind in the world. Geneva, Detroit, and Tokyo might have bigger scoops, but the sheer volume of manufacturers at Frankfurt make it unforgettable year after year.
From everything we know now (roughly two weeks out), it looks like Frankfurt 2015 could go down as the show where the SUV officially broke through in Europe. Audi, Bentley, Jaguar, Maserati, BMW, Kia, Lexus, and Mazda will all be displaying new SUVs and crossovers. Even Borgward, a German marque credited with inventing the sport sedan before going of business in 1961 is returning – with a luxury SUV. And while strong demand in America, China, and the Middle East for big, luxury four-wheelers is the primary reason for automakers to shift more focus to the segments, the sheer influx of new models means that global tastes are shifting to taller, bulkier people movers.
That said, of the dozens of cars set to debut at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, here are 7 real standouts.
1. Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet
In a way, the S-Class Cabriolet is a return to form for Mercedes-Benz. It’s the first full-size ragtop the company has offered since the 280 SE Cabriolet in 1971. Based on the gorgeous S-Class coupe, the Cabrio will sit well above the “standard” S-Class sedan, poised to take on the Bentley Continental GTC and the upcoming Rolls-Royce Dawn.
2. Audi e-tron quattro
As Tesla continues to grow in size and scope, a number of automakers have announced their own “Tesla killer” projects, but few, if any, have been a success. With Audi’s e-tron quattro concept, however, it looks like the EV startup may finally have some competition. The all-electric SUV, likely to be called the Q6, is claimed to have a range of 310 miles, and will be in dealerships by 2018. With Tesla’s Model X set to arrive this fall, with its projected 230-300 mile range (depending on specification), it looks like Silicon Valley’s favorite startup might have some company sooner than expected.
3. Citroën C4 Cactus M
There was a time when French cars could be counted on to be truly weird. But those days are gone now, and one of the few reminders of that is the Citroën C4 Cactus (pictured above), a small crossover available in Europe. For Frankfurt, Citroën has chopped the top off to create the Cactus M, which it calls “a fresh and invigorating version of the C4 Cactus that revisits the spirit of the legendary Méhari,” which was a plastic-bodied utility vehicle that was once a common sight in seaside resort towns, and based on the 2CV. No word yet on whether the Cactus M will see production, and while Citroën still has a cult following stateside (it pulled out of the U.S. market in 1974), don’t expect it to come back anytime soon.
4. Jaguar F Pace
Jaguar’s first ever SUV has been in the works for a long time, and after sending out teaser images for nearly a year now (like the one above), the public will finally get to see a preproduction model up close at Frankfurt. With styling borrowing heavily from the XJ sedan and F-Type coupe, designer Ian Callum has ensured that the F-Pace is already one of the best-looking SUVs in the world – and we haven’t even seen it without camouflage yet. Don’t be surprised if Jaguar becomes a major player in the luxury SUV segment within a year or two.
5. Audi A4
It might be hard to tell at a glance, but the 2017 Audi A4 is all-new. Despite being bigger than the outgoing model, the new one is over 250 pounds lighter, more efficient, and has a dual-clutch automatic in place of the wonky CVT. One of Audi’s strongest sellers, the company chose to play it safe with the next-generation A4 – a move that’s likely to pay off handsomely. The car won’t arrive in showrooms until next year, but the public will get its first glimpse of the new sedan up close at Frankfurt.
6. Bentley Bentayga
Like Jaguar, Bentley is releasing its first official SUV, and as long as it isn’t as polarizing as the EXP-9 F concept of 2012, it should revolutionize the luxury SUV segment. Both V8 and W12 engines will be available, with the latter supposedly capable of helping the big truck break the 200 mile per hour mark. With all that power and a traditionally opulent Bentley interior, the Bentayga is expected to start at around $200,000. Fully optioned, it could end up costing twice that.
7. Maserati Levante
Parent company FCA is spinning Ferrari off into its own company, and it’s looking to its remaining premium brands, Alfa Romeo and Maserati, to sell more cars – a lot more cars. As a result, Maserati will also be releasing its first ever SUV. While the company broached the subject back in 2011 with the Kubang concept (pictured above), expect the production-ready Levante to be to updated to appeal to a mass audience, FCA expects to sell 50,000 Maseratis worldwide by 2018, largely on the strength of its SUV.
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