Paris Bites

Taking a turn through the eerily empty halls of the 2018 Mondial de l’Auto with Auto Didakt’s Christopher Butt.

All Images (c) Auto-Didakt

It had been this author’s intention to attend this year’s Paris motor show, but a variety of factors conspired to prevent this. It was however of little consequence, because as the weeks counted down, it became increasingly clear that given the sheer number of non-attendees at manufacturer level, one wouldn’t be missing a great deal.

And so it came to pass, as evidenced by Driven to Write’s frequent contributor, and curator of Auto-Didakt, who by contrast did attend Wednesday’s press preview. Unfortunately his time was short, so not all of the Parisian delights could be sampled, largely owing to the arrival of a certain head of State, his entourage and (more to the point) his security detail.

So instead of a more detailed, blow by blow reading, we must settle for an overview of some of Porte de Versailles high and low-lights.

BMW 3-Series
Personally, I swore blind that I would not dignify this sorry confection by so much as mentioning it, so I will merely point you in its general direction and leave it to the good Mr. Butt to place it into some form of meaningful context…

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“This is the car BMW must not get wrong, under any circumstances. But they did just that, which results in a car that looks tacky, confused and cheap. The current Audi A4, which is renowned for its convoluted design process, looks effortlessly confident by comparison.”

Toyota RAV4
Next we are presented with what happens when your waku gets confused with your doki. The result is a car which looks like everything, all at once. Our Auto-Didakic cohort had this to say…

“A decade ago, this car would have been laughed at by the unwashed masses in the same way as the poor Fiat Multipla was. That the world’s most successful car company believes this kind of form will sell well (and is most likely to be correct about that) gives reason for concern.”

BMW iX3 & Mercedes EQC & Audi e-tron
The German ‘big three’ metaphorically speaking at least, flick the switch. Or to put it another way, dip a tentative (or should that read ambivalent) toe in the water. Didn’t anyone tell them that water and electricity are a potentially lethal combination?

“These are rebadging efforts on par with a Cadillac Cimarron – silly ‘futuristic’ badging and the boundless application of awful shiny plastics to what obviously still are utterly mundane family cars isn’t appealing to either early adopters looking for ‘the next thing’ or range-anxious fathers and mothers who actually just want a regular diesel, but are confused. That ‘the country of engineers’ deems such a deeply unsatisfying approach good enough is worrying – on many levels.”

Tesla Model 3
Ah Tesla. Weren’t they supposed to have taken over the World by now? Here in the old World the Model 3 remains an automotive unicorn. But any day now, we’re reliably assured. Then we’ll be sorry…

Auto Didakt

“The Tesla stall was most dimly lit in the history of motor shows. Were they excessively keeping tabs on the electricity bill? Or did they want to make it as difficult as possible for visitors to check out the Model 3’s build quality?”

Peugeot E-Legend
How odd. Having finally laid the risible ‘Drive-Sexy’ period to rest and successfully reinvented their styling language, Peugeot elects to show this – a not unattractive, if rather redundant concept à la Bertone B99. Nice, but irrelevant. But what does our German correspondent think?

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“Even ignoring the awkwardness of an autonomous electric retro coupé, the Peugeot’s stance and even some of the detailing didn’t really convince. Combining a muscle car-like lower body with a greenhouse of an almost Lancia Fulvia Coupé-like architecture results in a surprisingly discordant overall impression. The liquid silver exterior colour and turquoise velvet interior were delightful, however.”

Skoda Vision RS
Having already devoted a good 500 words to this subject, there is little point in rehashing them, but what I will say is that while it may not be the saviour of the automobile (nothing of the sort was in attendance at Paris I’m afraid), it’s a darn sight more convincing than a lot of the more storied offerings. But don’t take my word…

(c) Autocar

“Overdone boy racer details apart, the newest Skoda (still developed under Jozef Kabaň) once again proves that the Czech brand is / was the one with the strongest design identity within the VAG realm. The sharpness of the creases isn’t overdone à la Audi, the graphics are clear and the stance is superb. Let’s hope this truly is an indication of BMWs to come.”

Audi A1
If the previous Audi A1 resembled (as a contributor once memorably pointed out) an angry three year old, its replacement can only be described as its older equivalent in the throes of a monumental strop. Run screaming…

Auto Didakt

“If this was a one-off Lamborghini supermini, it’d make for an amusing experiment. Unfortunately, what Ingolstadt created here is the most unpleasant small car of all time. It will obviously sell (mostly for the wrong reasons) and set a precedent. This is anti-social styling in the spirit of a 15-year-old Top Gear fanatic’s wet dreams. And a new low for the increasingly confused, desperate brand from Ingolstadt.”

Renault EZ-Ultimo
The third of Renault’s EZ-themed electrified and autonomous concepts, the Ultimo previews it is said, a vision of a high-end limousine, with an ethos of providing luxury for all – at least for an hour or so. Glass slippers optional, one assumes. Our Auto-Didaktic critic however came away impressed.

“As a glimpse of the (autonomous) future, Renault’s final EZ concept is mostly pointless. However, as a playful exercise in futuristic luxury, it’s quite endearing. The materials certainly are an antidote to the shiny black and silver plastics the Germans now consider premium (the EZ-Ultimo’s tiles possessing an almost mother-of-pearl-like sheen) and the proportions of this self-driving, low carriage make an attempt at defining elegance for an engine bay-free future. Not all of it works, but this concept car does possess genuine flair.”

But finally, perhaps the real star of the show was this, making its second appearance in fifty years. The new XJ was not (as had been anticipated) in attendance, but this fine example of its more storied forebear, while not quite stealing the show, certainly stole hearts…

With grateful thanks to SL for the image.

So there you have it. A decidedly lacklustre Paris, plucked and roasted for your comfort and above all, convenience.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

16 thoughts on “Paris Bites”

  1. What a terrific write up. Thank you both.

    Peugeot’s e-Legende has received a great deal of praise, but I agree with Christopher – it is, frustratingly, not as good as it could and should have been. The 504 coupe that inspired it has a grace and subtlety that has been lost in translation. This is a shame because the new 508 is a welcome step in the right direction, and it would be wonderful if they found a way to put a two door version into production.

    The close up image of the new BMW 3’s face has triggered me. I may now need to lie down…

  2. Christopher’s excellent photo of the C-pillar detail on the 3-Series reveals just how badly it has been executed. Someone deserves a slap for this.

    Shame they had to add in those extra cooling slots above the grille on the A1. Perhaps they should instead have made the grille bigger…

    Should I be embarrassed to admit that I rather like this concept from Renault, also shown at Paris?

    Finally, and a complete non sequitur, who thought it was a good idea to combine manual transmission and electric parking brakes? I made a complete fool of myself in a rental Seat Leon yesterday, trying to execute a hill start at a busy junction in Los Gigantes, Tenerife. Grrr….!

    1. The Audi A1’s bonnet is supposed to echo the one of the short Sport quattro from the Eighties.

      The electric parking brake in any VAG product should release automatically once the car starts moving. Did you try this in your rental car? On my first encounter with the elecftric brake/manual box combo in a rental Golf in Croatia I was happy when I could return the car, only to later find out that I needn’t have bothered with the bake at all…

  3. Ah, that BMW c-pillar. Given the importance of the geometry of the Hofmeister kink, this execution is triply incompetent. The little straight bit is as long as the straight section we think of as the Hofmeister kink. Which one is dominant? What does the extra section do? It´s so indecisive. Though they must have, it is still hard to imagine they did not argue over this. The point with a Hofemeister kink is that it´s a sudden bend after a long straight curve. This car has a bend and then another bend, watering down the effect of the bend.
    The Renault is nice.
    I like that concept car at the very end of the article. The paint is very interesting and I like the articulation of the window to body junction by means of the chrome trim. Wow.

    1. You are right. It is awful.

      I think van Hooydonk is trolling us.

    2. The concept at the end seems to have converted to a production car extremely quickly – I just saw one of them on the street. From what I can tell, the design stays very close to the concept. They must be true masters in productionising.

    3. I think Mr. van Hoydoonk’s fringe is getting in his eyes.

  4. What’s that light-coloured section in the BMW’s grille? A body coloured (colour coded?) panel behind the grille bars?!? Or just the black plastic cladding seen in ungainly lighting? Whatever it is, if the area for cooling isn’t needed, why not just make the nostrils slimmer?

    The RAV4, which until now had quite a distinctive shape, is a true mess. It’s like they weren’t sure if they wanted to copy the VW Tiguan, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross (I had to look up this name) or the Honda CR-V, so they just took all of them (visible in the D-pillar area).

    1. When you look at the BMW’s grille you see that they simply enlarged the nostrils until the former version’s panel between grille and bonnet disapleard. Slimming down the grille would simply make reappear this ungainly strip of body coloured plastic. The blanked off area between the bars of the grille is necessary to provide a defined landing zone for pedestrians which would get seriously hurt by individual grille bars…

  5. An excellent summary of the general rubbish on display. It shows the complete lack of inspiration present in so many of today’s products whether they be cars or something as simple as bars of nominal chocolate, now stuffed with more than the mere dustings of the bottom of the nut barrel.

    I must congratulate BMW on the new face of the 3 Series. I had simply not realized in over 70 years of tramping this Earth, that what I was searching unsuccessfully for without quite being able to conceptualize it, was a grille whose top quarter seems backed by plastic. In the white model shown, there is white behind the grille, making the iconic kidneys the worlds largest corporate medallion. Other body colours may not get this sympathetic and wholly original presentation. Perhaps in the US this heroic new styling direction will stave off the thorough sales drubbing all the FGCs in the segment are receiving from the Tesla Model 3. Let us truly hope so and that the modified Hofmeister kink is a sign of even better things to come from the collective genius that is BMW.

    Speaking of genius, one cannot forget the vast contribution of Akio Toyoda to excitement. Ever since taking over the reins at Toyota, this gentleman has unflinchingly dedicated untold hours of reflection and subsequent direction to his staff to make the vehicles his company produces into paragons of mechanical and visual excitement. Who hasn’t experienced the verve of the CH-R nipping through bends at incredible rates of speed rarely achieved by cars from the 1920s when Toyoda merely made spinning looms? What a transformation! Powerful energetic engines that rev so freely, the driver’s mind is transported into another galaxy of delight! And the new RAV4 promises to continue this new tradition for families keen to not have to bend over to load the groceries and other sordid tasks that modern society demands of them. The keen driver salivates at the mere thought of pressing this new steed through the curves of his favourite local roundabout at five over the limit on a dry blue-sky day. And after the thrilling drive, the owner once home can gaze proudly at the dashingly carved beauty adorning the driveway. Excitement indeed!

    Yes, vehicles are getting better and untold thousands prowl the corridors of car shows like Paris, elbowing each other out of the way to see what gleaming mechanical stallions designers have brought to entrance us anew. Heigh-ho Silver, and away ….!

  6. Hi Dave, you’re right, of course, about the automatic parking brake function, but I hadn’t noticed the relevant switch before my moment of idiocy. Both our cars are automtics and my Boxster (PDK) has an electronic parking brake, but this was the first time I’ve driven a manual car with one. I’d be fine doing a hill start with a traditional handbrake. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll get used to it.

    I had spotted the Quattro sport reference, but thought it absurd on a small hatchback without any performance pretensions, hence my (attempted) sarcasm.

    1. Do you know what, I have seen a few Model 3´s around here. They aren´t that wierd a sight. The S is still more numerous though. A close look at the 3 showed nothing to be alarmed about apart from the flatness of the rear seats. What he flip is it with car seats today? Don´t anyone say safety.

    2. They must be grey market cars. Officially, no Model 3’s have been exported to Europe yet – that is supposed to start in November at the earliest. Finding one stopped to look at is a bit like discovering a unicorn. Are you sure you saw them? Making a fit and finish judgement on a not-yet-officially imported car seems premature.

    3. yep… Several co-workers own them, they are built very well in my opinion.
      I would own one if it was conducive to my lifestyle, however 3-4 mile clay/mud/gravel roads often require a vehicle like our pathfinder or a k1500 4×4.

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