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2016 Paris Motor Show

When Paris sizzles.

While this year’s Paris Motor Show wasn’t the most star-studded in history, it nevertheless featured a number of headline-stealing premieres that sent ripples across the automotive landscape.

Held every second year, the Paris Motor Show is perhaps second or third in importance to European carmakers, behind only the Frankfurt Motor Show (with which it shares this biennial schedule) and, possibly, the Geneva Motor Show. It’s also the one chance for the French manufacturers to really cut loose in an attempt to outshine their continental competitors.

Here are some of the more interesting vehicles we saw during media day for the Mondial de l’Automobile; half are set for production in the immediate future, the other half are more forward-looking in nature.

The production vehicles

Although the Mercedes-AMG GT R debuted at the Goodwood Festival of Speed earlier this year, it still managed to draw a huge crowd in Paris. The base GT S is a fantastically mean car with some serious credentials; this racier version looks downright blood-curdling by comparison. (The German manufacturer also took the opportunity to introduce the Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster, a convertible version of the base supercar.)

While some manufacturers are veering away from leaning on the international auto show circuit for big splashy introductions, the Audi concern continues to go “porc entier.” On the stand, they pulled the wraps off the Audi RS3 racecar, which looked absolutely fierce, and two important road cars: the new-generation Audi Q5 and the brand new Audi A5/S5 Sportback.

The Paris Motor Show is perhaps second or third in importance to European carmakers.

In Paris, the tremendous momentum built up over the past two years continued as Jaguar Land Rover unleashed what looks like another winner—the Land Rover Discovery. The replacement for the aging LR4, the new Discovery looks far sleeker and more modern; under the skin, it’s intended to be just as capable in all possible driving conditions and far more efficient.

Compared to the Discovery, the Microcar M.Go Highland X is on the decidedly compact side. But this super-subcompact converted to pick-up truck duty qualified as perhaps the cutest and most unabashedly French thing on display in Paris—next to all the multicoloured macarons.

At the opposite end of the automotive spectrum was the LaFerrari Aperta, a drop-top version of the Italian icon’s resident hybrid hypercar. Clad in black with subtle red pinstriping and yellow Prancing Horse badges, the Ferrari resembled a sleeker and more stylish Batmobile. The fastest convertible ever produced by these automotive maestros is set for a limited production run of just 209 examples—and every one is already spoken for.

The concepts

While other manufacturers focused on bringing the wildest things on wheels to Paris, BMW forged its own path with the X2 Concept, a compact crossover that will surely see the light of day at some point. The design team, including ex-Montrealer Karim Habib, has given the brand’s design rules a twist and emerged with a real winner.

No one understands the hot hatch segment quite like Europeans. Sure, the manufacturers from further afield made their presence felt in Paris. But in terms of sheer bang for the buck, it’s tough to outgun something like the Citroen C3 rally car. The French are incredibly passionate about motorsport and this hot hatch, which will contest the FIA World Rally Championship next season, provides ample reason for national pride.

Not to be outdone by their crosstown rivals, the adrenaline-fuelled sorts at Renault brought their own high-performance hatchback to Paris in the form of the RenaultSport Clio RS 16. Armed with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that cranks out 275 horsepower, this F1-inspired compact car makes us yearn for the open road.

Elsewhere in the Renault booth, there was mayhem as photographers and videographers attempted to capture the Renault Trezor in all its futuristic glory. The interest centred around the supercar’s muscular styling and its bizarre mode of ingress and egress: the roof splits and flips to allow passengers to enter, looking like something right out of a Hot Wheels action pack.

While images of the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 have been out there since it debuted at this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, this concept needs to be seen from all angles to be believed. The “6” part of the name derives from the fact that the car is almost six metres long—most large vehicles top out at five metres—making it seem truly larger than life. This all-electric fastback is unlikely to make it to mass production untouched, but expect a few of Earth’s wealthiest individuals to place custom orders before too long.