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Frankfurt Motor Show 2005 - Highlights
 What we've seen • Our photos and comment

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Mini Concept Frankfurt

BMW Group unveiled this surprising stretched Mini today that recalls the Mini Traveller launched exactly 45 years ago. Concept Frankfurt aims to offer a glimpse of how the Mini brand might be extended in future to offer a premium coupé-station wagon bodystyle. The front end is all-new, featuring swept back headlamps and a new three-bar grille, together with a higher hood line and more curved windshield than the current model.

The Concept Frankfurt also references the Traveller through its symmetrically split double rear door, sliding side windows and contrasting structural areas around the rear that echo the woodie treatment of the original car. The interior is new, with 'floating' seats and a huge, somewhat overwrought, circular instrument display in the centre of the IP.

Both front doors and split rear doors feature parallelogram hinges, to allow optimum access to the car. The final touch to the launch of the car was when the trunk was opened - to reveal a very patient dog sitting inside.

Smart Crosstown concept

Smart unveiled a surprise concept on the first press day of the Frankfurt show. The Crosstown is a proposal for a possible future Fortwo coupé and cabrio. The theme is 1940's jungle car - a two-box profile, flat panels, flat folding windscreen, exposed hinges and stacked hood. The stripped-out interior features distressed leather and instruments encased in a simple yellow acrylic binnacle. But it's far too naïve - this is student-level design. The stance is poor - that upright windscreen kills it - and the current monobox production model is far better resolved as an overall design.

Where's the wit and flair of previous Smart concepts such as the Crossblade and Roadster, which later made production? And how does it relate to current Smart DNA? Sorry guys - Nissan did this rather better with the Pao pike car 15 years ago.

Volkswagen Eos

Historically Volkswagen have owned the compact four seat convertible niche; from the original Beetle, through Mk1 and Mk3 Golf, to New Beetle. Now, instead of producing a convertible version of the now two year old Mk5 Golf, Volkswagen have launched the Eos, a car previewed by the Concept C at Geneva last year.

Based on the platform of the new Jetta (itself just a booted Golf) this new model name aims to move more upmarket than similar folding hard roof cars from Peugeot, Renault and now Ford and Opel, and to be positioned just below cars like the four seat soft tops from BMW, Audi and Saab. This more premium positioning is reflected in the car's Passat-influenced form language and detailing, and in the way it more successfully resolves much of the windscreen and rear deck issues typically intrinsic in this type of folding hard roof car type, although overall the car lacks a distinct identity within the Volkswagen range.

Related Stories:
Geneva Motor Show 2004 - Volkswagen Concept C

Audi Q7

This is a fine car in the flesh, which looks like giving other premium SUVs a hard time in the marketplace. Viewing it outside, one is aware that the basic proportions and the scale of the exterior detailing are beautifully judged and help considerably to disguise the bulk of this vehicle - it's over five meters long. There's more plan shape in the nose than is apparent in photos, with all lines at the front focusing attention on the grille, including the hood shutline, the headlamps and the strakes in the lower side intakes.

The 7-seat interior carries over themes seen in recent Audis but there's a surprisingly 'durable' feel to many materials used, witnessed by the use of large-scale pigskin-type graining on the IP and doors, large areas of hard plastics and rugged carpets. This is no A6 Avant.

Audi are also showing a Q7 hybrid concept, which might herald a Lexus-type dual-drivetrain version of the car in future. All in all, it's another reason not to buy a Cayenne…

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Detroit Auto Show 2003 - Audi Pikes Peak concept

Mitsubishi Concept-Sportback

The Concept-Sportback is an indication of Mitsubishi's strategy for a forthcoming compact hatchback to compete with European cars such as the Seat Leon and Honda Civic that are both making their show debut at Frankfurt in production form. Its conspicuous dynamic aesthetic is evident most in the diving side feature line, shallow single sweep DLO and subtle but strong emphasis on the wheels arches. The car also reinforces Mitsubishi design cues, the spline that leads into the graphic logo mark at the rear, the frowning DRG (down-road-graphic) and stepped lamp graphic front and rear.

Overall the overt sporting design identity for this car typology is the Concept-Sportback's most distinguishing characteristic; it is handsome and well resolved, albeit with some quite generic design features and slightly mismatched wheel to body relationship front to rear, but not the iconic design that Mitsubishi requires to make an impact in this sector.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Many comments on the new S-Class have focused previously on the flared wheelarches, but in reality they're not as dominant as in photos, particularly in the darker colours seen here on the show stand. The rear 3/4 view is probably the nicest, where the lean-forward trunk lid gives a fresh look to the design, whereas the front face is the most conservative, in many ways a step back from the older W220 model. Pity about that radar sensor in the grille too - it looks so fake with all those grille bars running through it.

The interior is the best part of this car, clearly showing the influence of ex-Audi designer Stefan Sielaff. There's a level of quality and detail not seen before in a Mercedes, with a rich mixture of materials used - very tactile, very detailed. There are chrome toggle switches with a fine ribbed texture, complemented by shiny black details and satin woods. The two-tone interior in beige and black is an absolute treat.

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First Sight: Mercedes-Benz S Class

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© 2005 Car Design News Ltd
Last updated: Mon, Sep 19, 2005