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

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Porsche Cayman

Whilst the 911 has been available as coupe or cabriolet for two decades, the Boxster is cabriolet only, and so the Cayman enters the Porsche range instead of a hard top version of the Boxster. This clever move enables Porsche to create a new, more masculine and driver focused sub-brand and, along with a smidgen more power, justification for the car's price point a significant chunk above the Boxster.

The task to create a new and distinct model that shares its package with an existing design is not an easy one, and arguably the Cayman is a contrived design because of this. In profile the car's domed roof, upswept DLO, more prominent hips and shallow raked tailgate distinguish it clearly from the 911 or Boxster, but together they do not feel like the rational solution that its siblings deliver in their design. The shallow rear buttresses, upsweeping line into the side air intake and the front fog lights also seem slightly fussy relative to the purity of other Porsches.

Renault Clio

We featured the Clio a few weeks ago, but seeing the car in the flesh there are a few new perspectives, not least relative to the two other important European B-class cars debuting at Frankfurt: the Toyota Yaris and Fiat Punto.

Like the other two, the Clio's design is well judged in its balance of modernity and conservatism, although with greater resemblance to its predecessor and without the modern proportions of the Yaris or svelte simplicity of the Punto, the Clio seems the more familiar.

But in its depths of design quality it excels: a feature line that harmoniously connects grille, lamps, wing and A-pillar; an innovative near flat surface on the rear bumper that is subtly delineated from the more rounded sections necessary at the top, bottom and sides; and the neat integration of side indicator repeater in the rub strip. Inside the “Touch Design” rubber sphere air vent controls, distinctive head rest shape and the way even the smallest detail has been considered relative to its surroundings - like the integration of logo mark on steering wheel and the way the air vents are part of the IP form - elevates the quality perception of the Clio relative to Yaris and Punto.

Related stories:
First Sight - Renault Clio

Jeep Compass concept

This car is a show car preview of a production car that will differ only in detail - smaller wheels, less body kit, different colour and trim - and is conceptually and dimensionally similar to the Subaru Forester in being a SUV / car crossover. It is the twin of the Dodge Caliber shown in Geneva (also in concept car preview form), the first Jeep developed primarily for Europe and the first Jeep with such a strong on-road orientation; transverse engine, only 1.6m tall and a monocoque body.

Jeep have been hinting for years with many impressive concept cars (not least the Compass concept car of Detroit 2002) that their brand is ripe for moving into the 'crossover' market, so it is disappointing that now they have eventually launched a car that is so obvious, so conventional. All the standard Jeep design cues are present along with a body side that flares out for the wings emphasised by the shoulder feature line, but otherwise the car is devoid of distinctive design feature and has slightly crude, generic small car form language and detailing. This has to be the biggest missed opportunity of the show.

Related stories:
Detroit Auto Show 2002 - Jeep Compass concept
Geneva Motor Show 2005 - Dodge Caliber concept

Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder

Arguably this car is not a significant new design given that it is just a variant of the two year old Gallardo, but an extreme car like the Spyder has such an exotic appeal and interesting details that it warrants a closer look.

Without the long flying buttresses the Spyder's large rear deck visually dominates the different look of the car and incorporates the mid engine air outlet vents instead of their position on the coupe where they are an extension of the rear lamp graphic. This deck cants slightly up and back to enable the small electric folding roof to emerge replete with vestigial buttresses.

The wheels launched on the Spyder, but also available on the standard car, are also noteworthy; an exceptionally expressive design with spokes running right to the outer edges of the rim and the classic Lamborghini circular motive incorporated as a broken dished recess over the spokes - expect to see this design theme to be emulated a lot by other brands.

Related stories:
Geneva Motor Show 2003 - Lamborghini Gallardo

Volvo C70

Making its debut at Frankfurt (like the Opel Astra Twin Top and VW Eos), the new C70 joins the fast growing European folding hard roof coupe cabriolet market. Although based on the S40/V50 platform – itself based on the Ford Focus and Mazda 3 platform – the C70 in nomenclature and marketing is positioned above the mainstream brand C-sector coupe convertibles from Renault, Peugeot, Opel and soon Ford, just as the Volkswagen Eos is.

As the S60, V70 and to a lesser extent the S80, are all subtly differentiated from one another, so the C70 shares much with the S40/V50 and differs at the front only in its bumper and windscreen. With its faster windscreen, lower height, elegant DLO (afforded in no small part by a three rather than two part roof) and longer rear deck, the C70 successfully moves away from the more truncated look of some of its competitors, even if it doesn't have the proportional elegance of cars such as the Saab and Audi cabriolets.

Related stories:
Frankfurt Motor Show 2003 - Volvo S40

Ford Iosis concept

The overall impression of the Iosis is that of an assertive and dynamic sedan with a strongly crouching stance to it. Many designers who visited the stand agreed it was a very masculine, albeit busy, design that combines elements of previous Opel, Mazda and Jaguar concepts, or even a DB9 from the rear view. If that's the concept for the next Mondeo - a four-door Aston Martin clone that every young middle manager can afford - it's no bad thing.

Moreover, there are subtle elements to this 'kinetic design' theme that set it apart: for instance, the uplift to the trapezoid lower grille like a smile at the corners of a mouth; an interesting graphic to the headlamp or the cantilevered headrests that we've never seen before. It's hard work to come up with fresh details like this and yet so important to include on a 'DNA statement' such as Iosis. At last, Ford seems to have found a bit of design territory of their own here.

Related stories:
Design Review - Ford Iosis

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