Frankfurt Motor Show Re-Cap

While there is a growing currency of municipal auto shows across the United States that now includes such automotive “hot spots” as Denver and Anaheim, most manufacturers only prioritize a small handful of the international auto shows to debut their latest production and concept models.  Count this week’s Frankfurt International Motor Show as one of them.  Alternating each year with Paris as the host location, the Frankfurt International Show is ideally situated on the calendar to present the bumper crop of 2012 model-year vehicles.  Here’s a brief rundown of the most noteworthy displays by your favorite luxury and sports car manufacturers:


What better way to celebrate your 125th anniversary (and the birth of the automobile, for that matter) than by unveiling a concept version of your signature model.  Dubbed the F125! research vehicle, this supposed preview of what the S-Class will look like in 2025 primarily offers a plug-in hybrid drivetrain consisting of a hydrogen fuel cell and a lithium-sulphur battery pack.  In tandem, these power sources give the F125! a daily range of 621 miles!   From a structural point of view, the F125! is unusual in its translation of sports car ideas into a sedan.  That is, the extensive use of carbon fiber reinforced plastic in the body, usually reserved for the lightweight construction of sports cars, results in the ability to endow the car with long gullwing doors that stretch over a large pillarless entryway, for access to both front and rear seats.


Lambo has a long tradition of upgrading existing models with improved performance and exterior packaging.  So it was hardly surprising when the Raging Bull presented yet another version of the V-10 powered Gallardo, this one entitled the Gallardo LP 570-4 Super Trofeo Stradale (also pictured at top).  Only 150 examples will be produced of this roadgoing version of the racecar that competes in the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo, which claims to be the world’s fastest single-make racing series.  Lambo was never really known for racing, but for brand die-hards, the adjustable spoiler and removable hood should make for some track day tinkering that suggests otherwise.  So will the 570 horsepower engine and the 3.4-second sprints to 62 mph that it provides.

If Lambo didn’t exactly have anything brand new to show off, they could at least claim to talk about something brand new.  The Sesto Elemento, a concept car that first appeared a year ago with a premium on handling and lightweight materials, has been approved for a limited production run of only 20 examples.  Weighing a svelte 2,200 lbs, the 570-horsepower Sesto is purportedly able to hit 62 mph from standstill in just 2.5 seconds.


Italy’s other major supercar producer, on the other hand, is well known for its racing accomplishments.  Ironically, though, its major new offering is the ultimate in exotic road car, the 458 Spider.  This open-top version of the 458 Italia is notable in that it is the first 8-cylinder Ferrari to feature an automatically retractable hardtop, a tricky prospect considering that the car’s V-8 lies right behind its cockpit.  Though a majority of the 458 Spider is clearly identical to the Italia coupe, there’s no underplaying the engineering genius that managed to squeeze a folding hardtop into the edge of the engine bay, at 55 lbs less than a traditional soft top, no less.


After winning a flurry of awards for its dazzling C-X75 concept car last year, Jaguar went slightly more traditional with this new concept, called the C-X16.  Poised as a potential junior version of its signature XKR sports car (not unlike the relationship between Aston Martin’s V8 Vantage and the DBS), the C-X16 is powered by a new 3-liter V-6 engine that develops 375 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, good for 4.4 second launches to 62 mph and a top speed of 186 mph.  A battery pack charged by regenerated brake energy supplies an extra 94 horsepower of temporary boost that can be summoned at the press of a button.


Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne had mentioned some time ago that his company was exploring the possibility of a combination product of two of its subsidiaries.  That idea has now coalesced into the Maserati Kubang, a new “Sport Luxury SUV” that will reportedly be built at Chrysler’s Detroit factory (home of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango).  Featuring a brand new proprietary engine built by Ferrari, the Kubang could convincingly challenge the Porsche Cayenne or Range Rover Sport.


Not far from the idea of Ferrari’s presentation, Bentley debuted a new open-top version of the restyled Continental GT.  Once again dubbed the GTC, the new car employs all of the subtly restyled cues of the new GT, which appeared last January.  Of course, the biggest challenge in transforming a coupe to a convertible is accounting for the lack of structural support created by removing the solid roof.  The structural reinforcement that is usually added to the chassis and lower body generally results in a heavier and less performance-oriented car.  So how is it that the new GTC is actually lighter than its coupe sibling?  Simple.  Bentley engineers managed to shave 55 lbs from each of the front seats, brilliantly preserving the sporty power-to-weight ratio that is an inherent characteristic of the Bentley brand.  The GTC’s flex fuel-capable W12 engine delivers a whopping 567 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque.