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IHS Markit Commentary: Paris Motor Show Expectations

01 October 2018 Tim Urquhart, B.A.

The 2018 Paris Motor Show gets under way this week with the first press day on 2 October. Although there have been some notable OEM withdrawals from the show, a number of manufacturers in the premium space have announced important world debuts at the event that are set to be key vehicles and drive volumes, with the new BMW 3-Series and the DS3 Crossback among the most eye-catching offerings.

Audi will debut the second-generation A1. The new model, which will be built at the SEAT plant in Martorell (Spain), will be based on the MQB A0 platform, the Volkswagen (VW) Group's modular platform for B-segment models. There will be 94-bhp 1.0-litre 3-cylinder, 1.5-litre, and 2.0-litre 4-cylinder gasoline (petrol) TFSI units offering up to 197 bhp. The model will look to attract younger customers with a strong infotainment offering, including a sat-nav system including Google's search engine or Google Maps, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also offered. Audi will also display its e-tron electric vehicle (EV), which was recently launched officially in California. The company is claiming a 246-mile range from the model's 96kw/h battery capacity.

BMW has announced that it will debut its seventh-generation G20 3-Series at the show. The 3-Series is always a hugely important car for BMW, and it wants to raise the game of the 3-Series in every single metric, especially given the increased competition in recent years from the much-improved Mercedes-Benz C-Class. In line with the design philosophy behind the E-segment G30 5-Series, which debuted at the beginning of last year, BMW has focused on reducing weight, which will help improve economy, emissions, and handling. The vehicle loses up to 50 kg in comparison with the old model depending on the variant, through the use of hot-formed, high-tensile-strength steel. Early glimpses of the new design suggest a car that is somewhat conservatively styled along the lines of the current mainstream BMW passenger car design language, although more freedom has been afforded to the detail of features such as the shape of the front and rear lights, which are intricate in their design, while the rear of the car has quite contoured flanks with sharp lines. BMW will have another important world debut at the show in the form of the fourth-generation X5. BMW has already revealed images of the car, showing a design that scales up the design elements of the latest X3. There will be a range of gasoline and diesel powertrains with fuel consumption of 6.0-11.6 l/100 km (24.4-47.1 mpg]) and carbon dioxide emissions of 158-264 g/km; these are provisional values. In addition, the model will feature the latest xDrive all-wheel-drive system and new chassis systems, including two-axle air suspension, Integral Active Steering, and the Off-Road package.

The DS3 Crossback will be an important car for DS as it is set to become the now standalone brand's best-selling model, and it is also an early entrant in the European premium SUV-B segment. As well as being available with a full range of conventional internal combustion engine powertrains, the model will also be available as a full EV, the first full EV that Groupe PSA has launched since the Mitsubishi i-MiEV-based Peugeot iOn and Citroën C-Zero back in 2010. The new model is being built on PSA's Common Modular Platform (CMP) architecture, into which, importantly, battery cells can be integrated. The styling is also relatively bold, with some novel surfacing on the bonnet (hood), a unique rear door shape, and a striking front-end design accented by Matrix LED Vision headlights. There are other features that convey sophistication, such as flush door handles that deploy automatically when required, and a fully digital driving display.

Mercedes-Benz will show off the second model in its second-generation expanded compact-car range, the new B-Class multi-purpose vehicle (MPV). The B-Class will be sportier than the old car, according to Mercedes-Benz, while also being focused on providing comfort for family buyers. Powertrains are likely to mirror those of the A-Class, with options including a 1.3-litre turbo gasoline engine, a 2.0-litre turbo gasoline engine, and a 1.5-litre diesel option. In addition, Mercedes-Benz will also give its fourth-generation sport utility vehicle (SUV)-E GLE model its world debut, which is a direct rival to the new X5 being launched over on the BMW stand. The new model offers softer lines from a dramatically restyled exterior, more interior space, and a brand-new range of powertrains, which at launch will include a 6-cylinder gasoline engine with 48-volt mild hybrid capability motor and a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder diesel, with a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle variant appearing at a later date. Autocar claims that this model will have an electric-only range of 50 miles. Other technical highlights include a fully networked hydropneumatic active suspension in which spring and damping forces can be individually controlled at each wheel.

Peugeot meanwhile will reveal the e-Legend concept. The look of the vehicle, which measures 4,650 mm long, 1,930 mm wide, 1,370 mm tall, and has a 2,690mm wheelbase, is based upon Peugeot's classic 504 Coupé. It features a stylish two-door body with wide arches that wrap 19-inch wheels. The interior uses 16 screens to convey digital interpretations of real materials, including the use of a 49-inch curved screen in front of the occupants. The concept uses an electric powertrain that sends its 340 kW of power and 800 Nm of torque to all four wheels and can accelerate to 100 km/h in less than 4 seconds and onto a top speed of 220 km/h. Thanks to the 100kWh battery, it also achieves a range of 600 km under the Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedure.

Skoda will launch the vRS variant of its Kodiaq SUV at the show. The variant will feature a 2.0-litre 239PS diesel-biturbo powertrain that will develop 500 Nm of torque. It will be the first time the vRS model designation is used as part of one of the company's SUV ranges, and it will also be the most powerful diesel the brand has ever offered. The automaker will also show a plug-in hybrid version VRS concept of its forthcoming Rapid. The concept's hybrid drivetrain combines VW's 148bhp 1.5-litre turbocharged gasoline engine with a 101bhp electric motor and its styling will give a strong impression of the production Rapid replacement.

Toyota will show its new Corolla Touring Sports. The sports C-segment wagon is set to rival cars such as the Ford Focus station wagon (estate) and SEAT Leon estate. The model has attractive lines with a sloping roofline and steeply raked rear window, while it is similar to the closely related hatchback forward of the rear axle, using the sharp front-end design language Toyota has rolled out in recent launches. Perhaps the biggest change over the Corolla hatchback is that Toyota has increased the model's wheelbase by 60 mm to 2,700 mm, which has been focused on increasing rear leg room.

Although there will be some much-publicized absentees from the Paris show, with the VW brand, Opel, Fiat, Jeep, and Alfa Romeo all opting to give the event a miss, it appears that there will be some high-profile launches that will attract a lot of attention, especially in the volume premium space. The new BMW 3-Series is probably the most important of these launches. The 3-Series is an important car and BMW is looking to re-establish the model as the world's best-selling D-segment executive sedan over the Mercedes-Benz C-Class in a package that combines practicality with driver enjoyment. The DS3 Crossback is also a very important model for PSA's attempts to make DS a successful standalone brand. It will be the Group's first full EV launch in eight years and is also set to be by far the DS brand's best-selling model. It is also rare for two of the big premium carmakers to launch compelling models at the same show, as will be the case with the BMW X5 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE, and it will be fascinating to see how these two cars match up in terms of specifications, equipment, and powertrains. Although they have already made their official world debuts, attendees at the show will also no doubt be interested in getting up close to the new Audi e-tron and Mercedes-Benz EQC as the premium carmakers finally begin their full EV model push and join battle with Tesla. So, despite the big-name absentees, the Paris show will still have a lot to offer.

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