Frankfurt motor show | CAR reader | Show review
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Frankfurt motor show revisited: a reader’s review
05 October 2009 17:26
Richard Webber won a competition held by CAR and Vauxhall to take a CAR Online reader to Frankfurt. Here's his earlier report from the 2009 IAA - and you can now watch his video preview of the new 2010 Astra below
I was chuffed to bits to win CAR’s competition to go to the 2009 Frankfurt motor show. But would the IAA live up to the hype on a general access public day, rather than VIP only press day? It was certainly absolutely rammed, far busier than I suspect international media day would have been.
To steal a peek at the new Ferrari 458 Italia or the Lamborghini Reventon Roadster I had to squeeze to the front of a wall of car fans pressed up against glass barriers surrounding the new metal. A privileged few wandered inside, frolicking comfortably in the acres of space they had to enjoy their distinguished position.
At Rolls-Royce, buyers fopped about in a private bar before sashaying onto the stand for a browse, ignoring the thousands looking jealous daggers their way. To see the Aston Martin Rapide you had to join a queue that shuffled incrementally past the car as if it were Chairman Mao’s embalmed body. You’d better believe it – you’ll be kept at arm’s length on public days and barriers seem to be erected left, right and centre compared with the open-access press day set-up.
Part of the exclusion of crowds is engineered exclusivity – the car seems more special if it’s inaccessible. On the other hand it’s practical too. Some of the vehicles at Frankfurt are just too valuable to risk damage, which is the same reason supercars don’t get crash-tested.
This is where volume manufacturers are one-up on their niche counterparts. There was real excitement about cars like the Peugeot RCZ, Vauxhall Astra and BMW 5-series GT, all of which visitors to the show could climb aboard for the full tactile, switch-flicking, surface-prodding, seat-squirming experience. Concept cars and supercars are great to see, but having a proper poke about a brand new car that is actually attainable is much more fun. It’s like comparing airbrushed supermodels to FHM’s High Street Honeys. I’ll take real life any time.
The Alfa Romeo Mito Cloverleaf was one such highlight for me. I’ve always loved Alfas, especially little sporty ones. It was a treat to settle into the dinky Mito’s typically plush interior and wrap my hands around the wheel. If one of the spokesmodels had handed me a set of keys (and jumped in the passenger seat), I would have been even happier.
I also climbed into a Toyota iQ for the first time and tried the back seat for size. Getting in wasn’t too difficult, but getting out was even easier. I left via the boot.
Porsche 911s aren’t usually my thing, but the Sport Classic is an absolute beaut, and was another stand-out star of the show. The off-white paint with subtle grey Shelby-style stripes, which run all the way over the tidy ducktail spoiler, looks sweet as a nut. The interior is dipped in chocolate leather with tan fabric accents – it might sound a bit Alan Partridge stringback, but it works a treat. I’m going weak-kneed thinking about it even now. What a shame it will cost twice as much as a Carrera S. I think I’d rather have half a Sport Classic.
The IAA at Frankfurt is the largest car show in the world, and despite current economic conditions, it is still the place where manufacturers can show off. High marks for flamboyance go to BMW for its raised indoor oval track, complete with banked corner, which allowed Beemers old and new to whoosh around the hall, dipping in and out of sight like a train set in the rafters. Peugeot also ranked highly with its unfathomable rain curtain display, which cast patterned sheets of water rhythmically from one side of the stand to the other. However, the general slickness of the big stands was broken up by regular visits from cleaning staff, waving multicoloured feather dusters over the cars. It was nice to see some basic Victorian housekeeping at work amongst the space-age technology.
Some of the more striking sights weren’t so lofty or dramatic. Other gems and oddities hidden about the halls were just as engaging. A new Trabant concept car, the nT, had the same pleasingly retro style of a Fiat 500 or Nissan Figaro, and if produced, could trade on the cult status of the ex-communist bloc car maker. Nearby lurked the Hartung Sparta Nature – a gull-winged metallic behemoth with a twin-turbocharged diesel V8, supposedly capable of over 180mph. Staff on the Hartung stand stood at attention next to the car in boiler suits, and crash helmets rested on the bonnet. It was as if their fraction of Hall 8 had been transplanted from a 1970s sci-fi movie set.
The show is vast, with 11 hangar-like halls spread over an airport-sized patch of central Frankfurt, and a day isn’t enough to see everything, but then seeing everything shouldn’t be your aim. Even the keenest enthusiast would reach saturation point plodding about the complex trying to tick every box.
The best approach is to pick out what you want to see in advance, which is best done using a motoring website’s list of all the new cars on show. The majority of cars at Frankfurt aren’t new, and you could easily find yourself on autopilot, staring gormlessly at something you’d seen on the road a year earlier, unless you know what you’re looking for.
I would guess midweek crowds are less paralysing than the weekend mob, so that would be the best time to go for a stressless visit. I, for one, will definitely be back.
>> Richard went out to Frankfurt with Vauxhall to see the new Astra. Click here for his thoughts on the Astra at Vauxhall's Astra microsite