Top seven notes from Beijing’s 2014 VW Group motor show

Published: 25 April 2014

On the eve of every major motor show, the Volkswagen Group steals a jump on the competition by staging its own mini motor show to reveal its big-hitters for the imminent event. Here are seven things you won’t have heard from Beijing’s ‘Group Night’.

1. China is mad about supercars

As soon as the floor was opened to journalists, the Chinese media made straight for the stunning new Lamborghini Huracan and Bugatti’s latest Veyron Vitesse Legends Edition, the ‘Black Bess’. The common conception is that China cares mainly for chrome-trimmed limousines and SUVs, but there was real enthusiasm for the VW Group’s two fastest exports. So much, in fact, that the local media were to be seen crouching next to the supercars having their pictures taken, like Goodwood Festival of Speed punters.

2. Audi’s TT Offroad grabbed European attention

Meanwhile, the European media made a beeline for Audi’s TT Offroad concept, which shows the likely ‘third member of the TT family’, according to Audi boss Rupert Stadler. If it gets the green light – possibly as a new Audi TT-Q – it could do for Audi’s bottom line what the Range Rover Evoque did for Land Rover’s.

3. VW’s hottest hatch doesn’t look like one

No arguing with the VW Golf R400 concept’s numbers: 395bhp from 2.0-litres, 0-62mph in 3.9sec, and 174mph flat out. But despite its carbon addenda, 20in rims and 20mm wheelarch extensions, it doesn’t even look as lairy as a Ford Focus ST. In the metal, (in a dark colour) your average punter would struggle to tell it apart from a 296bhp Golf R. A pity it’s not more like the Design Vision GTI to look at, then. Perhaps that’s a nod that unlike the mad GTI, the R400 is coming to showrooms soon.

4. Porsche’s GTS twins are Lotus’s worst nightmare

The new Cayman GTS and Boxster GTS look like a death knell for poor old Lotus. With their sharper 918 Spyder-style bodykits, standard PASM ride control and token power boosts, they leave Lotus’s Evora looking even more difficult to justify. Lotus isn’t at the Beijing motor show, saying ‘it’s concentrating on supporting local Chinese dealers’ instead. Those dealers will be pretty empty if the GTS twins drive as good as they look.

5. Shock: Bugatti’s latest Legend isn’t boring

Bugatti has been guilty of making the amazing Veyron boring with every new ‘special edition’ paint job and price hike. The Black Bess edition might look a bit Mansory, what with its golden pinstriping and gold-plated badges, but it really works in the flesh: it’s the most menacing-looking Veyron ever, and has the coolest back story. Mind you…

6. The best car at the entire event was a priceless vintage Bugatti

VW spends a fortune on showing off its new cars and then a 1914 old-timer comes along and steals the show. The original ‘Black Bess’ Type 18 once owned by Roland Garros was flown in from Holland to China for the event, and it looked stunning. Totally original, fully driveable, and impossibly valuable, it was the most charming car on VW’s stage. Its minder told CAR that though the Black Bess is not for sale at any price, its insurance valuation makes the entire run of three Bugatti Black Bess Legend Veyrons (a cool €2.5m each) ‘look cheap.’

7. Thank goodness for no rehashed Giugiaro concept

With the original Parcours concept, Giugiaro courted controversy by unveiling a Lamborghini Gallardo-based off-roading supercar at the VW Group night in Geneva 2013. That was compounded by Audi recycling the very same idea for its own Nanuk Quattro concept. Mercifully, the madness was halted for Beijing – odd, given China loves off-roaders and supercars.

By Ollie Kew

Former road tester and staff writer of this parish