Munich motor show 2023 review: our writers pick the key cars and themes from the IAA | CAR Magazine

Munich motor show 2023 review: our writers pick the key cars and themes from the IAA

Published: 04 September 2023 Updated: 05 September 2023

► A walk through the 2023 IAA show
► IAA Mobility 2023 in review
► Our team’s guide, plus full A-Z

The IAA Mobility 2023 expo, which we’re calling the 2023 Munich motor show, is underway, and CAR magazine is reporting live from the show floor. This is the second IAA show in Munich, after it moved from the enormous Messe expo centre in Frankfurt in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

Here members of the CAR team reflect on the auto show, picking out key themes, conclusions and ideas swirling around the show floor, boardrooms and interview booths.

Read on for our 2023 IAA Munich motor show review.

Tim Pollard: the 2023 IAA had one eye on the past, the other future-gazing

CAR magazine's Tim Pollard alongside the BMW Vision Neue Klasse

There were echoes of the past wherever you looked at the 2023 IAA Munich motor show. Perhaps it’s human nature to look backwards whenever change threatens to unseat old certainties – and this is a time of unprecedented transformation, in the automotive firmament and wider world. (Witness the cars unceremoniously dumped in the lake by climate protestors).

Volkswagen fused old-school GTI cool with new-world ID electrification to create its first hot hatch EV, BMW rediscovered its old style with the sleek, chic Neue Klasse (itself an old name recycled from the 1960s) and Renault’s world debut revived the name from 1996’s smash-hit Scenic midi-MPV, the pioneering mid-sized people carrier that went on to define the sector and sell 5.3 million copies around Europe. Hell, even the IAA halls felt more like their Frankfurt ancestors, linked by echoingly vast corridors that took their toll on hacks and executives alike in the bright September sunshine.

Leaning on past experience is a defensive reflex and legacy manufacturers are probably wise to trade on their heritage – something that new challenger brands cannot. And it was the prospect of the Chinese industry, closing in on its European prey after years of stalking, that cast the biggest shadow of all at the IAA.

From better-known brands such as BYD to relative unknowns like Seres, which showed a right-hand drive electric crossover on its show stand with clear overtures to launch in the UK, it’s clear they are circling Europe’s establishment. It’ll be fascinating to see whether customers here are ultimately driven by brand or price, trust or novelty in the months and years ahead.

Curtis Moldrich: the Germans turn a new leaf at their home show

Mercedes Concept CLA points to the next generation of Merc EVs

This year’s IAA Munich show was very much a tale of new beginnings – albeit in two very different directions. On one side BMW revealed the Neue Klasse, a refreshing change of design pace that continues the good work done by the Vision Circular and most recently Vision Dee. Featuring clean surfacing, crisp lines and a more docile look than the overly-aggressive cars we’ve seen roll out of Munich’s design office recently, the Neue Klasse takes the best of the 70s and 60s and makes it new again.
In a similar way Mercedes’ Concept CLA Class, takes a leaf out of the past to help predict the future. Mercedes’ offering is a little busier than BMW’s, though, and continues the three-pointed star’s transformation into a luxury premium brand – rather than just a car maker. The three-pointed star is front and centre, used as a monogram in the style of a luxury fashion house.
But it wasn’t just the retro-aspect both brands shared; both BMW and Mercedes showed new in-house systems, as each look to get closer to their hardware and their customers. BMW’s Heart of Joy powertrain management system is a single hardware and software stack design that promises to differentiate its EVs from the competition. In the same way, MB.OS is Mercedes’ own software stack that promises a more seamless ‘Mercedes’ UX.

Jake Groves: a sprawling show – and VW’s hotshot hero

VW ID GTI electric car concept at 2023 IAA Munich motor show - rear

Over at Volkswagen Group, it was a return to the pomp and ceremony of simply being at a motor show, but in a very different way to before. As with previous major motor shows, the Group has always had an early preview night for the media and investors and it’s a return to that after a pandemic-influenced pause. But this year’s is a smaller, more intimate affair with much more of a focus on becoming a group of brands focused on design, likeability and (of course) decarbonisation. Even the stand at the centralised IAA summit was a Group-wide stand, rather than several individual ones for each brand debuting something new.

The biggie from the show from the entire group? A dinky little tartan-flavoured fireball in the shape of the ID.GTI Concept. Yes, those three letters are going to electric from 2026 onwards and, frankly, I think VW is doing it the right way. Not least because the concept itself is just a damn good piece of design – well resolved, with just enough of that spice you get from a GTI.

The proof will come when the real thing arrives, but the signs are good – expect a 220bhp-ish power rating, some handling tech from the Golf GTI (like a front differential and clever traction control) and some of the bits that make a GTI pop.

As for the show in general, Munich is experimenting with a different format to the previous time it put on a show in 2021 – with mixed results and mixed reactions. VW brand boss Thomas Schafer, for example, told us that he simply ‘doesn’t like the Munich show because of the separate locations,’ calling it ‘complicated and expensive.’ But, then, he says the idea of a traditional motor show is ‘dead,’ too, with even the possibility of a no-show at the next Geneva event in February 2024 still on the cards. Hmmm…

Luke Wilkinson: Cupra in the ascendancy, as Seat’s role changes

Cupra and Seat: which brand will come out on top?

The balance of power is shifting at Seat and Cupra, a point illuminated during interviews at the IAA that we explore in our analysis here. This show was all about Cupra and we did a deep-dive on the more athletic brand to understand its future prospects.

My first stop of the day was Cupra’s Exponential Experience centre. It was an out-of-town tarmac skidpan, on which the company had plonked a modified version of its UrbanRebel race car, outfitted with a VR equipment and a racing driver. The idea? You jump in the car, put the VR headset on and carve your way around a virtual arcade racetrack that only you can see through your virtual reality goggles.

It sounds like the recipe for an enormous accident but, in practice, it worked rather well. Cupra’s computer boffins managed to slash computer lag down to less than 70 milliseconds, which meant there was almost no delay between the motion you see through your goggles and the G-forces you feel through your body.

Cupra hopes to one day expand the technology further and turn it in a proper racing series, in which drivers compete on their own skidpans (even if they’re on opposite sides of the globe) in semi-virtual racing. It hopes to stream the whole thing online, too. The aim is to attract young video game fans to the brand.

Cupra also used Munich as an opportunity to show off the physical version of its DarkRebel concept car. The car was originally designed for the company’s Metaverse platform (there’s that gaming link again), with the help of 270,000 Cupra fans. Cupra then handed the digital plans off to its engineers and told them to build a show car. What’s more, if the company’s boss Wayne Griffiths gets his way, we could soon see a production version of the car. 

There’s no word on timelines yet, but he told us: ‘The DarkRebel – to realise that for me would be my biggest dream come true. If that, during my presidency of this company, I can make that reality, then that for me is a big step.’ Watch this space. Cupra has a habit of making its concept cars a reality.

Munich motor show 2023: A-Z round-up

Keep reading for all the cars and manufacturers at the 2023 IAA motor show. We’ll keep updating this handy A-Z guide as more cars are unveiled.


Q6 e-Tron interior

Not a new car reveal in the usual sense, as Audi’s Q6 has been delayed yet again. Instead, Audi is using the show to reveal the electric SUV’s interior (above), which includes a new design concept and an all-new Android-based infotainment.


BMW Vision Neue Klasse world debut at the 2023 IAA show

Neue Klasse (above)

This is the first opportunity to see the next generation of BMW design and technology, as the brand reinvents one of its most classic project names for a new electric era. The Neue Klasse is one of the biggest debutants at the 2023 IAA Munich motor show and ushers in a new era for Munich tech, design and philosophy, as BMW ramps up its electrification roll-out.


BMW’s all-electric saloon is among the exhibits on BMW’s stand ahead of first deliveries arriving later in 2023. The i5 will sit alongside the latest 5-series, and provide visitors a chance to get up close with the latest generation of 5-er.


BYD Dolphin driving front three quarter

Seal and Dolphin (above)

As the Chinese brand expands in Europe, so does its range of models and the 2023 IAA is the launchpad for a vast array of BYD models. Key models for Europe are the Seal saloon and Dolphin hatchback (above), both shown as production-spec models making their debut to Europe’s car-buying public.

BYD Seal U electric SUV at the 2023 IAA Munich motor show - front

Seal U SUV (above)

This is also our first look at the new Seal U (above) – another new model from BYD named after an aquatic mammal. It’s a five-seater family model and European versions are shown in full electric form with a choice of 72 or 87kWh batteries, although the powertrain for UK deliveries has not yet been confirmed.


Cupra DarkRebel front static, grey car


Cupra’s gone ahead and built its wild two-door sports car concept, the DarkRebel (above). Once just a thing that lived inside the metaverse, the DarkRebel has made it into the real world – at least as a concept.


The all-electric Tavascan makes its public debut at the Munich show. The brand has taken the MEB platform to the extreme in terms of range and performance with the new Tavascan, with a much more separated design from its old Seat roots.


CLA concept front

Concept CLA Class

The Concept CLA Class previews the future of the brand’s entry-level cars, as Merc readjusts its line-up to keep a tight grip on its premium image. Just like BMW’s Neue Klasse, the new concept debuts new powertrain tech and couples it with a retro modern design style. It’s the pace-setter for the next round of Mercedes EVs.

E-Class All-Terrain

The off-road-spec E-Class is back, bowing in at the 2023 IAA show. The lifted E estate might not be a massive seller, but it has a cult following – to the point the brand has committed to a new-generation model. It’s an E-Class Estate with body cladding, a raised ride height and a torquey engine. A nice touch to drop in the Allroad’s back yard in rival Audi’s hometown.


Simpler front end styling: new 2024 Mini

Cooper Electric

The next-generation hatch makes its production-spec debut after a long, wrought-out process of leaks, uncamouflaged spyshots and technology reveals. This new Cooper Electric above (there will also be a Cooper running on combustion power) is a bit of a back-to-basics approach for the Mini brand: smaller and simpler than the previous generation, with a major digital overhaul inside.


It’s a busy show for Mini: it’s also showing the new Countryman (above) – now available as a petrol or full electric mid-sized crossover. It’s bigger, more practical and frees up space for the new, smaller Aceman arriving later in 2024.


Mission X

Waiting for the electric Macan? That’s been delayed from a likely LA show debut in November 2023, pushed back into 2024. In the meantime, Porsche continues to celebrate its 75th anniversary this year and continues the party at the Munich show. One of the stars is the Mission X electric hypercar concept (above).


Renault Scenic E-Tech unveiled at 2023 IAA Munich motor show

Scenic E-Tech

The new 2024 Renault Scenic E-Tech is the big news at the French stand at the IAA – a fully electric family car, reviving the successful Scenic badge. It’s essentially a taller, roomier Megane E-Tech, with a super-sharp design and some clever features such as a glass roof that can shade each row differently (handy, if the kids are sunburned after a day on the beach) and swivelling device holders for rear-seat passengers.


Newly updated Tesla Model 3, front three quarters

Model 3

A surprise addition to the 2023 IAA Munich motor show is the mid-life revision to the Tesla Model 3 (above) – one of the most popular electric cars in Europe. It’s a makeover all about cosmetic tidy-ups, rather than hardware changes, with new lights front and rear, plus new interior upgrades.

The first new Tesla V4 Supercharger at Tottenham, London


As well as showing off its latest Model S (including the wild Plaid model), Tesla announced a further expansion of its Supercharger network in the region, as it celebrates 10 years of Superchargers in Europe.



‘A tangible vision of where the Vauxhall brand is heading,’ according to the brand’s design boss, Mark Adams. The Experimental is a new concept car from Opel/Vauxhall, previewing the brand’s design direction as the brand goes pure-electric.


ID.GTI concept

It was going to happen eventually: Volkswagen has revealed the ID.GTI Concept, which uses those most famous of hot hatch three letters and applies them to an electric car. The ‘I’ in the GTI abbreviation, according to VW, will now stand for ‘intelligence,’ as well as the regular ‘injection.’


VW Passat 2024

The new, estate-only executive makes its public debut at the 2023 IAA Munich motor show. The new Passat has been fundamentally developed by Skoda (as it works on its own Superb in tandem), and includes an upgraded platform, cleaner engines and more tech inside. This has consistently proven a big seller for Wolfsburg, so don’t expect the new 2024 VW Passat to veer too far from a winning formula. It’s estate only this time, as the saloon is quietly dropped.

Practical information about IAA Mobility Munich 2023

Where is the IAA Mobility 2023 Munich motor show held? The Open Space at the Apothekenhof in central Munich

Munich motor show 2023 dates: 4 September for press and media, 5-10 September for general public

Opening times: 10.00am-8.00pm daily

How much are IAA Mobility 2023 Munich motor show tickets? Entry into the Open Space is free between 5-10 September

Munich motor show website:

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, gamer, serial Lego-ist, lover of hot hatches