Paris motor show 2008 blog: every launch reviewed

Published: 02 October 2008

Welcome to CAR's Paris motor show 2008 coverage – with news, photos, galleries, blogs and interviews filed straight from the Mondial de l'Automobile on 2 and 3 October. Read our coverage of each press conference blogged as they happen or – if you prefer a more traditional A-Z show report, click here for CAR's A-Z review guide to every new car launched at the 2008 Paris motor show. 

5.40pm: Booted out
Security guards are starting to round people up and it's time to leave (we're an hour ahead of the UK, don't forget). Looks like I'll have to round up the last few stands I missed today on the second media day on Friday. Time to go and give my feet and fingers a break from walking and typing so much so fast. I bet web editor Tim Pollard is going to crack the whip into the night, though...

5.27pm: Honda (click here for full brand-by-brand report)
Just walked through the Honda stand. Their thick carpet is so nice and soft. My feet hurt. One quick sweep through the Chrysler stand will just about wrap up my first press day. It's been well over 12 hours' work, at least 30 press conferences and one scarily large expenses bill for my mobile phone... Hey-ho. It's been worth it just to see the atmosphere on the Renault, Citroen and Peugeot stands. These guys really want to make a splash on home soil. My car of the show? I must be tired. It's the BMW X1.

4.57pm: Hyundai
Just seen the new i20 replacement for the Getz and can't help thinking Kia has stolen a march on its sister company. They're so similar, yet I prefer the Kia for some reason... But there's no arguing with the Genesis Coupe. Import it, Hyundai! The saloon's not bad either...

4.45pm: Lotus
The Hyundai press conference is probably just finishing as I head over there. Why am I late? After Venturi, I popped in on Lotus next door. There's an Exige 260 Cup on show and the guys from Norfolk have some how chopped out 38kg from a regular Exige (itself hardly a member of Weight Watchers). I'm now back outside – bliss – on an outdoor escalator with a rubber ramp that's doing rather a good job of massaging my feet. I might have to go round twice.

4.25pm: Sherlock Holmes on the Venturi stand
Okay, so the Volage is a very cool sports car concept. It uses Michelin's active wheel technology, packing an electric motor, suspension and brakes within the wheel area. This frees up the designer's enormously and just five of these amazing cars will be made. Note: I found the designer and he spoke English. Now, où est la gare, s'il vous plaît?

4.20pm: Venturi
Straight to sports car maker Venturi. No headphones are available and my schoolboy French isn't quite up to this. Some chap (the founder?) stands up in jeans, trainers and an old polo shirt. The covers come off – ooh la la! – as a child tugs at the sheet, then the two best show girls of the day do the modelling. What can I make of the announcements? Umm, this is the Volage, but any more than that will require further investigation. Time to ask some questions.

4.16pm: Subaru
Quite how it's taken Scooby so long to wake up to diesel is anyone's guess. But we love the oil-burning boxer engine – and now you can have it in an Impreza. Great news. But why does it look so u-g-l-y?

4.05pm: Kia
Spent nearly half an hour on the Kia stand waiting for the Soul to be unveiled so I could have a good poke about it. I'm genuinely excited by this car and the personalisation options on it didn't disappoint. I'm now off to Subaru and have just passed the GM stands again. The Orlando concept looks tidy, the ZR1 and CTS-V mean, and the Camaro drop-dead gorgeous.

3.15pm: High-speed transit
Still nothing at GM. Which is weird as we printed off the schedule yesterday... hey-ho. That leaves half an hour to hot-foot it over to Kia. And catch a quick breather.

3.00pm: GM stand
Still waiting for the GM press conference. Two thoughts while I hang around. It's intriguing to watch the (mainly Korean and Japanese) engineers poring over competitor cars. They really do measure, prod and photograph every last detail. I've seen four cameras thrust under the Insignia and someone's studiously snapped the inside of a Corsa's fuel filler flap. The poor girl beside the Corsa is clearly bored out of her brains; she's posing around the car even though nobody is looking. (But then again, I've just seen her do that, so maybe she has extra-special senses...)

2.47pm: Outside!

A long overdue breath of fresh air for the first time since dawn. I'm on my way to Hall 5 again for the GM conference (as opposed to this morning's Opel one). Let's hope it's not a wasted trip. We should hear more about the Volt.

2.40pm: Audi
As part of the VW Group extravaganza the night before the show, the A1 Sportback concept was shown yesterday evening. But I've come along to marvel at the spread of – nearly all – red or white Audis. The A1 show star is stylish and, for some reason, there's plenty of cheese being handed out on the Audi stand just as I arrive. I'm clearly going to have strange dreams tonight.

2.27pm: Skoda

To Skoda where I hope to hear more about the facelifted Octavia. I'm not wholly convinced. The front end has hints of Maybach, with the odd dollop of new Avensis and Chinese Brilliance. Still, the cabin's been spruced up and you now get VW's latest touch-screen sat-nav. Which is nice.

2.20pm: Still at Seat
The Spanish are running ten minutes late and it's still not started. Maybe they're having second thoughts about the Exeo. We can see the Ibiza Cupra though, which looks rorty in a Seat kinda way.

2.17pm: Seat
I've just joined another scrum at the Seat stand. I saw it as I hot-footed it over from the Lambo stand next door. What was all the fuss about? Surely not the reheated A4 Exeo? Nope. Journos were jostling to grab one of those annoying Seat-branded trolleys the Spanish hand out to help over-burdened hacks carry their press kits around. And run over your ankles.

2.00pm: Lamborghini
Time for the Big One. It's the Lambo press conference slot – and I was unable to attend last night's sneak preview (Ben Whitworth went for CAR, lucky bugger). That means a white LP560-4 and 640, tiny black cocktail dresses and a certain gun-grey saloon. The unveiling kicks off with a fashion show of (I presume) hideously expensive Lambo clothes and boots. Bordering on tacky many of them, mind. There's also a male model in the show, but he's dressed like a builder. And that's it. Nothing is said about the Estoque. Apparently all the press info was dished out last night and if your name wasn't down, you weren't coming in. What an anti-climax.

1.53pm: Bentley
Bentley isn't having a press conference this year, but I've just walked past the Arnage Final Series and it's epic. Jay Z's song Big Pimpin' best sums it up. We like. In a weird way.

1.45pm: Lexus
They've just thrown a dust sheet over the new IS250C – despite it being shown this morning. No worries: I can tell you here and now that it looks ill-proportioned, with a dumpy rear end and hints of the Volvo C70. But not in a good way. They've also revised the rest of the IS range, but you'd barely know. The RX concept (the LF-Xh to give you it the full name) is also here in matt black and black wheels. Very black. Never has a hybrid SUV looked so menacing while attempting to save the world.

1.37pm: Still spying on Toyota from the safety of VW
I'd almost forgotten about the new Avensis (that speaks volumes), but it's just arrived on stage. Please Toyota, stop painting everything silver. It makes the newcomer look even duller than it actually is. And there's a hint of Insignia about it from where I'm sitting.

1.32pm: Toyota
I'm late to the Toyota stand and it's busy. I see other hacks are watching from the nearby VW viewing platform and I find, to my delight, a free sofa which affords views over Planet Toyota. From my vantage point above the melee, I'm reminded just how small the iQ is. And I still can't resist chuckling over the inappropriately named new Toyota Urban Cruiser.

1.20pm: Lancia
Snooze... we've already driven the Delta, so there's little to talk about here. The Italians must spend a huge amount more on their stand girls than other manufacturers... Time for a quick lunch on the go.

1.10pm: Alfa Romeo

The Fiat events are running late. We're now on the Alfa stand and there's nothing new, the Mito having made its debut at London. Bar a solitary white 8C Spider, every other  model here is blood red and gorgeous.

12.55pm: Fiat
It's been a busy morning and I'm knackered ang hungry. But there's no time for lunch – it's the Fiat and Alfa press conference. And that means the most gorgeous girls in the business. There is precious little to talk of on either stand, but Fiat has a separate Abarth event where the hard-as-nails 500 Abarth Essesse is shown. The long-legged girls are kept busy, looking out for photographers trying to snap up their skirts while some hacks (clearly with nothing better to do) take time out to pose with the most stunning models. Strange.

12.40pm: Mini
Four 'Homp' boys (don't ask me!) introduce us to the Mini Crossover concept. Planet BMW is all about small SUVs at Paris this year. It looks pretty cool in Bakelite white, but how much will they water down the real thing? Lots, we expect... We're still waiting for a real Mini surprise for next year's 50th anniversary.

12.27pm: BMW
The Italians have over-run, so we're late to the BMW stand. That means no headphones and occasional phrases like 'internet' are picked up. Lots of talk about Efficient Dynamics and the new 7-series hybrid, but who are they trying to kid? We're only here to see the new X1 concept. It's – how shall we say – quite challenging. The proportions are amazing in the metal, but that urine-yellow paint job and jutting 7-series style jawline is bound to cause controversy. Just the way BMW design overlord Chris Bangle likes it. The X1 is low (for a junior SUV) and reminds me of a jacked-up 3-series Touring. Fascinating, but I'm not sure if I like it...

12.15pm: Maserati
The Pininfarina family were back for the Maser conference. It's the first time we've seen new CEO Harald J Wester (great name) in action at a show – he unveiled the revised Quattroporte.

12.02pm: Ferrari
It's a scrum more normally associated with Twickenham than Maranello. Welcome to the Ferrari press conference. Only the Italians would start with a few minutes of raw V8 noise. Brilliant. Then the Pininfarina family was paraded on stage before Ferrari bigwig Luca di Montezemolo  unveiled the California. After the long wait and the worries, it's a relief that Ferrari's new folding hard-top is stunning in the metal. Shame it's sold out 'til 2011, then...

11.53am: Mazda
Mazda unveiled the new city car concept called – much to the amusement of 1980s children's drinks – the Kiyora. It's yet another interpretation of the firm's 'flow' styling ethos, but this is near as dammit what the next 2 will look like. The bosses are pledging to reduce fuel consumption by a third by 2015, while CO2 will drop by 23 percent. Elsewhere, the revised MX-5 is tweaked in line with the company's current design direction, but it's apparent we'll have to wait a while longer for the first properly next-generation Mazda. Even next year's 3 was signed off before the new design chief Laurens van den Acker...

11.39am: Volvo

The Swedes wax lyrical about their eco-friendly DRIVe range, flex-fuel cars and C30 Recharge concept. But how do they square that with their more volume aspirations, namely the new XC60 SUV? It's a conundrum facing all manufacturers, but it doesn't remove the irony...

11.30am: Smart
Merc's neighbour is clearly offsetting all its SUVs and limos with its smaller, more zeitgeisty minis. The Fortwo ED – that stands for electric drive – makes a lot of sense in this climate.

11.15am: Mercedes-Benz
The Merc stand is absolutely rammed, even 30 minutes after the press conference as I arrive. The Fascination concept takes pride of place and looked all the better for having some horrendous GLKs parked around it. This is the first glimpse of next year's E-class and it's rather striking in the metal. There's also the technically interesting S-class hybrid and – the dictator favourite – S600 Pullman (no relation). The SLR 722 Roadster looks stunning in the metal. I can't wait to see the speedster...

10.45am: Ford
The first blisters are starting to form and Ford's deep-pile carpet is a godsend. The Ka is unveiled and an Econetic version confirmed. It looks cool, but I'm still not sure it deserves its place in the new James Bond flick. Ford also announced some options packs to keep it abreast of the anything-you-want Mini and Fiat 500. If you want aggressive, then how about a Kuga with bodykit and the Focus ST's 2.5-litre turbo lump? Ford supremo Alan Mulally was on hand to whisk the covers off and claimed that 60 percent of Ford's global sales will be small cars in the next few years. Changing times indeed...

10.20am: Nissan
Renault's press conference is shorter than expected, so I get a chance to have a natter with a few colleagues on the Nissan stand. We reckon the C3 Picasso is the star of the show so far. There's a cold war brewing between Nissan bods and Porsche execs on the neighbouring stand; Porsche has accused Nissan of cheating its GT-R record lap at the Nurburgring, claiming it has done its own tests with the hot Nissan and couldn't get anywhere near Nissan's time. Did the GT-R crew really use road-legal tyres? We'll ask the question. Nissan's new Nuvu and cheap city car (based on the Suzuki Alto) look great.

10.10am: Aston Martin backstage
Just been whisked behind the scenes at Aston Martin for a briefing. They claim to have 100 'firm expressions of interest' in the One-77, which just goes to show the uber-rich are relatively immune from le credit crunch. Apparently, we'll see the first Lagonda concept at the Geneva show in 2009 and the Rapide four-door (coming in May 2009) will most certainly wear an Aston badge. There's some talk that Lagondas will be 'much more practical'. One official refused to rule out an SUV...

9.24am: Aston Martin
We're not even covering Aston yet, but we couldn't help noticing there's a rather special looking One-77 concept on its stand. All £1.2 million  worth of it. More soon.

9.11am: More Renault unveilings
The greys, blues and browns of the new Laguna Coupe and Megane range do them few favours – and the Ondelios concept is downright weird. But then Ghosn drops a bombshell by announcing a zero-emissions concept called the ZE. It's a hugely significant car for Renault. And our favourite car on the stand?  A bright yellow Megane Trophy racer. Mmm.

9.00am: Renault
The Renault stand next door is 20-deep as a throng of the world's media gather to see La Regie's offerings. I grab the last set of headphones for a translation of the press conference. Carlos Ghosn commands the stage with his usual swagger. And for good reason, this year. There are a LOT of world debuts nestling under the dustsheets, we hear...

8.30am: Peugeot
Citroen finish early, so I'm hanging around on the Peugeot stand where I bump into CAR assistant ed Ben Barry yards from the Renault stand. Peugeot starts on time and we both laugh at the 308 CC's ridiculous diffuser, though we're more impressed by the head airbags built into the seat and Merc-style Airscarf heating system. The hybrid 908 Le Mans racer looks good too – and we hear our first mention of the dreaded 'driving pleasure' (cliché alert in PR circles). The Prologue concept is confirmed as a crossover for 2009 and the rear looks a lot like the Ssangyong C200 we saw earlier. There will also be a separate five- or seven-seat MPV on the way in late 2009. 'Driving pleasure' is mentioned again for the RC Hybrid, and a third mention concludes the Peugeot presentation.

8.27am: Citroen
Think I was a bit hasty to dismiss PSA's announcements. It's just revealed that the first production diesel hybrids will come to market in 2011 (later than originally promised) and that it is starting a project to build the C-Cactus, an innovative small car that uses half the number of parts of a regular supermini. There will be petrol, hybrid and full electric versions. Bravo Citroen! The more I stand here, the more I like the C3 Picasso. Amusingly, the stand girls pulled the covers off the Hypnos too early – as the C3 Picasso was still being unveiled – and they have to put it back on. It's great fun watching them being told off by a serious-minded Citroen suit.

8.13am: PSA Peugeot Citroen
After some guff about PSA strategy (nothing new), we see the very cool Citroen C3 Picasso and the downright weird Citroen Hypnos concept, plus sibling Peugeot's 308 CC. My jaw hits the floor when I see the 308 with a folding hard-top. Not because of its origami roof, but the hilarious faux plastic rear diffuser. And after a morning of press conferences in English, I see we're now in to the realms of French announcements. Better go and find a set of headphones that works...

8.00am: a chance encounter with the editor
I nearly walk straight into editor Phil McNamara, as I walk head down, studiously examining my Paris motor show map. I'm off to Hall 1 for the big boys playing on home turf: Citroen, Peugeot then Renault. Let's see if they can steal the home show!

7.41am: Honda
I arrive at the neighbouring Honda stand with a minute to spare. The stand is packed and there's tangible excitement rippling around the stand. Everyone's keen to see the new Insight, pitched as the world's cheapest hybrid. Honda CEO Takeo Fukui even makes it sound like he's not another company car boss suit rattling off figures from an autocue. He seems genuinely thrilled by his latest arrival, which we now know will use a 1.3-litre petrol engine to assist the electric motor.

7.30am: Suzuki
Suzuki next and the big countdown screen above the stand warns me I have 43 seconds til show time as I arrive. After some guff about the company's heritage, the wraps come off the new Alto city car. It's a funky small mini that's warmly received.  And you know what? The rebadged Nissan version looks dull by comparison...

7.15am: Ssangyong
It's over to nearby Ssangyong, which is unveiling a new compact SUV concept called the C200. It's really quite smart but my eye then falls on the visually challenged Rodius. It's time to leave.

7.00am: GM, Opel/Vauxhall, Saab
On the dot, GM's press conference starts – and this one's a proper motor show unveil. Huge stage? Check. Flashing cool blue lights and rather expensive looking gear Madonna would be proud of? You bet. More importantly, there's product to back up the glitz. The Saab 9-X Air looks achingly cool in the metal, the new Vauxhall Insignia wagon is smart and GM are talking important issues. GM Europe boss Carl-Peter Foster over-runs, however, so I have to leave while he's in mid-flow...

6.52am: Volkswagen
We're welcomed to a 'GTI breakfast' (their words, not ours), amid a tricolor of red, white and blue three-door Golf GTIs. But that's it. There's no formal press conference – the covers were already off the Golf GTI and I got the feeling they'd already told us everything about the new cars at last night's Driving Ideas event. Funnily enough, nobody's even giving the facelifted Phaeton a second glance. It's all about the Golf GTI on the VW stand this year...

6.45am: Waiting around...
No sign of anything starting yet. Team Volkswagen are bustling around preparing for the first event of the day – but little of any interest is happening yet...

6.00am: Le Metro and early morning eye candy

We arrive, having shared the train with many a stand girl. The scrum for press passes hasn't kicked off yet, so after a brief spell of documentation we're in to the Mondial de l'Automobile. I'm heading to the VW stand for the first press conference of the day.

4.45am (all times British Summer Time)
The day starts with a packet of Pringles from the hotel bar. This being France, the media accreditation process closed a month before the show – so it's an early start to catch the Metro across town to guarantee being let in to the Paris motor show.

Click here for CAR's A-Z preview and review guide to every new car launched at the 2008 Paris motor show.

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

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