Car makers are investing big in electric vehicles.
Car makers are investing big in electric vehicles.

The world’s most exciting new cars

Virtual tech stepped into the viral void when the Geneva motor show was cancelled. Less than two hours after the announcement that the show could not go on, as a coronavirus countermeasure, car makers put Plan V into action.

BMW announced it would livestream the presentation of its important Geneva concept from its Munich headquarters. Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and others quickly followed suit.

Swiss authorities banned gatherings of more than 1000 people and the annual show regularly attracts about 10,000 media alone. Public attendance last year was 600,000 over 10 days.

Live streams were broadcast from Germany, the UK, Czech Republic and Italy as those brands with something important to say got the message out.

If the strategy employed for not-Geneva 2020 proves cost effective, even more manufacturers may stay away from motor shows - which, it now seems, are vulnerable to the easy reach of virtual tech and the spread of a vicious virus.

BMW’s i4 is due in 2021.
BMW’s i4 is due in 2021.

BMW Concept i4

This four-door coupe previews a new EV in 2021. The i4 Concept is "quite close to the production car coming next year," says BMW chief Oliver Zipse.

Most stunning of the production i4's attributes is a driving range of "up to 600km" between recharges. Its slim 80kWh underfloor battery pack enabled BMW's designers to make the i4 low and sleek.

The electric motor punches out up to 390kW, power to equal BMW's current twin-turbo petrol V8s. Accelerating from standstill to 100km/h will take only 4.0 seconds.

The i4 uses the company's latest motor, battery, power electronics and charging tech, which will appear next year in the iNext, BMW's flagship EV.

The i4 doesn't need a big radiator for engine cooling so no air flows through its grille. Instead, those oversize "kidneys" house the car's array of forward-facing sensors.

Inside, a curved widescreen display dominates the instrument panel.

Renault Morphoz

Renault’s out-there concept can change sizes.
Renault’s out-there concept can change sizes.

The car of the future could be a shapeshifting machine capable of adapting to different driving environments. The Morphoz electric concept car can stretch its wheelbase and increase its boot size at the touch of a button, effectively transforming from a RAV4 in the city to a Range Rover for country road trips. The longer layout also makes room for the temporary addition of a second battery pack increasing range from 400km to 700km.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

The new E-Class should arrive later this year in Australia.
The new E-Class should arrive later this year in Australia.

The major update of the large sedan and wagon line-up is due in Australia late this year. The biggest news is the Mercedes-AMG E53, powered by a 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder with electric turbo and gaining a big visual update.

The update will also bring a new turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder mild hybrid for mainstream models and a six-cylinder engine mild hybrid further up the range.

Mercedes-Benz says it will quadruple its global production of hybrids, both mild and plug-in, this year.

The broadcast included footage of camouflaged prototypes of the EQA EV in Sweden and a look at the new GLA compact crossover, which is taller and roomier than the model it replaces.

Hyundai Prophecy Concept

Hyundai’s Prophecy concept sows off its future design language.
Hyundai’s Prophecy concept sows off its future design language.

Korea's biggest car maker plans to rapidly ramp up EV production over the next five years and the concept signals its big-time ambitions.

By 2025 it aims to produce 670,000 battery and fuel-cell EVs. Product division boss Thomas Schemera says: "This will position us among the top three EV providers globally."

For inspiration for the electric four-door coupe concept, Hyundai's designers turned to the '20s and '30s - when, styling chief Luc Donckerwolke says, "cars were sculptural, they were streamlined, and they were more emotional … when people were optimistic about the future".

The droopy-tailed Prophecy contrasts old-fashioned curves with modern technology including a joystick in lieu of a steering wheel.

Kia Sorento

Kia’s big family SUV due later this year gets a big makeover.
Kia’s big family SUV due later this year gets a big makeover.

Kia's new Sorento will challenge the Toyota Kluger with a roomier cabin and claimed class-leading cargo space. The Sorento adds new safety tech, updated styling and a new 2.5-litre turbo sending 207kW and 421Nm via a new eight-speed dual-clutch auto. Australia will likely miss the hybrid version.

Audi A3 Sportback

Audi’s volume selling A3 hatch has an optional interior trim that uses recycled plastic bottles.
Audi’s volume selling A3 hatch has an optional interior trim that uses recycled plastic bottles.

From its home town of Ingolstadt, Audi streamed the world premiere of the new A3 Sportback.

Initially a mild hybrid, with 1.5-litre turbo and 48V starter-generator, the A3 Sportback will be joined by two plug-in hybrids capable of driving some distance using only battery power.

The sharply styled five-door has slightly more interior space than the current A3. One interior trim option will be made from recycled PET bottles, while the new A3 will get a major upgrade in connectivity tech.

Audi's presentation also featured the E-tron S, a high-performance, fastback sibling of the E-tron crossover launched in Europe last year. This first-ever S-badged EV has electric motors on each rear wheel and another for the front axle, delivering a combined 320kW. Production starts later this year.

Porsche 911 Turbo S

Porsche’s new flagship goes like the wind.
Porsche’s new flagship goes like the wind.

Australian motorsport hero Mark Webber and company CEO Oliver Blume pulled the covers off the new range-topping coupe and cabriolet.

The new twin-turbo 3.8-litre flat six makes 478kW, up more than 50kW on the previous Turbo S. The company claims 2.7 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint and 330km/h top speed for the all-wheel drive sports car.

Beneath broader front and rear bodywork are wider axles to enhance handling.

Skoda Octavia RS iV

Skoda is jumping into the plug-in hybrid field with the new Octavia RS iV.
Skoda is jumping into the plug-in hybrid field with the new Octavia RS iV.

Skoda's first plug-in hybrid, the Octavia RS iV teams an electric motor with a turbo 1.4-litre four. Together they produce 180kW, to equal the power of the 2.0-litre turbo in the current Octavia RS sedan and wagon. The RS iV drives the front wheels through a six-speed double-clutch auto.

Volkswagen Golf GTI

The new GTI features a striking illuminated radiator grille and comes standard with a screen-based digital cockpit. The engine carries over from the Mk7.

VW’s answer to the Tesla Model Y.
VW’s answer to the Tesla Model Y.

Volkswagen also presented its next EV, the ID4, albeit wearing camouflage stripes. The company's first battery-powered SUV uses the same set of electric-drive components as the close-to-production ID3 hatchback. VW says the ID4 will deliver a driving range of up to 500km.

Aiways U5 and U6

China’s electric cars – such as the U6 – might be some of the most exciting.
China’s electric cars – such as the U6 – might be some of the most exciting.

Unknown brand Aiways was poised to claim the mantle of first Chinese car maker to launch an affordable EV in Europe. Things didn't go as planned.

"I have come here alone from China," chairman and co-founder of the company, Samuel Fu said in a broadcast from a Stuttgart studio. "It was a big challenge."

The company's supposed show star, the U6ion, was a no-show but the maker showed a video of the concept and presented its first production model, the U5, which will launch in Europe in August priced below 40,000 euros. It has a driving range of up to 400km.


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