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21 December 2012

2012 Paris Motor Show : The Inside Story

Words and photos by Elmer Maniebo
 
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Paris is, without a doubt, the most romantic city in the world. Its culture, cuisine, and bright spirit are representative of its native language, which is quite possibly the most beautiful language known to man. It is home to some of the most iconic structures to have ever been built - the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe. Nothing prepares you for its charm, nostalgia, and chic. Its effervescent warmth makes it the most visited city in the world. So when the chance to go to the Mondial de l’Automobile 2012, otherwise known as the Paris Motor Show, popped-up, I didn't think twice to grab it. It’s only five hours away from where I live, and kids go free. So, what the heck!
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Without a proper motor show, I did what most Brits had to do to quench their craving for new metal - crossed the English Channel and see what our French neighbors are up to. Together with my seven-year-old, we drove along the French Autoroute in our Hyundai i30 and spent three days in this hypnotic city to see the cars of tomorrow.
 
Home Court Advantage
paris12 citroen03Aside from seeing the shiny metals, glittering lights, and beautiful women the Paris Motor Show promises, it's also an excellent opportunity for father-son bonding, away from the comforts of home, in a city where we knew no one.
 
Once inside, we suddenly realized our dilemma: “How do you see over a hundred new cars sprawled in five adjacent buildings while squeezing past 112,000 people?” Yup, that many people turned up. Families arrived in their thousands, kids in tow and some bored-looking housewives wondering why they’re in this chaos rather than shopping for a Blahnik. Believe me, it’s not easy to get around and see all the cars without bumping into someone. It’s like New Year’s Eve in Times Square but without the fireworks.
 
The group of Citroen, Peugeot, and Renault made up about half of the main building's hall space and had the best display.
 
Citroen hung a five-storey-high chandelier above a glistening white DS5 Hybrid4 as its centerpiece, while a dizzying array of DS3s, DS4s, and DS5s surrounded it and danced gracefully like a French ballerina. And it’s piece d’ resistance was the Citroen DS3 WRC rally car in full racing livery. The mechanics even fired up its 300 hp turbocharged 1.6L engine and – oh boy! – what an aural orgasmic experience it was.
 
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paris12 michelinMeanwhile, Peugeot’s stall reeked of pure French chic and understated European elegance. A tasteful urban crossover concept car painted in fluorescent yellow called the Peugeot 2008 swayed on a revolving pedestal served as its main attraction.
 
Opting for a different approach, Renault combined their green credentials with the electrics and hybrids on display. But to my dismay, the repeat appearances of old EV models like the Fluence and Zoe didn’t scream confidence for a struggling brand like Renault.
 
And as the home of the most recognizable motoring mascot, Bibendum or better known as the Michelin Man, came with the biggest interactive screen for dads and kids to play with.
 
The Real Motor Show
Car companies found some odd ways to showcase their cars to add some spice from the rather common revolving stand.
 
Ford flipped an all-new Focus on its side to show its undercarriage - great for those interested in the mechanics of a car, brilliant for kids to play around, and alluring for petrol heads. McLaren, on the other hand, hung a stripped-down MP4-27 on a wall, deprived of any decals and livery to blend with the orange-lava color theme of the rest of its models. Another impressive sight was the trio of BMW’s Concept Active Tourer, the glass-covered i3 Megacity Vehicle, and the stunning plug-in i8 Concept Spyder hybrid. But hands down, the new Ferrari F12 Berlinetta was the most jaw-dropping of all.
 
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The Brits are Coming
To balance the equation, British manufacturers crashed the party and showed the world that they're alive and kicking.
 
Jaguar and Land Rover paraded its hard-hitting models, starting with the launch of the all-new 2013 Range Rover. Next in line was the Evoque in both three- and five-door variants that's becoming a common sight in the streets of Paris.
 
Flying the rough side of the Union Jack was a battle-ready Land Rover Defender Skyfall Edition that was used in the 23rd James Bond film of the same title. We sat in it for a good 10 minutes, pretending that we were on a classified mission in the French capital. We left shaken, but not stirred after a fleeting Bond moment.
 
Equally imposing was Jaguar's display of its much-hyped and newly-launched F-Type convertible. It got mixed opinions from veteran hacks and curious onlookers, while the press hailed it as a revolutionary revival of the beautiful E-Type.
 
But the real star of the show (as far as we're concerned) was the mighty McLaren P1. Poised as the F1's successor, it packs a mind-blowing 960 horsepower and an even more mind-numbing £800,000 (P56-million) price tag. The promise of the best handling car in the world, backed up by a Formula 1-derived KERS technology seemed to be divine. I drove almost 1,300 km from England to Paris just to see this magnificent creation, and it was definitely worth the trip.
 
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An Awesome Experience
We practically poured all our time to savor the sight of the McLaren P1 to our hearts’ content. This meant that we failed to see the display in the other two buildings that the 2012 Paris Motor Show occupied. This included the likes of the VW Group, Toyota, Honda, Kia, Skoda, Hyundai, and after-market brands.
 
Although we weren't able to see all the cars on display in just one long day, we experienced arguably the most exciting new car launches of the year. We also couldn't help but feel proud to be British with those stunning British marquees.