After a summer break, the auto show circuit has resumed and with a vengeance. The 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show has kicked off and with it were a number of important global debuts. Many of the models featured will eventually find their way to North America. And it is a sample of that collection of 2016 and 2017 model year vehicles we’ll be showcasing here.
New Entry-Level Player: Infiniti Q30
Nissan’s luxury division, Infiniti, took the wraps off of a compact car that will provide a lower cost gateway to the brand. The Infiniti Q30 may look like a crossover SUV, but it isn’t one. Instead, what you have here is a four-door hatchback with a tall presence.
The new model has Infiniti’s face, with its bold grille, sleek headlamps and exaggerated lines. The Infiniti Q30 is the first vehicle forged from a partnership between Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti, to produce lines of vehicles for both brands based on the next generation Mercedes A-Class platform. Europe gets a family of gasoline and diesel engines. However, North America will see only one gasoline engine: a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission will be offered.
Why this model matters: Although prices have yet to be announced, the Q30 should make owning an Infiniti easier for luxury consumer aspirants. This volume model will later be joined by an SUV variant, the QX30. Both models are based largely on Mercedes-Benz technologies, another plus when considering an entry-level Infiniti. Look for it to arrive in North America late next year.
The Second-Generation Volkswagen Tiguan
Nine years is certainly a long time to stick with a model before major changes are made. The 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan will change all that and do so in a larger way. Indeed, Volkswagen has found a way to lengthen and widen the Tiguan, while shaving about 100 pounds. The new look is still quite conservative, but the larger interior and premium touches set it apart from the competition, including the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Hyundai Tucson.
The second-generation Tiguan has as many as eight powertrain configurations for the European market, but North America will probably see only two, likely the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and a turbodiesel 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Also available for the first time will be a hybrid variant, the Tiguan GTE. It will have a 31-mile all-electric range. Notably, the roof-mounted solar panels should help squeeze more miles out of every trip.
Why this model matters: Volkswagen is in desperate need of new product. An updated Tiguan comes as demand for small SUVs soars. Its premium features mean VW is taking aim at an exclusive group of buyers, providing a bridge between mainstream and luxury brands. Europe gets the Tiguan in April 2016; we’ll see it here next summer.
Bentley Bentayga: An SUV for the Uber-Wealthy
Few of us can afford anything offered by the Bentley brand where prices north of $180,000 are standard. Still, there is a part of us that imagines what it would be like to own a Continental GT, a Flying Spur or the Mulsanne.
You can now add the Bentley Bentayga to your dream list, but unlike any model before it, this one is an SUV. Yes, just as Porsche once crossed the forbidden utility vehicle divide, Bentley is now doing the same. The new model has a distinctive Bentley face, but everything is different from the front pillars on back. A monstrous twin-turbo 6.0-liter 12-cylinder engine making 600 horsepower and 683 pound-feet of torque ensures that this will be the fastest SUV on the road. Diesel and hybrid variants will be offered, and a seven-passenger version will follow. Yes, this SUV is built to go off road.
Why this model matters: Or does it? In any case it draws attention to Bentley and gives people with money to burn something to spend it on that isn’t a Ferrari, Bugatti or a Lamborghini. Queen Elizabeth will take delivery of the first model early next year; rich commoners will get theirs next.
Jaguar Fields its First SUV
Jaguar and Land Rover are joined at the hip, but Jaguar will get a very Land Rover-like model when its F-Pace SUV arrives on the market next year. This midsize, five-passenger SUV has the face of Jaguar and lines grabbed from the F-Type sports car, particularly at the rear haunch. This radical combination gives the SUV a truly sporty flair. And with a price near $40,000, the F-Pace will do battle with the Audi Q5, Cadillac XT5, Lexus RX and similar luxury models.
Just as other luxury car brands have added or will add SUVs, Jaguar is following suit. Engine choices include an all-new turbodiesel 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a supercharged 3.0-liter gasoline motor. All the usual Jaguar refinements are present too. Notably, this model looks nothing like a Land Rover.
Why this model matters: The global shift to SUVs left Jaguar lagging luxury makes such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Infiniti. The F-Pace may do for Jaguar what the Cayenne did for Porsche – retain customers. The 2017 Jaguar F-Pace goes on sale early next year.
The Fourth-Generation Kia Sportage
There may not be another model that has gone from worst to first as quickly as the Kia Sportage. This compact SUV has grown in size and importance since it was introduced to the U.S. market 20 years ago. The Frankfurt Motor Show previewed the 2017 Kia Sportage, a fourth-generation model with its familiar tiger nose fascia intact, but with many other changes apparent.
Those changes include a slightly longer and more aerodynamic body with appreciable and positive changes affecting noise, vibration and harshness. Better quality materials are also present and a sporty R-Line edition will also debut. Engine choices include a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Why this model matters: Buyers are continuing to shop for SUVs in greater numbers, thus the new Sportage gives Kia something to tout and with premium features available. Look for the 2017 Kia Sportage to arrive by next summer.
The Best of the Rest
Numerous other models are also on display at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. A number of concepts have been showcased, including the Toyota C-HR (a potential competitor to the Nissan Juke), Honda HR-V and the Jeep Renegade. The Toyota model may be produced for the U.S. market and sold as a Scion.
Vehicle electrification remains a big deal too, as both Porsche and Audi showcased concept models that each says will take on Tesla Motors. A slew of European-specific models have also taken center stage, including several from brands without a U.S. presence: Opel, Peugeot, Renault and SEAT, to name a few.