The best from Paris Motor Show

Supercars were out in force in Paris, with McLaren the star of the motor show, writesMark Sharp

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 October, 2012, 12:05pm

As fashion houses adorned models in their spring-summer collections at Paris Fashion Week, elsewhere in the city carmakers were taking the wraps off theirs. And one of the most talked about models was not on the catwalk, but in McLaren's space at the Paris Motor Show.

Ending a two-week run tomorrow, the annual showcase has seen the usual mix of global launches, revamps and hi-tech concepts, with a big star of the show being the McLaren P1.

Appearing two years after the launch of the MP4 12C - its successor to the legendary McLaren F1 - the P1 unveiled in Paris was described as a "design study". The actual car will be ready some time next year, the British carmaker says.

The P1, which is even smaller than the MP4, is a curvaceous yet aggressive looking car, with a deep windscreen reminiscent of a fighter jet's canopy. Its side air intakes look like they could suck up a passing poodle. Another striking feature is headlamps that mimic McLaren's boomerang-like logo, and slope over fenders that are cut away to accommodate larger front air intakes.


"Our aim is not necessarily to be the fastest in absolute top speed, but to be the quickest and most rewarding series production road car on a circuit," McLaren Automotive managing director Antony Sheriff says. "Our goal is to make the McLaren P1 the most exciting, most capable, most technologically advanced and most dynamically accomplished supercar ever made."

There is no word on the mid-engined car's drivetrain. McLaren says only that the engine will be "immensely powerful". Taking "technical and spiritual inspiration" from its Formula One division, the P1 will have higher levels of downforce than any other road car - 600kg achieved well below its maximum speed. That's about five times as much downforce as the MP4, and will make for unparalleled stability and handling.

McLaren Automotive director Ian Gorsuch, who is responsible for the Asia-Pacific region, hints that the car will be launched as early as next spring, saying: "More information will be released ahead of the Geneva Motor Show" - which is held annually in March.

Unveiling the MP4 in Hong Kong early last year, Gorsuch said it would be a model on which a small range of cars would be produced. As its name suggests, the P1 is the first, characterised by a second-generation version of the carbon fibre monocoque first used in the MP4. It also features a roof structure safety cage and lightweight carbon body panels.

Gorsuch says it has not yet been decided how many P1s will be made in the first year of production, but the total output will be limited to 500 cars - so collectors are likely to be scrambling to buy one. The P1 took Paris by storm, he says.

"Many commentators and show attendees called the P1 the star of Paris, and the numbers and reactions of the people coming to see it confirm this, as does the interest in the car worldwide reported by our dealers."

While the P1 surprised, an eagerly awaited model was the Jaguar F-type, which did not disappoint. The successor to the iconic 1960s E-type, the two-seat sports car closely resembles the electric C-X16 concept unveiled last year in Frankfurt.

Although not as bullet-shaped as the E-type, the F tips its hat to its venerable ancestor with such design cues as the clamshell bonnet and side-hinged rear window.

The predatory look produced by the rectangular grille is heightened by double-gill air intakes at either side. Elongated, vertical headlamps recall the Ferrari 458 Italia, while the horizontal rear lights continue Jaguar's "cat's claw" theme. A range of three engine types will comprise two V6s kicking out 335 and 375 brake horsepower, and a V8 good for 488bhp.

Joseph Lau Ka-fai, general manager of Jaguar Land Rover Hong Kong, says the F-type is expected to be available locally by the middle of next year, but hopes a display model will be on show sooner.

"Jaguar and sports car lovers in this part of the world can visit the Guangzhou Auto Show next month to preview the car," he says. "Hopefully, Hong Kong enthusiasts will have the opportunity to take a look at the car some time after the Guangzhou show. Before that, they are welcome to visit our showroom to collect the F-type booklet, which will be available very soon."

Lau says there is no indication yet what the price tag of the F-type will be in Hong Kong, although it will reportedly be cheaper than the Jaguar XK, which has a starting price of about HK$1.5 million.

Revamps of note on show in Paris include the Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4, which has been given an even more angular makeover with cues taken from its big brother, the Aventador.

Maserati unveiled a more aggressive looking GranCabrio MC. Based on the MC Stradale coupe, the four-seater comes with an engine to match. Its 4.7-litre V8 engine, borrowed from Ferrari, musters 460hp and has a top speed of 289km/h - making it one of the fastest convertibles on the market.

The hottest green model at the show is in fact chrome blue - the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive. Fired by four electric motors that give a total output of 740hp and 1,000Nm of torque - the same as a Bugatti Veyron - it is far more powerful than its petrol-driven equivalent.

The carmaker says it can sprint from zero to 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds, with a top speed limited to 249km/h. A specially designed charger will top the batteries up in just three hours, while a regular charge will take 20 hours.

Host nation France would be proud of the Peugeot Onyx hybrid supercar. With a chiselled body in matte black and reflective copper side panels, the road-hugging Onyx could be Batman's other car.

Tipping the scales at an incredibly lightweight 1,100kg, the Onyx houses a 3.7-litre, V8 petrol engine that whacks out an impressive 600hp, partnered with a lithium-ion battery pack that generates out a further 80hp.

Peugeot has not said where it will go with the Onyx concept. So whether the car will ever materialise - or remain a Marvel Comics fantasy - remains to be seen.