Starting with a new version of a car that created the whole idea of the sport sedan, a handful of new luxury vehicles will debut at the Paris auto show this week.
But the mass-market brands that make the cars most people buy will be largely absent as automakers continue to reconsider the value of auto shows.
The Paris show traditionally marks the beginning of the Europe’s fall new-car sales season.
It usually attracts a host of new luxury models and major vehicles from French-based automakers Renault and Peugeot-Citroën. That makes the paucity of new mass-market vehicles from the domestics surprising. The turnout from luxury brands is expected to be lighter than usual, too.
"A lot of brands are missing, but there are some very significant vehicles debuting in Paris," IHS Markit principal analyst Tim Urquhart said.
What’s on tap in Paris:
BMW will make the biggest splash, with two entirely new vehicles, the 3-series sport sedan and Z4 roadster.
BMW’s prized claim to be “the ultimate driving machine” rests on the 3-series. As the brand’s emphasis shifts to its growing fleet on SUVs, the “3-er” as it’s called in Germany becomes even more important as the torch bearer of BMW’s heritage for fast, sharp-handling cars.
Due to arrive in the United States next year, the new 3-series is reportedly bigger, stiffer and lighter than the current model.
The new Z4 soft top roadster is the long-awaited fruit of a joint development program with Toyota’s Lexus luxury brand. Due to go on sale in March, the Z4 has more passenger and luggage room than its predecessor. The base engine is a 255-horse power, 2.0L turbo four-cylinder. A 382-hp 3.0L straight-six is optional.
Paris also marks the auto-show debut of the new X5 midsize SUV, which competes directly with the GLE Mercedes is unveiling at the show.
French Peugeot brand will unveil what may be the show’s loveliest concept car, the E-Legend, a clean, sporty coupe that looks a bit like a French Camaro or Peugeot’s own classic 504 model, depending on your point of view.
“Because boredom is not part of our DNA, because independence does not rhyme with monotony” — which is apparently true in French as well as English — Peugeot car-splains about the concept, which really needs no justification beyond its trés chaud looks.
The concept has not one but two autonomous modes. Among other pastimes, occupants can watch movies projected on a 49-inch screen across the dashboard or onto the sun visors.
Peugeot also will launch hybrid versions of nearly all its current models at the show.
The all-new GLE, Mercedes’s best-selling SUV in the United States. debuts with more interior space thanks to a 3.1-in longer wheelbase. Like the 2019 Ram 1500 pickup, the GLE 450 adds a mild-hybrid 48-volt starter-alternator to a 3.0L straight-six engine to improve fuel economy and performance. The engine produces 367 hp and 369-pound-feet of torque, with an extra 22 hp and 184-pound-feet available from the 48v system.
Mercedes will show its new A-class sedan, and an AMG version of its compact hatchback, the 306-hp all-wheel-drive A 35 4Matic.
A new version of the slow-selling small B-class hatchback will also debut. "The first generation of the B-class didn't hit the mark, but this one has a better chance of catching the public's attention," Urquhart said.
We’re getting deep into Francophile car buff territory now. DS is the Citroen sub-brand Peugeot SA created to charge premium prices and recall the classic DS sedan, which you may remember from Mel Gibson’s 1999 revenge-pic “Payback.”
Or not. There was a puppet version in “Team America: World Police,” too. Whichever one you’re willing to admit you saw.
In any case, the new DS 3 Crossback subcompact SUV is 162.2 inches long, about the same length as a Ford EcoSport, but offers big 18-inch wheels. It also has power retracting door handles.
"The DS 3 is a key vehicle for DS," Urquhart said. "It's absolutely vital for PSA's goal of making DS a standalone brand."
The DS 3 Crossback uses a new platform. An electric version will be called the E-Tense.
VW’s luxury brand will roll out a bigger version of the Q3 compact SUV and its new E-Tron electric SUV.
The Q3 is bigger in nearly every division: 176.6 inches long, with a 3.0-inch longer wheelbase. It grows from one of the smallest vehicles in its segment to larger than competitors like the Jaguar E-Pace and BMW X1, though it will trail the new Cadillac XT4. Look for the Q3 in U.S. dealerships next year.
Audi is already taking reservations from American customers for the E-Tron electric SUV, which it hopes will make the Tesla X-type irrelevant.
The five-seat SUV is 193 inches long, about the same size at just four inches shorter than Audi’s seven-seat Q7. The E-Tron’s looks are consistent with Audi’s current styling, with slightly rounder edges. The battery weighs about 1,543 pounds.
Audi promises a 5.5-second 0-60 mph time and top speed of 124 mph. Prices start at $74,800. Audi expects to deliver the first E-Trons to U.S. customers in in mid-2019. EPA range estimates will be available closer to then.
Audi will also reveal a new version of its A1 minicar. The odd-looking previous A1 struggled.
Last, but definitely not least, Ferrari will unveil one- and two-seat special editions that recall classic 1940s and '50s open-topped race cars. Called the Monza SP1 and SP2, they are utterly modern under the skin. They’re powered by Ferrari’s most powerful engine ever, a 799-hp 6.5L V12. 0-60 mph takes 2.9 seconds. While 0-124 mph (a nice, round 200 kph for European fans) goes by in 7.9 seconds.
Ferrari plans to build just 500, priced over $1 million.
Contact Mark Phelan: email@example.com or 313-222-6731. Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan.