Munich motor show 2021: full report

renaultmunichstand

All the news and latest pictures from the first Munich running of Germany’s motor show

After a couple of laps of the Munich motor show, it feels strange to refer to it as a ‘motor show’ in the traditional sense at all, such was the prevailing focus on shared mobility solutions, connectivity and autonomy.

In many ways, it feels like the sheen of ‘newness’ around the concept of electric cars as a whole has well and truly worn off; now they’re the unquestioned stars of events such as this and there’s a whole raft of other novel concepts and ideas to get used to.

But away from the wide-reaching strategy announcements and tech-heavy press presentations, there was no shortage of interesting and enticing metal to help compensate for what has been the longest dry spell in motor show history; some of the cars on show here were making their debut nearly two years after an official unveiling, not to mention that it was the first chance we’ve had in nearly that long to speak to several key automotive personalities.

The biggest and most exciting reveal wasn’t – as had previously been almost taken for granted – on local firm BMW’s stand, but a couple of halls over at Volkswagen. The unveiling of VW’s all-new small electric car was already worthy of a crowd, but the brand’s loudly voiced projection of a £17,000 starting price and 232bhp base powertrain certainly sent ripples around the event. That it is styled completely differently to its Volkswagen ID 3 and ID 4 siblings, and even – dare we suggest – looks to have fun and style at the top of its priority list, only augmented the shock factor.

Not to suggest BMW phoned it in, of course. Far from it, in fact; few concepts in recent memory have made such bold promises about the future of their maker’s products as does the i Vision Circular, and though executives have been careful to deny any production intent or even styling influence on future cars, there’s no questioning the urgency and necessity of the messaging. Cars have got to be sustainable to produce, not just to use or power, and BMW has shown exactly how that could be possible within the next 20 years.

And who can deny Renault a position in the running for star of the show? One of the first companies to the punch with a mainstream EV just unveiled the crucial new model that will (hopefully) earn it a foothold in the fearsome electric C-segment market, and what’s more, we’ve been told the Mégane E-tech is more a hot hatchback than a run-of-the-mill crossover, so it should be of more interest to enthusiasts than the Zoe pioneer, and perhaps even its main rivals. A range of nearly 300 miles, more spacious interior than the combustion Mégane and a bold new approach to design will only help the marketing team do their job, we’d wager.

What was most promising about the array of (predominantly electric) cars on display was the diversity of styling, positioning and performance, even from within the same company. Aside from Volkswagen itself, the VW Group was represented by a 1000bhp-plus electric Porsche racer, a be-spoilered electric Cupra hot hatchback and the gargantuan Audi Grandsphere (when can we just call it the next A8?) concept. Anyone who says cars are all the same these days would do well to peruse the below report; no manufacturers are going for the ‘Russian doll’ approach to product planning.

Least of all, of course, Mercedes, which used the GLB, Maybach Concept EQS and EQG to show that not all electric SUVs need to be the same, the AMG EQS 53 to show that electric saloons can be exciting, and the AMG One to show that it is really planning to launch an F1 car for the road. Part of the problem with sustainability initiatives is how hard it is to sustain the interest of showgoers and clients; but every brand at Munich has given hope for the future in their own way. FP

08:30 Tuesday 7 September

Not content with merely detailing its hard-hitting commitments to carbon neutrality yesterday, Hyundai has today given the first glimpses of how hydrogen will help shape its new-era business strategy. The most tantalising prospect is the Rimac-fettled Vision FK sports car, but even the more overtly commercial applications have huge implications for us as road users: autonomous road trains, hydrogen-fuelled lorries and stackable FCEV powertrains with up to 1MW of power – if you thought the future of motoring was battery-electric only, think again. FP

Moon discs were hot stuff back in the 1980s Volkswagen tuning scene, which is presumably where Mercedes got the inspiration for the new aero-optimised EQE wheels. Probably. FP

19:40 Monday 6 September

My favorite design bit of the Porsche Mission R: the 3D Porsche graphic rear lights. Spectacular. JA

18:45 Monday 6 September

Porsche is currently testing a Macan EV that’s unrelated to the current Macan, but technical chief Michael Steiner says the firm has yet to decide on a name. “We did not decide our final position on the name yet. During development we called it a Macan EV, but even if we had decided what to call it yet I wouldn’t tell you.” JA

Does Renault CEO Luca de Meo get frustrated by some of the valuations put on start-up car makers in the current era? “When you have 100 or more years of history and a workforce of 200,00 like us it can be strange to see the valuation of billions on companies that have just a promise, but that is the world we live in. Distortion is part of life. I have to accept it.” JH

Has Renault’s decade-long leadership in EVs been profit-making? CEO Luca de Meo wasn’t being specific in Munich but conceded “We have accumulated a lot of experience but it has come at a price.” JH

Renault CEO Luca de Meo credits the firm’s new-found confidence on its  disasterous financial results two years ago. “I’m a strange way it has been our licence to be more progressive; we have less to lose than others. We feel freer to make big decisions I think.” JH

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the Renault 4ever – a play on this historic Renault 4 name – will also carry it’s back to basics look and price tag. Instead, when launched in the middle of this decade, the higher-riding derivative of the Renault 5 will command a price premium over its hatch sibling. Senior executives expect the 5, which will replace the Zoe in the line-up, to cost between €20-25,000 (£17,000-21,500) when it launches in 2024. JH

18:20 Monday September 6

We’ve reached the point of the show day where we’re frantically catching up on writing show stories. Think I might have the best view of everyone at the moment. JA

Solid state batteries seem to have been promised for as long as mass market hydrogen-powered cars, but Renault Group’s director of R&D Gilles Le Borgne is confident that they will finally be ready for high-end mainstream applications from 2030. ‘The joint development work we are doing with Nissan looks promising for then, and really it is a game-changing moment, as it will mean not just greater power density in the cars, but also a chance to completely rethink the application and design of battery cars.’ Noting that the first wave of so-called gigafactories for the current generation of batteries will only have been on stream for around five years at that point, Le Borgne highlighted that the only way solid state could achieve rapid mass adoption would be if the same factories could be adapted to the new technology. ‘The capital investment going into those factories now is incredible – we need to be mindful that they can be adapted to any significant steps forward in battery technology, otherwise the investment will never pay back.” JH

Don’t expect plug-in hybrids to become a redundant technology anytime soon. Demand remains high, and there remains a technological need for them, according to BMW sales and marketing boss Pieter Nota. Plus, the charging infrastructure still lags behind the cars it needs to support a more widespread adoption of fully electric vehicles, to which end BMW is “talking to governments to ensure that infrastructure is in place”, says Nota. MT

The upcoming 2025 Neue Klasse from BMW is “not a car but a platform”, according to Nota, who pointed out it would be used to “offer relevant positions that we have in our range today”. In other words, cars big and small with all different body styles, all exclusively electric. MT

LB: Expect more tie-ups between BMW and other brands in the future, as it has done with Toyota. Sales and marketing boss Pieter Nota said: “On certain topics, there will be co-operations. If you look at all the fields we need to invest in, it makes sense to share those costs and investments.” MT

18:00 Monday September 6

A strange paradox to unpack after a plethora of Volkswagen autonomy presentations: the brand’s partnership with Argo AI is centred on developing self-driving systems for urban environments, but as it stands such technology can only be used on motorways – and even then with some very, very heavy restrictions in place. Let’s see if laws loosen a bit by the time the technology’s ready. FP

Reassuring words from VW CEO Ralf Brandstatter, who’s promised the company’s top brass still cares about enthusiasts as it invests heavily in autonomy. “Fun to drive is another part of mobility” he said, hinting at a bold new future for the GTX and R performance divisions. FP

Could a pair of eyes be staring out at you from your next infotainment screen? Maybe, says Renault design boss Laurens van den Acker, who says that research shows that drivers using voice control or passengers in autonomous cars respond more positively when they have a focus for their attention. ‘It could be a pair of eyes, an avatar or a robot – the research shows people feel more confident and behave perhaps better when they have somewhere to focus,” he said, linking today’s voice control systems to the awkwardness of seeing someone chatting on phone via Bluetooth rather than when it’s held to their ear. JH

Renault’s switch to use Google in its cars was hotly debated, reveals design chief Laurens van den Acker. “It was not our core competency,” he noted, “but owning that technology is hotly debated. Could we give that away? In the end we decided that using Google was a positive – a confirmation to the buyer that they were in safe hands.” JH

The Porsche Mission R is a racing concept that happens to be a similar size to the 718 Cayman. And design boss Michael Mauer isn’t exactly denying the link. “Our concepts have always been closely based on production cars,” he said. “Stay tuned, but you’ll see design elements from this model make their way to future production cars.” JA

“Oh it is you who wrote this story – I have it on my phone ready to read” – words that could fill anyone with trepidation from Renault CEO Luca de Meo when quizzed further on Renault’s plans to argue for the EU’s proposals to end hybrid sales from 2035 should be reconsidered for 2040. Thankfully de Meo confirmed the details, stressing too that he expects the French government’s support for the plan, as well as other manufacturers’ to agree. The stance may be controversial, but at least we know now that Mr de Meo has impeccable taste in websites. JH

Could coronavirus kill the door handle? Renault’s design chief Lauren’s van den Acker notes a trend, especially prevalent in China, to avoid any surfaces for hygiene reasons, be it opening or closing a door or interacting with touch screens. ‘It was a trend before but coronavirus has accelerated it. In China especially, it is a significant trend,” he said. The answer, he says, will come via voice control and automatically opening and closing doors, as seen on the new Mercedes EQS. JH

15:50 Monday September 6

How close will the ID Life concept be to the eventual production version? VW sales boss Klaus Zellmer told Autocar: “It’s a typical concept car, something that was inspired by ideas. And now it’s in the real world, we have to see how much of this spirit will make it to the series production car – but it shows people something they can experience by 2025.” Zellmer did admit that not every concept will make it to production, suggesting that the removable roof was unlikely to remain as on the concept. Regardless, we’re keeping fingers crossed that the production version will feature a GTI tartan roof as an option… JA

Zellmer also said that the company has managed the ongoing semiconductor crisis “rather well”. While he admitted that there have been production delays, he said that high demand for the firm’s EVs was as responsible for longer waiting lists as the lack of chips. Noting that the UK order bank was “20 to 30% higher” than usual, Zellmer also said that VW currently has no plans to offer versions of cars with fewer features and chips, as firms such as Ford have done. JA

The Ioniq 5 has just launched, and a 6 saloon and 7 SUV are planned, but as yet there are no concrete plans to go lower, according to Hyundai European COO Michael Cole. The plan for the foreseeable future for Ioniq is to launch standalone electric cars off the firm’s EGMP platform, while also launching electric cars as derivatives of existing ranges, such as Kona. MT

There will “inevitably” be a point where Ioniq and N meet, according to Hyundai European COO Michael Cole. To that end, an Ioniq 5 N prototype has been spied testing in recent days. Cole also said that performance EVs were important in dispelling the myth that EVs aren’t fun to drive, and they can gain extra performance while remaining sustainable and zero emissions. MT

Don’t expect anymore leather or chrome in Minis in the future. Design boss Oliver Hielmer said the next-generation of Minis would be stripped back of anything there purely as dressing, which removes chrome from the equation while leather is out in favour of more fabrics with greater warmth and a different colour palette. MT

Discussions over whether the Mini Urbanaut will make production have taken place in the car itself. Designer Oliver Hielmer was showing BMW board members the car, and once they understood it, the conversations switched from ‘what is it?’ to ‘how can we make it?’, all explained from the comfort of its spacious, radical interior. MT

There are no hidden production clues hiding in the BMW I Vision Circular concept, insists sales and marketing boss Pieter Nota. “It’s not a car for sale, and not to be confused with our upcoming Neue Klasse,” he said, “but many ideas on the circulatory of the car [it is made of fully recycled materials and can be fully recycled itself] will make it onto Neue Klasse.” MT

LB: It’s more than 10 years since BMW launched the I brand with the i3 and i8, but it’s only now following them up with the iX3, i4 and iX. Why the wait? “Now is the right time to come out with more models in the heart of the brand as the demand is now there,” reckons Nota. “Timing is everything, and now the market is ready. We have built up lots of experience with the i3 and we’re already on our fifth generation eDrive motor.” He reports strong pre-sales of all three cars, and said “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” as to whether that translates to market success. MT

15:30 Monday September 6

All BMW production sites will run on 100% green electricity this year and be carbon neutral. But CEO Oliver Zipse said CO2 needed to be cut rather than offset, so the firm has pledged to cut the CO2 of its production sites by 2030. MT

Porsche racing driver Timo Bernhard, a double Le Mans 24 Hours winner, has already tested the new Mission R – and insists that electric racing cars can be as thrilling to drive as combustion-engined ones. “They definitely are,” he said, “And it’s not about doing just one thing or the other. For me, it’s both. I can understand there are certain reservations about electric mobility, especially in motorsport. But we’ve seen just how much emotion, performance and character the Taycan has, and the Mission R can bring that to motorsport.” JA

It’s quite hard to ignore the irony of the Munich Mobility Show beginning as 90% of Germany’s train drivers go on strike, effectively rendering all showgoers dependent on private cars. Indeed, the taxi rank outside has been bustling all day, and are they Priuses and Leafs? Nope, diesel E-Class after diesel E-Class. Nothing to see here…FP

While other car makers struggle to get the sums to add up for city cars, Hyundai continues to make a success – in both sales and profit terms – of the i10. Indeed, Hyundai Europe COO Michael Cole says he sees the i10 as the entry point into the Hyundai line-up for “the foreseeable future” still, and it remains “very much part of the product plan”. MT

Unsurprisingly, the global shortage of semiconductor chips is dominating many a topic of discussion through the masks of showgoers. However, one company not suffering as much as others is Hyundai, with the firm’s European COO Michael Cole saying the firm is “not dramatically impacted by it”. Cole said Hyundai was managing the mix of models it makes, and also the model distribution by market, ensuring that markets have cars for their peak months, such as the current plate change in the UK. “Of course, we have lead times but customers are not experiencing severe delays,” he said. MT

There’s much talk at Renault at how CEO Luca de Meo’s demands to shorten development times have brought refreshingly swift decision-making processes into the company. Highlighting that the design pace of an all-new car had already been reduced by 25% to three years – with more to come – one senior executive said: “In the past we would hold design meetings in front of a big audience, and if one person in the room queried something go away for 5-10 weeks before presenting an alternative to see if we could progress. All big companies are the same. There was a reluctance to say no, and that built in a huge amount of lag into any project. Now that is gone. We believe in ourselves that we have the right checks in place and we go for it. The time saved is enormous, and in turn a lot of cost – but in my view we have removed only hurdles. There are no downsides.” JH

Anecdotally, it seems Volkswagen succeeded in what they must have been trying to do: stealing BMW’s thunder. It helps that the I Vision Circular concept is much less tangibly ‘real’ than the ID Life, but perhaps the accessibility factor is at play as well. FP

15:10 Monday September 6

A fellow hack last night pointed out that the Tesla Model 3 trailed only the Volkswagen Golf in the European core sales charts in June. Which shows just what the major German car makers are up against even on home turf, and why there is an even greater push towards big-range electric cars from the premium players. Simply, they’re being left behind and have to catch up. MT

Small rumblings among locals here as to why the motor show is taking place when Munich’s other major international event, Oktoberfest, is cancelled for a second year. At one point city officials said one would not happen without the other but, as ever, money talks from the motor show, along with the feeling about Covid controlling the motor industry might be a bit more straightforward than Oktoberfest goers… MT

No doubting the mobility theme here in Munich, well known manufacturers mingling with e-mobility start-ups and all jostling for position. How many of the latter will survive to see the next Munich show remains to be seen, but there’s no question there’s a sense of opportunity around the industry JH

It’s not just the road car industry facing the challenges of going electric: it’s a key issue for motorsport too. Schaeffler has the 2022 electric DTM concept car on its stand. And it certainly looks the part. JA

This year’s IAA really is a different sort of show. In deference to its ‘mobility’ tag there are two halls of bikes, including some electric concepts that might interest our friends from new Haymarket sister brand Move Electric. JA

Bike firms are getting in on the four-wheeled action too. This is the Canyon Future Mobility Concept, which is designed to mix “the advantages of cars and e-bikes.” They claim it’s fast enough for city streets but also legal for bike lanes, and has room for “the kids, pets, shopping.” JA

15:00 Monday September 6

A new generation of infotainment screen and technology is debuting on the new Renault Megane E-Tech, but lead designer Gilles Vidal has revealed that work on the next-generation has already begun, such is the pressure to keep improving. Highlighting that in the past decade the design process around screens in dashes has reversed – with designers formerly creating a design which a screen would be slotted into, but now with usability experts prioritising functionality requirements and screen sizes which the designers then work around – he said: “There is a constant evolution. What we reveal now will be updated and improved over the next three to four years, and then around 2026 a whole new generation of technology will be introduced. The pace of change is huge.” JH

Although Vidal conceded that the new system was likely to make use of a screen, he admitted that he is intrigued by the possibilities of perfect voice control being introduced, or the emergence of facial recognition technology that could operate functions from expressions, thereby freeing up the dashboard for a radical redesign. “It is an interesting possibility to consider what we could do if the screen wasn’t needed,” he said. JH

Dacia CEO Denis Le Vot is seeking inspiration for how to categorise the firm’s new Jogger seven-seater. “We have benchmarked it against SUVs, MPVs, estates, vans converted into cars – everything – but we are still not sure what to call the category it belongs in given its capability, weight and price. I am interested to see if anyone can find us a new name to sit in, because we believe that it deserves one of its own.” The comments section is below, Autocar readers… JH

Talking of which Le Vot is also mulling ideas for names of the production version of the Bigster large SUV concept earlier this year. “It is still a discussion; we think we will find a new name for production, but even internally it is not settled,” he said. JHAlthough the Dacia Jogger sits on an extended version of the Sandero’s platform, it never considered using a name that drew on its sibling’s background, such as Sandero Plus. “The car sits in a different space, with a completely different customer,” said Dacia CEO Denis Le Vot. “We have our separate pillars for each model line, and it was always clear that the Jogger needed its own space within that structure.” JH

14:14 Monday September 6

Porsche is revealing a Motorsport concept so it’s wheeled out actor-turned-Le Mans racer Patrick Dempsey for the unveiling. JA

13:45 Monday September 6

Why did the Renault Group have to create an entirely new division in Mobilize? CEO Luca de Meo revealed that it is to make it easier for other companies, including rival OEMs, to co-operate with them, be it sharing technology or jointly investing in development projects. “There will be a lot of opportunities – this is the best way to show we are open to it,” he said. JH

A lull in proceedings as everyone breaks for lunch, but no fewer people clamoring for a glimpse of the new ID Life on the Volkswagen stand. It’s almost as if everyone was expecting the ID entry car to be no more than a squashed ID 3…FP

Not all the reveals today are at the Munich show itself. We’ve headed elsewhere for Porsche’s media event, which is apparently based on a rooftop terrace with model sheep and real chickens. As you do. JA

12:25 Monday September 6

BMW design boss Domegoj Dukec is hugely proud of BMW iVision Circular, the bold 2040 concept that showcases how the brand is aiming to become a market leader in the ‘circular’ recycled and reusable materials. Dukec, who is used to the odd social media storm from his work on BMW’s recent kidney grilles, told Autocar that he expected the concept to attract some criticism on social media, but said: “We are used to it that we get at first a lot of reactions. But we have already proven with previous concepts such as the i3 that anything we do there is real thinking behind it. When we did the first SUV people said ‘what is this bullsh*t, but now everyone is doing SUVs. You have to think how things will be seen in three, four, five years.” JA

The lunchtime entertainment at the Munich show is epic. JA

11:30 Monday September 6

The Messe Munich has a nice outdoor area between the show halls. Dolby is using part of it to show off its latest sound systems inside a Volvo. We’re more tempted by the socially distanced deck chairs in the Munich sunshine.

Sod EV range anxiety. I’ve burned through 75% of my iPhone’s battery in less than five hours. Plenty of batteries round here on show, but not sure how many can charge me up…

 

11:20 Monday September 6

Always good to get your feet under the table and settle in slowly to a new job, unless you’re new Dacia design boss Miles Nurmberger, who’s been in the role for a grand total of four days. Luckily, he said, Dacia’s extensively rebuilding its brand image anyway, so everyone’s learning. FP

10:45 Monday September 6

Got doubts about the true functionality of Dacia’s first seven seater, the Jogger? When Autocar visited the stand there were adults trying out all three rows, and they were in there for a good 15 minutes – so it’s got more than a token third row. FP

10:17 Monday September 6

Although the new Volkswagen MEB Entry concept is called the ID Life, expect it to receive a number model name when it goes on sale in 2025. VW sales boss Klaus Zellmer said: “In our ID line-up certain numbers are open, so let’s see if this will be ID2.” He added that VW is on track to meet the £17,000 target price by 2025, which Zellmer said would “help to lower the barrier to BEVs for our customer.” JA

10:00 Monday September 6

The Renault Group’s director of R&D Gilles Le Borgne is targeting 80% commonality for all cars using the firm’s planned three platforms as his ultimate goal. “It is perfectly achievable, and I know from experience that it is possible to hit the target with commonality of the parts a customer won’t see,” he said. “At that level you can build 3 million vehicles off a similar platform and achieve huge cost savings, which will be crucial if we are to make our cars affordable.” The philosophy will apply to Renault, Dacia and Alpine, with only the A110 replacement being co-developed with Lotus sitting outside of the strategy. JH

Motorsport-mad executive editor Atters has a new favorite electric racing car concept: the Ora Cat. Seriously, look at it. JA

09:35 Monday September 6

Volkswagen has unveiled the new ID Life concept at the Munich motor show, a compact urban crossover that previews the entry-level £17,000 car due in 2025. The concept was created by a dedicated team within Volkswagen. Company boss Ralf Brandstatter said: “To create more than just a show car, we told them to create the future of urban mobility.” Brandstatter added: “In the future people want more. They’re always on the lookout for the next great experience. The ID Life will match this feeling. This car is ready for extraordinary experiences online and offline. It will be your living space, and your companion for life.”

Britain is still represented at the show. The Department for Trade has a stand with six British firms housed on it to showcase their products. There was more interest than stand spaces too. JA

09:15 Monday September 6

Volkswagen presser starts with a video featuring boss Ralf Brandstatter talking about “responsibility”. Adds that there’s a need for cars that are compact, versatile and made from sustainable materials. JA

Brandstatter: “Put a dedicated team in charge to create more than just a show car. We told them to create the future of urban mobility.” Instead of the top VW execs, three young designers are up on stage talking about how to create a ‘compact car for the urban generation’. JA

Even with nothing brand new to show, Polestar still manages to capture showgoers’ attention with its characteristically bright and minimalist show stand. Though with the 1 flagship now out of production, it begs the question: for how long will Polestar be a one-car company? FP

Renault CEO Luca de Meo making it clear why the Megane, so long an also ran for the brand, is so critical to the firm’s long term success: “In Europe the C-segment accounts for 40% of sales. This car shows electrification can be fun, affordable and without compromise but also shows our abilities again to design in an emotional way. Renault has a history of audacity, and an ability to surprise and we have from time to time reinvented ourselves in a segment. This is a car aiming forever at the podium of European sales.” The VW Golf topped all European sales last year, followed by the Clio. JH

08:50 Monday September 6

Welcome to 2021, where press conferences are hosted by social media stars turned into avatars reading a load of random words out of a marketing manual. BMW calls this ‘joytopia’. MT

And now here’s BMW CEO Oliver Zipse. Or is it? MT

CEO Oliver Zipse says BMW’s Munich concept “embodies our commitment to be the most sustainable car company in the world”. Because “without sustainability there is no premium”. MT

Hoping for a sneak preview of BMW’s Neue Klasse electric cars and architecture? “Not yet,” said CEO Oliver Zipse at the firm’s Munich press conference. “It is the clear focus for our investments in the future.” The firm plots 10 million EVs in the next 10 years and for one in two BMWs made by 2030 to be electric, by which point Mini will be fully electric. By 2030, its CO2 tailpipe emissions will drop by half, thus meeting EU targets, and full lifecycle CO2 emissions will drop by 40%. MT

07:55 Monday September 6

The live press conference rollout begins, with Renault’s Luca de Meo kicking things off for the OEMs. He starts with words of thanks to the show organisers for their ‘bravery’ in pushing ahead with the show, before swiftly moving into today’s central theme mobility, including revealing the firm has invested an estimated 3 million man and women hours in developing the soon to be revealed Megane E-Tech.

We’ve been waiting years now for Mercedes to officially launch the AMG One hypercar, and though a launch is reportedly on the near horizon, it still feels like they’re teasing us with the prototype on show at Munich. Easy to brush off the “F1 car for the road” press release language until you see it in the metal – seriously fierce.

The EQE on the Merc stand is predictably gleaming, complete with some very on-brand alloys.

The Mercedes-Maybach EQS SUV is quite something to behold. Even if you’re not sold on the ‘bold’ front end you can’t deny that it has … presence.

07:25 Monday September 6

When we left Europe’s last major international motor show in Frankfurt in 2019, we wondered whether we’d be back at that particular show ever again after its sudden downturn in manufacturer support. In the 18 months since, we’ve wondered whether we’d be back at motor shows themselves again. That the IAA lives on in Munich is reason to cheer, and, while not every major manufacturer is here, the debuts already run into double figures.

The layout in Munich is quite different to other motor shows. Yes there is the usual exhibition centre housing the major unveils where the trade go yet the show has brought itself more to the people by inviting exhibitors to also take over areas of the city downtown. We’ll be seeing home team BMW’s downtown stand tomorrow. 

Could this be the year the Chinese finally arrive in Europe? Nio and others are already selling cars over here and Wey has a huge stand right next to Mercedes-Benz, with six cars under wraps for reveal later.

It’s not just micro scooters and mini car start-ups mixing up the show halls in Munich – there’s room for a plane/helicopter/car VTOL too. This from Atlas Aero is a vertical take off and landing aircraft with folding wings that can also drive at 30kph on the street. It’s hybrid propulsion system is good for 1500km of range, with it consuming less than 5 litres of fuel per 100km travelled when flying at 300kph.

07:10 Monday September 6

VW CEO Herbert Diess has been working the TV cameras since the early hours as he seeks to hammer the message of Volkswagen’s environmental transformation – but with the ongoing threat of protesters targeting the brand here in Munich, security are taking no chances. If your name isn’t on the list, there’s no way past these two for now…

Electric cars may be the theme of this year’s show, but there’s still some old-school machines to be found in the heritage hall.

07:05 Monday September 6

It feels as if BMW may have made a rod for its own back by showing the new iX SUV – one of its more controversially styled cars – next to the 1602 saloon, arguably one of the prettiest. The styling links are minimal, but you can’t say BMW cars have ever looked like their contemporaries, at least.

If the era of shared mobility does nothing else to please enthusiasts, it may at least succeed in bringing back some genuinely small and easy-to-park cars. Microcars are far better represented than massive SUVs at Munich this year.

Much temptation in the IAA lobby.

06:45 Monday September 6

It’ll be battle of the show stands today as each manufacturer seeks to entice us to their wares, but Dacia’s got a head start with its novel ‘Lake Stand’ set-up. Quite the picturesque debut for the new Jogger. 

06:40 Monday September 6

Too much is being made of electric cars being special only for their powertrain, according to Arnoud Belloni, Renault’s vice-president of Global Brand Marketing. At a pre-show event on the eve of the Megane E-Tech reveal at the Munich show, he explained: “My belief is that people love to buys cars first and foremost; with electric cars the emotional connection is being lost, and we need to do a better job of celebrating the car for being a remarkable car, not for being an electric car. Tesla makes strong electric cars, but at Renault we must put our effort into making clear that our electric cars will not be defined by the powertrain.”

06:35 Monday September 6

Will the Munich motor show resonate with its audience more than bygone Frankfurt motor shows? Renault CEO Luca de Meo is confident. “The show has a very different structure,” he said following a run through of the presentation he’s due to give at the Megane E-Tech later this morning. “What’s important is that none of the brands is trying to dominate with their stand space, and that there is a mix of OEMs, suppliers and other firms. It is an interesting change, and importantly one where I think everyone attending can shine.”

20:05 Sunday September 5

The Volkswagen Group is holding an evening event ahead of the show opening tomorrow, and it’s used the occasion to unveil the new ID Buzz AD prototype. Yes, we’ve seen previews of the retro ID Buzz before, but not like this: the AD stands for Autonomous Drive, and it’s packed with technology from US firm Argo AI. VW is aiming to start offering autonomous shuttle services in Hamburg in 2025.

18:45 Sunday September 5

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess is set to detail the next steps in the brand’s electrification strategy tonight, ahead of the Munich show, but he’ll need to be careful about sticking to his promises going forwards. Greenpeace is out in front of the venue protesting under the slogan “Von Wegen Klimaschutz” which essentially means “no more green washing”. Words are nothing without actions, and it seems activists won’t be happy until they see more of the latter.

17:00

While the Munich motor show doesn’t officially kick off until tomorrow’s press day, several car firms have got a jump on proceedings by unveiling their big show stars ahead of time.

Mercedes-Benz has been busy this evening, trying to steal some thunder by unveiling the – deep breath – EQE saloon, European-spec EQB SUV, EGQ electric off-roader, sporty AMG EQS and the ultra-posh Maybach EQS SUV. That’s on top of the Mercedes-AMG GT 4dr PHEV that it revealed earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Audi has already shown off the Grandsphere, an autonomous-ready electric saloon that previews a future A8 successor.

Cupra has previewed its future electric compact crossover with the UrbanRebel Concept, which will be on display in Munich town centre. Sister firm Volkswagen, meanwhile, is waiting until tomorrow to show its closely related compact electric crossover.

The recently unveiled Kia Sportage will also be on display, as will the Dacia Jogger seven-seat MPV.

There’s plenty more coming tomorrow: we’ve expecting to see bold new concepts from BMW and Porsche, a new reveal from Renault and further details about Chinese firm Great Wall’s European plans, among many other stories.

Here’s a first look at the most important models we’ll see at our first in-person motor show for nearly two years.

ACM City One

The ACM City One will be a German-built, electric microcar that will be sold for a low price en masse. The start-up firm recently agreed a partnership with Magna International, a global parts manufacturer, to develop the model. The firm has been developing the City One for eight years and says the car will have an interchangeable battery and space for up to five people. 

At an expected price of €10,000 to €15,000 (£8562 to £12,843), it is expected to sell predominantly to the fleet sector, including taxi and leasing companies in Asia and Africa. The City One can also be used as a small commercial vehicle and has a cargo bay of up to 1450 litres, with enough space to carry replacement batteries. The firm claims documents have been signed for the sale of 208,000 cars, with a total sales value of over €3 billion. 

“As a unique vehicle, the ACM City One is one which requires a unique approach to serial production. Magna’s engineering expertise is perfectly suited in bringing to fruition – on a mass scale – the ecosystem of this specialised vehicle, from the adaptive structure through to the operation systems,” ACM said.

New ACM City One is battery-swapping urban EV

Audi Grand Sphere concept

Exclusively previewed by Autocar last month, the Grand Sphere concept is Audi’s vision for an all- electric and highly autonomous successor to today’s A8 luxury saloon. Developed under the ‘Landjet’ codename by Audi’s Project Artemis division, the Munich-bound concept will be the first of three ‘Sphere’ concepts Audi will show in the next year as a preview of flagship models with level- four autonomous capabilities.

Audi Grand Sphere concept to preview luxury A8 successor

Audi RS3

Audi’s hyper-hatch returns with some aggressive design changes, five-pot power and an overhauled four-wheel drive system. The model is available to order now, but has yet to make a public appearance, with Munich set in its sights. The RS3 packs 395bhp and enhanced dynamics over the old car courtesy of its new torque-splitter device, which can be configured in a dedicated Drift mode. 

New 2021 Audi RS3 touches down with 395bhp for £50,900

Audi Skysphere

The Audi Skysphere was teased at the Monterey Car Week, the firm’s shape-shifting, self-driving Skysphere concept. A large two-door convertible, it was developed around the principles of level four autonomy, meaning it can drive unaided on roads equipped with the necessary infrastructure. It has a rear-mounted motor that sends 624bhp and 553lb ft of torque to the rear wheels only for a 0-62mph time of 4.0sec.

Audi Skysphere concept is shape-shifting, self-driving roadster

BMW Vision 2040

BMW will unveil a radical new concept made entirely from recyclable materials to provide “a visionary outlook” of what luxury urban cars could look like by 2040.

The sole preview image released so far suggests the car will have an SUV-MPV body, which has been designed with the ethos ‘rethink, reduce, reuse, recycle’.

BMW believes “climate protection and individual mobility do not necessarily contradict each other” and that new production methods and materials could protect the future of passenger cars for decades to come.

BMW Munich concept to preview sustainable cars of 2040

Cupra Born

Munich will mark the first public showing of the long-awaited Cupra Born, as the firm moves into the all-electric market. The Volkswagen ID 3 rival will be available with between 150bhp and 231bhp and offer a range of up to 335 miles. It’s almost technically identical and closely related visually to the ID 3 but brings some slight design and performance changes, according to Cupra, along with a distinctive “dynamic character”.

R&D boss Werner Tietz also promised the Born will offer a distinct driving experience compared with its VW Group siblings: “We have invested a lot of time in tuning the chassis, steering and powertrain. We will offer the car with DCC in combination with ESC Sport and a lower ride height – 50mm at the front and 10mm at the rear, which gives a nice feeling for the car,” the firm said.

New 2021 Cupra Born: EV hot hatch prepares for imminent launch

Cupra UrbanRebel

Cupra has revealed its UrbanRebel concept, a motorsport-inspired version of the electric city car it’s due to launch in 2025. The eventual production car will be a sister vehicle to the Volkswagen ID 2 – also tipped to be revealed in concept form at the Munich show – and other models from Skoda and Audi.

Cupra bosses are aiming for a target price of around £17,000 for the new machine, which VW Group intends to build at Seat’s plant in Martorell, Spain, if a deal can be reached with the Spanish government.

As “a radical interpretation of the company’s urban electric car”, the large rear wing and diffuser are a nod to Cupra’s racing heritage. The UrbanRebel delivers 335bhp of continuous power, rising to 429bhp in certain situations, with a claimed 0-62mph time of 3.2sec. Impressive though these figures are, it’s likely that the eventual production vehicle will be significantly less powerful, with a single electric motor mounted on the rear axle.

Cupra UrbanRebel concept to preview 2025 compact EV

Dacia Jogger

Dacia will unveil a “versatile seven-seater family car” at Munich, unrelated to the large Bigster SUV that will crown the line-up when it arrives by 2025. It is thought that the Jogger will serve as a replacement for the Lodgy MPV, previously not sold in the UK, and it is likely to follow the Sandero hatchback onto parent company Renault’s newer CMF-B architecture, which would pave the way for a hybrid option.

Dacia to reveal new Jogger seven-seater at Munich show

Mercedes-Benz EQE

The EQE is due on sale in 2022 with an EQS-aping silhouette, E-Class practicality and a price that positions it as a direct rival to the Tesla Model S. Based on the same aluminium-intensive EVA architecture as Stuttgart’s larger, luxury-oriented electric flagship, it will offer more cabin space than its combustion- engined E-Class counterpart, courtesy of its flat floors and short overhangs.

A variation of the brand’s new Hyperscreen infotainment display – spanning the width of the dashboard – is also tipped to feature. The model will spawn an EQE-badged SUV in 2022, positioned similarly to today’s GLE.

Mercedes-Benz EQE: EV E-Class equivalent hits the ‘Ring

Mercedes-AMG EQG

Merc’s EQ onslaught extends to its longest-serving model, with the all-conquering G-Class to receive a fully electric variant in 2024. The ‘EQG’ will be previewed with a concept at the Munich show, but we’re not anticipating that it will look much different from the combustion car that’s on sale today. Naysayers may be swayed by the promise of improved off-road ability, vastly reduced fuel costs and no doubt boosted on-road refinement. 

Mercedes primes luxury EQG electric G-Class 4×4

Mercedes-AMG EQS

AMG will take the EQ flagship as the basis for its first EV and create a spiritual successor to the V12-powered S65, with output ramped up significantly beyond the standard car’s 516bhp and 631lb ft. Expect a bespoke grille, flared arches and large-diameter wheels as part of the AMG styling package, along with lower suspension and beefier brakes to lend the large saloon some sporting credentials. AMG’s first wave of EVs is expected to offer performance on a par with the current 53-badged cars, rather than the full-fat 63 models, but the hot EQS should still provide sufficient pace to rival the Porsche Taycan.

Mercedes EQS: electric luxury limo to spawn AMG version

Mercedes-AMG GT63 S E Performance

The Mercedes-AMG GT63 S E Performance is the first in a series of new plug-in hybrid Mercedes-AMG models. The firm’s new range-topper, powered by an uprated version of the GT63’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine mated to an electric motor, provides performance boost of 201bhp and 268lb ft, for a total output figure of 831bhp – making it the brand’s most powerful road car yet. 

The Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid rival will command a premium over the non-electrified GT 63, with prices likely to start upwards of £150,000. It will also be a spiritual successor to the AMG’s debut model, the 300CE Hammer, which helped forge the firm’s reputation as a builder of uprated large saloons with supercar pace.

Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door Coupe gets 831bhp PHEV option

Mercedes-Maybach EQS SUV

Previewed as part of Mercedes’ recent electrification strategy presentation, the EQS SUV will be a luxury-focused BMW iX rival and break cover first in top-rung Maybach guise, most likely in concept form at the Munich show.

It will play a vital role in the long-heralded rebirth of Stuttgart’s luxury division and will give strong hints as to how Maybach-badged models will be differentiated from their mainstream counterparts. Expect the EQS SUV to have styling heavily influenced by the lower-slung EQS saloon inside and out, and for the Maybach version to lean even more heavily on premium- focused materials, styling cues and technology.

New Mercedes EQE saloon, EQE SUV and EQS SUV confirmed

Mobilize Limo

A new model from the Renault Group mobility brand will make its debut. A subscription-only D-segment model, the Mobilize Limo is a four-door saloon measuring 4670mm long and is powered by a 147bhp and 162lb ft electric motor. It’ll offer a 0-62mph time of 9.6sec and a governed top speed of 87mph, along with a claimed range of 280 miles from a 60kWh lithium ion battery, which can be charged on both AC and DC systems.

The Limo has been designed specifically for use in private hire and other mobility fleets, with a focus on durability, ease of use and rear passenger space, and is expected to go on sale in 2022.

New Mobilize Limo is electric saloon designed for private hire use

Porsche concept

Previewed with a single close-up image of a headlight, Porsche says it is “looking to the future” with the “world premiere of a future-oriented concept study.” No further details were added, but the LED headlights feature a distinctive design that hasn’t previously been seen on any Porsche. The term “concept study” suggests that the model is likely to be some form of forward-looking, brand-shaping design, rather than closely previewing a forthcoming production car.

Porsche to reveal “future-oriented” concept at Munich motor show

Renault Mégane E-Tech

Destined for dealerships in 2022, Renault’s first electric SUV will square up to the Skoda Enyaq and the Kia e-Niro with 215bhp and a competitive WLTP-certified range of 280 miles. The Mégane E-Tech sits atop the same CMF-EV platform as its Nissan Ariya sibling, which means that a four-wheel-drive performance range-topper, with more power and a bigger battery, could eventually follow the front-driven car onto the market.

New 2022 Renault Mégane E-Tech Electric is 280-mile EV

Smart SUV 

Urban EV manufacturer Smart will make its first motor show appearance under the joint ownership of Mercedes and Chinese auto giant Geely, which also owns LEVC, Lotus, Volvo and Polestar. Codenamed HX11, the Smart concept on show will preview the EV-only brand’s first SUV model, which will arrive in production form in 2022.

Preview images hint at an all-new design approach for the premium-focused five-seat crossover and leaked technical figures from China suggest it will use a 268bhp rear-mounted motor and a 70kWh battery for an NEDC range of 311 miles.

Smart electric SUV will show off brand’s premium ambition

Volkswagen ID 5 GTX

The latest arrival in Volkswagen’s ID line-up, the ID 5 GTX is the sport-suited version of the firm’s largest SUV, positioned just above the ID 4. The model is set to appear as a prototype, arriving hot on the heels of the ID 3 family hatchback and the ID 4 SUV, on which it’s largely based. It’s a sibling car to the Audi Q4 E-tron Sportback and Skoda Enyaq iV, alongside which it will be produced at Volkswagen’s dedicated EV factory in Zwickau, Germany, from early 2022.

First drive: 2021 Volkswagen ID 5 GTX prototype review

Volkswagen Polo GTI

Volkswagen’s small hatchback will return in GTI form with a new look, sporting model design inspiration drawn from the eighth-generation Golf extending to a new front end, complete with the brand’s new light bar signature, and a revamped rear. The front-wheel-drive Polo will be driven by Volkswagen’s 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and torque is capped at 236lb ft at 1500-4500rpm, which helps make the GTI capable of dispatching 0-62mph in 6.5sec. There’s still no word on that manual gearbox, though…

Volkswagen Polo GTI returns for 2021 with new look, 204bhp

Volkswagen Taigo

Volkswagen’s first European-market SUV-coupé is the Taigo, a crossover closely related to the Polo and the T-Cross. The car, which has been on sale for a year already as the Nivus in South America, will make its European debut at the motor show largely unchanged, save for a series of tweaks aimed at bringing it into line with the brand’s range here. The Taigo is exclusively front driven and petrol powered. Two engines are available from launch: a turbocharged three-pot producing either 94bhp or 109bhp and a four-cylinder that makes 148bhp.

New 2021 Volkswagen Taigo is style-focused T-Cross sibling

READ MORE

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