The 2004 Paris Motor Show (Mondial de l'Automobile 2004)
Paris is the most densely populated city in the world, housing more people per square mile even than Tokyo. You begin to appreciate this fact when you amble through the streets and note how little space (if any!) there is between parked cars. It becomes quite difficult to spot a car without battle scars. The Car Enthusiast travelled to Paris to wage a different kind of war: a full-on attack on the opening day of the 2004 Paris Motor Show.
Le Mondial de L'Automobile, housed in the southwest of Paris was also densely packed, not only with scurrying journalists, but also with new cars and concepts. Of particular interest to the sportscar enthusiast was the first public showing of the new Ferrari F430 and Porsche Boxster.
Ferrari's stand placed emphasis on the close relationship between the 360 Modena's replacement and the all-conquering Ferrari F1 car. In the metal, the F430 is a success. The curves are more complex than can be seen in photographs, and though I must admit to not being a fan of the Enzo-esque rear lights, the car taken as a whole is unmistakably a Ferrari; in my eyes, more so than the 360. It is interesting to note that Ferrari's design language on the F430 has moved a little away from form, towards function.
The recently revealed 997 model Porsche 911 is another car that could never be mistaken for another make. The facelifted Boxster goes down the same path and, even side-by-side with the 911, was difficult to distinguish from its bigger brother. Saying that, I really do like the smooth new nose, which has a faintly retro feel to it. There is nothing old-fashioned about the wheelarch-filling alloys and huge brakes though. The rear ends of both 911 and Boxster are also bang up to date, with sharp new lights. The reduced size of the lights serves to emphasise the butch rear haunches of both cars, backed up by the huge rubber fitted as standard and twin-exit exhausts.
Evolution may work for Porsche and Ferrari, but it was more a case of viva La Révolution on the home manufacturers' stands. Citroen's centrepiece was of course the sporty new C4, looking for all the world like a serious Focus rival. The styling is certainly bolder than the new Focus (also making its debut in Paris), and we have been promised the dynamics to match. We found the 3-door particularly eye-catching in VTS trim, complete with large carbon fibre rear wing, echoing that featured on the stunning C4 WRC car also on display. It was all too easy to ignore the quirky facelifted C5 and the new C2 VTS, though we had the opportunity to drive the C2 VTS a week before the show, so we'll be bringing you our thoughts on that shortly.
The Peugeot stand was vast, and so full of fresh metal that even the relatively new 307CC looked a little like old news. The 407 and distinctive 407 SW held centre stage alongside the clever new 1007. Its electric sliding doors are a joy to use, and its interior is thoroughly modern and flexible. Keeping the car enthusiasts happy was the display of the extravagant 907 sports car concept. The 907 is powered by a 6.0-litre V12 producing "around 500bhp", which proudly exhibits its intake trumpets under a see-through panel in the long bonnet. The luxurious leather, wood and Alcantara interior confirms the GT aspirations of the concept, though don't expect the 907 to ever see the light of a Peugeot showroom in production format.
Across the aisle, Renault's stylish stand hosted its new small car, the Modus (already seen at the NEC this year) and the two recent concept cars: Wind and Fluence. The reappearance of the Wind in particular prompts us to suspect that a new small sports car is on the horizon from Renault. As Renault and Nissan now share components, perhaps it could be built on the platform of the fabulous 350Z coupe.
The Roadster version of the 350Z made its European debut in Paris. Surprisingly, losing the distinctive roofline has not detracted from the character of the 350Z. It retains its bulky haunches and squat stance, along with the incredible attention to detail. The shaped soft-top cover ensures that the car maintains a cohesive design. Its driving dynamics should not be too shabby either.
The Paris motorshow takes place every two years. The 2004 show already looks like being more than a match for the 2003 Frankfurt Show with regards especially to new car debuts. Here is a brief list of the cars we are expecting to see:
It is very likely that Alfa Romeo will reveal a facelifted 147 in Paris. We have scoop photographs below. There is an outside chance that the all-new 157 will make an appearance, but we are not certain of that.
Surprisingly, Audi has already released details and images of its new A4 and A4 Avant, which will make its public debut at the show. Predictably, it shares the new full-length Audi nose with recently updated models, as well as the distinctively shaped rear lights. The saloon has a striking resemblance to the current Subaru Legacy saloon though, especially around the C-pillar. We will reserve judgement until we see the car for ourselves in Paris. Elsewhere on the Audi stand, we will be keen to try out the new A3 Sportback for size.
I doubt BMW will let such a large international show go by without some interest. There will of course be the incredible new M5 on display. Hopefully we will be treated to something special such as a new M6 or M 1-series. We'll have to wait and see...
The Chrysler/Jeep stand will have a host of new models shown in Europe for the first time, including the Jeep Cherokee Renegade, Chrysler 300C Touring and the Crossfire SRT-6.
Being Citroen's home show, it should have a sizable stand. Cars of interest will include the odd, but facelifted C5, the sporty new C4 and the C2 VTS.
One of the most exciting cars at the show will be the stunning Ferrari F430. I for one am looking forward to slipping into the driver's seat to try it out for size.
The new-look Focus is an important car for Ford, and it debuts in Paris. Hopefully the awesome GR-1 concept will be on show too.
Kia is quietly extending its range of vale-for-money cars throughout Europe. The launch of an all-new Sportage SUV in Paris should certainly boost sales.
We expect to see the mildly freshened Maserati Coupe and Spyder in Paris, displayed alongside the MCC racecar and MCS road version.
I know that the Mazda5 debuts in Paris, but we suspect that the Japanese company may have something else up its sleeve.
Mercedes-Benz will have an exciting show display, with two concepts. The Vision R and Vision B offer a glimpse at two new Mercedes models due out in 2005. Also at the show will be the fantastic CLS 55 AMG.
The MINI continues to sell in huge numbers thanks to minor tweaking of the range. The latest addition is a 210bhp version tagged Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works tuning kit. Mental!
Nissan will display the gorgeous 350Z Roadster, confirmed for sales in Europe, alongside the sharp Pathfinder SUV.
The Peugeot stand will focus on the innovative new 1007 mini-MPV, but no doubt most showgoers will drool over the extravagant 907 concept supercar. A sporty version of the 1007 will also be on display, designated 1007 RC.
A new Porsche 911 and a new Boxster will ensure that the German stand will be swamped with people throughout the show. We hope to drive the 911 beforehand.
Smart won't have any new cars on display, though the diesel and Brabus versions of the Forfour will make their debut.
Over on the Subaru stand will be the new Legacy 3.0R spec.B sports saloon, aiming to steal buyers from Audi and BMW in saloon and Sports Tourer forms.
Perhaps not as exciting as a new Porsche, but more significant to more people is the launch of a new Suzuki Swift, complete with distinctive styling and a promising specification. We are hoping for a Sport version in a similar vein to the excellent Ignis Sport.
Our European counterparts know them as Opel, but we still get Vauxhalls on this island, and the Paris Show is the first outing for the sporty Astra 3-door and the Estate. The 3-door with panoramic windscreen will also be on show.
The Volkswagen Golf GTi will be the centre of attention of the VW stand, that is unless of course another new car makes a surprise appearance, such as a new Passat or Bora for example...
More stories and image galleries below.