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2006 British International Motor Show report. Image by Phil Ahern.

2006 British International Motor Show report


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The British Motor Show moved back to London for 2006. Despite the huge space available at its previous home in Birmingham, the London venue is more likely to be seen as a serious international motorshow to rival the likes of Paris, if not quite the huge shows in Geneva and Frankfurt.

For 2006, the British International Motor Show runs from 20 - 30 July and no longer will it be held in Earl's Court, instead finding itself in ExCeL London near Canary Wharf and London City Airport. Indeed the docks played a big part in this year's show, hosting power boat racing as well as a 6,500 capacity music venue, where Van Morrison, UB40, Sugababes and Jools Holland performed, amongst others.

There are plenty of other car-related activities going on outside the main exhibition halls, including the Vauxhall VXR sponsored 'Dock Side Story', a modern take on Romeo & Juliet using car stunts, motorcycles and circus acrobatics to put on a 30-minute live show. It was certainly worth the 5.00 entry fee (above the regular ticket price). Keen drivers will have enjoyed the 'Zoom Zoom' challenge laid down by Mazda, allowing eligible drivers to take the wheel of a new Mazda MX-5 and RX-8 PZ on timed laps of a tight and twisty course. The BMW Group Plaza was also well worth a visit. Not only was the new BMW M6 Convertible receiving its world premiere, the whole thing was staged outside, right on the dockside, and included a MINI BARge (geddit, BAR-ge), where any MINI owner could lounge around and talk MINI. BMW also brought along a replica of its Oracle America's Cup showboat.

So what about the cars? Well there were 12 world debuts, a large number of European premieres and an even bigger number of cars being seen in the UK for the first time, so it was certainly worth the trip to London. Here's a summary, though you can click on the individual manufacturer names above for more detailed information on each of the important cars.
Alfa Romeo

On Alfa Romeo's modest stand in London, the new Alfa Spider, based on the Brera, made its UK debut. While sharing much of the Brera's basic design, the new Spider does away with the small rear seats of the coupe to allow stowage of the electrically operated fabric roof behind a set of stylish rollover hoops.

Engines and transmissions will be shared with the Brera with two options at launch, both petrol: the 2.2-litre with 185bhp and a 3.2-litre V6 motor that outputs 260bhp. The latter is allied with Alfa's Q4 four-wheel drive system.

Aston Martin

We were hoping for a glimpse of the new James Bond car on the Aston Martin stand in London, but the DBS (as it is to be called) never materialised. However, fans of the British marque have plenty to keep them busy on the generously proportioned stand.

Taking centre stage is the Aston Martin Rapide concept car that was first aired in public at this year's Detroit Motor Show. In summary, the Rapide is a stretched DB9, complete with an extra set of doors and acres of rear legroom. This concept is likely to make it into production in some format in the next few years.

The regular Aston DB9 was on the stand in coupe and Volante (cabriolet) forms, as was the Aston V8 Vantage and the range-topping Vanquish S. Being seen for the first time in public was the Sports Pack that can be factory fitted to the Aston DB9, sharpening up the driving dynamics and adding a set of eye-catching 19-inch alloy wheels.


Bentley is celebrating 60 years of hand assembled production at its Crewe headquarters and to commemorate the occasion has released two limited editions. Just 60 examples of the Bentley Arnage Diamond Series will be released for sale globally, with 400 Bentley Continental GTs to be made in Diamond Series specification.

Complementing the special editions at the show were Bentley's opulent convertibles from the just launched Continental GTC to the extravagant Azure.

Completing the five-car display is the world debut of the Bentley Flying Spur Mulliner Driving Specification.


In the scorching heat, BMW gave the new M6 Convertible its world premiere, indicating how important the UK market is to the company by revealing the company's most expensive model and fastest open-top production car.

There is plenty more of interest in the BMW Group Plaza, including the UK debut of the BMW Z4 Coupe in normal and M guises

BMW's other companies also have strong showings. Concept car fans are treated to the first UK display of the MINI Concept previewing a new larger MINI derivative likely to be called the MINI Traveller.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce had its 101EX concept coupe on display.

Cadillac & Corvette

General Motors appears to be serious about selling more cars in Europe from its traditionally American brands and the British Motor Show is a further indication of this intent. Cadillac and Corvette are marketed together, sharing dealership premises in the UK. It made sense for the brands to share a modest stand at the show.

Sportscar enthusiasts have the opportunity to pore over both coupe and convertible versions of the latest Corvette and the Z06 version was also on display.

Cadillac showed its full current UK line-up, including the BLS, CTS, STS, XLR Roadster and the Escalade SUV. The BLS has only just gone on sale in Britain and is in fact a Europe only model, based on the underpinnings of the Saab 9-3. It completes with several 'compact executive' saloons such as the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. Surprisingly, the accomplished SLR ??? crossover we drove at the SMMT Test Day was not displayed.


You'll see very little mention of the Chevrolet name on the Corvette stand, even though Chevrolet produces it. In Europe, the Chevrolet name is being used to sell bargain basement cars, sitting below Vauxhall/Opel in the General Motors automotive food chain having taken the place of GM-Daewoo and starting out with a range of rebadged Daewoos. Finally some all-new models are being launched.

Chevrolet's stand may appear quite innocuous next to the lavish Vauxhall display, but it contains a couple of significant new models for the brand. Most importantly for Chevrolet is the Captiva, the company's first all-new SUV specifically designed for sale in Europe. Reflecting its marketplace is the option of a new 2-litre diesel engine. Accompanying the new SUV is what Chevrolet claims to be the first ever SUV, the 1936 Chevrolet Suburban Carryall.

Also on display is the Chevrolet Epica, a new large saloon from Chevrolet that will also get the option of a diesel engine.


Stealing the limelight on the Chrysler stand was an all-new car, the Sebring, which Chrysler says is its first ever offering in the mid-size family car segment. The London show is the car's European debut. Chrysler's designers have obviously taken design cues from the highly successful 300C saloon, especially at the front, and the rear end has elements of the Chrysler Crossfire coupe in it. We were told at the show that the interior was not quite production specification, but it was plain to see that the Sebring fits in with recent Chrysler design language.


Citroen put in a large presence at the British Motor Show this year, with examples of each of its 12 model ranges represented on the stand, including the eccentric C6 debuting its Active Bonnet, head-up display and lane departure warning system.

Two Citroen concept cars are also on display, which have been shown previously at other international motor shows. The C AirPlay is a funky small hatchback about the size of the Citroen C2 with a spacious and sporty interior. The C Buggy is based on the C AirPlay, but the roof is chopped off and it features increased ground clearance for driving along sandy beaches and the likes. These cars give hints to the future design direction of small Citroens.

A selection of special editions will also keep the crowds amused, including the lurid Citroen C-P1nk.


Japanese small-car maker, Daihatsu, had a suitably diminutive stand at this year's British Motor Show. On display was a selection of the UK range, including the cute Copen folding hardtop "sportscar", the super-efficient Daihatsu Charade city car and the Tardis-like Sirion super-mini.

New to the UK is the second-generation Daihatsu Terios, a 'mini-me' SUV, though its specifications suggest that its dynamics are anything but. This four-door car replaces the rather agricultural original with fresh and sporty new styling, a much better interior and new engines.


Though Dodge is part of the DaimlerChrysler group, the name could not be used to sell its cars in the UK due to an old copyright issue until very recently. That has been resolved and now that Dodge Viper can be called just that, instead of marketing it as the Chrysler Viper, with "Dodge" written all over it... The awesome V10-engined Viper is present at the London Show, looking all broody in black.

More significantly for Dodge in terms of mass-market appeal are the new Caliber 'world car' and the new Nitro SUV. Both cars are in London for the show, though the Nitro is officially a concept (take a close look at the car on the stand and you'll work out for yourself that it is close to production). The Nitro will be on sale in the UK next year in right-hand drive and will feature diesel as well as petrol engines.


Ford's show stand was one of the most visually striking inside the exhibition hall, even though there are not a whole lot of new models to reveal. The newest is the Focus Coupe-Cabriolet, with its folding hard-top. As we said when the production version of this car was revealed in Geneva earlier this year, Ford has sacrificed some of the original concept car's smooth styling to allow more practicality, such as a claimed class-leading boot.

The Coupe-Cabriolet was almost ignored on the stand though in comparison to Ford's big push on Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFV). The Focus FFV is Ford's first bio fuel car and it can run on any mix of bio-ethanol and unleaded petrol. Ford claims that thanks to the absorption of CO2 during the growth of the crops used to produce bio-ethanol, the FFV emits less of the greenhouse gas through its life-cycle than many current hybrids. With rising petrol prices, this could be really good news for customers. All we need now is a better infrastructure.


Making its world debut is the new three-door version of the latest generation Honda Civic. There is nothing surprising about its shape and in fact, it is difficult to tell between it and the five-door car from a distance thanks to the positioning of the rear door handles in the C-pillar. Where it does make a difference is in the Type R, which is displayed in London in concept format ahead of its launch later this year. It's worth checking out.

All too easy to miss on the Honda stand is a fantastic piece of 3d art, where a Honda F1 car has been stripped completely and then displayed with each part painstakingly hung in place. Pictures don't do it justice.


Hyundai's stand is worth visiting if you are an SUV fan. The capable and refined new Santa Fe is on display, along with what Hyundai calls a "prototype" version of the compact Hyundai Tucson, tagged 'CRD Tucson Champion'. It features a body-kit and attention-grabbing alloy wheels that are thoroughly unsuitable for off-roading of any kind.

You might say the same about the concept on show; the HCD-9 Talus concept car was originally shown at this year's Detroit Motor Show and though it is highly unlikely that Hyundai will put this 2+2 seat sports off-roader in production, it does indicate that Hyundai's designers have a few interesting ideas up their sleeves.


One of the busiest stands at the London Show this year was undoubtedly Jaguar's, where the fabulous new XKR makes its world debut in both Coupe and Convertible guises. Employing a supercharged V8 producing 420bhp, the new XKR eclipses the outgoing car's specifications, performance and dynamics and though not quite as quick as the BMW M6, it is usefully cheaper.

Jaguar fans will also notice two other new cars on the stand in London, though they are new derivatives of the XJ series rather than new models in their own right. First up is a long wheelbase version of the XJ utilising the excellent V6 diesel engine (we've not been told when the new V8 diesel arrives as yet). Last of all is the XJR Portfolio, of which only 100 examples will be sold in the UK. The Portfolio takes its extrovert styling cues from the Concept Eight design study and mixes them with a 400bhp supercharged V8 to create one of the most desirable versions of the XJ range.


Kia has a lot of new cars to show off in London, including a replacement for the large Sedona MPV, a facelifted Sorento 4x4 and an all-new Carens medium-sized MPV. All of those are a little overshadowed on the large stand by the stylish cee'd concept car.

Though the cee'd (pronounced 'seed') was revealed for the first time at this year's Geneva Motor Show, the London exhibit is the UK public's first chance to see it. Unlike many concepts, this one has relevance as it gives a strong indication at the looks of Kia's next new family car. In fact, Kia even handed out teaser photographs of the new car at the press day of the London Show and it bears more than just a passing resemblance to the concept. The production version will be shown at the Paris Motor Show in September, when the car's name will be announced too.

Land Rover

Land Rover gave the new Freelander 2 its world debut in London. Though it bears some resemblance to the outgoing car, the Freelander 2 is new from the ground up. Unsurprisingly, Land Rover has moved the Freelander more upmarket, with no three-door model and two new engines with a minimum of 2.2-litre capacity. The new car is sure to follow the success of its big brothers, the Discovery, Range Rover and Range Rover Sport.

Also on display in London is the recently refreshed Range Rover, sporting Land Rover's new V8 diesel engine.


Lexus is really pushing its performance hybrid technology, where an electric motor-generator is utilised in series with a regular petrol engine to give the performance of a larger engine with the emissions and fuel economy of a smaller one. At the London Show Lexus showed the RX 400h SUV with this system alongside the GS 450h.

Making its UK debut is the third generation of the Lexus LS, the new LS 460. As well as being distinctly more appealing to look at over the outgoing model, this car features some ground-breaking technology, including pre-crash safety protection and an eight-speed automatic gearbox.


Like its cars, the Lotus stand is small, but effective. Two examples of the Elise are on display; the range-topping Elise R and the all-new entry-level Elise S, with a detuned version of the Toyota powerplant taking over where the defunct Rover K-series engine left off.

Also on display is the incredible Lotus Exige S, displayed in Aspen White and in a bespoke striped black colour scheme.

Lotus fans will be clambering over themselves to try out the new Lotus Europa S for size, due to go on sale shortly with a turbocharged 200bhp engine.


One of the most interesting stands to visit at this year's British Motor Show is the Mazda exhibit, situated near the Ford group of companies. Making its world debut is the new Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe, featuring a particularly slick folding hardtop. Not only do buyers get the added security and refinement of the top, the new roof does not encroach on the main boot space and it doesn't add that much weight.

Elsewhere on the stand are the European launch of the Mazda BT50 pick-up and the UK debut of the Mazda3 MPS hot hatch, due for launch at the end of the year. The excellent Kabura concept coupe also received its first UK outing.


Focus of the Mercedes-Benz Car Group stand is on the upcoming opening of Mercedes-Benz world at the old Brooklands race circuit in Surrey. At the London Show, Mercedes displayed a pristine example of the 300 SL 'Gullwing' alongside the 300,000 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren supercar.

Also on the stand is a selection of new models to the UK market, including a refreshed E-Class range, the new large GL-Class SUV, a mildly facelift SL, the weird crossover R-Class, new S-Class and CLK-63 AMG.

In the same part of the exhibition hall you'll find the tremendous Maybach Exelero concept car and the smart EV (electric vehicle), which is based on the fortwo and is due to go on sale shortly.


Mitsubishi has a strong showing at the London Motor Show. Newly launched cars on the stand include the cool-looking (for this sort of thing) L200 pick-up, displayed in various guises, and the folding hardtop Mitsubishi Colt CZC. The latter is based on the sporty three-door version of the Colt and can be had with either naturally aspirated or turbocharged versions of a 1.5-litre petrol engine.

Making its European debut in London is the Mitsubishi i, a new city car that is already on sale in Japan. Mitsubishi is considering selling the i in Britain and will be using the show to gauge public interest in the car. It is a quality offering with a decent specification and a clever layout. It's only barrier to success could be a high purchase price in comparison to its rivals.

Last, but certainly not least as far as the enthusiast is concerned, is the debut of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX FQ-360, boasting a 366bhp version of the venerable turbocharged 2-litre engine. Exterior changes include bespoke alloys and a carbon fibre front spoiler.


Pride of place on the Nissan stand was given to the Nissan Urge concept car, first shown at the Detroit Show this year. This concept shows how Nissan designers foresee a small sporty Nissan coupe of the future..

Of more immediate production interest is a concept version of the Murano crossover, dubbed the GT-C. This Murano features a twin-turbocharged version of the 3.5-litre V6 found in the Nissan 350Z producing nearly 350bhp. The interior and exterior feature distinctive tweaks too, including massive 22-inch alloy wheels and red AP Racing brake callipers.

The Nissan Micra has been around for a while, but the C+C folding hardtop version is relatively new and two different versions of it are at the London Show. The first is a one-off gold-painted model 'designed' by Jenny Frost (ex-Atomic Kitten) in support of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity, while the other has been breathed on by the Conran design house (hence the Micra C+C+C name), featuring a unique leather interior and erm, unusual paintwork.


The new 207 is the main point of focus on the Peugeot stand in ExCeL this year, though the car is already on sale in the UK. Sadly, the new GT Turbo version is not present, instead being revealed at the Paris Show in September.

Still, there is plenty to keep car enthusiasts occupied, including a display of Peugeot rally cars, from the 205 GTi through the 206 WRC to the latest 207 RCup concept car. The latter previews a new rally car from Peugeot that will compete in the Super 2000 series.

Peugeot has also brought along its fabulous 907 concept supercar, powered by a one-off V12 engine that can be seen through a transparent panel in the bonnet.


Concept car aficionados will want to visit the Renault stand in London to check out the Egeus and Altica show cars. Though shown previously at other international shows, the British Motor Show is the first time these cars have been shown in the UK. The Egeus is a proposal for a large, luxurious SUV, while the compact Altica is Renault's idea for an exuberant, sporty three-door with the practicality of an estate.

Hot hatch fans are well catered for too on the Renault stand, with the UK launch of the new Clio Renaultsport 197. Backing up the new car is an original Clio Williams and previous generation Clio Sports. Parked nose-to-nose with the new Clio is an example of Renault's latest F1 car, the R26, which just so happens to be leading the Formula One World Championship. The similarities between a hatch, no matter how hot, and an F1 car are few and far between, though the Clio is the first car in its class to feature an underfloor aerodynamic diffuser.


There are no new models on display on the Saab stand at this year's British Motor Show, though there are other reasons to visit the Swedes.

Most visually alluring of these reasons is the Saab Aero X concept car, first displayed at the Geneva Motor Show in March. This supercar concept stole the show in Geneva, with good reason. Not only does it look fantastic, complete with one-piece roof, windscreen and side doors, it also features a powerful turbocharged engine that can use 100% bio-ethanol fuel.

Carrying that theme closer to production is the presence of the Saab 9-5 in saloon and estate guises fitted with Saab's 'BioPower' engine, along with the Saab 9-3 Convertible BioPower Hybrid concept car. Like Ford, Saab is pushing the government to take into consideration the benefits of bio fuel when assigning tax bands to cars.


There are several new and sporty SEATs on display in London. Most prominently, SEAT chose the London show to give its new Leon Cupra its world debut. Featuring styling influenced by SEAT touring car racers, yet with relatively subtle spoilers, the new Cupra packs a 240bhp version of the 2-litre turbocharged direct-injection engine used in the also new SEAT Leon FR. That makes the Leon the most powerful production SEAT to date when it goes on sale in the UK early next year and a good deal quicker than the VW Golf GTi.

Both FR (Formula Racing) models of the Leon and Altea ranges are also on display in London, available with either a 200bhp petrol engine or a 170bhp diesel.


Inside the show, Toyota's stand nestles up to the Lexus display and unsurprisingly features its hybrid technology prominently. The Prius is one of the few cars allowed to drive inside the ExCeL building thanks to its ability to move completely under electric power. Demonstrating this, and the new Intelligent Parking Assistant, visitors to the Toyota stand can watch the Prius park itself between two cars.

When you get bored of watching this eerie feat, check out the concept cars, including the roof-less Aygo For Sport, a prototype Yaris T Sport and the aggressive RAV4 Sports amongst others.


Since TVR's last London Motor Show, the company has changed hands and is now under Russian ownership. There were fears that the production of TVR sportscars would be moved abroad, but it looks like that is not going to happen for the moment. At the London Show, TVR put on a fine display with not one, but two examples of the mouth-watering Sagaris sports car, the Tuscan Convertible and a fantastic Speed 12 supercar that TVR previously deemed too fast for the public road!


On press day, the only car to be found on the Vauxhall stand was the brand new Corsa, making its world debut in both Opel and Vauxhall guises at the London Show. Indeed, GM pulled out all the stops, including delivering a version of the Corsa to the arena suspended from a helicopter and using a team of abseilers to reveal the world's largest poster on the side of a building in Docklands.


Though you might not think it to glance at the Volvo stand at the London Motor Show, it plays host to two world debuts and no less than four UK premieres. The latter comprise of the stylish new Volvo S80 executive saloon, the folding hardtop C70, a revised XC90 SUV range and the appearance of the C30 Design Concept.

World debuts are the refreshed Volvo S60 sports saloon range and a new version of the XC90, the SE Sport, which as the name suggests adds a more dynamic and sporting edge to this family favourite SUV. Roof rails are omitted and the car's looks are beefed up by the use of 19-inch alloys, chromed exhaust tips and other subtle tweaks. Engine options include a 310bhp V8.
The official show site is First indications are that the show was a success for the exhibitors and visitors alike. All going to plan, it will go ahead again in 2008. Keep an eye on the Motorshows page for dates.

Shane O' Donoghue - 16 May 2006

      - images

2006 Jaguar XKR. Image by Jaguar.2006 Jaguar XKR. Image by Jaguar.2006 Jaguar XKR. Image by Jaguar.2006 Jaguar XKR. Image by Jaguar.2006 Jaguar XKR. Image by Jaguar.

2006 Jaguar XKR. Image by Jaguar.2006 Jaguar XKR. Image by Jaguar.2006 Jaguar XKR. Image by Jaguar.2006 Jaguar XKR. Image by Jaguar.2006 Jaguar XKR. Image by Jaguar.

2006 BMW M6 Convertible. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2006 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe. Image by Phil Ahern.

2006 Nissan Murano GT-C. Image by Phil Ahern.

2006 Noble M15. Image by Phil Ahern.

2006 Vauxhall Corsa. Image by Phil Ahern.

2006 Caparo T1. Image by Phil Ahern.

2006 Chrysler Sebring. Image by Phil Ahern.

2006 Ford Focus Coupe-Cabriolet. Image by Phil Ahern.

2006 Honda Civic. Image by Phil Ahern.

2006 Land Rover Freelander 2. Image by Phil Ahern.

2006 Lotus Europa S. Image by Phil Ahern.

2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX FQ-360. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2006 SEAT Leon Cupra. Image by Phil Ahern.

Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. Image by Phil Ahern.

2006 Nissan Micra C+C+Conran. Image by Nissan.

Dock Side Story from Vauxhall at the London Motor Show. Image by Phil Ahern.

Dock Side Story from Vauxhall at the London Motor Show. Image by Phil Ahern.

Dock Side Story from Vauxhall at the London Motor Show. Image by Phil Ahern.

Dock Side Story from Vauxhall at the London Motor Show. Image by Phil Ahern.

Dock Side Story from Vauxhall at the London Motor Show. Image by Phil Ahern.

Dock Side Story from Vauxhall at the London Motor Show. Image by Phil Ahern.


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