With four new performance S models, the carmaker challenges rivals at Frankfurt
Audi has taken the performance challenge straight to main rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz, introducing four new performance S models at Frankfurt.
The four-wheel-drive S6 saloon and Avant, S7 and flagship S8 models all use the company's latest twin-turbocharged 4-litre V8 petrol engine.
Leading the performance push on the Audi stand is the S8, the most powerful version of Audi's twin-turbo 4-litre V8, with 382kW and 650Nm of torque.
Power is fed to all four wheels through an adapted eight-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox, supporting auto stop-start and brake energy regeneration for improved fuel economy.
A number of technologies debut, such as a new active noise cancellation (ANC) system, which is used to suppress engine and wind noise. Subtle styling tweaks include polished aluminium-look door mirrors alongside discreet S8 badging and huge 19-inch alloys.
The S6 saloon and Avant also debuted alongside the S7 four-door coupe. Running a lower-tuned version of Audi's twin-turbo 4-litre V8 that produces 308kW, these models will also adopt Audi's seven-speed twin-clutch S tronic gearbox in place of the older six-speed automatic.
Other new developments include a reworked Torsen four-wheel-drive system, which, like that of the S8, features a self-locking centre differential.
The new BMW M5 is powered by the brand's most powerful production engine yet, a twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 with 411kW and 680Nm of torque.
Yet despite the power boost, fuel consumption and emissions have dropped by a claimed 30 per cent via regenerative brakes and an automatic stop/start system. The latest powerplant means the M5 will set new performance benchmarks, with a top speed of 300km/h possible when buyers specify the optional M Driver's pack.
It wouldn't be a motor show without a new Ferrari. The 458 Spider gets a retractable aluminium roof - the only mid-engined car of its type to use such a system - which is not only 25kg lighter than a traditional folding soft-top, but is also quieter and thermally more efficient when raised, says the company. It takes just 14 seconds to open or close, and was engineered to occupy a very small space when stored. As a result, the designers were able to include a rear bench for luggage behind the two seats.
That's not all, though, as the rear windscreen doubles as an electrically adjustable wind deflector. When the top is folded away, the deflector opens to a height that guarantees the most efficient aerodynamics and reduces buffeting in the cockpit.
Extra chassis strengthening means the Spider is 50kg heavier than the coupe, but the 458's 419kW 4.5-litre V8 shrugs off the extra weight, doing 0-100km/h in 3.4 seconds (a tenth slower than the coupe) with a top speed of 320km/h, down from 327km/h.
That's still quick enough to make the Spider Ferrari's fastest-ever convertible, and one of the hottest drop-tops on the market - just behind Bentley's GTC Speed.
The new Lotus Exige S is powered by a 257kW 3.5-litre supercharged engine, and promises a 0-100km/h sprint time of around 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 275km/h.
To improve handling, the car features ultra-sticky Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres as standard, while Lotus's Dynamic Performance Management (DPM) switch offers owners a choice of three driving modes: Touring, Sport and DPM off. An additional Race Pack is available, which gives the DPM a 'Race' setting, for maximum grip in corners.
The Race Pack also features Launch Control and an optimised suspension setting, making the car perfect for letting rip on the track.
Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar said: "The Exige S [will] give the driver the ultimate Lotus experience. Quite simply, you can't get more Lotus than this."
But the Exige story doesn't end there. The model is also set to provide the underpinnings for a new rally car, called the Exige R-GT.
Launched nearly 30 years to the day since the company tasted victory in the World Rally Championship with the Lotus-tuned Talbot Sunbeam, the newcomer is the first in-house rally car the firm has ever built.
The current Land Rover Defender comes in lots of different bodystyles - and it looks as if its replacement will be just as versatile, after bosses revealed the DC100 Sport Concept.
The car was a surprise addition to Land Rover's press conference, designed specifically to show off just how versatile the British firm thinks the basic concept for the car will be.
Unveiling the car, Land Rover brand director John Edwards said: "This vehicle will have broad appeal, and we believe will be as popular with commercial users as private buyers.
"We are an ambitious business, making unprecedented investment in product, and we can promise that there are lots of versions of the DC100 on the drawing board."
Design director Gerry McGovern continued: "We have no desire to mimic the past with this car; this must be a vehicle for the future."
It's based on the same platform as the DC100 Concept, and Land Rover sees the car as evoking the spirit of the early canvas-roofed Defenders that featured fold-down windscreens.
The twin humps at the rear hide a boot that has been designed specifically to hold "extreme sports equipment".
While the DC100 is powered by a four-cylinder diesel, the Sport gets a petrol engine and can be specified as a plug-in hybrid. An eight-speed auto and stop-start also feature.
The Sport is designed with on-road use in mind, and Land Rover has fitted the same MagneRide suspension as in the Evoque.
Kia has revealed a flagship four-door GT that's set to be the brand's first front-engined rear-wheel-drive model. Under the long bonnet sits a 3.3-litre turbocharged V6 petrol, producing 290kW. This will be mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The stylish four-seater Kia GT is the Korean brand's rival to the Porsche Panamera and Mercedes CLS. The move to rear-wheel-drive platform is a major turning point for Kia, allowing designers to explore exciting new proportions.
Kia's chief designer Peter Schreyer, who penned the Kia GT, said: "The classic front-engined, rear-wheel-drive layout of a performance saloon has distinct appeal not just for the domestic Korean audience, but also for the European and American markets."
Kia admits the design was inspired by GT cars of the 1970s, combining the trademark bow-tie grille with muscular wheel arches and a rear-set cabin.
Maserati's new SUV is called the Kubang. Set to go on sale next year, the new model mixes the Italian company's trademark gaping mouth front end and sporty rear haunches with an SUV body.
The Kubang shares the same name as a 2003 Detroit motor show concept car - but this model is set to go into production. It uses a platform from the Jeep Grand Cherokee - both firms are owned by Fiat - and the new SUV will take on the Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover Sport next year.
However, while its chassis and suspension will be sourced from within the Fiat Group, the engines will be developed in Italy, and although there are no details, expect power for the SUV to come from a development of the GranTurismo's 4.7-litre V8. It will also get an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The long-awaited Toyota FT-86 sports coupe took another step towards hitting the road at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
The sleek 2+2 uses a Toyota-developed rear-wheel-drive chassis and a Subaru-developed boxer engine.
Christened the FT-86 II in reference to the fact that this is the second evolution of the concept, first shown back in 2009, the car gets revised detailing front and rear, particularly around the front bumper and lights.
The full production version is expected to make its debut, almost unchanged, at Japan's Tokyo motor show in December.
Under the bonnet, there's a 2-litre flat-four offering around 125kW, while the car is expected to offer drivers a choice between six-speed manual and six-speed automatic gearboxes.
The new Honda Civic has been thoroughly overhauled in order to keep pace with the all-new Ford Focus, latest VW Golf and top-value rivals such as the Hyundai i30.
The ninth-generation Civic is slightly longer, wider and lower than the model it replaces, with the same space inside. Yet there's no huge visual leap.
"We had a very positive reaction to the current car, so we've enhanced and improved aerodynamics to boost economy and reduce CO2," said design executive Takehiko Masuda.
Styling changes include a prominent nose with LED running lamps, more dramatically curved arches, and a rear LED light bar which doubles as a spoiler. This has been moved down 20mm to improve visibility out of the split back screen, while there's a wiper for the first time. Under the skin, the Civic uses an updated version of the current car's front-wheel-drive platform.
Ford revealed the production version of the new Focus ST and its fiery 185kW 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that drives the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox.
Ford says the hot hatch promises to be a better all-rounder than its VW Golf GTI and Renaultsport Megane rivals.
A product of the combined input of Ford's Team RS in Europe and the Special Vehicles Team (SVT) in the US, the car is the company's first "global" performance model and will be sold throughout the world virtually unchanged.
"People loved the sound of the previous Focus ST," said Jost Capito, director of Global Performance Vehicles. "We believe the engine note of the new model will delight enthusiasts in the same way."
That's because it gets a clever "sound symposer" and a new, tuned exhaust - together, these systems enhance the engine note under full throttle, but result in a refined, quiet sound at lower rpm.
Ford New Zealand's Tom Clancy told Driven the new Focus ST is likely to replace the current Focus XR5 badge here. He said the specification is currently unconfirmed, but was confident the car would be available in New Zealand in the latter half of 2012.
Mazda made a bold move into a new segment with its CX-5 compact crossover. Powered by a new family of SkyActiv engines and transmissions, and using a rigid lightweight body, Mazda claims the new car will become a class leader for economy, emissions, and performance.
The 130kW 2.2-litre diesel version produces less than 120gr/km of CO2, while a 122kW 2-litre petrol engine will also be available. Both engines will be offered with a choice of front- or four-wheel drive.