The world's biggest motor show is where the real designer action is.

Paris Mondial de l'Automobile, or Paris motor show, opens this week with more than 100 new vehicle releases - including the stunning successor to the McLaren F1.

The engineering elves at McLaren have been pretty busy. The British manufacturer, fresh from launching its MP4-12C sportscar, says it will reveal the successor to its F1 roadcar of the 1990s.

The world's fastest car, at the time, was the pinnacle of motoring excellence with the strange distinction that it had three seats, with the driver front and centre. Its replacement will be the McLaren P1 prototype, with a few photos leaked by the company in anticipation of beating the huge amount of information coming out of the Paris motor show's dozens of exhibitors.

Overly cynical folk may deduce that McLaren's prototype, no matter how impressive, will be fighting for publicity with Jaguar's new F-Type, one of the most eagerly-awaited production reveals in recent years.


Little information about the P1 has been released, but reports have suggested it will be an utter lightweight at around 1300kg and share the base engine of the MP4-12C's 3.8 litre twin-turbo V8, albeit a highly modified version making around 600kW, alongside the Formula One-style KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) which will add another 120kW just to be sure. Developed in the McLaren wind tunnel, the long, sculpted form certainly harks back to the F1's style, and it does retain some cues from its predecessor, like the centre roof scoop.

But it's Jaguar's F-Type that's been exciting the industry most - the company's range has improved in leaps and bounds in recent years, but there hasn't been anything to match the icons like the E-Type. That all changed in New York when a concept was revealed with the motoring world responding as Jaguar had hoped - and possibly pushed the car into production faster than we could have expected.

Despite a camouflaged outing at the recent Goodwood Festival of Speed, not until this week did a leaked image let us see exactly what the new convertible will look like. Short answer: beautiful. What we do know is that the F-Type will be available with at least three engine options, including a gutsy supercharged V6x and possibly a blown five-litre V8.

BMW is expected to unveil an all-wheel xDrive 1 Series in two different forms - a diesel-powered 120d and a tricked-up M135i. The hybrid Concept Active Tourer which was profiled in Saturday's Driven will be unveiled, and will mark a huge departure from the rear-wheel-drive platform that BMW has traditionally favoured.

The Active Tourer concept will drive the front wheels from a petrol engine, and the rear from electric motors. Also from the German giant's stable will be an even more frantic version of the quickest Mini - the John Cooper Works GP has already been seen in photo form, but the full reveal will take place on Thursday, local time.

It is the local French industry that is really set to wow - Peugeot in particular has meted out of a few morsels to whet the motoring world's appetite.

The Onyx supercar concept is an angular, futuristic-looking machine that is highly unlikely to see production - in tandem with its similarly styled ATV stablemate, but there will be a new version of sporty RCZ, as well as the long-awaited GTI model of its recently released 208. Peugeot has illustrious history with both its GTI hatchbacks and its rally cars - and it looks like a new gravel contender could be waiting in the wings, with shadowy shots of the 208 Type R5 rally car appearing over the weekend.

It's a successor to the highly-successful 207 Super 2000 car. It will be specced as an S2000 racer, with a five-speed trans through a 1600cc engine with all of the competition trimmings, and will go on sale next year.

Citroen will continue adding to its DS line, with Paris show visitors seeing the debut of its DS3 Cabrio, which features a roof that can be activated at up to 120km/h. It will also reveal limited edition versions of the DS4 and DS5, and launching a pair of sedans.

The Citroen C4L and C-Elysee are aimed squarely at "emerging international markets", and the DS range will be launched to China, Latin America and Russia. It will also show new powerplants, including the eHDi 70 Airdream EGS, which emits a mere 87g/km of CO2.

Audi will reveal its updated all-wheel-drive S3, marking its third generation. It will be the first machine from the Volkwagen Group to be fitted with the new two-litre direct injection turbo petrol engine which will be used to power the coming generation of VAG performance cars.

We're also expecting an update of Honda's little CR-Z hybrid (although Honda prefer to call it IMA, or integrated motor assist). The car, while being a nimble handler, was criticised for being a little bit light in the wick department, especially when being pimped as the spiritual successor to the lightweight CRX sportshatch of old. While an image of the CRZ that Honda released over the weekend was a dead-front-on dark shot that didn't really reveal anything terribly new styling-wise, there is plenty of speculation that the Paris reveal will see a bit more power out of the cute hatchback.

Another Japanese manufacturer - and one which has traditionally prided itself on taking on the Europeans - is Lexus. Toyota's luxury arm will be using the Paris show to launch a new hybrid sports coupe, taking cues from the ageing LFA supercar and the LF-LC concept. The LF-CC will be a mid-size coupe that uses Lexus' existing hybrid technology which has proven incredibly effective in vehicles like the surprisingly rapid GS450h which launched in New Zealand a few months ago.

For those who are still struggling to come to grips with future engine technologies, an old school monster will make a return in memory of the late master, Carroll Shelby. Shelby American's GT500 Super Snake will be powered by a 5.8 litre supercharged V8 making 633kW. It will, helpfully, also bundle upgraded suspension and bigger Wilwood brakes to tuck behind its large 20-inch rims.

And last, probably least, is one vehicle slated for a big unveil that we just don't get.

Mercedes' Smart cars have always had a bit of a strange range - but nothing quite as unusual as the patently weird Smart Forstars. The little city car includes a video projector in its front end, which can be used to play movies on any flat surface. It will also include external speakers so nobody around misses out. Um, interesting?

Mazda will unveil the update to its Mazda6 sedan, which Driven will be having a play with while we're at the show. Keep an eye out over the next couple of issues and we'll bring you coverage from the year's biggest car show, as well as our driving impressions of the next-gen Mazda.