It's not all about bodykits, says Brett Fraser, as he looks beneath the dubious styling of Frankfurt's tuning community
Brabus Rocket should, er...
It's a green, green world we will all be driving around in soon; if, that is, we haven't been mown down by the packs of silently creeping electric cars that whispered their way round the Frankfurt show's service roads. On every stand from nearly every major manufacturer, the plethora electric cars and hybrids, battery-powered bicycles and scooters was enough to convince you that grass was about to sprout from under your feet and flowers burst forth from the walls.
And yet, boldly displayed inside Hall 5, were representatives from the Dark Side: the tuners, those peddlers of disgraceful, extravagant, and (sometimes) glorious excess. They weren't hidden away as they are at some shows, or squeezed onto tiny stands: some of these guys had more floor space than 'respectable' manufacturers, and were every bit as slick. Furthermore, they were in the same hall as the likes of Lotus, Land Rover, Jaguar and Aston Martin.
...go like a rocket
Yes, I know that it's fashionable in forums to dismiss the tuners as wreckers of perfectly good automobiles, but when you see some of them professionally presented under bright lights, have a chance to witness first-hand the quality of components, and then chortle and scoff at some of the claims for outrageous power outputs and performance, then they fall firmly in the camp of 'guilty pleasures'.
Certainly we were guilty of spending a tad too much time in Hall 5, contemplating what it must feel like to blat about in the likes of the new Brabus Rocket 800, with a top speed of 230mph and the ability to, erm, rocket from standstill to 186mph (300km/h) in 23.8 seconds...
Mansory Siracusa - dear God...
King of the eye-catchers was the Mansory stand, partly because of its sheer size, partly because all its cars were white (well, with extensive patches of bare carbonfibre), and partly because of the breadth of its product line. While everyone else seems to stick with home-grown German base cars, Mansory has branched out into Ferrari. The 458-based Siracusa (named after the race track), has all its body panels replaced in carbon fibre and remodelled front and rear valances, plus some Batman-esque 'blades' over the rear screen. A sports exhaust and air filter are reckoned to lift the power to 582bhp and torque to 413lb ft (560Nm).
...but apparently the quality's quite good
The format of Mansory's other conversions follow a similar pattern, although the others don't get the full carbon fibre body treatment. You can make up your own minds as to whether these creations a in the best possible taste, but the quality of the finish is exquisite. Among Mansory's other highlights were a 663bhp Bentley GT, a 722bhp Merc SLS AMG with 25-profile rear tyres, a Cayenne Turbo S with bigger turbos and 590lb ft (800Nm) of torque, and a mad-as-you-like Benz G-wagen boosted by a quad-turbo V12 and knocking out 820bhp and 848lb ft (1150Nm): the company's 680bhp/590lb ft (800Nm) conversion on the Panamera Turbo seemed tame by comparison.
Hamann Guardian EVO. Odd name
Nearby Hamann was also a fan of white, though its range of cars couldn't match its neighbour's. Still, the Cayenne Turbo-based Guardian EVO was an imposing sight and offered 542bhp, 568lb ft (770Nm), and a set of monster ceramic discs behind 23-inch rims. Perhaps because AMG does such a bloody brilliant job in the first place, Hamann's take on the gullwing-doored SLS AMG limits its engine upgrades (perhaps mercifully) to just a stainless steel sports exhaust and a sports air filter. It's not so shy with the bodywork and interior, however. In fact, the cabin upgrades are described as offering a 'VIP lounge with motorsport characteristics'. (Crikey - Ed.
Hamann Hawk. Odd rear wing
Hamann is working on an extra 80bhp and 89lb ft for the Panamera Turbo, but meanwhile has created a bodykit that should quash any talk of Porsche's limo not looking aggressive enough: there's no way you wouldn't get out of the way of this monster if it scorched up behind you.
Next door at TechArt the guys had been busy with the paint pots, adding some colour to the tuners' pool. Fabulous in matt blue was what the German company is calling its most powerful car to date, the 710bhp, 664lb ft (900Nm), GT Street RS. It's based on the 911 GT2 RS and is claimed to do 0-62mph in 3.3 seconds, 0-120mph in 9.5 seconds and, if you fit the right tyres, tops out at 219mph.
TechArt GrandGT: 'just' 592bhp
TechArt's Panamera Turbo-based GrandGT, has the same torque output as its two-door cousin, but with 'just' 592bhp takes a positively tardy 12.5 seconds to hit 120mph from rest... The Magnum Turbo (no prizes for guessing what that's based on, once you've seen it), shares the GrandGT's outputs, but in terms of overwhelming, intimidating road presence, it's a clear winner.
Compared with TechArt, Carlsson's stand seemed a haven of calm civility, although the company's big news for the show, the CK63 RS, would appear to have a demon's soul. Using a CLS 63 AMG as a base car, its twin turbo V8 now produces 640bhp and 664lb ft (900Nm) of torque: seems like you're simply not trying these days if you can't rustle up 900Nm...
TechArt ST Street RS: 0-62 in 3.3
Brabus's stand was a giant and the company even had its branding on the walls at the far end of the hall, as if it owned the whole place. There were many delights gracing the Brabus carpet, and they seemed to cover the entire Mercedes-Benz model range, including Smart. Brabus even had its own electric and hybrid models on display. But it was a car more likely to devour the planet than save it that was the star attraction.
Modestly styled, soberly painted, and based on the Merc CLS-class, the new kid from Brabus goes under the not-so-subtle name of Rocket 800, self-proclaimed 'World's Fastest Street Legal Sedan'. The numerals in its name, as you'll have guessed by now, refer to its power output from its twin-turbo 6.2-litre V12 in European horses - 789 of our Imperial ponies - and the Rocket also boasts 811lb ft (1047Nm) of torque. The claims are that it'll do 230mph flat-out and accelerate from rest to 186mph (300km/h) in 23.8 seconds: stupendous figures that will probably stand up to independent testing, if previous Brabus dragsters are anything to go by.
Carlsson CLS looked positively sensible
Yes, folks, our traditional means of getting from A and, er, back to A again as quickly as possible are under significant threat, but the German tuning industry is making it plain that stupidly fast cars aren't going to go down without a fight.