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Friday 28th September 2012


PARIS 2012: CHRIS HARRIS'S REPORT

Our man's on his way back from Paris, but not before filing his overall impressions


We've been waiting 25 years to see a Jaguar called the F-Type, and yet fate scheduled its launch on the same day as the successor to the McLaren F1. Furthermore, the stands were literally facing each other. It's impossible not to feel shamelessly patriotic on a day when two British brands are centre stage like this, but deciding which won the media battle is quite difficult.

McLaren dazzled but you could get up to the Jag
McLaren dazzled but you could get up to the Jag
For me, watching the clock tick down next to a 2011 McLaren MP4-26 painted in volcano orange, then having a few thousand watts of Kasabian invade my chest cavity as 20 foot images of Fittipaldi's sideburns were projected onto a screen takes some beating. There were lumps in throats.

There was also gusset-crimping on the McLaren PR side as Ron clearly decided to ignore the agreed script and go freestyle, but it all went well and the car looks miles better in the flesh. It produces 600kg of downforce and is 'hundreds of kilograms lighter than a Porsche 918'. The vast rear wing that stalls for straight-line speed heralds a new age of active-aero-theatre. The shape is complicated, so obviously defined by CFD that it's hard to view it as a whole - your eyes are constantly drawn into outrageous details, especially the oversized rear diffuser.

Weird to think that 12 hours later McLaren announced that Lewis Hamilton was leaving the team.

Another Brit heavyweight invades Paris
Another Brit heavyweight invades Paris
You couldn't get too close to the P1 without a threat of violence, whereas the F-Type was there for us to prod and invade. The thing has real stance - wide hips and a deliciously truncated arse. To my eyes it's not an especially pretty shape, but it suits the role of a deliberately sporting Jaguar roadster. The cabin is cosy, driver-oriented and riddled with little details - perhaps too many of them. Like all modern Jags some of the materials look prone to easy scuffing.

I loved the Range Rover. The initial press pics did nothing for me and I'm not an SUV fan, but n dark burgundy metallic with clear glass it looks superb. The cabin is huge, the tailgate still splits and, more than ever, it now feels like a Bentley on stilts. It is massive though, and too expensive, so I won't be buying one.

Harris says he would buy one...
Harris says he would buy one...
The same cannot be said of the Golf GTI which is lighter than the car it replaces and thanks to some clever tensions in its coachwork somehow appears smaller too. Getting near one was tricky because they were crammed full of Korean and Chinese spies photographing and measuring grab handles and rim width. I don't even know how it drives yet, but again it just looks like the type of car I could spend my own money on. There will be two engine options and a slippy diff too.

Both the 208 GTI and Clio 200are disappointing in different ways: the Clio for its bulk and dual-clutch transmission - the Pug because its specification and styling seem to lack any kind of pizzazz. As for releasing 29 special editions with a Union Jack on the front, has Peugeot gone mad? It's going to have to drive very well indeed to stave off the naysayers. For me, as static objects, the Clio just edges it - and we know the team from Dieppe has real handling skills in this category.

French hot hatch rennaisance disappointed
French hot hatch rennaisance disappointed
Peugeot had a supercar concept that will never be built, Citroen had a large van with one 10-foot door, and everyone seemed to just walk past both stands looking for the VW group hall and the JLR/McLaren area. A clear metaphor for the European car industry: the launch of a new Clio should have been a moment for national celebration in France, but the company almost seemed embarrassed to be unveiling it.

Mercedes told us the SLS E-Cell was being re-named the Electric Drive and it would offer 740hp and 1000Nm, or 737lb ft in old money. They then wrapped it in the blue plastic which is used to protect metal trim on new cars. Strange, but it doesn't detract from it being a truly groundbreaking piece of engineering.

I didn't see the Enzo tub, but it sounds very impressive: stronger and lighter than the last car. Next year's 918 vs Enzo II vs P1 group test is going to be a bit special. Shame there wasn't a 458 Scuderia, or Monte Carlo as we hear it's going to be called.

Harris likes hybrid Panamera, and ducks
Harris likes hybrid Panamera, and ducks
The Aston Vanquish didn't do it for me, but the facelifted Gallardo, even more desperate for a big-step overhaul, still looks bloody lovely. There was another new Veyron, which was kind of sad, and a customer GT3 Bentley race car.

My three cars of the show were the F-Type, the P1 and the Panamera Sport Turismo, but I've learned not to say anything too positive about Panameras on PH, so will leave it at that.

 

 

 

Author: Chris Harris
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