The organizers proudly declare that the Warsaw Motor Show is one of the biggest car events in the Central Europe, if not the biggest. Its fourth edition took place this year on November 16-18. Four halls were crammed with more than a thousand exhibits! The halls were so huge that a 3,000 square metres track for electric cars was built in one of them. But this track is nothing comparing to the distances I had to cover wandering between halls in a snake-like corridors (where visitors smoked hard and that, alongside the distances, complicated my breathing abilities).
The organizers assume that there were above 200K of visitors this year (both smokers and non-smokers). Including Richard Hammond and (proudly) me. The event had its magnitude, didn’t it?
Now, the important note. I would not be able to spend much time at the Motor Show without the Drivetribe. I got a media accreditation (presspass?) for a “closed to public day” as the Drivetribe ambassador. Kudos Mahmood Ansari! This accreditation influenced my life in two significant ways. First, I could interact with the cars I liked much easier: take pictures, chat with dealers, get inside. Second, I could leave the event without spending hours in the traffic jams at the exit. That was the major complication last year.
By the way, speaking of the last year. My first impression from the 2017 Motor Show was “It’s huuuuge, noisy, and I’m lost.” Things changed this time. The halls were already familiar and I studied the programme thoroughly before showing up. Then, there were girls. Last year they cruised around in high heels, leather jackets, and short skirts. Hunting manly males and taking Instagram pictures. This year the “social balance” shifted towards children and their parents. Surely, there were girls, but I can’t say their presence was as catchy as in the 2017. What is a good sign.
This year also brought some unique experiences and observations. Small companies did everything possible to impress visitors with their know-hows while big companies exhibited “première cars” which had already been rolling on the streets. Small companies stood close to the public. It was not a problem to get into a car and, afterwards, discuss your feelings with its engineers and designers, who wandered nearby. That was the case with the Warszawa, Syrena, and Triggo companies (more details below). The big brands, in their stead, allowed sometimes to get into the seats of their top-edge products and touch all deactivated buttons. But in the most cases these products stood locked with the dealers looking reluctant to let you in.
Another unique experience was the electro-mobility “madness.” The organizers devoted more than 25,000 square meters – or the 1/4 of the total event’s area – to the “electric companies” which exhibited over thirty vehicles. Tesla Model 3 attracted the most attention; I bet, 99,9% of the visitors saw it for the first time as the car will officially arrive in Europe in the 2019. Another electric star was Polish-made Triggo. Motor-car-cycle. Its engineers think that the Triggo’s small dimensions will pull its owners through any traffic. Let’s wait and see. Finally, there was an in-door track to test all the electric moving devices, from Mahindra Reva-i to Jaguar I-pace!
Personally, I’m a bit sceptical regarding the electric automotive future. And here is why:
To my regret, Japanese manufacturers were under-represented. The same as the last year. It was only the Lexus who raised the Japanese banner high because Honda, Nissan, Toyota, or Mazda decided to skip the event. The Mazda – and this already hurts – made a big fuss on the Los-Angeles Motor Show two weeks after Warsaw by unveiling its marvellous new 3-series cars. Whyyyyyy?
(someone cries in the distance)
But let me speak now of the cars manufacturers brought to Warsaw. Many of them are worth your time and money.
First on my list is the Peugeot 3008. The European Car of the Year 2017. A five-door front-wheel-drive SUV propelled by no more than 180 hp. You will not believe, but this “beast” defeated Alfa Romeo Giulia in the European Car contest. It also became a best-seller with around 100K people ordering it the first six months; 50K of those people had no previous experience of owning a Peugeot. Hooooow?
The 3008’s interior – proudly branded as the i-Cockpit – always provoked me to hate it. Because it looked very uncommon on the Internet. The gauges sat high above the steering wheel, like the eye of the Cyclops. The “deformed” dash resembled a jaw hit by a steel pipe. The abundance of chaotic “unbalanced” lines run sharp and “cosmic.” But... I changed my mind after I got inside and started touching everything. The interior appeared neatly assembled and smooth. It was “light” and spacious. That spaciousness, by the way, came as a very pleasant surprise. Other French manufacturers, such as Citroen or Renault, seem to lack it. They use too much botox!
I need to confess that – unexpectedly – the 3008 made a good impression on me. Its European Car of the Year 2017 award may be well-deserved.
Some rare species, anyone?
The industrious enthusiasts from the KHM Warszawa (Warsaw) presented an attempt to revive the iconic commy-car Warszawa M20 from the 1950s. Their attempt is called M20 GT. Aaaaaand, it looks somehow Frankenstein-ish. The “original” M20 was a Polish car built on a chassis of the Soviet GAZ Pobieda. The M20 GT from 2018 is a Polish car built on a chassis of the American Ford Mustang. The tradition of building cars on successful chassis of the world’s proven vehicles survived through decades. The Polish team, however, made this car look and drive differently from Mustang (at least, they say so). It is more spacious, longer, higher and somehow humpbacked (in positive sense). Its electronics is different. Its interior is… creamy.
The KHM Warszawa team plans to assemble around 100 vehicles. So, you literally have no chance to encounter this masterpiece of engineering anywhere in the world. The question remains open whether you would ever like to encounter it. Some critics say M20 GT is nothing, but a heavily modified Ford Mustang. Assembled with love, creativity and high feeling of Polish patriotism.
Another patriotic attempt to revive the long-deceased cars was delivered by the FSO Syrena. These chaps strived to put on new wheels and chassis the 1960s “people’s” legend, Syrena 100 series. They even got the financing by the EU and Polish government to do this. However, the attempt looks bleak so far. The new Syrena suffers from a poor build quality. It also has a strong Opel Adam resemblence. For instance, the infortainment screen greets you with the Opel’s logo.
One of the powerfully represented “big brands” at the Warsaw Motor Show was the Aston Martin. They brought two Superleggeras, two newest DB11s, one DB2, Vantage and Lagonda. Yes, the love-it-or-hate-it Aston Martin’s BFR (Big F… Rocket) was also exhibited. The access to all that beauty and poshness was quite repressive, however. Sharp dressed security men did not like more than ten visitors entering the company’s stand at once. But I broke through.
The 2019 DBS Superleggera seems to be the epitome of the Aston Martin engineering. The Top Gear reviewers call it the “ultimate Aston Martin”. The Drive magazine calls it the “Hooligan with excellent manners”. For me personally, the Aston Martin is a statement of power and brutality. Because harnessing the V12 engine and its 715 hp is brutally hard. But it also becomes brutally unfair if you fail harnessing them.
The car is permeated by carbon fibre, red stitching and grippy feeling of adventurism. The car introduces you to the British splendour and speaks in the East Midlands dialect. The car is traditional in essence, modern in details, and ruthless in character. The Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is great! Would I buy one?
Because I would be afraid to drive her brutal majesty.
Italians were also on the show (read: Italians miss no shows). Specifically, the Maserati who brought four different, but related cars. Related by the engine. Designed and manufactured by the Ferrari, their engine is the magnificent 3.0L F160 twin-turbocharged V6 tunable from 345 to 424 hp. Bellissimo!
My favourite exhibited Maserati masterpiece was the Ghibli sedan. Not only because it seems to be slickest, but because it looks the most Italian. Designed by the fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna, it’s 17,3 cm shorter than the flagship Quattroporte sedan and gives you the visual feeling of exuberant passion.
However, if I would opt for something from the Maserati 2018 line, that would be the two-door GranTurismo coupé (not exhibited, unfortunately). The Ghibli looks passionate, but the GrandTourismo wants to lay you down. Immediatamente!
As for the Maserati SUVs, they are definitely cool. But, well… In my humble opinion, the Italian-made SUVs look like rhinos in Venetian silk. Surely, these rhinos are cute, stylish, and powerful.
As you can recall from The Grand Tour S02 E04, Jeremy Clarkson enjoyed driving the Audi TT RS. He enjoyed that, amongst other, because the car allowed him to beat Richard Hammond (who drove Ariel Nomad) and win affection of the beautiful Croatian finish line (Ms. Silvija Jurin). Today I can perfectly understand why Richard stood no chances.
Plunging into the TT, you cannot escape the “ready-to-go” feeling which the TT gifts you with. The “condensed” space, the “repressive” seats, the red indicators all over the place. The hidden athletic POWERRRRR as just you touch the wheel! You simply feel it!
For the 2019 line, they think of making the five-door TT. Well, this may not go well. The pedigree may be lost as the TT risks devolving into a super-punchy A3 sedan. Won’t work for me.
Now, switching to the Asian engineering tradition. Lexus presented its UX250H to Polish costumers. That was a nicely run première, but the UX250H is a hybrid “boring” SUV, so let us skip it. Instead, the LC 500 coupé caught my attention. The coupé was presented during the 2017 motorshow, but I overlooked it somehow. Shame. The LC 500 is a great piece of a car! And I’m not speaking here of the luxury only.
The car is powered by a hybrid-free 5.0 L V8 engine with direct fuel injection, Atkinson cycle operation, and other nerdy technical innovations. The engine stables 471 horses who run the fastest at 7.100 rpm. These horses are harnessed by a Direct Shift ten-speed automatic transmission. Guys, once again: the TEN-freaking-speed AUTOMATIC transmission.
Now, speaking of the LC 500’s design. Or, taking a broader view, speaking of all contemporary Lexus designs. It always interested me why they are so “cosmic” and unnatural? How was it possible to design that combination of “twisted” dull grills and razor-sharp body-lines? What inspired this kind of design?
My answer is: the anime. The Japanese sketches of the future. If you look at Lexus' carefully, you may notice their resemblance to the Zeon Federation spaceships. The Sadalahn class, for instance. Just add winds, replace tail lights with plasma-jets and the whole thing will soar. Or it will transform into the human-operated GUNDAM robot-fighter. Because it will! Even the LC 500 dashboard looks like the cockpit from the GUNDAM Unicorn!
And if you think that I am exaggerating, just give this a thought. Toyota has recently brought to light its Char Custom Auris II (Char Aznable was a very badass villain in the GUNDAM series). The 2020 Nissan GT-R GT designers confess that the window and roof lines are bent because “We wanted to express the awkward but cool, powerful shape of the Japanese anime robot”. Then you have the transformable and wings-equipped “Earth 1” car by Kunio Okawara, the designer of dozens of mecha anime characters. What Lexus does, in my opinion, it creates the luxurious, road-legal and easy-to-use GUNDAM-mobiles. On a wide scale. It makes us ready for the awkwardness of our future.
Now, would I buy LC 500?
Because I would be afraid of pressing the wrong button and destroying the world.
For curious readers, here you have more about the Warsaw Motor Show (with videos)!
Finally, consider joining the Academic Driving tribe. We have nerdy cookies:
P.S. Matt Parsons can be reached here: www.behance.net/Matthew_Parsons_SA