Premieres Aplenty in Paris

PARIS - In today's depressed European economic climate, it would have been easy for the manufacturers to pay little more than lip service to the Paris Motor Show.

It turned out the opposite was true. Certainly the tone of the show was muted, but the launches and reveals were plentiful.

Honda HONDA was quiet, choosing to launch a refreshed version of the CR-V in Europe and pull the wraps off the EV-STER, a concept shown in Japan last year.

What was shown for the first time in Paris was Honda's new 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel engine. It will power the ultra-cool European Civic hatchback (it really is attractive and not at all like the white-bread sedan sold in North America). This little mill produces 120 horsepower and boasts a combined fuel economy (based on the European cycle) of just 3.6 litres per 100 kilometres.

When will it come to Canada? "No comment" proved to be the loudest answer from Honda. This engine would make a wonderful addition to Honda Canada's arsenal.

Lexus LEXUS displayed its new mid-size coupe concept, the LF-CC. This rear-wheel-drive sports car and its strong styling hint at future Lexus models - it certainly has the loudest interpretation of the company's "spindle" grille yet. The grille is flanked by swoosh-shaped daytime running lights and LED projector headlights. At the back, the tail-light lenses adopt a three-dimensional design, which gives it a very distinctive look.

It is different - give the designers credit for making it look like a Lexus without creating a clone. It is also, as is rapidly becoming the Lexus norm, a hybrid. In this case, it features an all-new 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, a water-cooled electric motor, battery and all the gadgetry needed to get the power to the pavement.

Inside, the dashboard is a gee-whiz kind of thing that features graphic instrumentation and more display screens than a fleet of ES 350s. The main operational zone and its iPad-like screen controls the infotainment and sundry other functions.

Mazda Having revealed the four-door sedan version of the Mazda6 at the Moscow Motor Show, the wagon made its world premiere in Paris. It, too, is a very attractive piece that showcases all the company's SkyActiv technologies, including an all-new 2.5L four-cylinder engine.

From its bold face to the sweeping roofline and tight tail, it marries style with versatility. The long wheelbase (2,750 millimetres) brings plenty of legroom, and there's enough headroom to accommodate someone who's 6-2 along with the requisite cargo capacity - 18.4 cubic feet with the seats up and 57.6 cu. ft. with them folded flat.

The technologies employed in the wagon include the lightweight chassis, along with the SkyActiv engines and transmissions, all of which are designed to work together to promote fuel efficiency without destroying the zoom-zoom that defines Mazda. As with the sedan, the wagon includes adaptive radar-based cruise and Smart Brake Support, which includes distance recognition and obstruction warning systems. These, along with the smart high-beam and lane-departure warning systems, fall under the umbrella of Mazda's i-Activsense.

Sadly, the wagon will not be coming to Canada.

Mitsubishi The Mitsubishi Outlander now has a plug-in hybrid-electric derivative.

While the look mirrors that of its conventional sibling, beneath the sheet metal it is very different. Up front, there's a 2.0L gasoline engine (no horsepower available at this point), along with an 82-hp electric motor and a generator. The floor between the front and rear axles houses the main 12-kilowatt/hour lithium-ion battery, where it's safe in the event of a crash.

There is another 82-hp electric motor at the back. This setup delivers an all-wheel-drive capability. As it stands, the system can operate in both series and parallel hybrid modes. This means the gasoline engine can be used to drive the generator or propel the Outlander. It also features Eco (efficiency-biased) and Normal driving modes.

With a fully charged battery, which takes four hours to charge using a 220-volt outlet, the Outlander has an electric-only driving range of 55 kilometres. However, bring the gasoline engine into the equation and Mitsubishi says it has a total driving range of 880 km, which is very good.

Nissan The TeRRA concept car took centre stage at the Nissan stand.

The boldly styled four-seater takes a leaf out of the Leaf's book, but with a twist. In its quest to deliver zero emissions mobility, the TeRRA is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. Up front sits the same drivetrain as the Leaf. The twist? The two in-wheel electric motors that power the rear wheels. As there's no driveshaft, the TeRRA's floor is completely flat, which brings surprising interior space, given the compact exterior dimensions - it actually mirrors the Juke in size.

Could the TeRRA hint at the next Rogue, at least from a stylistic standpoint? Nissan was not commenting, but speculation was rife.

At the opposite end of the spectrum was the outré Juke-R. It is, for want of a better description, a funky GT-R. You see, beneath its bulbous sheet metal sits the same 3.8L twin-turbocharged V-6 and six-speed twin-clutch transmission that motivates said speedster with such vigour. In this instance, it puts forth a monstrous 550 hp and 457 pound-feet of torque. Naturally, the power is relayed to the road through all four wheels. In the end, the Juke-R warps to 100 km/h in 3.7 seconds and on to its 257-km/h top speed. Talk about diametric opposites!

- Postmedia News

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