Monday, September 16, 2013

Top 10 car tech innovations at the Frankfurt Motor Show 2013

Hybrid hyper cars, robo luxury cars, mud-pluggers with mod cons, we've got the lot
The car and tech convergence continues. Self-driving cars, pedestrian-detecting cars, touchscreen infested cars, all-round connected cars. You name it, it was on offer at the Frankfurt Motor Show this year.
It's an event on a massive scale, with single brands occupying show halls as big as what used to pass as the British Motor Show in London.
But we've trawled every hall and every stand to bring you the best bits. The techiest, the slickest and the downright weirdest.
1. BMW i8
Undoubtedly the star of the show. It's not just the fact that it looks like a concept car but it's actually just gone on sale in the UK for around £96,000. There's real substance to the style.
First up is its carbon-fibre and aluminium composite construction. Then there's the radical re-thinking of what it means to be a supercar. The petrol engine is a mere 1.5l litres. But it cranks out 228 bhp and also sports a lithium-ion battery pack for a grand total of 356 bhp.
The result is by far and away the most dramatic combination of performance and efficiency the world has yet seen. 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds and 155mph top speed on the one hand, 113 mpg and just 25 g/km CO2 emissions on the other.
The i8's pure electric range, meanwhile, is 22 miles. It's right at the cutting edge for infotainment, too, with the latest build of BMW ConnectedDrive and NVIDIA-powered graphics.
Now, it's true that those official figures don't take into account the emissions associated with the electricity used to charge the i8. And we thought its interior was a little conservative. But this is still a stunning effort from BMW and a probably game changer.
2. Jaguar CX-17
So, Jag's doing an off-roader. What? Are we to expect a Range Rover Roadster, next? Actually, it's not as bonkers as it sounds. Premium-branded mid-sized SUVs are major money spinners and the CX-17 is one of the best looking yet.
It also just so happens to pack plenty of tech including touchscreens, a wi-fi hotpsot and Jaguar's new aluminium architecture. It's only a concept for now, but we reckon an almost identical production version will go on sale in a couple of years.
3. Porsche 918
For sheer, giddy off-the-scale wantability, nothing at Frankfurt come close to the delightful, the delectable Porsche 918 Spyder. It's absolutely everything you could possibly want from a high-tech hypercar.
The numbers are frankly insane. The combination of 875hp and 214mph on the one hand, 94mpg and 70g/km on the other, is unlike anything we've ever seen before from a true hypercar.
If that's not enough, the lithium-ion powered part of the 918's hybrid petrol-electric powertrain allows for 20 miles of pure-electric range. Perfect for sneaking into city-centre zero emission zones. Oh, and the 918 also has the slickest looking touchscreen multimedia system we've ever seen. 'Nuff said.
4. Mercedes S-Class
We're fans of self-driving car technology on TechRadar. One day, it will dramatically change the way we travel and live for the better.
So, Merc's driverless S-Class prototype is right up our alley. It's at an advanced enough stage to have already managed the 56 mile drive from Mannheim to Pforzheim in Germany under its own steam. Or electronic brains.
Even better, most of the technology used is already available on the new S-Class luxury car. Fingers crossed, fully automated driving will be available much sooner than the naysayers suggest.
5. Range Rover Sport Hybrid
A two-tonne SUV on TechRadar? What gives? Actually, the latest Range Rovers are already surprisingly techtastic.
There's the clever aluminium architecture which shaves off several hundred kilos, the touchscreen infotainmment with dual-view screens and the brainy digital systems that aid off-road traction. Not bad, eh?
But now Range Rover is filling in the final piece of the puzzle with next-gen powertrains. In this case, we're talking diesel-electric but without plug-in charging. Even so, this V6 setup matches the straight oil-buring V8 for performance while guzzling 25 per cent less of the sticky stuff.
6. Volkswagen e-Golf
If Marks and Spencer made cars, they'd look an awful lot like the VW Golf. Well made, and just a whiff of middle-class aspiration.
Except mass market cars have now become so high tech, we now have a purel-electric, lithium-powered Golf. Remarkable. As if that wasn't enough, the Golf is now available with a metric tonne of techy options.
Robo-parking? Radar-controlled cruise? Auto-dipping headlights? Yup, the Golf's got the lot. It's a bit like pulling on a pair of M&S pants and finding a touchscreen and digicam sown into the waistband. UK prices have yet to be announced.
7. Alfa 4C
It's been an awfully long time coming, but finally there's an Alfa Romeo worthy of the badge. The new 4C is simply a stunner.
There's a lot more to it that just good looks, too. Its hewn from carbon fibre. That's critical in achieving the incredible sub-900kg kerb weight.
Then there's the engine and gearbox. Out goes the traditional multi-cylinder Italian orchestra. In comes a modern, compact direct-injection, turbocharged four-cylinder lump and a dual-clutch robo-shifter.
Less romantic? Perhaps, but almost definitely more effective. The only pity is the pricing. £50,000-plus is an awful lot for a 1.7-litre sports car, even one this desirable.
8. Citroën Cactus
Once upon a time, Citroën was perhaps the most innovative, most intellectually vibrant of all car manufacturers. In recent decades? The odd flourish aside, not so much.
But things are looking up with the new Cactus concept. Critically, Citroën says a production version little changed from the concept will be forthcoming shortly.
They'll have to add a middle pillar, so the open-plan airiness of the cabin will take a hit. But if the intriguing compressed air hybrid tech and impact-absorbing capsules on the body make the showroom, we'll be very happy bunnies.
9. Volvo Coupe Concept
Bashing Volvo for producing boring looking boxes used to be the familiar refrain. But the truth is, the Swedish car maker has one of the most elegant car ranges currently available.
Enter the Volvo Coupe Concept. Not the most imaginative name, but maybe all the creative effort went into the beautiful body shape. The attractions go beyond the visual, however. The concept showcases Volvo's upcoming range of automated driver aids and safety features.
That includes smart cruise that can steer you through traffic jams and pedestrian detection and collision avoidance technology. There's a large touchscreen and a head up display, too, because, well, you're nobody in this business without a few of those.
Volvo also paid lip service to the natural integration of user interfaces in its upcoming cars, but time will tell how that works in practice.
10. Nissan Friend-Me
If there was a disappointment about the Frankfurt show, it was the lack of some really whizz bang multimedia and in-car infotainment demos.
Enter the Nissan Friend-Me. Garbled Japlish moniker aside, this concept is all about ticking boxes for the technophilic urban youth. There's a panoply of screens inside and advanced smartphone integration, including support for mutiple handsets.
The idea is that you jump on board with your chums, hook up and do you social networking thing. Except the screens are dummies and the technology appears to be entirely conceptual. Or not real, in layman's terms. Pity.