Among the new model launches of note at the Paris Auto Show are the Volvo C30, which attempts to swap Volvo's conservative image for a youthful one; the Mercedes-Benz CL 63 AMG, one of the sleekest-looking cars; and the Audi S3, a supersporty version of the A3.
The subcompact C30 hatchback coupe represents a change of direction for Volvo, a brand that has traditionally associated itself with families through its practical and safety-conscious designs. Volvo markets the 4-passenger C30 as a car that gives "younger customers a Volvo of their own." To enhance the C30's appeal to younger customers, Volvo has equipped the C30 with an impressive audio system: a D amplifier with Alpine's ICE Power technology and Pro Logic II surround sound, giving an output of 5 x 130W through 10 Danish Dynaudio speakers. The C30 will initially be offered with a range of both petrol and diesel engines, with the top-spec models in each category being the 2.5-liter gasoline-turbo T5 and the 2.4-liter turbodiesel D5.
The Volvo C30 will come with an available navigation system, which is controlled via a unique interface: in place of a touch-screen display or a joystick, drivers enter destinations using a cluster of buttons situated on the back of the steering wheel. Passengers can also program the system using a TV-type remote control.
It's easier to say Qashqai if you're French. Pronounced "Kash-ka'ee," Nissan's crossover SUV will be coming only to Europe. Offered in either two- or four-wheel drive, the Qashqai has a choice of four engines (two gasoline, two diesel) with 2 liters being the largest available displacement. Not surprisingly, Nissan admits that the Qashqai has "not been designed as a go-anywhere 4x4."
Inside, the Qashqai is offered with a full range of cabin technology, including satellite navigation, a backup camera, and Bluetooth connectivity for cell phone use. It also comes with an available panoramic glass roof.
Any car with an apostrophe in its name is going to get attention, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Kia's new five-door hatchback might not look very inspiring in its exterior design, but this is a car that punches far above its weight on the technology front. Cabin tech options on the Cee'd include satellite navigation, USB and auxiliary input ports, and a six-disc CD changer. Safety tech includes a backup warning system and rain-sensing wipers. Unfortunately for American customers, the Cee'd is being released only in Europe.
The stunningly styled Alfa Romeo Competizione 8C debuted in Paris to widespread admiration. The 4.7-liter V-8 supercar is an homage to Alfa's racing past: it features a carbon-fiber body on a steel frame, and a five-mode, six-speed transmission is controlled with levers behind the steering wheel.
Audi chose Paris to launch its own V-8 supercar in the form of the midengine R8, which follows its R6 and R4 models in the line of the German automaker's race-inspired production cars. The all-wheel-drive R8 cuts a dash with an angular forward-leaning profile, huge air intakes in the front fascia, and an ostentatious swath of carbon-fiber-trimmed vents on each side panel. With a maximum output of 420 horsepower, the bladelike R8 sprints to 62mph in 4.6 seconds. The car incorporates a number of innovative technological performance features, including magnetorheological fluid-filled suspension dampers--a fluid whose viscosity is determined by the presence of an electromagnetic field. It is also the first production car to feature all-purpose LED headlights.
Inside, the Audi R8 comes with a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, assisted by a microphone-based vehicle noise compensation system. It also features Audi's MMI interface, with navigation, park distance control, and a backup camera.
Another 8-cylinder supercar to be launched was the Mercedes CL 63 AMG, a 6.3-liter, 525-horsepower luxury coupe that represents the flagship for the AMG marque. With racing-inspired body styling, braking, and suspension, the CL 63 will haul itself to 62mph in 4.6 seconds. In case there is any trouble on the way, the car comes with Mercedes' pre-safe collision-mitigation system, as well as distronic radar cruise control as an option.
As one would expect, the flagship of the AMG series comes loaded with some serious cabin technology. The CL 63 has multifunction massage seats, a hard-disc navigation system, Logic7 surround sound, and a DVD changer.
Audi's second sporty offering in Paris was the S3 compact, which is the souped-up version of its popular A3. While somewhat overshadowed by the launch of the R8, the 2-liter turbocharged S3 comes with some respectable performance stats of its own. Its four-cylinder engine conjures up a whopping 265 horsepower, getting the all-wheel-drive S3 to 60mph in less than 5.7 seconds.
Along with its two-tone Audi S trim, the S3's interior is well kitted out with infotainment goodies. The cabin features an eight-speaker Bose audio system, optional cell phone and iPod integration, and a standard lap-timer function built into the driver information system.