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Previewing the 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show

With the impending Labor Day weekend about to put the final nail in summer’s coffin, automakers around the globe are turning their attention to auto shows. This year's season unofficially kicks off Sept. 10, when Germany's Frankfurt Auto Show will open its doors to the automotive press. 

One of the largest auto shows in the world, the Frankfurt event is held every two years. Dozens of world debuts are expected from automakers; many of these will then make their way to Los Angeles in November for their North American debuts at our own Los Angeles Auto Show.

PHOTOS: Highlights of the 2013 Frankfurt show

Here’s a look at some of the highlights expected at the show.

Infiniti Q30:
That this all-new concept vehicle doesn’t have an X is its name is telling. Infiniti is in the middle of renaming its entire lineup, with all cars getting a Q designation, and SUVs and crossovers going with a QX.

This stylized four-door concept “deliberately challenges categorization,” Infiniti said. Thus, it is part hatchback, part coupe, part crossover. Just not enough of a crossover to give it an X.

Since this is more of a design study, powertrain details weren’t announced. Right now it’s just content to tease one of several new directions Infiniti is headed in. “The Q30 Concept signals the next step in an aggressive strategy to extend the Infiniti brand into new premium segments,” the automaker said.

Land Rover hybrids:
Land Rover will be launching a pair of hybrid diesel SUVs in Frankfurt; one each for the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models. While the company has no immediate plans to bring these models to the U.S., it’s clear that it will need to do so in the very near future to meet emissions requirements.

Helping these models' chances of winding up at a U.S. dealership is the fact that many luxury European brands already sell a diesel SUV here. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Porsche all offer diesel engines as an option in their SUVs.

Regardless of where they're sold, both of these Land Rover hybrid models will share the same 3.0-liter diesel engine. When paired with a 35kW electric motor, total horsepower is 335 and torque is a whopping 516 pound-feet.

Land Rover says vehicles will be able to travel up to a mile on electric power alone, at speeds of 30 mph. The electric motor is powered by a lithium-ion battery. Both the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport will retain the passenger space and cargo space of the non-hybrid models.

Chevrolet Camaro convertible:
We last saw the refreshed Camaro at the New York Auto Show in April, where it debuted in coupe form. This drop-top model changes very little from that model, save for better access to sunlight.

That means aesthetically the cars get the same refreshed front and rear ends that debuted in the spring, with a sleeker design hoping to shed some of the clunkiness seen on the current model.

It will be available in the same three trim levels (base LT with the V-6, SS with the V-8 and fire-breathing supercharged V-8 in the LT1). Transmissions come in six-speed automatic or manual form.

GM says this car will debut in Germany at nearly the same time the model is going on sale in the U.S.

Volvo concept coupe:
Remember Volvo? This Swedish brand now owned by a Chinese company certainly hopes people do, despite a dearth of new products over the last several years. To keep Volvo relevant, the company will debut a concept coupe Thursday. Teaser videos of the car can be seen here and here.

“I can assure you that Volvo’s vanilla days are over,” Thomas Ingenlath says in the first of the two videos. He’s the vice president of design for Volvo, a position he’s had since early 2012, when he left Volkswagen Group.

More details will follow Thursday’s announcement.

Jaguar SUV concept:
Jaguar is rumored to be bringing a concept SUV to the Frankfurt show that will preview a production vehicle the company plans to launch in the next several years. Jaguar has made no bones about its desire to break into two volume (and profitable) segments: compact sedans and compact SUVs.

Jaguar already has the drivetrains needed for these models. In the last year it has launched both V-6 engines and all-wheel-drive, components crucial to the forthcoming compact sedan and SUV. These are paired with an eight-speed transmission, a setup that probably won’t change when the new models debut.

While Frankfurt will undoubtedly be an important show for the Indian-owned British automaker, there are indications that the brand will make some significant news in November at the L.A. Auto Show too.

Audi A8:
With Mercedes-Benz unleashing numerous versions of its all-new S-Class full-size sedan right now, Audi is keen to keep its flagship A8 sedan current. It will use Frankfurt to show off updated versions of the car, with subtle tweaks to the exterior and engines.

The cars’ front grille, headlights, taillights, and front and rear bumpers are refreshed for a cleaner look. Standard wheelbase cars won’t grow any, though the A8 L models will gain 5 inches in wheelbase and length.

The turbocharged V-8 engine has been lightly massaged for an additional 15 horsepower (435 total), while the 3.0-liter diesel the company put on sale in the U.S. this year jumps to 258 total horsepower.

The changes listed here are for the European-spec models, though expect them on the U.S.-bound cars when they go on sale here in 2014.

Ferrari 458 Speciale:
Ferrari has announced that it will be bringing a lighter, faster version of its mid-engine 458 to Frankfurt. The car sheds almost 200 pounds from the stock model, putting total curb weight at a scant 2,843 pounds.

Ferrari also boosted the 4.5-liter V-8’s horsepower to 598 from 562. The automaker says this engine is now the most powerful naturally-aspirated it has ever built. This helps its zero-to-62 mph time drop to three seconds flat, quite a feat for a rear-wheel-drive car.

Aerodynamics are up, thanks in part to a more aggressively scalloped hood and “moveable” elements that cut down on the car’s drag.

Also added is a feature called Side Slip angle Control (SSC), a software system that instantly measures the car’s movement at the limits of a turn and compares them to a target value. Depending on how the car is moving versus how it should be moving, the 458 Speciale will then use its traction control or torque vectoring to keep everything shiny side up.

Volkswagen Golf R:
The Golf’s hottest version will get even hotter for 2015. Though this 296-horsepower hatchback will debut at Frankfurt, details of the car have already been announced. You can read the full story here.

Mercedes-Benz GLA:
Based on the compact CLA sedan that will be rolling into dealerships this fall, the diminutive GLA will arrive on our shores a year later. Like the CLA, this compact SUV will be available in either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive form.

A turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine will make 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired to a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. Despite the GLA’s clunky exterior, Mercedes said it will do zero-to-60 mph in 6.4 seconds.

More than just an asphalt-oriented pretty face, Mercedes claims to have baked serious off-road chops into the GLA. All-wheel-drive models come standard with hill descent control, off-road transmission mode and an off-road display on the dash-mounted screen showing steering angle, steepness of grade and roll angle.

BMW X5 Concept X5 eDrive hybrid:
BMW released an all-new X5 in late May, and is now bringing out this concept to show another powertrain that may join its diesel and gas versions in the near future.

The X5 eDrive is a plug-in hybrid, pairing a 70 kW electric motor with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. BMW says this SUV will be able to travel up to 75 mph and up to 19 miles on electric power alone.

Though built into an existing X5 platform, BMW says the lithium-ion batteries on the eDrive hybrid take up only a marginal amount of cargo room below the rear floor.

There’s no word on the likelihood of BMW bringing this concept to market, though the automaker has gone all-in on battery technology and electrification with its i3 compact EV and forthcoming i8 electric hybrid supercar. That its mainstream products would benefit from some of this trickle-down technology isn’t a stretch.


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