Motoring: Manufacturers ready to put the vroom into Brum

The Birmingham Motor Show has driving ambitions. By John Simister

IS THE Birmingham Motor Show the poor relation of Paris? You could be forgiven for thinking so, because Paris takes place a month earlier and has a strong local motor industry to celebrate. But, this year, it is different.

Jaguar is owned by Ford (a US company), and Rover by BMW (a German one), but the cars are built here, they are built to be as British as possible, and each company has something important to reveal at Birmingham: the Jaguar S-type, and the Rover 75.

Now, those names straightaway provide a clue as to what these cars are about. There was a Jaguar of that name in the Sixties, and a Rover so called in the Fifties: we are into retro here, looking over our shoulders to feel secure as the future beckons. Both cars, unseen before their debut at the National Exhibition Centre, ooze references to past glories, the Jaguar showing a face inspired by the old Mark 2 as made famous again by Inspector Morse, the Rover mixing shades of the current 400 with the more stately demeanour of the pre-British Leyland Rovers.

If they sell well, then fine, but it is a slight shame that what Britain has to offer is seen in a sepia-tinted light by those looking in from outside. The Jaguar, some of whose underpinnings were developed with Ford in the US, will compete head-on with BMW's 5-series, and has a new V6 engine to help it, while the Rover is a 3-series rival.

Elsewhere in the world of high-image saloons, Toyota's new Lexus IS200 also makes its world debut. Like the Rover, it competes with BMW's 3-series, but rams the point home by fielding a 2.0-litre straight-six engine, just like the core model in its German rival's range. There's nothing retro here, though, not least because Lexus doesn't have much of a past to draw on.

World debut number four comes from Seat, whose new Toledo looks a little like a cross between a Lexus GS300 and a BMW 3-series; that German maker is a powerful influence. It is based on the Volkswagen Group underpinnings that have given us the latest Golf, the Audi A3 and the Skoda Octavia. It is larger than the old one and is now a four-door saloon instead of a five-door hatchback.

The new Toledo looks like a thoroughly credible car, even if it no longer has the ability to swallow a double bed without its rear seats being folded. The top version comes with VW's unlikely-sounding V5 engine.

Several cars seen at Paris will appear in Britain for the first time. Alfa Romeo's 166 takes the look of the svelte and successful 156 and moves it into the next size-class up, but without quite as much flair. The Mercedes-Benz S-class, laden with technology and looking as lithe as its vast predecessor looked lumpen, is in fact smaller and lighter than the car it replaces. Among its options are fan-cooled front seats and a built- in lower-back massager.

Ford's radical Focus and Peugeot's UK-built 206 will be on view in right- hand drive form, as will Honda's European-styled, Vauxhall Omega-like Accord. The new Land Rover Discovery has its British coming-out, but you had better take a picture of the old one along with you so you can spot the differences. It is longer, so it can be a proper seven-seater, it has a new interior, its suspension uses hydraulic rams to keep the car level during cornering, and every exterior panel apart from the tailgate is new. There is a new five-cylinder diesel engine, too. However, Land Rover's research revealed that buyers liked the old car's look, so the new one is more of the same visually. It is a decision Land Rover may regret in a couple of years.

You should seek out the new Maserati 3200 GT, because this car - styled by Giugiaro and engineered with Ferrari's help - is the first credible Maserati in years. It is a curvy coupe, Ferrari 456 GT-like in profile and said to be capable of 174mph thanks to a 370bhp twin-turbo V8 engine. At the opposite end of the spectrum, take a look at Toyota's Yaris, a supermini that is as refreshing as the current Starlet is dull. It is tall and very roomy, with big, rounded-corner windows and vast headlights, and - this is set to become Toyota's motif - it has unusual instruments, in this case a digital display. It will be made in France from 2001, and in Japan before that.

The success of Renault's Megane Scenic has encouraged other makers' interpretations of the idea, so Citroen will show its Xsara Picasso, Vauxhall its Astra- based Zafira, and Fiat its boxy Multipla. Mitsubishi will show its Dutch- built Space Star, too, which bridges the gap between the Scenic idea and a regular hatchback.

Other cars seen in the UK for the first time include Volvo's big S80, Volkswagen's small Lupo (similar to a Seat Arosa and featuring a bold new fascia) and sporty Bora saloon, Vauxhall's new Frontera off-roader, and Renault's mad Clio V6. This mid-engined two-seater, which is clothed in a massively morphed Clio hatchback body, is a modern interpretation of the old Renault 5 Turbo rally cars of the early Eighties.

Finally, Britain's sports-car specialists. TVR will show something unexpected and just completed - because TVR always does - but it is likely to have the company's new six-cylinder engine. Westfield has a new minimalist sports car, the FW400, with a lightweight carbon fibre chassis, and Lotus - Malaysian-owned but British in spirit - has its Elise 340R. Elise-based, it is even lighter and is designed to look like an open-wheeled racing car.

The show runs from 21 October to 1 November, and has a classic car day on 29 October, and two motorsport days (30 and 31 October). Admission costs pounds 10 for adults, pounds 5 for under-16s and senior citizens. The last day is an "adventure day" designed to "put the excitement back into family motoring", for which you need to book a pounds 25 two-adult, two-children ticket in advance. Call 0121-767 4455

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

    £47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker