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

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
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
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

    £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

    Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

    C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

    C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home