2006 British Motor Show

July 22, 2006
Press day at this year's British Motor Show was hotter than hell inLondon's Excel exhibition centre. Ford was playing it cool with a 6.5-ton ice sculpture of the new Focus Coupé-Cabriolet, hand-crafted in a freezer over two weeks by experts who could only do 40-minute shifts because of the cold. Transferred to the show in chilled trucks, the stifling heat was melting it faster than predicted. The company's PR boss was seriously thinking of stripping off and sliding into the rapidly disappearing bodyshell in a bid to cool down. We Brits don't deal well with extremes of temperature. \

Nearby was newcomer Barabus. We thought it was a spelling mistake, but the car on the stand was like no Brabus you've ever seen. The TKR is a bright blue rocket ship that's capable - if you believe the hype - of 0-60 mph in under two seconds. Top speed is said to be well in excess of 200 mph. Under the bonnet is a re-engineered Chevy twin-turbo V-8 capable of 1005 bhp at 6800 rpm. The first customer car is going to a Saudi Arabian in November, and he, like everyone else, is paying £300,000 ($550,000) for the privilege.

2006 Opel Corsa

2006 Opel Corsa

On the Vauxhall/Opel stand GM bosses including Rick Wagoner and Bob Lutz were in town for the world debut of the Corsa. And the company gave its biggest hint yet that the supermini might eventually cross the Atlantic. Referring to the all-new model, a spokesman said: "This car hasn't been engineered for USA, but if fuel prices continue to rise the next generation car could be." In a pre-show stunt on Monday, a Corsa had been flown high above London's River Thames slung under a helicopter. It goes on sale in Europe in October, with the eagerly anticipated VXR performance version slated for a premiere at the Geneva Motor Show next March. Insiders say it will have close to 200 hp from its 1.6-liter turbocharged engine. After press day Wagoner and Lutz were due to attend an exclusive gala reception for the cream of the industry. The venue and host?
10 Downing Street
and Prime Minister Tony Blair.

BMW had the honor of being the first global launch of the day, with the wraps coming off the M6 Convertible. It's the first time the company has ever used the British Motor Show for a world debut, with bosses saying it highlighted the importance of the U.K. market for the Group as a whole. Both MINI and Rolls-Royce are built here. Dr Helmut Panke, chairman of the board of management, said: "We have invested more than £800 million into the expansion and development of our British plants. Investment into the expansion of Plant Oxford [the MINI factory] will have totaled an additional £100 million by 2007." The M6 Convertible goes on sale in the U.K. in September. Powered by BMW's V10 5.0-liter engine delivering 507 hp, it can hit 60mph in 4.8 seconds.

Kia ED

Kia ED

Kia also unveiled a new car at the exhibition, which is being held in London instead of Birmingham for the first time in 30 years. Sadly, the vehicle wasn't there in the metal, only on paper. The Korean firm released pictures of its all-new European family car, known only as ED at the moment. It will go on sale in December, and the platform will also spawn a rival C-segment vehicle from stablemate Hyundai next year. U.S. plans are uncertain for the new vehicle.

2006 Jaguar XJR Portfolio

2006 Jaguar XJR Portfolio

Jaguar always makes an effort for its home show, and this year unveiled three new models including the eagerly anticipated XKR. Uprated to 420 hp, the supercharged V-8 was undoubtedly one of the stars of the expo. Next to it was the first diesel version of the XJ LWB saloon, plus a special edition XJR Portfolio.

Fancy the ultimate in luxury race cars? Ford's other British division, Aston Martin, announced it will be making the V8 Vantage that recently competed at the Nuerburgring 24-hour event in Germany available to customers. Built to order from next month, the car comes with a roll cage, special fuel tank and fire system, racing seat and built-in air jacks for pit-lane efficiency. The car will still be completely road legal. There's no word on cost yet, but the company said it expected the figure "to be close to the price of the standard production car" which is £82,800 ($113,200).

The global premiere of Land Rover's LR2 - to be badged Freelander 2 here - was the big news on the company stand. But it wasn't necessarily the main talking point. With more than a nod to its critics, the firm is piloting a carbon dioxide offset scheme. "It's the biggest and most comprehensive program of its kind by a U.K. car company and will allow both the firm and its customers to contribute to a cleaner environment," said managing director Phil Popham. The initiative is in addition to Ford's £1 billion environmental investment in the U.K., announced on Monday. So what does it mean for the British customer? In the showroom, he or she will pay up to £165 ($300) on top of the price of the car. That money will be used by partner organization Climate Care to fund sustainable energy schemes. Land Rover has faced the wrath of eco-campaigners in the U.K. over the last couple of years for producing SUVs that allegedly harm the planet.

Byka Tryka

Byka Tryka

Most unlikely launch of the day had to be BykaTryka, which is hoping its SK8 concept will revolutionize the image of the tricycle. A company spokesman said: "If you thought trikes are only ridden by bearded weirdos, you couldn't be more wrong. This trike is for your daughter, when you are worried she would fall off a motorcycle. They are cool enough for your son when it's too expensive to add him to your insurance and his mother won't let him have a bike." The words cute and fun were also used. Most cynical hacks remained unconvinced, to say the least.

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