Frankfurt 2011: Fünf Lieblinge von IAA

Oh, to be in Frankfurt in September…

Frankfurt? Why would I want to be in Germany, let alone Europe? I have not been to the old world…ever. Is that a bad thing to say?

Opportunities…I had a few. But, I stuck to my "discover North America first" travel mantra for too long. I'm not a young man, anymore…

But, the Internet is a wondrous thing! We could get information in real time from anywhere in the world, while we're in bed. Of course, would have to wake up sometime to regurgitate the plethora of information.

Having worked a couple of auto shows, I know what the trenches look like. Pressers are produced as part-show, part-news. It is an opportunity for a brand to shine on a global stage for about a half-hour. Toot your own horn and bring out the glimmering prize!

To kick off the major auto show season, Europe hosts a fall show that alternates between Paris and Frankfurt. Therefore the 64th International Auto Show is happening as this is written just a few blocks from Frankfurt's central business district.

What went down in Frankfurt? Or, rather, what caught my eye at this year’s IAA? Are you sure you want to read onward?

If you have chosen to read on, these are my Five Faves from Frankfurt:

OPEL/VAUXHALL ASTRA GTC: The talk over on this side of the pond is that is will be coming here stateside as a Buick. If so, then expect this to be a good balance between the Volkswagen GTI and Scion tC. The GTC will be sold as a "hot hatch" in Europe, with an eye on the likes of the Volkswagen Scirocco and other small performance coupes. In the states, Buick could use something for potential enthusiast and motorsports use. It’s got the looks – I love the combination of aggressiveness in its compact size and the sleekness of some profiles inside and out. Buick owners would be familiar with the cabin as it shares some components with the Verano and Regal. They key would be the drivetrain the North American GTC would come with. May I suggest the duet of 2.0litre ECOTEC turbos currently in the Regal? A 220HP and 270HP duet! That’s how you grab the enthusiasts to this completely hot hatch.

FORD FOCUS ST: This is another forbidden fruit long held by the rest of the world that will be available in North America before we know it. The One Ford initiative seems to be working with consumer acceptance of the third generation global Focus in this market. With the ST, Ford has a "hot hatch" in it arsenal worldwide – and one that could challenge its competition stateside. It will come in the five-door hatchback configuration only – for now. Think about it: The GTI comes in a five-door, right? However, Europe will get another body style: A wagon. Ford does not sell a Focus wagon in this market. Maybe the ST could change that…unless Ford wants to tool the Warren Assembly Plant accordingly. Otherwise, enjoy the five-door ST when it hits the showrooms in due time.

MAZDA CX-5: Finally, Mazda makes a small crossover! If Mazda wants to tighten up its lineup with certifiably "Zoom-Zoom" products, a small CUV makes sense! The CX-5 will employ the newest SkyActiv drivelines that put down maximum power for higher efficiency. Being a part of a growing segment, one has to be distinctive. This will showcase Mazda's next step in design with a big mouth grille that screams "Zoom-Zoom." My concern would be the cabin and the kind of balance between passenger and cargo space. If it is roomier than the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, this will be a winner for families looking for a sportier small CUV. This is going to be a Mazda worth waiting for.

SKODA MISSION L CONCEPT: No, we North Americans do not get to sell these Czech automobiles – a division of Volkswagen AG, BTW. However, I have professed my interest and adoration for Skoda’s latest creations. The MissionL appears to be a design study for the next Octavia. For those us who may not be familiar with the Czech VW brand, while it shares its platform with the Golf and Jetta, it actually sells more units than the Jetta. It’s actually a highly considered model in its class in Europe. Furthermore, the design concept appears to be production ready and could spawn some updates across the line from the subcompact Fabia up to the luxurious Superb. I'll tell you what – this is a real good looking machine!

PORSCHE 911: The 998, as known internally at Porsche, is very pretty. It is as Porsche went to fashion show and walked out wearing a Thierry Mugler dress. Compared to 911s over the years, this new rendition is tres chic. But, being pretty isn’t what the 911 is all about. It remains one of the best sports cars in the world. The Carrera runs with a 350HP mill, while the Carrera S jumps to 400HP. Those two numbers alone continue a legacy of excellence where performance is part of the driving experience in a 911. Of course, with every new 911, there will be other variants and special editions to follow. A Turbo? Um, you better stay tuned…

Cover photo courtesy of General Motors Corporation/Adam Opel AG

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