Munich auto show: Hits and misses thumbnail

Munich auto show: Hits and misses

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MUNICH — When the Frankfurt show folded in 2019, the German auto industry and the government vowed to press on and recast what had been a truly global automotive showcase into a lifeline for the nation’s domestic industry.

They moved the 2021 show to Munich, with the helpful assistance of hometown automaker BMW and Stuttgart neighbor Mercedes-Benz, and renamed it the IAA Mobility. And despite a global pandemic, they put together a substitute auto show — albeit one without nearly as many cars from nearly as many continents.

Staff Reporter Larry P. Vellequette attended the show and took stock of the production and concept vehicles strewn across several halls of Munich’s giant convention center.

Young and funky have been a winning combination in the auto industry for decades, and this full-on electric concept built from Volkswagen’s MEB toolbox ticks both of those boxes and then some. It does have its share of ridiculous features, including the 32-inch video screen that pops up in front of the windscreen and its faux-fur carpeting. But the ID Life makes up for it with bold lighting, body paint made in part from recycled plastic and a convertible roof and bonnet that change shape in the wind.

MISS: Volkswagen ID 5 GTX

The designers for the world’s second-largest automaker have what can only be termed an addiction to the fastback — the steeply raked rear pillar that can transform an already-stylish sedan, such as the Audi A6, into a liftback that’s almost menacingly low, the Audi A7. In sedan form, the shape works, but on a high-roofed crossover, the styling trick simply serves to steal the utility and cargo capacity from the rear. The Volkswagen ID5 GTX, shown wearing light camouflage, is Exhibit A that fastbacks and crossovers don’t play well together.

As a giant luxury rolling brick, the first electric G-Wagen concept is as environmentally conscious as an oil rig in the North Sea. But along with being pretty large and pretty bling-y, the EQG concept is also just pretty. Its giant wheels, flat rear and distinct lighting leave no doubt that it will one day take its fossil fuel-powered predecessor’s place in Mercedes’ global lineup.

MISS: Mercedes-Maybach EQS

Colleagues argued that the Maybach brand was the right place for once-stoic Mercedes-Benz to get its funk on and live a little, and they might be right. But there’s nothing remotely elegant about the Mercedes-Maybach EQS concept. From its nearly solid wheels to its fire engine red body sides to its glossy black roof, the EQS screams “LOOK AT ME!” louder than a spoiled 3-year-old, and from behind impenetrable blacked-out glass.

HIT: Mercedes-Benz EQE 350

The EQE 350 is proof positive that, just because the powertrain is changing doesn’t mean that the rest of your luxury sedan has to go off on some kind of bender. This electrified E-Class is still the model of what a luxury midsize sedan needs to be, and it should show other automakers how to transition their vehicles without alienating their customer bases.

MISS: Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR

They may not say it out loud yet, but it’s becoming pretty clear that designers are convinced that autonomous vehicles will mean the end of prone seating. On the outside, the rear of this high-concept car behaves like a calliope in full-throated roar, and the lighted bubble wheels look as though they were ripped out of a comic book — and not in a good way. But those front-row seats can only leave a viewer to ask: Just what do they think people will be doing to pass the time in autonomous vehicles, and why would they want to lie down to do it?

Sleek, stylish, powerful and with a bold design. That rear lid might not look ideal, but it’s easily forgotten when taking in the whole of the AMG EQS 53.

It certainly wasn’t given a starring location on the Mercedes stand, but the EQT concept was easily the most practical of those here. The likely successor to the Metris van, the EQT has comfortable, functional three-row seating, a nice large infotainment screen and the best visibility of any vehicle at the show.

HIT: Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S E Performance

Let’s take a quick inventory: Sleek red saloon, massive V-8 stuffed under the hood, a sizable electric motor to kick in a fair amount of added torque on demand. Gasoline-burners may be on the way out, but this plug-in hybrid shows they ain’t dead yet.

MISS: BMW i Vision Circular

Yes, it’s only a concept, but that suede-on-suede-on-suede interior is at least three times more suede than any BMW ever needs.

HIT: Renault Megane e-Tech

Yes, the Renault Megane e-Tech is yet another entry in the battery-electric midsize crossover segment, but it takes a decidedly French take in its styling and interior, and that gives it a potentially winning look. C’est magnifique!

MISS: Microlino two-seater

A battery-electric reimagining of the famous Italian-designed BMW Isetta, the Microlino got rid of the noisy, polluting two-cycle engine but kept the cramped interior and goofy swinging front door design that made the former little city car a largely useless oddity. Some designs deserve to stay in the past, and this is one of them.

HIT: Adaptive City Mobility City One

The City One finds itself on the hits list not just for its quirky utilitarian styling, but for its brilliant drop-in battery concept that, if fully developed, could ease the range anxiety that continues to hold back EV sales among the public.

The Wey Coffee 01, made by one of the few Chinese brands to show up, is a breakout crossover from the folks who brought Great Wall Motor Co. to its lofty position in China. Unfortunately, the Coffee 01 is likely decaf because it’s not stimulating enough to be anything more than just another midsize crossover in an otherwise saturated segment.

A relatively giant, white, four-seat concept crossover from the brand that introduced the pocket-size two-seater is ridiculous enough. But all that gold interior trim and exterior blue mood lighting makes it look like this concept spent way, way, way too much time in Dubai.