Paris Motor Show 2014: Top 5 Performance Cars


The new Mazda MX-5 launched at Paris and is sure to be a massive seller. (Credit: Nick Smith/The Image Team)

TCF writer Nick Smith has looked back at the Paris Motor Show and picked out his top five ‘normal’ cars. For the second part of our Mondial de l’Automobile review coverage, he takes a look at the performance machines on the stands. So putting on his petrol head hat, which five cars stood out the most at Paris?

#5 – Mazda MX-5 4th Generation.

Mazda have spent the past year, including the Goodwood Festival of Speed, celebrating the 25th birthday of the world’s most successful roadster. The Paris Motor Show marks the start of the next 25 years as the fourth generation MX-5 was launched to media fanfare in hall 4 on the first press day. We think you will agree it’s a bit of a looker.

It was one of the more orchestrated launches too as the wraps came off on three continents simultaneously

Funny sounding words alert: Kodo, the ‘soul of motion’ design language which forms the basis of the Mazda 3 and 6 hatch and saloon is at its most imposing in the MX-5. Heavily sculpted front and rear bumpers hide surprisingly long overhangs while flared wheel arches give the car its athletic sense of purpose. Still the new MX-5 breaks a continuing trend across all makes and name plates; it is smaller than the outgoing model, and the two generations which preceded it. It is wider but shorter which will aid the already class leading handing.

Also helping on the handling front will be a further downsizing under the bonnet. Out comes the 1.8 and 2.0 power plants of the old cars in favour of a SKYACTIV 1.5, or so semi-official rumour suggests as engines are yet to be confirmed. There are also whispers of a, shock and horror, diesel MX-5 but again, we await official confirmation from Japan.

The usual driver focussed cockpit crams in technology which makes for a very well equipped sportscar. The car is still 100kg lighter than the outgoing model, mainly due to weight saved in the monocoque which will help in both the handling and economy departments.

Prices will start from around the £20,000 mark which means an MX-5 for the price of a decent spec Ford Focus.

Nick liked it bold styling and well-proportioned shape. He also rated it highly for equipment and the return to a more MX-5 sized engine which should help with a very eager soft top. The fact that it took three attempts for him to get near the car prove its potential popularity. Then of course there is the fact that we are destined to see one on the track in the near future, such is the racing popularity of the MX-5/Miata.

#4 – Audi RS6 Saloon and Avant.

The new Audi RS6 scored high with its revised front end styling. (Credit: Nick Smith/The Image Team)
The new Audi RS6 scored high with its revised front end styling. (Credit: Nick Smith/The Image Team)

While the Audi A6s on the stand were really only a facelift, Nick was drawn to the RS6, particularly in Avant form, like a moth to a flame. While media colleagues poured over the new TTS Convertible and TT Sportback concept he was eyeing up a car which could leave both of those other machines in it’s wheel tracks. With five people and luggage.

That’s the appeal of the RS6, in either form. A 4.0 biTurbo V8 engine would be enough to excite interest anyway but when it is pushing out GT3 car levels of power, (560 hp) with Audi’s legendary Quattro AWD system to keep things straight it gets more than interesting. 0-62 takes 3.8 seconds, that’s faster than a McLaren pit stop!

All this in a luxury family car with all the extras you would expect. Big screen sat-nav, 4G data connectivity and all the safety features you can think of are slotted neatly away to make for big seats and a cavernous luggage compartment.

The revised styling is great too. It is subtle but the look has been moved on, especially at the front where the aging daytime running lamps get refreshed and the bumper benefits from tweaks, along with a great big Quattro sign. The wheels, which are no doubt cost options, (this is Audi after all) are frankly stunning. Their brutal simplicity does nothing to hide the performance lurking under the bonnet. After all, would you need brakes that big for a 2.0 TDi?

Given that Nick isn’t really a fan of Audi’s road going product, seeing any car bearing the four rings in his top five is a surprise. Until you consider that we have a car here which could take Team TCF to Le Mans, including all the gear associated with five journalists and photographers on tour, in sinful comfort. Then it could do safety car duties without breaking a sweat. What’s not to like?

#3 – Ferrari 458 Speciale A.

The Ferrari 458 Speciale A completes the 458 range. (Credit: Ferrari)
The Ferrari 458 Speciale A completes the 458 range. (Credit: Ferrari)

It is rare to see a new Ferrari. It is even rarer to see a new Ferrari away from Milan’s motor show but the Paris Motor Show carried an important launch. The Ferrari 458 is now an aging warhorse. The Lamborghini it was born to fight has now been replaced with a new model. The McLaren with which it fought its first battles has been face lifted and improved. The fact is even the slightly more exotic spyder version of the 458 is getting, well… a bit plebeian these days.

Enter the Ferrari 458 Speciale A, with the A standing for aperta or open in Italian. It’s the supercar convertible of the 458 range. It packs 597 horses under the engine cover, that’s 35 horsepower up on the standard car. Its also been on a diet, 90kg less than the ‘basic’ spyder. A revised seven speed dual clutch gearbox drives the rear wheels in true Ferrari fashion.

Styling brings the same aggressive front end which features on the hard top version of the car while the rear end is dominated by a diffuser which would leave the likes of AF Corse feeling jealous.

Nick was impressed by how little the car has changed compared to the hard top version. Exclusivity also played a part in his decision to give the 458 Speciale A a spot in the top five. Only 499 will be built which makes it even rarer than the La Farrari hypercar flagship in the range.

#2 – Ford Mustang (European Specification).

The new Ford Mustang will come to Europe with a choice of V8 or 2.3 Turbo power. (Credit: Nick Smith/The Image Team)
The new Ford Mustang will come to Europe with a choice of V8 or 2.3 Turbo power. (Credit: Nick Smith/The Image Team)

The latest Mustang isn’t a new car. In fact sales are already well underway in the States but in Europe we have been repeatedly denied a pony car. Until now.

The European debut of the ‘Stang in both coupe and convertible formats at the Paris Motor Show more than over shadowed the arrival of the new S-Max, C-Max and Mondeo combined in the eyes of our man on the ground. For years we have had to make do with grey imports of modern muscle from the USA but this car will be available to order through your local Ford dealer soon.

As we say, it isn’t a new car per-se, so we won’t bore you with a lengthy description of its styling. We will just say that a 5.0 V8 proper muscle car in the UK for around 35k is a decision we are glad we can’t afford to make. It gets even harder when you consider that a 2.3 four cylinder engine will be joining the range too so you get all that retro styling in a package which won’t break the bank quite as much, which weighs in at less than £30,000.

Nick rated the modern take on a retro look very highly. He was also impressed by the quality of the interior and the European option of a more frugal power plant.

#1 – Mercedes-Benz AMG-GT.

The Mercedes-Benz AMG-GT supercar replaces the SLS AMG. (Credit: Nick Smith/The Image Team)
The Mercedes-Benz AMG-GT supercar replaces the SLS AMG. (Credit: Nick Smith/The Image Team)

The Mercedes-Benz AMG-GT is one of the most hotly anticipated cars of the decade and there is a lot of pressure for it to stand up to. Successor to the SLS AMG, the new model is the second car built entirely by the AMG skunkworks and will be very significant in motor racing.

First there is the fact that the model it replaces serves as the current Formula 1 safety car. That suggests that Mr Mylander will be getting a new company car at the start of the next season. Then there is the great success that the SLS AMG GT3 has reaped. In the final year of both the FIA GT1 World Championship and the FIA European GT3 Championship Mercedes-Benz took the crown, which means that the SLS will forever be the world champion car in the GT1 arena.

The new model is a step forward. While the SLS set a design language which never really spread throughout the range, the AMG-GT sits clearly at the top of a family of models with a common design ethos. It is also a more accessible machine than the outgoing model. The SLS gunned for the Aston Martin DBS and it did it with more power, more torque and more outrageous doors.

The AMG-GT will come in two specifications, the GT and the GTS. The first model is more of an entry level supercar and will aim at the DB9, the 458 and the McLaren MP4-12C. The GTS is the proper successor to the SLS with more power, better handling and a higher top speed. All that is wrapped in a package which is obviously a development of the outgoing car.

The snout is undeniably long, with the engine mounted behind the front wheels to improve weight distribution and handling but it is a proper grand tourer with supercar pretensions. The greenhouse is small and set well back ahead of a small boot section, though there is enough space back there for everyday practicality. Just don’t expect to move house in the AMG-GT because you will struggle.

The current Mercedes face has been beefed up with an aggressive interpretation of the new look of the C, E and S Class models. At the rear it is a straight-line development of the old car. More curvy and modernised but unmistakably the Benz range topper.

Nick loved the styling of the new car, which is in keeping with the outgoing car but much softer on the eye. The technology and V8 biTurbo engine, with a first in class ‘hot inside vee’ (where both turbochargers are mounted inside the vee of the engine for both economy and handling) impressed as did the massive crowds which surrounded the car for the entire show. Mostly it was the fact that even more than the SLS, the AMG-GT is a modern 300SL, one of the most iconic cars ever to come out of Germany.