By Tony Whitney

Mid-September sees the first of this season’s major auto shows, the huge IAA event in Frankfurt, Germany that is staged every two years.

The Frankfurt auto show is usually a platform for major world vehicle introductions and this year will be no exception. Already, several automakers have let slip brief details of vehicles that will first see the spotlight at Frankfurt.

Honda Civic Si concept
Honda Civic Si concept. Click image to enlarge

I’ll be there when the show opens and will report further on what’s new, but in the meantime, here’s a brief preview of what to expect.

The 2006 Honda Civic production version, which will debut at Frankfurt, will be built in no less than 11 countries, including Canada. It’s sold in an amazing 160 nations, so a new Civic is certainly an event worth noting. Interestingly, the new model is a little smaller than the current one in some dimensions. Preview photos of the new Civic show it to be a more dramatic styling job with very racy lines.

Body styles are expected to be the same as the current model line-up with a sedan and a coupe, but many industry observers expect a hatchback to rejoin the range for 2006. This will be the eighth-generation Civic – showing just how successful this Honda has been over the years.

Volkswagen will show a Golf Cabriolet in Frankfurt – an interesting move since many of us thought that with the debut of VW’s popular New Beetle in convertible form, there was no need any more for a ragtop Golf. Clearly, VW believes that there is and many North American buyers who mourn the old Golf Cab will welcome the new car. It’s certainly nice to have a choice anyway.

Daimler Super Eight
Daimler Super Eight. Click image to enlarge

Jaguar is reviving the fine old Daimler nameplate for 2006, but there’s some doubt as to whether it will make it to Canada. For many years, there were “Daimler Jaguars” on the Canadian market and plenty of luxury automobile buyers liked the idea of a nameplate that was a little bit different, even if the car was almost a replica of its equivalent Jag. As many enthusiasts know it was always Daimler – not Rolls-Royce – that supplied automobiles to the Royal Family, so it’s good to see that the name hasn’t been allowed to fade away. There must be an executive at (Jaguar owner) Ford with a sentimental streak!

Porsche Cayman
Porsche Cayman. Click image to enlarge

Porsche isn’t going to be left out of the flurry of “world debuts” at Frankfurt and will be taking the wraps off its new Cayman sports coupe. The Cayman is more or less a Boxster with a hardtop, but people who know Porsche are guessing that it’ll be much more than that. Preview images show the car to be highly attractive and very much a slightly smaller sibling of the famed 911 Carrera.

2006 Volvo C70
2006 Volvo C70. Click image to enlarge

Volvo is reinforcing its position as a maker of sports cars by unveiling a new version of its C70. At one time, you could buy a C70 as either a hardtop coupe or a convertible, but the coupe was dropped a couple of model years back. Perhaps the reason for the demise of the C70 coupe is the fact that new model is “two cars in one,” since it has a retractable hardtop much like that of the Mercedes SL, SLK and Lexus SC 430. As indicated by pre-show photos, the car looks very attractive, although it does retain the basic lines of the earlier “C” – something that won’t disappoint Volvo fans. Expect the new Volvo to come with all safety benefits that the Ford-owned Swedish automaker has become noted for.

Suzuki may not be one of the “majors” of the auto manufacturing world, but it does come up with some fascinating products and tends to be an innovator, rather than a follower. Fans of smaller SUVs will be looking at the new Grand Vitara, which will be taking its bow at Frankfurt. Not too many details have been released, though it will likely carry on Suzuki’s tradition of offering nicely-built, go-anywhere SUVs at very reasonable prices. Reports indicate that the Grand Vitara is larger in just about all dimensions, so perhaps a move upscale is on the cards. The new Vitara is sleeker and more rounded than the rather boxy earlier models, so perhaps Suzuki’s stylists have been given a freer hand this time around.

2006 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
2006 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Click image to enlarge

There’ll be much excitement at Frankfurt over the all-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class – after all, it constitutes something of an industry benchmark. Initial announcements from M-B indicate that the new “S” will have roomier seating, even higher levels of safety technology and engines offering up 26 per cent more power without a significant fuel economy penalty. These opulent sedans have been very strong sellers over the years almost the world over and are very much an indicator of what Mercedes can achieve from an engineering standpoint.

Alfa Romeo 159
Alfa Romeo 159. Click image to enlarge

On the “exotic-car” front, Lamborghini is said to be readying a new convertible for the show and Maserati will have an updated and improved version of its magnificent Quattroporte sedan. Another Italian maker – Alfa-Romeo – will be showing its sleek and desirable new 159 sedan and there are the usual rumours that this model will make it to the North American market. Since almost every Alfa model for the last 20 years has been talked about as a “comeback car” for our market, we shouldn’t start celebrating just yet.

There will certainly be lots of surprises at Frankfurt, as not every automaker is inclined to “leak” details of new models to the media. Many really do keep their introductions under wraps until the last moment, so we should expect many exciting new products that are destined for dealerships on this side of the pond.

For those who might be in the Frankfurt area during the show period, the public dates are September 15th to September 25th. Take the best walking shoes you have!

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