Wild Rides at the Frankfurt Auto Show

by Blaine Paisley

Our intrepid reporter recaps the coolest concepts, plus some models you (or your rich uncle) can actually buy.

Europe’s largest car show has long been a source for fantastic debuts. This year marked a trend reversal for many carmakers, as small-car companies like Mini and Peugeot introduced more comfortable models, while large-car makers scaled things down. Several breathtaking designs were also on display, like Lamborghini’s futuristic $1.4-million carbon-fiber Reventon. But the mantra of the show was “fuel efficiency.” From hybrid-diesel engines, to ultracompacts, to plug-ins that could power a house in a brownout, Frankfurt’s carmakers had gas-sipping on the brain in 2007.

For a look at the newest and shiniest Europe has to offer, launch the slideshow here.

Mini Clubman: Stretched 3-Door

The Clubman was possibly the most highly anticipated debut at the show. This stretched Mini features a larger backseat and a bigger rear cargo area.

Ford Verve: Future Ford Compact

The Verve concept forecasts the company´s plans for an upcoming compact model. This is basically a styling exercise; technology innovation is limited to little touches like LED lighting

Kia Kee: Four-Seat Coupe Concept

Kia is ready to announce its graduation from economy cars to luxury models. The Kee sport coupe features a 197-horsepower V-6 engine and six-speed manual transmission wrapped in a sleek “2+2” body (with tiny rear seats) courtesy of the company’s new German design center.

Mitsubishi Concept cX: Clean Diesel

The Concept-cX shows Mitsubishi’s notion of high performance in an environmentally conscious world. The cX is a turbocharged all-wheel-drive sporty compact SUV employing a dual-clutch transmission for maximum power to the road. But the engine is a fuel-efficient 1.8-liter clean diesel featuring a variable geometry turbocharger that maximizes turbo boost, plus a catalytic converter (new for diesel cars) and a particulate filter to minimize emissions.

Audi RS6 Avant: Twin-Turbo V-10 Wagon

When the baby is crying and you need those diapers fast, Audi has your car. To build the RS6, the company stuffed a 580-horsepower twin-turbo V-10 engine into its A6 Avant wagon. The result: the speediest grocery-getter ever built.

Jaguar XF: Facing the Future

The XF marks Jaguar’s first serious effort to remake itself as a contemporary manufacturer competing on the merit of its products rather than trading on nostalgia. The supercharged 4.2-liter V-8 cat will compete against sleek sedans like the Mercedes CLS-Class

BMW X6 Concept ActiveHybrid: Hybrid Crossover Coupe

BMW’s latest concept is a new kind of car: the sport activity coupe. It’s basically a four-door sedan with a sloping coupe-like roofline and a jacked-up four-wheel-drive undercarriage. The concept also features a version of the fuel-saving two-mode hybrid-electric transmission that BMW has jointly developed with General Motors and DaimlerChrysler.

Nissan Mixim: Scissor-Door Three-Seater Concept

Nissan is targeting this all-wheel-drive electric subcompact at younger buyers more accustomed to PlayStation than to Plymouth. The Mixim puts the driver in the center of the car, with two full-size rear seats and a little child’s seat/parcel shelf behind the driver. Passengers enter through large scissor-style doors that lift out of the way.

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