From hybrid supercars to hi-tech campervans, Germany is pushing auto innovation into top gear. Think AI dashboards, pure electric ideals and cult concept hits. Here’s all you need to know about the very best in German motor manufacturing and design in 2018...

BMW i8 Roadster

BMW i8 Roadster

When the BMW i8 Coupé debuted in 2014, it was like nothing else on the road. The flag bearer for the Munich manufacturer’s drive to electric propulsion, the sporting four-seater was a grand tourer with bold style and a minimal environmental footprint. Now the line-up is joined by the i8 Roadster, which retains the Coupé’s dihedral doors and replaces the rear seats with a quick-folding electric soft-top, while new battery tech increases the all-electric range. BMW now has a total of nine electrified vehicles, with an all-electric Mini waiting in the wings for 2019. Next up is the BMW iNext, a concept SUV that points the way to a pure electric future; by 2025, the company hopes to over 25 electrified cars, 12 of which will be fully electric.

BMW i8 Roadster, from £124,000, bmw.com. Photography: Leon Chew

 

VW ID Buzz Concept

VW ID Buzz Concept car

Many credit Volkswagen’s original Type 2 as the car that shaped the company’s image. From 1950 onwards, the various Type 2 vans, campers and buses projected an image of friendly functionalism, industrious but also countercultural, with a design that was compact and reassuringly durable. The ID Buzz is the concept version of the vehicle that VW hopes will recapture those glory days. Come 2022, the all-electric descendant of this pure concept car will be silently gliding along the boulevards of the future. With seating for eight, a projected 250-mile range and more clever design touches than you’d find in three regular-sized cars, the Buzz promises to replicate its forebears’ cleverest trick and become a cult hit that’s also a commercial success.

Volkswagen ID Buzz, concept only, volkswagen.com. Photography: Leon Chew

 

Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid

Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid car

If there’s a more complete supercar on the market, we’ve yet to find it. Serving as our photographer’s trusty steed for the epic road trip behind this story, the new Turbo S E-Hybrid version of the Panamera combines space with pace, and pure dynamics with a veritable deluge of technology. Under its sleek bodywork is a turbocharged V8 mated to an electric motor and a hefty chunk of batteries. The result is a car that can glide silently and emission-free in EV mode, but still tear it up on the Autobahn, with a scarcely credible 3.4 second sprint time, thanks to instant electric torque. The finely detailed interior is perhaps the gold standard of what a tech-centric luxury sports car should look like inside. This is the ultimate hybrid machine and Porsche’s own all-electric saloon arrives next year.

Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, from £137,140, porsche.com. Photography: Leon Chew

 

Mercedes-Benz CLS

Mercedes-Benz CLS car

The CLS-Class has been led by design since the first swoopy saloon was launched back in 2005. Now on its third generation, it’s still the machine of choice for those who want a sober saloon with a subtle hint of class. Shown here as a 4MATIC four-wheel drive 400d in special Edition 1 trim, the CLS has the option of accommodating Mercedes-Benz’s cutting-edge driver assistance technology, widely seen as a stepping stone to the next level of  autonomous driving. The top-of-the-line 450 model also incorporates EQ Boost, a new ‘mild’ hybrid system that throws in a few more electric horsepower to help with acceleration. Add in the optional Widescreen cockpit, which scatters the dashboard with panoramic display screens, and you have a classically elegant car that fuses traditional style with the building blocks for tomorrow.

Mercedes-Benz CLS, from £57,510, mercedes-benz.com. Photography: Leon Chew

 

Audi Elaine Concept

 Audi Elaine Concept car

By the end of 2018, Audi will have had an image overhaul unlike any before. For decades the face of rock-solid German dependability and classically modern design, the brand is embracing an electric future with gusto. First up this autumn will be the E-tron SUV, a conventionally-styled pure electric challenger to Tesla et al. It’ll be followed by a more stylish Sportback sibling, previewed here in the shape of the Elaine Concept. That personable name is no mere placeholder; it shows the company trying to humanise its rather aloof image. The core technology is Audi AI, with autonomous functions ranging from self-driving highway mode to self-parking, charging and even washing. This is all still future thinking, but the recently launched Audi Smart Energy Network pilot project – a home charger system designed to integrate with the power grid – shows the electric road ahead.

Audi Elaine, concept only, audi.com. Photography: Leon Chew

As originally featured in the April 2018 issue of Wallpaper* (W*229)