Paris Motor Show 2014: the best new launches and concept cars
On the eve of the Paris Motor Show a barge carrying brightly coloured jumbo Barbour wellingtons floated on the Seine as the latest Land Rover was introduced by model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. The day before, Stella McCartney had unveiled her cutely personalised Jaguar XJ; the 'baby' Jaguar had received a theatrical London debut a few weeks earlier.
Jaguar Land Rover's recent dramatics could be perceived as over the top if not for the convincing new products. The company is cash rich - it certainly felt the envy of others under the hot fluorescent lights of the half-empty pavilions at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles. JLR is spending wisely on carefully calculated cars across the range, opening up the marque to a wider, younger audience.
Its confidence is almost infectious. The big German three - BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, who hold hegemony in the premium sector - must be feeling a little pinched. One unnamed car designer compared today's Jaguar with the Audi of 15 years ago, when it raced its way to the top.
In terms of trends at Paris, the crossover remains ubiquitous, overtaking the hatchback and people carrier. Theoretically, a hybrid of family-life practicality and fun, sporty motoring is a winning combination. Yet finding the right design remains a bit of a challenge. Notable exhibits at Paris included the Peugeot Quartz, Lexus NX 200t, Toyota C-HR and Fiat 500X.
Tiny urban runarounds also took centre stage in some pavilions, though given the urgency to downsize, there were surprisingly few pioneering concepts floating around. Smart's latest ForFour is a cute little gadget and Mazda's MX-5 is a roadster for the masses. Mini's Superleggera Vision, too, is worth noting - a small, handsome roadster that signals a fresher direction for the brand.
There were few genuine surprises in Paris, though; the blogosphere certainly spoils the fun. Mercedes-Benz took the wraps off the much-anticipated GT by AMG. The marque is having a design renaissance and the latest product from its performance arm is a highly focused and exceptionally handsome car.
Lamborghini proved that superpower could marry sustainability with the Asterion LP1 910-4 show car, the Italian's first plug-in hybrid. Elsewhere, Volkswagen did quite the opposite. The Ducati-powered XL Sport concept sees a V2 motor power the bullet body originally envisaged as the ultimate eco-car.
The pavilions of the Gallic hosts were equally inspired, with such concepts as the Citroën Divine DS, Peugeot Quartz and Renault Eolab on show. Some (Renault, for instance) were a little light on material, but overall the French do show cars extremely well. They are fun, innovative and full of drama - and we hope to see more of their daring design language translated to production cars.