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2017 Frankfurt Motor Show Hits, Misses, & Revelations

Stanley Kubrick famously had planned a pie fight between the Yanks and the Soviets for the final scene of his 1964 classic, “Dr. Strangelove.” We couldn’t help thinking about such a pie fight breaking out in Volkswagen Group’s Hall 3 at the 2017 Frankfurt auto show, where the walking lanes came to a standstill as Audi conducted its Elaine concept press conference.

Compounding the crowd, Audi moved in with the rest of VW Group this year from its old spot in the center square between Hall 3 and Mercedes-Benz’s Guggenheim-like grand arena. Audi used to have a big, crowded, temporary arena all to itself. Dieselgate budget cuts, you know.

The Audi Elaine is a connected, electric four-door SUV “coupe” that premiered at Shanghai earlier this year (a sign of the times) and spoke to the automaker executive conducting the presser in a Cortana-like voice. It was in German, so we can’t tell you who the exec is or what he and Elaine said, but we yearned for Dustin Hoffman to yell “Elaine! Elaine! ”from offstage.

Enough of the cinematic metaphors. The big celebrity highlight was when three-time Formula 1 Drivers’ Champion Lewis Hamilton drove out into Mercedes-Benz’s stand in the Mercedes-AMG Project One.

BMW and Mini moved from the front of the Frankfurt Messe, near Mercedes and VW Group, to Hall 11 about a kilometer away, which at least provided incentive to walk into the non-German automakers’ displays in-between. With General Motors gone, Opel shrunk to a smaller stand as part of PSA Peugeot, and nine other automakers having stayed home this year, the 2017 Frankfurt IAA was a smaller, more German industry-intense affair. Nonetheless, this show has plenty of cars and concepts to like, criticize and contemplate.

The biggest buzz of the show, if far from an unqualified hit. No, it’s not pretty and looks like an update of the legendary BMW-powered McLaren F1 road car. But Gorden Wagener’s team designed it for best aero and downforce, like a purpose-built racecar. Better yet, it’s the first hypercar that will be capable of speeds of nearly 220 mph from just 1.6 liters worth of hybrid turbo V-6.