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2006 Australian International Motor Show: Part I

By Feann Torr - 27/Oct/2006

Australian International Motor Show
Holden's Hummer H3 is massive, and very yellow

Australian International Motor Show
Audi's R8 sports car is on show in
Sydney following its Paris debut

Australian International Motor Show
Saab's Aero X Concept is hard to ignore

Australian International Motor Show
Holden's SS V with optional mag wheels and decals

Australian International Motor Show
The Audi R8 attracts attention

Australian International Motor Show
Chris Bangle poses with his svelte M6 Convertible

Australian International Motor Show
Toyota's Aurion Sports Concept backed up by designer
Nick Hogios and basketballer celebrity Lauren Jackson

Australian International Motor Show
Toyota's Aurion Sports Concept in a studio photo

Australian International Motor Show
FPV's Force 8 looked surprisingly tough

Australian International Motor Show
Ford's new Focus Coupe-Cabriolet has a boringly
unoriginal name, but as vehicle holds much promise

Australian International Motor Show
Nissan's Foria concept car was all the rage with the ladies

Australian International Motor Show
Nissan's Foria concept gets suicide doors

Australian International Motor Show
The Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano is one of the most
powerful 2-seater Ferrari sports cars ever built

Australian International Motor Show
Mitsubishi's TMR 380 Concept shows that
there's still plenty of life left in the large car

Australian International Motor Show
Powered by a supercharged 3.8-litre V6, the 380
TMR concept will face off against the Toyota Aurion
concept, outputting 230kW and with 442Nm of torque

Australian International Motor Show
Hyundai's SXi Concept emerged from a clamshell

Australian International Motor Show
Though the Sonata SXi concept features the same
engine as lesser models, it's got tuned suspension,
new tyres/wheels and a bodykit for better handling

Sydney, Australia — The 2006 Australian Motor Show held in Sydney's bustling Darling Harbour reaffirms how important the Australian new car market is to global car makers, despite it's relatively humble size when considered on a world scale. 

Sure, it's no Geneva or Frankfurt or Detroit Motor Show, but that won't stop this year's event from being a success, with a number of high profile stars being flown in from Europe, including Audi's stunning R8 sports car, Saab's Aero X concept and Ferrari's hard-charging 599 GTB Fiorano. 

While Australia may be a geographically isolated island continent in the Southern Hemisphere that sells close to one million new cars every year - about 17 million new cars were sold in the US in 2005 - there is no mistaking that the Land Down Under is very much a sought-after market by the world's biggest car companies.

Though there were only a handful of world-firsts at Australia's biggest motor show, it is still an incredibly eye opening event, and for two weeks will be home to hundreds of millions of dollars of automotive machinery and I must say it's an incredible sight to to see so much 4-wheeled hardware in the one place.

In addition to the obligatory speeches by the auto industry's CEOs and MDs, the Australian International Motor Show was home to a number of diesel models, with many marques stating that diesel models were a "must" in today's Australian market, as their popularity soars. 

Furthermore, luxury car marques such as Audi, Mercedes and BMW are all experiencing growth in the Australian new car marketplace in 2006, despite overall market sales dipping slightly, and it's interesting to note that 80% of all Audi Q7 4x4s sold are diesel powered, and 75% of all Volkswagen Touareg 4x4s sold in Australia are also powered by these spark plug-less engines.

We'll be covering every single one of the motor show exhibits on the Motoring Channel over the next week, and this first instalment includes the first ten, with another twenty or so to follow.

Having spent the day completely bedazzled by all the shiny automotive hardware on show, I must admit that my brain became a little numb towards the end of the day, such is the astonishing sensory overload. And so, without too much more of an introduction, allow me to take you through the media day of the Australian International Motor Show, as seen through the eyes of an enthusiastic motoring journalist:



8:12am: As one of Australia's most popular car makes, Holden has one of the biggest exhibits of any marque at the show, along with fellow local manufacturers Mitsubishi, Ford, and Toyota. It unveiled a number of cars that will be hitting dealerships in the near future, with massive TV screens showcasing its new products, first and foremost of which was the Hummer H3. Loosely based on the US military's go-anywhere Humm-vee off-roader (sans machine guns), the new vehicle will be sold by General Motors in Australia under the Hummer brand in 2007. It's for drivers who want the widest and arguably most intense 4x4 on the market. This is one vehicle that makes a massive impression, and though it does look a bit toy like with its Tonka yellow paintjob, it should be interesting to see how far off the beaten track this car can get. It will be powered by a 3.7-litre inline 5-cylinder (L5) petrol engine making 180kW of power and 328Nm of torque, and Holden reckons a diesel version "could" be offered down the track. You'd want to hope so, because this thing will guzzle gas...

The VE Commodore was on show in almost all models, including a stunning SS V model with bold GT stripes, and Holden also unveiled its new Astra drop top, called the TwinTop (like the Barina-based Tigra model) and features a metal folding roof for more security than a cloth roof. The Astra TwinTop is a very attractive looking motor, as was another Astra-based vehicle, the HSV VXR, which is a 177kW hot hatch. Costing a bit more than $40,000, it puts it in the Volkswagen Golf GTI's range, but offers superior performance with a storming 177kW 4-cylinder turbo engine that belts out 320Nm of torque, and could go on to become Australia's best performance hatch.

HSV also showed off the gigantic Grange, which looks very tasty, along with its full range of fettled V8 large cars, outputting 307kW apiece.

  • Best of Exhibit: Hummer H3

  • Free Stuff: Posters, Press Kits

  • Honourable Mention: Miniature Radio controlled Holden Blimp


8:26am: Second on the list is Saab, which showed off it's already-launched, but nevertheless tantalisingly cool Aero X concept, which borrows many design cues from the aerospace industry. As well as featuring one of the coolest door/roof mechanisms this side of Alpha Centuri, it is also powered by a powerful 298kW V6 ethanol engine with twin turbos. A must see for show goers.

Saab also showed off a clever BioPower 9-5 model, plus most of its range of 9-3 and 9-5 models are present.

  • Best of Exhibit: Aero X Concept

  • Free Stuff: Press Kits

  • Honourable Mention: Nil


8:39am: One of the surprises of the Australian Motor Show was the appearance of BMW's head of global design, Chris Bangle. Copping plenty of flack for his radical take on the (E65) 7 Series back in 2002, the North American born designer's designs are now the talk of the town, and his appearance again highlights how important the Australian market is to some of the world's biggest car brands.

Being a rather auspicious guest for BMW, Chris talked his way through a number of vehicles making their debut in Australia, including the new BMW X3 SUV, the incredibly quick V10-powered M6 Convertible, the quietly dangerous twin-turbo 3 Series Coupé and one of my favourites, the high-performance Z4 Coupé. By this stage - only 40 minutes into the six-and-a-half hour industry day bash - I was becoming a little woozy from the audio-visual blasting of the various displays, not to mention carrying around increasingly heavy press kits. But my mission was only just beginning, and as well as the four newly launched models, BMW exhibited a number of already available models, such as the 5 Series and 1 Series. 

  • Best of Exhibit: BMW M6 Convertible

  • Free Stuff: Press Kits

  • Honourable Mention: Chris Bangle, Chief of Design @ BMW


8:54am: Toyota had quite a large presence at the show, and the centre-piece of its display was the new Aurion Sports concept, which is expected to be the basis for a new supercharged version of the V6 large car later in 2007. Featuring huge 20-inch alloy wheels and a decidedly aerodynamic front apron, the new concept car looks fantastic, and sat alongside the Sportivo models of Toyota's Aurion, which will hit dealerships on October the 30th. 

Other new models for Toyota - including the public debut of the new Aurion V6 - included a new turbo diesel engine for the Prado, which cranks out 127kW of power and 410Nm of torque. Toyota will also follow Ford's lead in offering a 2WD SUV, in the form of a front-wheel drive Kluger in 2007, when the vehicle gets a makeover. Toyota also had a tip-top 2006 rally season in Australia, taking 1st and 2nd place overall with its Corolla rally cars, and as such the rally cars were present as was the company's F1 car, which was good to see. It also has a very cool  racing simulator game, complete with hydraulically-moving cockpit, which will no doubt give both kids and adults who visit the Australian International Motor Show a good dose of interactivity.

  • Best of Exhibit: Toyota Aurion Sports Concept

  • Free Stuff: Press Kits, Posters

  • Honourable Mention: Formula One Race Car & Interactive Games


9:11am: I was expecting big things from Ford - such as a power hike in its 5.4-litre V8 engine to match the Holden VE's recently beefed-up 270kW 6.0-litre V8 SS Commodore, but sadly it didn't materialise. And neither did former Ford CEO, Bill Ford Jr, who was supposed to be a keynote speaker.  However, the Blue Oval did show off its new range of BF MkII Falcons, and also the latest addition to the Focus range - the Coupe-Cabriolet. This new convertible model with a metal folding roof will rival Holden's new drop top, the Astra TwinTop, and like it's Holden competitor is one of the best looking convertibles to come from a mainstream car maker in quite some time.

Ford unveiled its new Ranger utility vehicle, which replaces the Courier in Australia, and is "Can Do truck" according to Ford, and Ford Performance Vehicles revealed two new models, called the Force 8 and Force 6. These models are visually toned-down FPVs, eschewing the large V8 Supercar-inspired rear wing for an understated boot lid spoiler, along the lines of the HSV Senator. The end result is eternally pleasing, because as the old saying goes, sometimes less is more. The Force 8 is powered by the same 290kW V8 engine that powers the rest of the V8 FPV range, and Force 6 gets the 270kW turbocharged 4.0-litre engine, both of which power the rear wheels. Other changes to the FPV BF Mk II range include 19-inch wheels as standard on F6 Typhoon and Tornado models, performance steering wheels for all models and new decal options.

  • Best of Exhibit: FPV Force 8

  • Free Stuff: Press Kits, Posters, Free Blue Tooth Ringtones

  • Honourable Mention: Bill Ford Jr's No Show


9:26am: Hello Foria! The epicentre of the Nissan stand is without doubt it's Foria concept car, an intriguing little 2+2 sports coupe that points towards future design cues that will make their way into future Nissan product, and potentially even a new model. As with the handful of concept cars at the 2006 Australian International Motor Show, the Foria is the kind of vehicle that is easy to spent a quarter of hour just checking out the high tech interior and avant-garde styling. Nissan's exhibit is quite a fancy affair, featuring numerous plasma screens and a "media cloud" that conveys messages and images. Though it's kind of useless, it's in a similar league as Holden's mini blimp in that it still manages to be strangely intriguing.

Nissan also had a couple of new models to show off in it's exhibit, and alongside perennial favourites like the 350Z and Pathfinder, Nissan pulled the covers off two new 4x4 variants. The new Murano Ti-L is priced at just over $60,000 and adds satellite navigation and a reversing camera system, which seem to be all the rage these days (but actually work remarkably well, I should add). The X-Trail ST-S X-Treme edition is based on the X-Trail ST model, and gets extras like alloy wheels, electric sunroof, bonnet protector, rear sunguard, roof bars and new tail lights, all priced at $31,990 driveaway. 

  • Best of Exhibit: Foria Concept

  • Free Stuff: Press Kits

  • Honourable Mention: Magic Media Cloud


9:40am: The Prancing Horse turned up the tempo with an interesting display of break-dancing and back-flipping dancers that preceded the unveiling of the Italian marque's fastest production model ever - the 599 GTB Fiorano. Though Ferrari's design philosophy has alienated many traditional buyers of late, there is no denying that the 599 GTB is anything but a work of art, and well worth spending quality time with at the motor show in Sydney's Darling Harbour. 

"Even by Ferrari's unique standards, the 599 GTB Fiorano has had a rapturous reception as it has been launched around the world," stated Kevin Wall, the General Manager for European Automotive Imports which is the Australian and New Zealand Ferrari distributor. Sadly, the entire Australian and New Zealand allocation for Ferrari's V12-powered 599 GTB units have been sold, so this may be your only chance to get close to one in the near future.

With the 3.7 second 599 GTB as Ferrari's show stopper, it was surrounded by lesser - but no less immaculate - exotica, such as the F430, 612 Scaglietti and the truly beautiful F430 Spider. Though rival exotic marques Porsche and Lamborghini are not in attendance this year, the Ferrari exhibit provides plenty of pricey machinery to drool over, and the Ferrari girls were as pleasant as they were radiant.

  • Best of Exhibit: Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano

  • Free Stuff: Press Kits

  • Honourable Mention: Ferrari Glamour Girls


9:58am: You can have the best cars in the world and the most advanced technology surrounded the sexiest glamour models this side of Holland, and even members of the board flown in from Germany to give your exhibit more credibility, but for mine Audi had one of the best exhibits for one reason: food and drink. It was as though the gods themselves had answered my calls for respite. Seeing as I missed the industry breakfast because the hotel failed to wake me up (truth be told, it was my fault - I slept in), I hadn't ate or drank crumb nor drop by about 10:00am when the 350 or so media representatives were ushered up to the Audi stand. And my back was starting to ache too. 

Sure, the R8 is stunning, and probably the highlight of the show as far as I am concerned (though the Mitsubishi girls came a close second), but the human body need nutrience to endure, and so I was off to the food platter before you can say "We hope you enjoy the Audi exhibit..." 

Getting up close and personal with the R8, which will go for about $260,000 when it comes to Australia in 2007, it is plain to see that this is no ordinary car. Lashings of carbon fibre adorn the impressively appointed interior and the custom-look mid positioned engine bay that sits behind a ventilated glass window is just amazing. Suffice it to say, I reckon the R8 was the clear highlight of the 2006 Australian International Motor Show. Audi's incredibly sexy R8 sports car was unveiled by Ralph Weyler, who is a Member of AUDI AG's Board of Management for Sales and Marketing, and this visit by one of Audi's most senior players is the first of its kind for Australia, which is a clear indication of how important the Australian new car marketplace is for the luxury brand..

"It is an important message of support for the Audi brand in Australia to have such a highlight vehicle on display so soon after its global premiere in Paris," said Joerg Hofmann, the MD of Audi Australia.

Audi also launched it's new TT, and I must say the little coupe is a much better looking vehicle than the model it replaces, with a far more modern style and more powerful engines to boot. Other vehicles to feature on the Audi exhibit included the S6 and S8 models - the sports versions of the A6 and A8 sedans - powered by 5.2-litre V10 engines. Very nice machines, they are, and very quick too. Audi also displayed it's unbeaten R12 Le Mans race car, which is quite a sight, among other Audi models, including Q7, A4 and others.

  • Best of Exhibit: Audi R8

  • Free Stuff: Press Kits, Food, Drink

  • Honourable Mention: Ralph Weyler, Senior Member of the German Audi Board


10:10am: Having already had a tough week with the ABC's report that it had seen a leaked document foretelling of it's South Australian manufacturing plant closure, Mitsubishi's MD Rob McEnirycategorically denied such allegations, and intimated that the ABC was foolish to air such news.  "Let me be clear," boomed Mitsubishi's chief, with more than hint of anger in his voice, "There is no plan; there is no decision to cease manufacturing at the Tonsley Park plant - period."

And to be honest, Mitsubishi has one of the best exhibits of the show, with the new Pajero looking very impressive in both 2- and 4-door models, alongside the eagerly awaited Outlander with 6- and 4-cylinder power options, the new Colt Cabriolet and special edition Evolution IX model. Though my legs were starting to buckle at this stage under the weight of increasingly bulky press kits, cameras, and portable computers, the appearance of the 380 concept car (though perhaps it was the Mitsubishi girls?) seemed to reinvigorated the entire media throng.

Once the controversy was out of the way it was time for half-a-dozen of the most scantily-clad women of the show thus far (though they would be eclipsed by a partially nude woman when we reached the Peugeot exhibit) to reveal the wonders of double-sided boob-tape, as they took the wraps off what is one of my favourite concepts of the show - a supercharged 380 sports car that looked as though it was ready for production. 

Called the TMR 380 Concept, this car sits on polished chromium 19-inch alloy wheels, sports an agro-looking bodykit, bigger brakes, racing suspension, twin exhausts and a supercharged version of the vehicle's 3.8-litre V6 pushing 0.45 bar (6.5 psi) of pressure. All told, this boosts the TMR 380 Concept's engine power up to 230kW (with 442Nm of torque), in what the company calls the 380 version "of the Lancer Evolution IX utilising rally technology". 

TMR stands for Team Mitsubishi Ralliart, and speaking of the Evo IX which is a completely awesome car - read this review if you need proof - Mitsubishi unveiled a new version of the Evo that will go on sale in 2007 in Australia, called the TMR 220 Evolution IX.

This bad boy is for customers who want an even more powerful Evo IX model that's road legal, and just 20 of the vehicles will be built initially. The turbocharger pumps out more boost than the standard version, which takes power to 220kW, and torque is almost 400Nm, which is only 20Nm shy of the 4.2-litre V8 found in Audi's ballistic RS 4! It also gets bigger 18-inch alloys with fatter Pirelli PZero rubber, a more aggressive bodykit, unique 6 piston TMR developed front calipers (fitted with Ferodo 2550 performance brake pads) and Ralliart KYB suspension, fitted with increased rate 65mm diameter coil springs and adjustable spring platforms.

  • Best of Exhibit: Mitsubishi TMR 380 Concept

  • Free Stuff: Press Kits, Drinks

  • Honourable Mention: Mitsubishi TMR 220 Evolution IX


10:22am: By this stage in the morning, having eaten little (though I did manage to pilfer a delicious apple from Volvo's exhibit as I wandered off the designated media path), my body had switched over in to starvation mode, and I was now beyond hunger, subsiding simply on orange juice, a packet of Fisherman's Friend and sheer force of will. But my attention was transfixed when I arrived at the tail of the gathered throng at the Hyundai stand as an ensemble choir filled the huge Convention Centre with their subtle and sweet Hyundai propaganda. The main exhibit at the Hyundai stand was the Sonata SXi Concept. Though the powertrain remains untouched, featuring a 173kW V6 engine that drives the front wheels via an automatic gearbox, the vehicle looked very imposing, with almost a hint of Saab's 9-3 Aero about it.

Sitting on large alloy rims connected to an Eibach suspension rig, the Sonata SXi Concept's character is underscored by a seriously sporty body kit, and we can only hope that Hyundai decides to release a performance range of vehicles with this as it's flagship, because it looks sweet. Another new vehicle for Hyundai was the diesel-powered Santa Fe, which many of our readers have been asking about. Well, stop sending those letters - it's coming very soon and is powered by a 2.2-litre diesel engine that returns 7.3L/100km in the manual model, and is the first medium soft roader to debut in Australia. It makes 114kW of power and 343Nm of torque, and pricing starts at $36,990.

The Arnejs concept car was supposed to be the centrepiece of the Hyundai exhibit, but got lost in transit and so wasn't on show for the industry day. Shame that.

  • Best of Exhibit: Hyundai Sonata SXi Concept

  • Free Stuff: Press Kits, Lollipops

  • Honourable Mention: Hyundai Santa Fe CRDi (diesel)

Stay tuned for the second instalment in Feann Torr's incredible journey through the industry day at the 2006 Australian International Motor Show, which runs from the 26th of October to the 5th of November, and marvel at his pathetic endurance as he documents the headline stories and also the less extravagant events from Australian's most important motor show.

Covered in the next update will be Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot, Alfa Romeo, Subaru, Land Rover, Vovlo, Volkswagen, Lexus, and Honda.

Related articles:
- 2005 Australian International Motor Show (AIMS) - Holden | Ford | Honda | Nissan
- 2004 Sydney International Motor Show (SIMS) - Holden | Ford | HSV
2003 Sydney International Motor Show (SIMS)
2002 Sydney International Motor Show (SIMS)

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